Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

This website uses modern web technologies not supported by Internet Explorer.
Please use a recommended web browser such as Edge, Firefox or Chrome for the best viewing experience.

"Where Do We Find the Christ Child"

Luke 2:12-16 

 John 14:8-14

Where do we find the baby Jesus?  A class of early elementary aged Sunday School students

was asked this question by their teacher just a few weeks before Christmas. Jordan piped up

first: “We find him in a manger.”  Nicole added, “In the little town of Bethlehem.”  Kirsten

chimed in next:  “In his mommy’s arms.”  Luke added, “Baby Jesus is under our Christmas tree.” 

After a moment of silence, the teacher asked Morgan what she thought.  “I think He’s on my

dad’s cell phone.”  “Why do you think that?” the teacher asked.  Morgan replied, “Every time

some music plays, my daddy looks at his phone and says, ‘Sweet Baby Jesus, what’s he texting

me about this time."

"Another Birth Story"

John 3: 1-15

Numbers 21: 4-9

      On this second Sunday of Advent, we’re going to read about a birth story, but probably not the

birth story you’d expect during this season.  This morning, we’re not going to open to either of the

birth narratives of Jesus recorded in Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels.  Instead, we’re going to bring

our attention to another birth story within which – according to New Testament scholar F. F.

Bruce – is found some of Jesus’ most mysterious, yet universally-applicable, teaching.  This story is

recorded only in the Gospel of John in the form of a conversation between the grown-up Jesus, and

a man named Nicodemus.  Let’s lean in and listen.

'"The Stuff of Advent"

Selections from Luke 1 and 2;  Isaiah 40:9-11

      Today is the first Sunday of Advent; a season of contemplation, reflection and preparation

leading up to the commemoration of Jesus’ birth we call Christmas.  It’s hard to believe it’s only

twenty-three days away.  Remember how when we were children, it seemed like it took forever

for Christmas to finally get here?  Yet the older we get, the sooner it seems to come.  In fact, the

very word Advent means “coming.”  During this Advent season, we remember Jesus’ first coming

as the babe in Bethlehem.  We also anticipate Jesus’ second coming, when He will return in glory

to, in a manner of speaking, set this mess straight.  Yet there is an overarching theme of Advent,

which is thinking about those surprising and marvelous ways God breaks into our world, and into

our individual lives.  The Bible stories we read at this time of year reveal that God is, for sure, a

God who often does what we least expect; like granting a child to an elderly childless couple.

Here’s a first story of surprise.    (Read Selections from Luke 1:5-25)

"Thanksgiving"

Luke 17: 11-19

Psalm 95: 1-7a

     I’d like to open this morning’s message with two very short stories.  The first comes from a legend

about two angels who were sent to earth to gather up the prayers of the people.  One was to fill a

basket with prayers of petition – those prayers requesting help, healing, provision, blessing.  The

second was to fill a basket with prayers of thanksgiving.  When they returned to heaven after completing their

respective assignments, one angel had a basket overflowing with innumerable prayers.  The other angel returned with a

heavy heart and an almost empty basket.  Might we venture a guess as to which basket was which?

      Then there was the post office clerk whose job it was to open and read the mail which came to

the Dead Letter Office in Washington, D.C. addressed to Santa Claus.  In the three months before

Christmas, there were thousands of letters asking for a favorite gift.  In the months after Christmas,

there were only a few dozen cards addressed to Santa thanking him.

"The Fourth Pillar of Stewardship"

Hebrews 10:23-25

Psalm 122:1-9

     On this Stewardship Dedication Sunday, I’m going to deliver a message about one of the four

pillars of stewardship.  Most of us are familiar with three of those pillars:  stewardship of time;

stewardship of talent; stewardship of treasure.  The three T’s.  While those three pillars are vitally

important to our Christian lives – both personally and in community – I would propose that the fourth

pillar bears the greatest load in terms of maintaining a firm and steady Christian posture.  That fourth

pillar is what we call “corporate” or “community” worship; what we do in this hour; understanding our

worship together as a foundational act of Christian stewardship.

          (Read Psalm 122:1-9)

"Being a Good Soldier"

Psalm 18:1-6

2 Timothy 2:1-7

      In the front of our sanctuary, there are two flags -- the American flag to my right, and the Christian

flag to my left; each symbolizing a particular type of freedom.  One is a freedom that allows us to

come and go as we please; to say what we want to say; to live where we want to live; to travel where we

want to travel; to dream, and to pursue our dreams.   And to whom do we owe these freedoms?  Some-

one once put it this way:  “It is the veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.  It is

the veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.  It is the veteran, not the campus organi-

zer, who has given us freedom to assemble.  It is the veteran, not the politician, who has given us the right

to vote.  It is the veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.”

"A Story Thrice Told"

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Luke 24:13-35

 

      On this November communion Sunday, we reflect on one of the most theologically-packed

narratives recorded in Luke’s Gospel.  It’s a beautiful and moving story of a journey; a journey of

two men who had lost hope – then found hope – in the breaking of the bread, and its revealing

of Jesus Christ as alive and present with them.  This passage has been interpreted and preached

in a variety of ways as it’s a story with a variety of layers of meaning.

"How Shall We Pray"

2 Corinthians 12: 1-10

Romans 8: 26-27

      Imagine in your mind’s eye a convent.  It looks like a high walled castle of grey stone with short,

rotund towers on each side.  Ivy and flowering vines climb to the tops of the walls and towers.  In

the center is a massive iron gate which is wide open, leading into a garden courtyard.  There’s a

strong scent of Wisteria and Jasmine in the air.  A long line of people – who appear by their garb to

be of the peasant class – wait restlessly to have a personal audience with one of the nuns.  She sits

alone on a rough wood bench, dressed in a black habit with a white coif and veil; hands folded on

her lap; a kind smile on her face. 

Confess the Mess

Psalm 32:1-5

James 3:1-12

      “The tongue is a fire….placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole.

body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.”  These words of James [who.

some claim was a brother of Jesus] are pretty off-putting; makes me half afraid to open my mouth.

Yet as we hear them, we can confess that what James says is too often the case. 

"Making Melody to Our God"

Ephesians 5: 15-20

Psalm 147: 1-7

      What’s your favorite song?  If you’re like me, you have a bunch of favorite songs.  I guess the

expected thing for a pastor to say is that all his or her favorite songs are religious ones.  Yes, there
are a lot of sacred songs this pastor enjoys very much:  “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” “When

Morning Guilds the Skies,” “To God Be the Glory,” just to name a few.  But truth be told, there are

many more songs I enjoy which show up in no mainline hymnal or contemporary praise songbook. 

I call these songs ‘pop music.’ My eldest grandson calls them ‘old as dirt.’ 

Central Presbyterian Church

47 Second Street NE
Massillon, Ohio 44646

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