Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

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"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.’ 

"Of Shrubs and Trees"

Psalm 1:1-6

Jeremiah 17:5-11

 

      In this morning’s primary text, the prophet Jeremiah is writing specifically to the tribe of Judah;

the southern kingdom of a divided nation.  In the prophet’s view, one of the sins upon which Judah

would be judged was their love of wealth; much of it unjustly gained.  A second was their tendency

to raise up their earthly leaders as if they were deities; considering the words of mortals as having

more power, more wisdom, more authority than the word of Almighty God. 

      (Read Jeremiah 17:5-10)

"At the End of Your Rope"

Matthew 14:22-33

Psalm 46:1-7

     There’s a story of a group of young skiers stranded in a rugged, mountainous area following an

avalanche.  The only hope they had of being rescued off the mountain was to be airlifted.  So a

ranger’s helicopter came with a long rope which was lowered to the victims.  Four persons – three

men and one woman – grabbed hold of the rope and were lifted high above the treetops for the  two

mile journey to the nearest ranger station.  Still a mile from their destination, the rope began to

snap, a cord at a time.  They decided that one person had to get off, or the rope would break and

they’d all perish.  The three men were eyeing the woman who happened to be bottom most and the

heaviest of the riders.  Knowing their intent and her probable fate, the woman gave in; and as a final

word, offered a really touching speech.  She said that she was willing to give up her life to save the

others.  After all, she said, women are accustomed to sacrificing for their husbands and children, and

seeing to the well-being of others, often receiving little or nothing in return.  When she finished her

passionate oratory, all the men applauded…….  The moral of the story:  never underestimate the

wisdom and resourcefulness of a woman at the end of her rope.

"Let's Give Up Counting"

Matthew 18: 21-35

Colossians 3: 12-14

          (Read Matthew 18:21-22)

 

      Once upon a time, there was a man who had a dog and a cat which were the joys of his life.

Having to take an extended business trip to Europe, he left his prize pets in the care of his brother. 

About a week into his trip, he called to see how the critters were doing.  “Well, your dog is fine, but your cat is dead.” 

The owner was brokenhearted.  He screamed at his brother: “How could you be so cruel and insensitive?! 

Don’t you know how much I loved that cat?  You could have said, ‘Your cat is up a tree and we can’t get her down.’ 

Then in few days, you could have called and said, ‘Your cat is down from the tree, has broken a bone, and is in the animal hospital.’

Then a couple of days later, when I was better prepared, you could have called and said, ‘I’m

sorry, but your cat has passed away in her sleep.  She felt no pain.’”  “You’re right,” the brother

replied.  “Please forgive me for being so insensitive.”  “Okay,” said the pet owner. “But if it hap-

pens again, we’re done.  I will not forgive.”  The following week, the man called his brother from

Europe again.  “How is my dog?” he asked.  “Your dog is up a tree, and we can’t get him down.”

"There's a Wideness in God's Mercy"

Psalm 86:1-7

Genesis 21:8-21

      Before we read this morning’s lesson, we need some background.  Abram had been promised by

God that he would be father of a great nation; that his offspring would number more than the stars

in the sky or grains of sand on the shore.  Yet as the months and years passed, and as Abe and his

wife Sarai grew further beyond childbearing age, their doubt and desperation grew as well.  At

Sarai’s behest, Abram took her slave-girl Hagar as a wife, and she conceived.  But from the time of

conception, Sarai - driven by jealousy - began to mistreat Hagar terribly; so much so that Hagar ran

away.  After receiving assurance from an angel of God that she, too, would bear a son, and that he,

too, would father a great nation, the angel instructed Hagar to return to the house of Abram.  She

did, and soon gave birth to a son, who Abram named Ishmael. 

"Returning Home"

Psalm 84: 1-4, 10-12

Psalm 118: 19-29

      As Dorothy Gale awakens from her deep slumber, she hears a familiar voice:  “Dorothy ---

Dorothy!  It’s me – Aunt Em….. Wake up honey.”  “--- no place like home….. There’s no place like

home….. no place…..”   “Dorothy, Dorothy dear, it’s Aunt Em darling.”  “Oh, Auntie Em, it’s you.”

In response to Professor Marvel who’s leaning into the window of Dorothy’s room, Uncle Henry

claims:  “She got quite a bump on the head – we kinda thought for a minute she was gonna leave

us.”  Dorothy tries to sit up in bed:  “But I did leave you, Uncle Henry – that’s just the trouble. 

And I tried to get back for days and days.”  “There, there, lie quiet now.  You just had a bad

dream.”  Then one by one, they come to her bedside:  “Sure --- remember me --- your old pal

Hunk.”  “And me ---- Hickory.”  Then Zeke:  “You couldn’t forget my face, could you?”  After

arguing that it was no dream, but rather “a real, truly live place’ --  most of it beautiful, but some

of it not very nice -- Dorothy Gale concedes, “Oh, but anyway, Toto, we’re home.”

Central Presbyterian Church

47 Second Street NE
Massillon, Ohio 44646

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