June 18, 2017 Sermon: “The Long Road”

June 18, 2017

“The Long Road”

The Rev. Maren Sonstegard-Spray

Luke 24:13-35

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.


Two disciples set out for home.  It had been a long week.  And over the miles, they talked together about everything they had seen and heard, trying to make sense of it all:

“Remember how Jesus rode into Jerusalem and the crowds cheered so loudly it was deafening.  Remember how we thought that this was the moment we had been waiting for, for centuries.  We believed that God was going to do exactly what we expected.

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May 28, 2017 Sermon: “A Savior’s Prayer”

May 28, 2017

“A Savior’s Prayer”

The Rev. Maren Sonstegard-Spray

John 17:1-11

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. 6I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

Edward Stierle had been told he was too short for ballet.  He was around 5 foot seven inches.  When he told his father he wanted to take ballet, his father said, “No, No, No. Are you crazy?”  His mother got a second job cleaning a church in order to afford the gas to drive him to where his ballet teacher lived.

At the age of 18 he was invited to join the prestigious Joffrey Ballet Company.

He had already choreographed a solo for Mozart’s Requiem and the Joffrey ballet asked him to create a full-length ballet.

Just before he turned 19 Edward was diagnosed with HIV.  Many dancers around him were dying from AIDs so he knew what his future looked like.  He named his ballet “Lacrymosa” which is Latin for “weeping.”

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Dan’s Installation Service


THE INSTALLATION SERVICE OF DAN MCCOIG  The Presbytery of Shenandoah will install the Rev. Dr. Dan M. McCoig, Jr. as pastor/head of staff of First Presbyterian Church on Sunday, June 4, at 4:00 p.m. in the sanctuary.  A reception will follow in Fellowship Hall.  The Rev. Carrie Burslem Evans will preach the sermon.  Special music will be presented by the Chancel and Youth Choirs and the New Stone Ensemble.  Guest special music will be presented by bluegrass recording and performing artists who are friends of Dan.  Dan was elected by the congregation on April 30.  Presbytery concurred with the congregation’s election on May 9.


May 7, 2017 Sermon: “The Good Gate”

May 7, 2017

“The Good Gate”

The Rev. Maren Sonstegard-Spray


John 10:1-10 (NRSV)

10 “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.


As a community of faith we are returning to the Revised Common Lectionary after many years of absence.  I am told that churches that use the RCL year in and year out know to expect Jesus’ words about sheep and shepherds on the fourth Sunday of Eastertide.

So perhaps you didn’t know that this Sunday is often referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday.

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April 14, 2017 Good Friday Sermon

Good Friday

April 14, 2017

The Rev. Maren Sonstegard-Spray

John 18:1-19:42

In a museum in Sansepulcro, Italy is a painting by Piero della Francesa of the resurrected Christ.  In 1925 Aldous Huxley traveled to see it and called it “the best painting in the world.”

And because he wrote those words, in World War II a British artillery officer and art lover, defied orders to completely destroy the town, and saved the painting.  After it was painted, it was hidden away under plaster for hundreds of years until it was discovered perfectly preserved.

In the painting the Resurrected Christ stands with one foot on the edge of his marble tomb.  He has the sculpted body of an athlete, marred only by the wounds on his hands and side which are still raw.

His face something different – dark eyes stare straight out of the painting; his face is somber and grim.

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PNC Update- April 9, 2017

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April 9, 2017 Sermon: “Walking Through Holy Week”

April 9, 2017

“Walking through Holy Week”

The Rev. Maren Sonstegard-Spray

 Matthew 21:1-17

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 

3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 

8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”12 Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 

13 He said to them, “It is written,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’;
but you are making it a den of robbers.”

14 The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?”

Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise for yourself’?”

17 He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.



We stand at the beginning of Holy Week.  Today we wave our palms in awe of a king, trying to pay attention to all the remarkable details of the story.

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April 2, 2017 Sermon: “Lazarus Unbound”

April 2, 2017

“Lazarus Unbound”

The Rev. Maren Sonstegard-Spray

Sometimes reading the Bible can feel like we are walking into the middle of a long conversation between two very old friends.  You know those kinds of conversations, where people tell those “you had to be there” kind of jokes, where they talk about people we’ve never met and places we’ve never been, they finish each other’s sentences, and say things like “that’s just like the time we did this . . . remember that?”

I told the Chapel and New Stone crowd two weeks ago (so some of you might be hearing this again) how so often we feel like when we sit down with a particular text from the Bible, that it is just us and these verses in front of us, and all we need to do is read them.

But, I want to invite us to thing about the Bible as a centuries-long conversation between God and people, and between the authors themselves.

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