Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

"Ambush Theology"

Romans 8:18-19, 22-25

John 9:1-7

    Three-time Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actress and singer Ann Jillian was on top

of the world.  A few of us may remember her as Little Bo Peep in Disney’s 1960 version of Babes in

Toyland; then a few years later as a regular on a sitcom called Hazel.   In the early 1980’s, Jillian

was starring in the role of Cassie Cranston on another moderately successful television sitcom

called “It’s a Living,” which I believe remains in syndication on LaffTV.  Her obvious physical attri-

butes and three-octave voice were bringing multiple offers from Broadway.  Jillian’s one-woman

show was winning her rave reviews on the Strip at Las Vegas. She had everything to live for, and it

appeared there was nowhere to go but up.  Then came a fateful day in 1985 when she was

blindsided by a diagnosis of breast cancer.  She as only 34.  Treatment would require double

mastectomy followed by months of chemo.

"Hold Fast the Anchor"

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Psalm 119: 97-104

      As we read from Paul’s second letter to his friend and younger colleague in ministry by the name

of Timothy, let’s be reminded of Paul’s circumstances.  Many scholars hold that Paul was imprisoned

in Rome at the time this letter was written.  The charge against him:  refusing the demands of the

Roman authorities that he cease and desist from preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As Paul was

languishing in a dark, dank jail cell, the fledgling church outside found itself under rising persecution. 

Instead of grand cathedrals which send their towers skyward in Rome today, in Paul’s and Timothy’s

time, Christians’ places of worship were the homes of its members, where they usually met with the

shades drawn.

"Chosen and Upheld"

Isaiah 42:1-9

2 Corinthians 4:7-12

      The 42nd chapter of this prophecy speaks of a servant; one who is chosen and upheld by the

Lord, and in whom God delights.  Commentators are in broad agreement that this is a prophecy

pointing toward the promised Messiah; the one who would speak for God; the one who would

give up life and liberty for the sake of the world on God’s behalf.  In our era and frame of refe-

rence, we recognize that Jesus – who came some five hundred years after this prophecy was

declared – best fits the bill as the One who was uniquely able to speak God’s word, and who

would indeed sacrifice life and liberty for the life and liberty of the people from whom and to

whom He was called.

"Unlawful Behavior"

Mark 2: 23-28

1 Samuel 21:1-6

      I never tire of stories shared by the late author and humorist Erma Bombeck.  She wrote of a

certain “supermom” who possessed the gift of seemingly being able to do everything right.  She

kept a spotless home.  She cooked like a chef.  She kept her husband happy.  She always had a

copy of Dr. Laura’s latest book on the coffee table. And she usually answered the door pregnant

when the priest came by for a visit. 

      “One day,” Bombeck wrote, “I asked her how she did it, and she said, ‘As a Catholic, I follow

the example of the blessed virgin Mary.’  And I said, ‘Marge, it’s a little late for that.’  She said,

‘Very well, I’ll tell you.  I have certain customs I follow daily without deviation.  Every evening,

when the children are bathed and tucked into their clean little beds, and their little shoes are

racked up, and their little clothes are all in the hamper, and I’ve heard all the little prayers of the

children, I fall down on my knees and say my own little prayer:  ‘Thank you, God, for not letting

me kill one of them today.’” 

"Seafaring Wisdom"

John 5:19-20, 30

Proverbs 12:15: 15:31-33

      I have become convinced, now cruising into my 64th year on God’s green earth, that there are

some people on God’s green earth who are un-teachable.  Now I’m not suggesting that such folks

are cognitively impaired or intellectually incapable.  On the contrary, they may be intellectually

super-capable and cognitively ultra-gifted.  It’s less about inability to be taught; more about

unwillingness to be taught.  And it’s usually because, at least in their own minds, they already

know it all.  Have you ever met a know-it-all?  I think the writer of the Biblical book of Proverbs

may have had know-it-all’s in mind when he wrote this:

"For You"

Mark 1: 4-11

Romans 5: 6-11

      On the first Sunday after Epiphany, we observe on our liturgical calendar what we call The

Baptism of the Lord.  Our primary text comes to us this morning from Mark’s Gospel account of

Jesus’ baptism, but we will be referencing Matthew’s and John’s accounts as well.  Let’s go out to

the river and meet a guy we might call strange.

SermonAudios/2018-12-23.mp3"A Charlie Brown Christmas"

"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.