Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

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"The Latter Shall Be Greater Than the Former"

Haggai 2: 1-9

Psalm 84: 1-4, 10-12

      This morning, we’re going to delve into a short book by one whom we call a “minor prophet.”

His name is Haggai.  Unlike some other prophetic books of the Bible -- wherein the authorship

and time of composition are matters of scholarly debate -- there is no question about the whom

and when of this book.  Haggai was clearly the source, although it appears he had a scribe or editor

do the actual writing for him.  While we don’t know anything about Haggai’s personal background,

we do know that he was called by God to help lead the Jewish people in the restoration of the

temple in Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians.  The entirety of Haggai’s

prophecy was written in the year 520 B.C. during the reign of King Darius of Persia, under the

regional governorship of Zerubbabel, and at the time of the priesthood of Joshua, son of Jehozadak. 

At the point of Haggai’s prophecy, there was no progress evident in the restoration of the temple. 

Yet within five years, by 515 B.C, the new temple had been completed.  In some ways,

this morning’s passage parallels our own situation here at Central as we await the restoration of

this sanctuary; of this temple of God.  As of today, there is no physical progress in our restoration. 

Yet within a few months, we trust that restoration will have been completed.  Let’s now turn to

the prophecy of Haggai.

John 14:8-17, 25-26

Matthew 28:16-20

2 Corinthians 13:11-14

      This morning, we observe on our liturgical calendar what is called “Trinity Sunday.”  As church

folk, we often hear and sometimes use that word trinity, and consider it one of the foundational

and essential doctrines of our Christian faith.  But what does it mean?  Semantically, the word is

a contraction of the prefix tri, referring to three, and the word unity which means togetherness.

Hence, triunity or trinity, suggesting a togetherness of three.

"The Other Pentecost Story"

John 20: 19-23

Acts 2: 1-13


        Today, we mark the beginning of the liturgical season we call “Pentecost.”  This morning, we

remember specifically the Pentecost episode recorded in Acts chapter 2; that fiftieth day after Passover when

the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples with great power, and sent them into the

streets of Jerusalem to boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in a language which everyone

could understand.  But did you know that there is another Pentecost story; another narrative of the

disciples receiving the Holy Spirit?  It’s tucked in the 20th chapter of John’s Gospel, and is often

overlooked.  John’s Pentecost story doesn’t shout out to us the way the Acts story does.  In John,

there are no rushing winds; no tongues of fire; no speaking in other languages.  Instead, the other

Pentecost story softly and gently beckons us onward - to watch, and listen, and wait with the first

disciples.  Let’s read it now.

          (Read John 20:19-23)

"A Story of Two Real Mothers"

Exodus 1:22,  2:10

Psalm 139:13-18

      Before we read this morning’s primary text, I need to provide some background.  The Book of

Exodus opens with the introduction of a new Egyptian king – Seti --commonly called “Pharaoh.” 

Unlike the previous king, this one was not sympathetic to the Hebrews living In Egypt since the time

of Joseph..  In fact, under this new regime, Exodus tells us that “The Egyptians became ruthless in

imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick

and in every kind of field labor.”  In spite of these oppressive conditions, the Hebrews continued to

increase in number.  Threatened by this trend, the king issued a decree that all male children born

to the Hebrews should be killed.  We begin the story there. 

"You Are What You Eat"

John 6: 51-59

Psalm 34: 4-10

      Back in the 19th century, there was a German philosopher by the name of Ludwig Feuerbach

who coined a phrase most of us have heard before:  “We are what we eat.”  Now there’s a scary

image.  In my youth growing up in an Italian household, we had pasta three days a week. As I

grew into adulthood, I still craved my spaghetti, and continued to eat a diet very high in carbs –

bread, pasta, potatoes….. you know, all the good stuff.  Decades later, a blood test revealed that

my triglycerides were very elevated.  Guess what my doctor wanted me to cut out of my diet?

Bread, pasta, potatoes….. you know, all the good stuff.  And I remember like it was yesterday

Doc Lutzke saying to me, “You are what you eat you know.”

"Heart Trouble"

Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Psalm 18: 1-6, 16-19

      The Pharisees had come up into the region of Galilee from Jerusalem, to the coastal village

named Gennesaret; probably on special assignment from the temple authorities to scope out

Jesus and His disciples.  There they found Jesus ministering to the sick, and they were offended;

not so much by the fact that Jesus was healing the people.  What they were all bent out of shape

over – of all things – was soiled hands.  Jesus had a different matter in mind.  Jesus was most

concerned about soiled hearts.  Let’s step in for a closer listen to this exchange.


Nehemiah 8:9-10

Matthew 11:28-30

This morning, we continue an unintended sermon series on books of the Bible we don’t pay

a whole lot of attention to.  Last week, we delved into the Old Testament book of wisdom

literature called “Song of Solomon.”  This morning, we open to another frequently overlooked

Old Testament book – this one not poetic, but historical – entitled “Nehemiah.”  The book is

named after and probably written by a Jew who lived during the 5th century B.C.  He was one of

many Jews living in exile in Babylonia after the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar around 585. 

Following Babylonia’s subsequent overthrow by  the Persians in 539, the Jewish exiles were

given much better treatment.  In fact, Nehemiah himself was appointed to a position of honor

and trust as royal cup bearer to a certain King Artaxerxes.  And don’t worry.  That won’t be on

the final exam.

"True Love Waits"

Song of Solomon 3: 1-5

Proverbs 5: 18-23

     There is a short book tucked in the middle of the Bible which gets little attention from the church.

Ironically, the subject matter of this little book gets more attention in our modern culture than any

other.  It’s content is something we Christians are a little squeamish even talking about.  And we sure

don’t cry out in protest when the message of its content is perverted and cheapened within virtually

every nook and cranny of our culture.  It’s been said that what this book of the Bible speaks of “sells.” 

But what has been sold is a debauched and corrupted understanding of one of God’s greatest gifts to

humankind.  So turn with me now to a book variously called “The Song of Songs,” “The Most Excellent

of Songs;” best known to us as “Song of Solomon,” although there’s not a shred of evidence that Solomon wrote it,

or had anything to do with its writing.  We’re going to read from chapter 3, verses 1

through 5.


John 21:1-17

1 Peter 4:7-11

Over the forty days following His resurrection - according to the gospels -- Jesus revealed Him-self to His disciples on a number of different occasions.  Sometimes they recognized Him.  At other times, they didn’t. The latter was the case one early morning by the Sea of Tiberias.  Let’s read about this post-resurrection appearance; His fourth in John’s account (including Mary Magdalene) (Read John 21:1-14)

      Gloria graduated a few years ago from theological seminary.  Her first call was to a large suburban church near Columbus.  Her specific position was Associate Pastor of Christian Education.  Part of her job description read: empowerment of the laity.  In a nutshell, it meant that she had the job of recruiting members of the congregation to serve as Sunday School teachers and youth group leaders.  Gloria didn’t foresee a problem as there were over nine hundred members in that congregation, and only about ten leadership positions to be filled in the area of Christian Ed.  Gloria remembered the C.I.F. [for those unfamiliar with the process of calling pastors in our denomination, C.I.F. is an acronym for Church Information Form; basically a dossier of the church] repeatedly emphasizing the vital importance of Christian Education to the congregation.  Money was no object.  In fact, the church budgeted almost $25,000 a year for youth and adult education alone!

"Can We Handle the Truth"

John 18:33-38a

John 20: 11-18

        One of the challenges we preachers face is coming up with an Easter morning message that is  true to the gospel story of Jesus’ resurrection, while at the same time offering some fresh perspectives and insights that might make the resurrection story real and alive for today’s listeners; for you.  Years ago, I was approached after an Easter service by a particular parishioner who I have the privilege of seeing only once a year.  He shook my hand, told me he enjoyed my “speech,” then added, “You know pastor, I think you’d do well to change up your messages occasionally.  Everytime I’m here, all I’ve ever heard you talk about is resurrection.” My temptation was to say something snarky like, “Maybe if you’d stop by on one of the other fifty-one Sundays, you’d get lucky and hear a sermon on a different subject.”  Instead, I simply smiled and said, “Thank you for that suggestion.  I’ll take it under advisement.”

      Well this morning, in deference to those who are wearying of the same old, same old every Easter Sunday, I’m going to try to change it up.  Of course, we’re going to talk about resurrection, but from a different angle.  And we’re going to begin by reading a story that chronologically precedes Jesus’ crucifixion, and resurrection from the grave on the third day.  According to John’s account of things, Jesus was in the headquarters of Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea.  At that point in Jesus’ trial, Pilate was trying to determine if what Jesus had been accused of by the Jewish leaders warranted having Him condemned and crucified.  By this time, Jesus had been roughed up; the worst yet to come.  Simon Peter had already denied knowing Jesus, not once, but three times. The other disciples had fled and were in hiding.  So Jesus stood alone before a leading political figure; Pilate himself; the only one standing between Jesus and the cross.  

Central Presbyterian Church

47 Second Street NE
Massillon, Ohio 44646

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