Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

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"One Father's Closure"

Genesis 49

Psalm 128

     Many of us have had the experience of gathering with family at the bedside of a loved one who

was soon to pass away.  It may have been in their home, or in a hospital room, or in a hospice suite.

While there are few things in life as painful as bidding someone we love a final goodbye, as they are in

that process of moving from the worldly realm to the heavenly, there is great value, and almost

always some degree of comfort - even relief - in expressing final thoughts, wishes, and blessings --- we

to them, and they to us.  We call this “closure.”  In those weeks, days, hours, last words are of huge

significance,  and carry a lot of weight for the family which will soon be forced to go on without mom,

or dad, or husband, or wife, or sibling, or child.       

"Earth, Wind, and Fire"

Acts 2: 1-21; 41-47

Genesis 11: 1-9

      I’d like to ask for a show of hands.  How many of you remember a musical group called “Earth,

Wind and Fire?”  For the younger of us who may not recognize that name, Earth, Wind and Fire

was a band which made the scene in the 1970’s.  Their music was a distinctive blend of rock, soul,

and rhythm and blues; great dance music of the pre-disco era.  Like so many other groups of that

decade, they soared to the heights of popularity, topping the charts with hits like “After the Love

Is Gone,” “Shining Star,” and “Sing a Song.”  Their songs were all over the radio, and you couldn’t

walk into a bar, restaurant, high school senior prom or wedding reception without hearing the

music of Earth, Wind and Fire blaring through the speakers.  But before long, their popularity

began to fade, and in a fairly short time, they all but disappeared from the charts; giving way to

the likes of The Village People, The Commodores, and The Average White Band.  While we can still

catch them on the classic rock stations, or in nightclubs catering to a more mature crowd, if we

were to ask our children or grandchildren, they’d probably look at us like we came from Mars,

and ask: “Earth, Wind and who?”

“NIGHT”

Text:  1 Corinthians 11:23-26

           Psalm 30:4-12

      “….on the night when he was betrayed….”  Those familiar words we remember over and over

again, even this day, in the full light of a late spring morning.  “…the Lord Jesus on the night when

he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said….” 

These “words of institution,” we call them, occur four times in our New Testament; in three of the

four gospels, and of course in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian Church that we just read.  Paul

retells the story of that night in the upper room – even though he himself was not physically there

[he may have heard the story from Peter] --and institutes or codifies for the church a liturgical

framework within which the blessed sacrament would be celebrated as a perpetual remembrance

of our Lord.

"Let's Give Them Something to Talk About"

Romans 5: 15-17

Psalm 67

      When you read this morning’s sermon title, a certain song may have come to mind.  Those of

you who know me well understand that this city boy is not a big fan of country music.  That’s not

to say that from time-to-time, a song from that genre doesn’t come along which I really dig; like

“John Deer Green,” “Can I have This Dance for the Rest of My Life,” “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” “I Hope You’ll Dance.” 

One of my favorite country songs comes from Bonnie Raitt.  The final refrain of her love song goes like this: 

“Let’s give them something to talk about, a little mystery to figure out; Let’s give them something to talk about.

  How about love, love, love…..”  You may think, “Well, that’s neat pastor.  But what does this have to do with the Bible,

or church, or the holy sacrament of baptism?”  I hope that will become clear over the next fifteen minutes or so.

 

“READ THE WARNING LABEL”

   Selections from Proverbs

   Job 28:20-28

 

      One day, my parents bought a new brown, vinyl ottoman for the living room.  Underneath it

was that ubiquitous label which warned: “Do not remove under penalty of law.”  I don’t remem-

ber how old I was at the time, but I was old enough to understand what “under penalty of law”

meant.  Shortly after we got this ottoman – which was on casters – I was rolling around the living

room on it.  I somehow managed to get that label on the bottom of the ottoman caught under

one of the wheels, and it tore off.  I was mortified, believing that once my crime was revealed,

the police would show up at my door with an arrest warrant.  After several floundering attempts

to glue it back on, I took the label out to the back yard and literally buried it; then hid myself in

my room.  I was relieved to learn sometime later that such warnings applied only while the pro-

duct was still on the store shelf.  Now to this day, I get a weird thrill ripping those labels off.

"Mother's Love, God's Love"

Selections from Luke 15

Romans 8: 35-39

 

      Their small home was simple, but adequate.  It consisted of one large room situated on a dusty

street.  Its red-tiled roof was one of many in this poor neighborhood on the outskirts of a Brazilian

village.  Yet it was a comfortable home.  Maria and her daughter Christina had done what they

could to add color to the grey walls and warmth to the hard earthen floor – a woven mat; an old

calendar; a faded photograph of a relative; a wooden crucifix.  The furnishings were modest; only

straw-filled beds on either side of the room; a washbasin; a small table; a wood-burning stove.

      Maria’s husband had died when Christina was just a baby.  The young mother, stubbornly refusing opportunities

to remarry, got a job as a housekeeper and set out to raise her young daughter as best she could. 

Although her wages afforded few luxuries, it was reliable, and it did provide food and clothing.  Now Christina

was old enough to get a job to help out. 

"Beatitudes 411:Feet to the Fire"

1 Peter 4:12-19

Matthew 5:10-12

      On this which we call the “3rd Sunday of Easter,” I’d like us to return for a moment to the incident

of Simon Peter’s denial of Jesus; attested in all four gospels.  As he stood near the fire in the court-

yard of the High Priest, Peter was recognized by others as being a follower of the renegade Jesus of

Nazareth, who had stirred up so much unrest, in Jerusalem and elsewhere.  Three times, you’ll re-

member, Peter was questioned about his relationship to Jesus.  And three times, Peter denied even

knowing Him let alone following Him.  We wonder how Peter – the very one whom Jesus called

“Petros,” translated “Rock,” upon which the church would figuratively be built – could do such an

about face. 

"Beatitudes 316: Blessed Are the Shalom Promoters"

Matthew 5: 9

Ephesians 2: 13-22

Psalm 122

      Now on the other side of Easter, we return this week and next to our study of the beatitudes of

Jesus as recorded in the 5th chapter of Matthew.  We come this morning to the 7th beatitude in

which Jesus claims this: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” 

The first issue to be considered is: what does Jesus mean by “the peacemakers”?  Who exactly are

these “peacemakers.”  What do “peacemakers” look like?  What is the profile of a maker – not

merely a lover or a keeper -- of peace? 

“REMEMBERING THE ONE WE KNOW”                                                               

Text:  Acts 10:34-43

           Luke 24:1-11

 I can’t say that I knew my paternal grandfather, whose first and middle name I bear – Lorenzo

Giacomo; in English: Lawrence James.  My almost three year-old grandson – who we call “LJ” – bears

that name as well; now into a sixth generation in which grandson is named after grandfather.  In so

much as my grandfather Lawrence passed away when I was very young, I didn’t really know him in

the conventional sense.  He left me too early.  Even so, I can and do say that I remember him.  And

through that remembrance, fashioned from a hundred stories which have been carefully handed

down to me from my dad and mom, my Aunt Eleanor, and others – all of whom have gone home to

be with the Lord – I suppose I could say that in the deepest sense, I do know my grandfather. 

"Inside Out and Outside In"

Matthew 21:1-17

      Once upon a time, there was a church which was studying how it could do a better job reaching

out to its surrounding community.  The mission board met several times to discuss how to best

accomplish this.  Since there were many homeless in the downtown area around the church, a

men’s overnight shelter was considered.  After all, the board thought, the massive church building

with its shrinking congregation had more than enough available space; even showers adjacent to a

now dilapidated gymnasium.  Along with the homeless hungry were the hungry with homes.  Were a

free lunch program or food pantry feasible options?  With the spiraling costs of basic health, dental

and eye care, could a free or low cost medical clinic of some type be a possibility?  Or how about a

weekday worship service designed especially for those who might not be comfortable with the

traditional Sunday morning worship experience?  As the church was endowed to the tune of over

sixteen million dollars, funding for any or all of these mission efforts was a non-issue.

Central Presbyterian Church

47 Second Street NE
Massillon, Ohio 44646

Telephone: 330-832-7455
Fax: 330-832-7102