Sunday Valentine Prayer 
Sunday, February 15, 2009, 08:00 AM - Prayers
God, we run aimlessly. Looking for a quick prayer and an instant blessing. We are shocked over the excesses of others but surprised when others have the courage to mention our intemperance. Forgive our lack of training for your race. May we focus on the goal set before us and do our part to wash and be clean.

God you are constantly renewing your miracle of life among us. As we prayed for the blessing, now we give you thanks for xxxx and xxxx of Color our Rainbow Academy celebrating the promise of pregnancy and birth. May they be blessed and know your of your love all their lives.

God we have more bequests than baptisms, more wakes than weddings. Help us grow young again, passing the torch of your community and love to the next generation as it has been entrusted to us. May we go forward without leaving anyone behind. Help Song and Service grow from the inside out with the blessing and support of your faithful servants gathered in the combined service starting in March.

Be with our elected leaders, and all those who we have entrusted finance, health, and social order to on this world. May the be guide to do good for all people, and work for the next generation not just the next election or next annual report.

As we remember our loved ones over Valentine's day let us remember loved ones separated: by walls and wars, by distance and divorce, by tribe and terror. Maybe we show others to the place where your love can heal and help all of whatever nation, clan, color, or status be healed and restored to love.

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Fix Me God 
Sunday, February 15, 2009, 07:06 AM - Sermon, Podcast
2 Kings 5:1-14

Pastor Christy talks about how to get healed by God.

The message below is available as a podcast recorded live at our worship service. Click the podcast image to listen now or right click the image and choose "Save As" to save this message in mp3 file format on your computer for playing later.

Namman went to a lot of trouble to be healed by Elisha. He traveled to Samaria about 100 miles from the main city of Aram, Damascus. He brought up the idea with his boss the King. He traveled to enemy territory. He took a fortune with him as tribute to the prophet. He went to a enemy king and asked for a favor! He travelled to Elisha's very gate.

For all his trouble, two kings, 100 miles of travel, a fortune in tribute, and going right to Elisha gate: He gets a message from a servant to wash up in the river. As he angrily left, his response says much:

“For Me” He wanted more, he deserved more. Look at all he had done to get the healing
“He would surely come out” Not a messenger with instructions, but a personal appearance.
“Stand and call on the Name of The Lord” say the right words to God
“Wave his hand over the spot” do the right mystical things
“and cure the leprosy” Instantly and completely fulfill the request.

Naaman may have been a non-believer and a stranger, but he had detailed expectations of how this God healing was supposed to go. The Holy One called on God with Holy Words and did Holy Actions to make a Holy Miracle Cure. The idea that he had to do something to make the miracle happen was ludicrous. By definition, miracles were something normal people with normal actions couldn't accomplished. If anyone could do it, it wasn't a miracle.

God, fix me. I'll travel to a holy place, give an offering, wait on a holy person, just fix me. Has that ever been your prayer?

To be fair, Naaman did a lot of preparation. He tried hard! He listened to others, he went through official channels, he was ready to pay the cost, he travelled to find the miracle. Yet, what was asked of him was unexpected, it wasn't hard enough nor holy enough to be acceptable to him, he almost lost the miracle of healing.

Naaman had a plan. First he was going to get approved by the powers that be. He sought letters of reference to impress the holy man of God. How could the holy prophet turn down a letter from a powerful king. The king of Israel was impressed, he ripped his clothes when we saw the letter. We do that. We trot out our good deeds, maybe not as crassly, but it's there everytime we say “Why me” we are showing God that we have earned the right for favors over others. The way to healing is not to claim to deserve it.

Expectations are the cause of our downfall. When we make God fit into our plans, cast the Lord Almighty into our drama, it rarely works. Naaman was a military commander, a good one. He had the cure by God all planned out, the political realities, involving two kings, the logistics and travel. The cost for the cure and the way Elisha was suppose to accomplish it, a planned and scripted. God goes off-script and tells Namman to do the unexpected. To wash in the river when Naaman, being an efficiency guy, knew that couldn't possibly cure him. There were better rivers at home and he had washed before. Really. But the unexpected result of the unexpected request was an unexpected healing.

There is more unexpected in this story of healing. It runs throughout the story. The beginning as well as the middle and end. A slave girl, now we have a hard time reaching back thousands of years and across many cultures to understand what it meant to be a slave back then. But we do know she was taken from her home and land, never to see her family again, to be forced to work for those who raided her country. She had every reason to hate her master and wish them ill. But unexpectedly she tells them the good news, that there was a man of God, the God of the Hebrews, who could cure her master, make him well and not ill.

Not enough healing? We need to listen in unexpected places, and like the slave girl with no recorded name, witness to the name of God who heals. If she can do it in a foreign land, in a foreign language, in foreign servitude, there is no place where we cannot say how great God is. Our unexpected witness, might begin a story of unexpected healing.

In all his preparations, one thing that Naaman had not done was to obey God. To do what the prophet of God says. Everything up to then was what he thought he should do to be healed. It was his plan not God's. He even asks the king to get the healing done for him, as if it was a royal favor instead of a miracle of God. You want God to fix you? It may be you need to do what God wants, to get fixed, not what you planned for God to do. Even if it doesn't make sense, like travelling a hundred miles to wash when there are perfectly good places to wash without travelling.

In a larger sense, if we are looking for God to fix us, we should not be looking for arm waving and handouts, but how we can obey God. Where is there something we can do that God has told us to do? It doesn't have to be a great thing, it may be a small thing. But seeking God's will like Naaman finally did, allows miracles to happen. So when religious arm waving and miracles aren't happening, it isn't because God is withholding from us, but maybe because we haven't found out what God wants us to do. Instead we have been plowing on our own path seeking favors from those we favor instead of God.

Once I was stuck big time. I was trying as hard as I could to make something happen. Nothing was working. Time was running out. I remember my prayer. God, I know there has to be a change, but I give up everything I've tried hasn't worked. So it is up to you, because I'm clueless. I had wanted to move before Rachel started High School, for several reasons, and God was making it pretty clear to me it was time to move, but no churches were working out. I tried so hard to get a church in the time I had. Couldn't do it. When I gave up it was a fearful scary thing. My college roommate who I hadn't spoken to in years came by, I told him he was taking me to dinner. He asked about a computer problem, this was ten years ago. I pulled out my palm pilot, brought up the answer on the screen and explained it to him. I didn't know it, but he was interviewing me for a job. Within a month, I had sold a house for my asking price, bought a house, left the church, and moved in to our new home two days before school started. I spent the next years taking a sabbatical from full time ministry and getting to know my family again. It was a healing time. It was only possible, when I quit trying to do things my way and gave it to God.

Healing was only possible after I quite doing things the way I thought, the way I knew God wanted them done. The answer was not to try harder and harder, but something completely different and unexpected. I believe we here at Goodyear Heights are ready to quit trying harder and harder to get God to fix us now our way, and ready to let God do some healing in his own different and unexpected way.

Want to be fixed by God?
- Stop trying so hard to impress God with reference letters from Kings and bribe him with riches Or for us a good reputation and service record and promises of pay off if we are healed

- Seek to obey God in little ways as well as great. Move the focus from getting God to do what we want, to doing what God wants us to do.

- Be ready for a healing that comes in an unexpected and surprising way If miracles were simple and easy to understand…we wouldn't need God for them!

That is the way for God to fix you. Amen.

Advanced permission is given for non-profit, for-prophet use of the above at no charge as long as it is reproduced unedited with notices and copyright intact. Written copies are provided after they are preached as a courtesy for the personal, private, appreciative use of the congregation of Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church, their families and friends to support the ministry of Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church and its pastor the Rev. J. Christy Ramsey. Join us Sundays! 8:15 Traditional Worship and 10:15 Blended. Mingle in our Gathering Room between services and take advantage of Christian Education opportunities. Starting March 1st Combined Service 9 AM Song & Service 11 AM! The early class for adults meets at 8:15 AM with Sunday School for the rest of us at 10 AM.

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Renew, Run, and Revive 
Sunday, February 8, 2009, 07:30 AM - Sermon, Podcast
Isaiah 40:21-31

Pastor Christy talks about Compassion Fatigue - being too tired to care, how to relight after burnout.

The message below is available as a podcast recorded live at our worship service. Click the podcast image to listen now or right click the image and choose "Save As" to save this message in mp3 file format on your computer for playing later.

Feel like Isaiah 40:27 is your life verse? “God has lost track of me. God doesn't care what happens to me.” Dissed by God almighty. Isaiah has good news for you. God has not forgotten you. The sign “If you feel far from God, guess who moved?” is half right. You can feel far from God, but God you can never move away from God say Isaiah. Paul tells us that God is doing everything God can to save us. Mark's reading tells us that Jesus is doing God's work when he goes searching for the lost.

Stress is when the perceived threat is greater than the perceived resources. So says J. Eric Gentry, who trains folks who suffer Compassion Fatigue, that special burnout that makes the caregivers give up caring. Isaiah points out that our resources are on a Godly scale and there is no credible threat to God, the inhabitants of earth are like grasshoppers, no one is God's equal.

How can we become compassion fatigue proof? The promise is there in Isaiah, we shall run and not grow weary, shall walk and not faint. The source is found there as well, God's almighty power and persistence. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:16-23, the lectionary reading for today, that he is entrusted with a commission: to become all things to all people so that by all means he might save some. Jesus shows us in our Mark 1:29-39 reading to keep moving forward on our mission, no matter how others may try to distract us.

There is a traditional benediction that helps us grasp our task as the commissioned on a mission.

Go out into the world in peace, first know that you are safe. We are the safest generation in the history of the planet. We have to read about and view danger and disaster far away to keep our anxiety up. If statistics don't comfort you, then know that in life or in death, we are God's. We can be at peace because this is God's world and we belong to God. Isaiah tells us that God calls us by name. We can be at peace with the God's world, we are safe here and hereafter.

We are not at war with the world. The world belongs to God, God created the world and all that is in it and called it good. Why do we think we need to be at war with it? We are to tend God's world. We are the gardeners of God's creation, the stewards entrusted with what God owns. Isaiah tells us that the rulers of the earth are nothing, the power of the princes are zero, the inhabitants are like grasshoppers, there is nothing that scares God, that makes God faint or grow weary. Revelation is a book of horrific disasters, but the final teaching is: There is nothing to be scared of in God's world, God saves God's people.

have courage, Dorothy Thompson, the German American journalist who wrote against Hitler and rallied Germans against his evil said
Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow.

Isaiah says that while others, even the young fall exhausted, those who trust in the Lord, keep on going and going and going. Just like that annoying Energizier bunny. Courage is keeping going when others have quit. Paul overcomes any barrier he finds to get the good news out. He does not let the Jewish law, heathen doubt, weakness in spirit, or anything else stop him from sharing God's good news. Courage is knowing what you are here to do and doing it, regardless of the crowd, or difficulty.

I watch a little football. I am amazed at the plays they execute. I'm further amazed they get anything done, when there is a determined group of 11 very large motivated men trying to stop their plan. I expect that the other team won't show up; that I will have the field clear to execute my dazzling plan. I am always surprised that there is a group stopping me from my goal! That there are others on the field that have another goal they are working for! Courage is getting up from the ground, even with a bad call from the referee and setting up for another play, and even at the end of the season, saying, “There is always next year!” and showing up on the field again.

hold onto that which is good Viktor Frankl is quoted on the cover of the bulletin. “To give light, one must endure burning”. Viktor Frankl died just a dozen years ago. He was a survivor of Nazi death camps. He spent his time there helping others giving meaning to lives unimaginably worse than any of us ever can imagine much less experience. He choose a life of meaning even in the most dire circumstances, one that killed millions including his wife, brother, mother and father. He says:
"...We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way..." p.104 Man's Search for Meaning Viktor Frankel

We can choose to hold on the good even in the worst of situations. If folks can be kind and helpful with their last piece of bread in the Nazi death camp…we certainly can do this as well.

return no person evil for evil, The leader of the seminar I went to on Compassion Fatigue tells a story on himself. He has every letter after his name you could imagine, including two Ph.D.s, but from time to time he is overcome with road rage. Once a man picked the wrong day to cut him off, and he was enraged. How dare he! He followed him for blocks and finally pulled in after him in a Blockbuster parking lot. He got out, put on his “man face”, an angry grimace I imagine football linebackers display to the other team, and began yelling and screaming at this driver. The man looked at him like he was out of his mind, which he was, and calmly got back into his car, locked his doors and rolled up his windows. Then in the midst of the yelling, he cracked his window just enough for his mouth and said, “I will not be part of you mid-life crisis.” No matter what unfairness, sabotage, and evil come your way. Do not return it. Do not let yourself be sucked into the evil.

strengthen the faint hearted, support the weak, help the suffering. How can you do this? You may not have money, you may not have skill or training as a professional care-giver. There is something we all can do, we all must do for others and have others do for us. The first part of the vaccine against Compassion Fatigue is a friendship, a therapeutic relationship: someone who will listen to your story, keeping calm and relaxed. That's all that is required listening to the story of stress while remaining calm and attentive. Advice and guidance is okay even good, afterwards, but the important part is the person listens to you. You can strengthen the faint hearted and be strengthen by others if you listen to one another. We do that in Sunday School, Choir, classrooms and the Gathering Room. In chat rooms, with phone calls and letters, maybe even email works a bit.

Everyone was searching for Jesus in the Gospel. But he did not stay where he was, among the healed and happy. Being served by Simon's grateful Mother-in-law. Jesus went out to proclaim the message of the gospel and cast out demons in other towns. He was true to his mission what he was put on earth to do, even when others called him away from it, to stay with those who did not need his help where his work was done. Instead, Jesus went where he was determined to go, he kept to his mission to preach and heal.

There is work to do. We gain life by having a purpose, we don't have to be the savior of the world, we can strengthen, support and help by the simple and rare act of listening.

rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. Not your power. Trusting in our own power leads to Reactivity where we feel everything depends on us…we talk to ourselves in terms of “I must…” “If only they would…” “This is fair!...” as if we were alone in this world and the next.

Instead we need to tell ourselves to remain calm in God's hands. Rejoicing the power of the Holy Spirit, means trusting in God's power and not our own power. “I will do my best, and the rest is in God's hands.”

We will do all we can do and be assured that our work and our life is safe with God. We can be calm remembering that the world will just be find if we follow God's course. Our part in the God's plan, not the whole plan, is good enough for God. We know we are not gods; we cannot control the world and those in it, we can only control our own behavior…which is a big enough job.

How can you revive, run, and renew?
- know whose world this is, God's not ours
- know that the world is in God's good hands, not ours
- remind ourselves in this world and the next we are safe
- have and be a friend that listens
- make a purpose and make progress every day towards it
- continue on regardless of the obstacles around you


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Burden Delivery 
Wednesday, February 4, 2009, 07:10 AM - Extra Christy, Radio
Where Do You Put Your Burdens?
UPS has a distribution center by me. I like taking my packages there to ship.

Unlike a lot of stores, the door into the building automatically opens. The exit door has a sign warning you that it requires a push.

I thought that was odd, until I realized that UPS assumes that you are bring packages into the store, the opposite of most businesses, that hope your arms are full on the way out! You only need the door to open automatically when you are burdened.

I wonder which way church doors would open automatically, coming in or going out. Do people leave their burdens there or get loaded up with more? I suppose it varies among different people and week to week.

At home or church, or whatever special place you have to leave your burdens, I hope the door opens in welcome for you and you are free of burdens when you leave.

Carrying Burdens

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them."- Luke 11:46 (NIV)

I hope doors open when you are carrying burdens.
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Special Treatment 
Sunday, February 1, 2009, 08:00 AM - Sermon, Podcast
1 Corinthian 8:1-13

Pastor Christy talks about being Christian in a secular world using Respectful Presence and a wide understanding of the presence of Christ

The message below is available as a podcast recorded live at our worship service. Click the podcast image to listen now or right click the image and choose "Save As" to save this message in mp3 file format on your computer for playing later.

Who gets to pray at a presidential inauguration? Since 1937 when FDR started the tradition of prayer at inaugurations, inaugurations have included the prayers of rabbis, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, a Presbyterian for Ronald Regan and even the president himself, Eisenhower started his address with a prayer! Did you follow the debate this year? Rev. Rick Warren, author of A Purpose Driven Life, was asked to pray at the beginning of the ceremony, which outraged some people so much that Bishop Gene Robinson was asked to pray at another event, which outraged the folks that supported the choice of Rev. Warren. The idea of a national pastor or national prayer seems to be difficult to do.

Did you hesitate wishing folks “Merry Christmas” this year? I figured “Happy New Year” was safe, though the Jews and Chinese have different New Year's. What if it was turned around, we might be wished a good Imbolc tomorrow, a pagan festival. It does not have to be between Christians and everyone else, we have seen in the debates over the inauguration prayers that Christians have a hard time agreeing. It isn't just prayers either, wedding ceremonies, the very legality of marriages, family gatherings, social events, governmental meetings, public decorations, the definition of life, medical research. How are we to get along with one another where there soon will be no majority, just a collection of minorities? It is good for us to treat others rightly, and not just fight at the ballot box because it soon the situation might be reversed, and our flavor of Christianity will be the minority, if not for us than our children or grandchildren.

Our Presbyterian General Assembly put it this way a decade ago:

Many persons in the United States have traditionally assumed that Christian religious institutions constituted the dominant religious force in U.S. society and that, therefore, their symbols and religious forms should be commonly accepted in the public arena. Today, however, Christians in the United States find themselves in a society that has become so diverse religiously and culturally that it is often inappropriate or unacceptable to assume that acts of Christian worship will be used in public circumstances. At the same time, Christians may find themselves in situations where they are unsure if they are unfaithful and unwise to participate in other types of public religious acts which some might interpret as unauthentic worship.

Will we avoid the language of religious participation and the symbols of religious expression entirely and thereby treat public encounters with people of other faiths as purely secular? Or, shall we join in situations where religious expressions and symbols are used in a context where diverse faith communities are present and active?

We are convinced that Christians may engage in interreligious prayer and celebration, not only to meet the demands of particular occasions, but also as an expression of our faithfulness to the gospel itself.

Respectful presence is a way for Christians to be present with persons of other religious traditions in a variety of settings, expressing deep respect for those persons and their faith while maintaining loyalty to the Christian gospel. — Respectful Presence: An Understanding of Interfaith Prayer and Celebration from a Reformed Christians Perspective commended to congregations by 209th General Assembly (1997)

Paul had the same problem of a variety of religious expressed in a different way. He was fussing with food sacrifice to idols. I don't think we think much about that problem now. Devil's Food cake, deviled ham and deviled eggs don't upset us much. The principle is the same. Some good Christians thought that it was joining in the worship of idols if you eat food that was dedicated to them. Christians, and I think Paul with them, figured it made no difference since “no idol in the world really exists”, he quotes the arguments, or at least the sound bites from the arguments.

Paul points out the difference between the knowledge on which these arguments are based and love. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. One of the teachings in my first experience as a chaplain that has stuck with me is the idea that chaplains needed to be secure enough if there own beliefs that they did not need to argue their beliefs with others. Maybe a better way would be that chaplains who know better; who love others enough that they don't need to argue their beliefs with them.

How is this difference from shifting opinion of Political Correctness? How can we avoid being controlled by the weakest or “squeakiest” member of our community? Paul tells us. At the end of the reading today, he explains why he is as he is. He doesn't leave the control in the other people, but makes a faith statement of who he wants to be as a person of faith, a Christian. He will not eat meat not simply because others told him not to, or because they have convinced him of the reality and power of idols, but because he does not want to cause anyone to fall. It is a profound difference. You can do what other people wish you to do and still be faithful and authentic if you do it for your reasons, not because of their demands. I wish to be a person that builds on others faith, not tear them down.

We can learn also from Paul's respectful presence in Athens which, according to scripture, was full of idols. He tells the idol worshipping crowd in Acts 17, not that idols are wrong and evil but that the evidence of idols shows they are very religious. He doesn't give them tracts or Bibles, but talks about looking carefully at their objects of worship and even quotes one of the inscriptions and poets. His message doesn't mention Christ by name yet he witnesses to the common humanity of all people made by one creator. He is faithful, but respectful, finding common points of faith among Christianity and even the idol multiple God worshipping Athenians. He builds up with love, instead of being puffed up with knowledge and being dismissed as a blowhard.

We wish to be people that confess Jesus Christ is “The way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) As Respectful Presence reminds us: Where God's grace and mercy is present, where creation is restored, when human dignity is maintained, where the stranger is received, Christ is present and revealed. Wherever sisters and brothers gather to comfort, confront and correct each other, God's Spirit of truth is there.

So we seek to “build loving relationships with people of other faiths and religious traditions. Where possible we will work in solidarity with them in struggles for justice, freedom, peace, and human dignity.” (PC(USA) General Assembly minutes, 1991, Part I, p. 676, para 34.074) not because we have given up control to others, but because of who we are and who Christ calls us to be, a light to the nations, builders of faith, peacemakers, and servants. Amen.

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