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Superbowl Pick 
Wednesday, January 31, 2007, 08:41 AM - Extra Christy
God gets called upon before and credited after most football games (at least by the winning team) Yet, if God was directing the playoffs this year, you would guess the smart money would've been on the Saints.

Is the winning team the one who prays the best or the most and so becomes God's favorite? This is only a little different than the so called "prosperity gospel" thinking that suggests earthly blessings are the result of our own holy efforts to get God's attention.

It is a little vain to think God is concerned about the final score of our football games. (I mean, what if God is, horrors!, a soccer fan!). Just because something is important to us, even "super", doesn't mean it is important to God. As Amos tells us:

"I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. . .Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never- failing stream!
Amos 5:21, 23- 24 NIV

I plan to cheer on the Bears this Sunday evening. But Sunday morning and every day, I'll be in God's cheering section rooting for righteousness and jumping for justice.

It's not whose side God is on;
but who is on God's side.


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Love's Way 
Sunday, January 28, 2007, 07:00 AM - Sermon, Wedding
1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Preaching that grabs the heart; teaching that reveals eternal mysteries; faith that wears down mountains of doubt; generosity ten times the size of a tithe that gives everything back to God; all of these, any of these, would define a great church. Such a church would be quoted in the paper and celebrated by its members. We have the best preaching, teaching, faith and generosity! We are blessed by God! Everyone would want to go to such a church! They are the winners.

Paul has struggled with various groups arguing that God had blessed them best. He attempts to quiet that competition by pointing out that all the gifts are given by one Spirit for the good of the entire body of Christ. But he ends the section with a teaser at the end of chapter twelve. “But I will show you a still more excellent way.” That way is our reading today, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Love's Way.

Here he lists what people would consider great spiritual gifts: preaching, teaching, faith, generosity, and sacrifice, and cuts them all down to nothing without love. Of all the things we can say about ourselves, or others can say about us; the one thing that will remain after all is said and all is done, is how much did they love? Maybe that would be a great annual report, a standard committee report, a monthly newsletter headline: How did we love this year, this month, this day?

Have you noticed that being rich is necessarily a guarantee of happiness or even success in life? The movie Dreamgirls with 8 Academy Award nominations is the latest story of a person who gains the world but loses love. Curtis, played by Jamie Foxx, builds a recording empire and a castle of a home…which he is left alone when his wife leaves him, tired of his betrayal and all consuming focus on money and success. Of all the grandiose shows and wonderful choreography in the movie, the scene most moving is this simple one done with lighting: his grandiose home vanishes as the light shrinks away from it to show just him, alone in the spotlight, just a shadow. If I have the great recording company, and live in a mansion, but have not love, I am homeless and alone.

The Beacon Journal took pains in its report that the Akron Baptist Temple had 7,000 members in 1963; now it has 1,500, less than a fourth. It didn't report on how much love they had. The world counts heads, God counts hearts. If I have numbers to fill great auditoriums, and impress the press…but have not love…I am a empty chair.

I was talking to a person about the church building. They wanted to rent it and would pay more if they could do whatever they wanted to the rooms, paint and remodel. I told them that was a deal breaker. “But we would pay so much more” was the argument. We aren't here for the money. If we have a successful partnership bulging with activity and profit, but have not love, we are bankrupt.

The world wants amazing things. We see this in the Gospel. They want “Real miracles, sensibly priced” (Leap of Faith). Jesus says that miracles are not for everyone and thus turns an appreciative crowd into a murderous mob. The way of the world is to make a profit or die trying. But as Paul tells us in Corinthians, Jesus has a different way. Look at the last verse of the reading. Here we have a mob ready to toss him off a cliff for daring to tell them that God granted miracles for widows and foreign lepers and not them his own people. Yet, Jesus manages to walk through them and go on his own way. His way is not the way of the world, it is another path, the way of love.
When have you been on that cliff? Did a false accusation drag you up there? I remember a bank president, a member of the church I served. accused on the front page of the small town paper of sexual harassment. He wouldn't come to the door when I visited him. The mob was ready to throw him off. What is pushing you up the cliff: financial problems, loss of a job, unemployment, a wayward son, daughter, grandson or grand-daughter? The world will push you and push you if you let the mob have their way. But you can choose love's way, like Christ, and pass through the midst of them.

It is difficult to go through the midst of the crowd on Jesus' way, the way of love, for you must leave irritability at the meanness of the mob or resentment at the unfairness of friends, and gather up a load of patience, bearing and enduring all things in love. In the words of Reinhold Niebuhr in the Serenity Prayer, “Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it” and loving it just the same.

A couple was celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. They were asked how they managed to stay married and in love all those years. The wife said, “When we got married, I decided to make a list of 5 things that he did that I wouldn't get mad at; that love list has kept our marriage together.” She was asked what was on the list and replied, “Oh I never got around to writing it down. Just every time he did something to make me mad, I would say to myself, he's lucky that is on the list.” Love bears all things, endures all things.

The world screams for fairness and success, reward and miracle, fame and fortune. Yet Love's way whispers, come through the crowd, away from the cliff that desires for success and power will lead you up and push you off the end.

Everything but love ends. We want to forget this. We want our family name to continue. We want to leave our mark. We want our values to continue. Sometimes we even want our lives to continue at all costs. Look at verse eight, knowledge will pass away, prophecies will end, great spiritual displays like tongues will cease. For all that we build up is incomplete. We can make a hollow idol of our house, our car, our family, our job, our bank account, our church, our worship ways, our health…but all those will pass away, and before they are gone, if they are without love, we will find they are nothing.

Bobbie Probstein, in Chicken Soup for the Soul tells of having a vision of her mother, who was claimed by Alzheimer's.

I said, “Oh, Mother, I'm so sorry that you had to suffer with that horrible disease.” She tipped her head slightly to one side, as though to acknowledge what I had said about her suffering. Then she smiled - a beautiful smile - and said very distinctly, “But all I remember is love.”

All God remembers, all that makes anything memorable, all that lasts, is love.


Copyright (c) 2007 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.

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Stand or Run 
Wednesday, January 24, 2007, 08:34 AM - Extra Christy
Church people talk funny. In a way we are like foreigners, our homeland is in heaven and we don't exactly fit into a secular society. When our church elects officers, we "stand" for election, never "run" for office. (The image of a Presbyterian elder running does seem odd.)

Rather than chase office, gathering handshakes from special interests and bestowing baby kisses of favors, church folk traditionally are called by others to stand before their spiritual brothers and sisters, for better or worse, as they are, a sinner forgiven by God; ready to serve if it seems right to others.

The call of Isaiah is similar to God's calling of other prophets to serve God and God's people, except he is more willing than most. (Jonah even ran away from the call!) No campaigns, no nominating speech, no talking points, no endorsements, only a willingness to stand and serve, "Just As I Am".

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" - Isaiah 6:8 NIV

It is good that God's call comes to us where we are. We don't have to run to find his call to service or wait until we are perfect! We just have to stand still long enough to get his call.

Hope you stand for God today.


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Individual Unity 
Sunday, January 21, 2007, 07:00 AM - Sermon
Posted by Administrator
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

A Place for Each One

“Shhsss kids, I have to concentrate.” Another Sunday morning, another church. Our young mother seeks to enter this week's candidate for meaning. “Where is the parking? Is the church behind door number 1, door number 2 or door number 3?” These practical questions mask her deeper disquiet, “Will there be a place for me? Are there people like me there?”

Our reading tells us that everyone has a place we are find a place in the body of Christ for everyone, and find our place in the body. Sometimes it is hard to find a place. A new member came to church work day. Everyone started to work, but our new member was gently but firmly told when she started dusting, “Evelyn always does that.” or when went for the vacuum she was informed, “Harry runs the vacuum.” Finally, she got an idea. She knew that Dorothy died a few months ago, so she asked, “What did Dorothy clean?” Or she cleaned the windows every year. “Is anyone doing that?”, “Well, no” came the answer. So our new member found her place.

In Quarterlife Crisis authors Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner interview over a hundred twenty somethings who are striving to find their place in the real world. Partly because there are so many options, settling for just any job isn't an option; twenty-somethings take their time to find their place in the real world which offers them an overwhelming number of choices in careers, finances, living situations, and relationships. The church can be a place for them no matter where their search takes them, no matter if they are a foot this month and an eye next month, or retail worker this month and a carpenter next month, in a relationship status or in a "Complicated" status. Through it all they are still part of the body of Christ here at Goodyear Heights.

Differences Natural and Necessary

Paul says that the church is like a body composed of many different parts. We are not here to make everyone the same, differences are not only natural and but necessary. A member sent me a cartoon, a church lady is on the phone, “They're putting choruses in the hymnbooks and projecting hymns onto the screen. It's getting so I can't remember what I'm not supposed to like!” The focus needs to be not on what I like and don't like, but how the mes can connect to be we.

Paul uses the image of body, but Carlos Wilton uses a sports image: For the team is one and had many players, and all the players are of the team though many, are one team…Indeed the team does not consist of one player, but of many. If the defensive end would say, “Because I am not the quarterback, I do not belong to the team.” that would not make him any less a part of the team. If the whole team were quarterbacks, where would the running backs be? If all were kickers, where would the receivers be? The quarterback cannot say to the offensive line, “I don't need you.” Not without getting knocked to the ground the next play. Only when all the parts are at their best selves does the whole team rejoice.

In the first church I served, a man came up to me and said, “Don't ask me to speak in front of people, but if you need a strong back and a weak mind, I'm your man!” No one can do all things, but all can do one thing. From serving on session, to the great force for good we have for deacons, to Vacation Bible School, to dinner committee, to fund raising for youth, to leading the youth group. There are different places for service by different people and all are needed.

We need each other.

It is sadly popular to slice up the body of Christ into fragments. Discarding some as “too”: too strict, too liberal, too fundamentalist, and dismissing others as “uns”: un-Biblical, un-American, un-intellectual. We all are too much some ways and not enough in others. Yet by the great grace of God, we are all brothers and sisters in one uncomfortable family that is too proud to admit that we need each other.

The writer John Donne says it this way:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind...


I remember at one General Assembly a member from the Witherspoon society asked me for a null modem cable. Strangely I was without one and he went off to continue on his quest. Later I saw him and asked if he ever found his cable. “Yeah”, he said, “The Layman booth lent me one.” Now the Witherspoon Society is usually considered liberal, okay, really liberal, other groups have speakers and a lunch they have a band and a party. So I asked him if the good folks at the Layman knew what group he was from? He said “Yes, but us techies have to stick together”. I wished he had said, “Us Presbyterians have to stick together, or even us Christians have to stick together.” We need each other to solve the problems and overcome the challenges.

Baptism is a lifestyle choice.

Baptism is all about unity of the body. We make promises to the child and parents to provide a church home for them and the parents promise to raise the child in the church. Strangely, Baptism is often view as a event by the unchurched; like a hellfire vaccine, or a handstamp for heaven. Get it done, get on with your life. But baptism is a lifestyle choice not an event in a baby book.

Years ago, I had a conversation with a pre-school director who was resisting holding graduation exercises complete with cap and gown for the five years who were going off to kindergarten. As cute as they are, the educator believed that such a graduation was meaningless, even a mockery of the effort and time spend by those who did don the cap and gown after years of high school, college, or graduate school. Dressing up for an event doesn't make an education, the ceremony is only meaningful after committing to the learning and the work that accompanies it. The difference between a uniform and a costume is the commitment and experience of the person wearing it.

Baptism commits one to be a part of the body, a student body, that meets at least weekly to learn and grow in the one faith, it is a sign of our unity in the spirit, a unity that invites and includes all of God's children and welcomes their varied gifts and contributions to the good of the whole.


Summary

There is a place for you here in the body of Christ. We realize that none of us is as complete and competent as all of us. The body of Christ needs all kinds of people contributing their unique part of the body into which we have been joined by baptism into one. You are welcome, you are valued, you are needed by Christ here.

Copyright (c) 2007 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.

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iPOD and ourPOD 
Wednesday, January 17, 2007, 03:14 PM - Extra Christy
Two teens were waiting for a table at a restaurant with an iPOD music player. The odd part was that one was using the left ear bud and the other had the right ear bud attached. Instead of one being tuned in while tuning out the other, they were happily listening to music together.

I was glad to see an iPOD being used to bring people together instead of shutting others out.

I was reminded of the direction given by John the Baptist when he was asked by people how they should live:

John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." - Luke 3:11

“Evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” said D. T. Niles. I think another image would be a person with music sharing it with one who has none.

Hope you find someone to share your music with today.

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