Lifting the Veil 
Sunday, February 18, 2007, 08:00 AM - Sermon
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

The child was fussing, so the mother had to leave the older child in the ice cream store to attend to the younger crying one. Now it was a wrestling match trying to get the child in the origami of the belts of the car seat. After a few minutes the older child came out and got in the car and started squealing for another reason. There in front of them was a glorious rainbow stretching completely across the sky. The mother had missed it, it was blocked by the flaying arms and legs, and drowned out by screams and squeals.

Appropriate symbol for that time in a parent's life, one of God's care and consistency, which God's freely promises to preserve the world.

What gets between us and the glory of God?

Other Things
We can keep busy with work, keeping our mind on our labor even when we are home. Letting work keep us away from God. For students, they can be so wrapped up in school that there is no room to see God. For seniors, the distractions of home and health can keep our minds far from the things of God. For parents, the demands and needs of children can pull a veil over time with God. Sometimes it is impossible to close the door for a well deserved bubble bath, much less time for prayer.

An occasional snowstorm helps break our busyness cycle. Routines are disrupted; Color Our Rainbow had only 8 children on Valentine's Day, about a tenth of what they normally have to take care of. Stacy told me, “It's great! I'm getting all kinds of work done!” Severe weather can rip away the veils of activity and schedule that we have draped ourselves in and expose us to a winter wonderland transformed from ordinary to heavenly, if we are ready to see it.

When your schedule is bumped, or cancellations come your way; consider it is a gift from God and nudge to look up from that which screams for attention. It doesn't need to be the rainbow of God's presence.

Another veil that keeps us from the glory of God is our avoidance of times and places that we might be God. From a private prayer time, to Men of Luke 15 Bible Study, worship, to funeral services, or Ash Wednesday service, we can avoid the presence of God.

Folks like to quote evangelist Billy Sunday, “Going to church won't make you a Christian any more than going to a garage will make you a car.” Yet it is still true, that if you are a car, a garage is a good place to go to keep in running order. It takes a lot more work to be a car, if you avoid the protection and help that a garage can give.

We can take a break in our busyness and be physically present and yet still have veils over the glory of God. We can cover up newness and tie down possibility, making sure that more light will never break free. Here is an account of Pastor John Robinson's final address to his congregation we know as the Pilgrims upon their departure to the New World, 1620:

We were now, ere long, to part asunder; and the Lord knoweth whether ever he should live to see our faces again. But whether the Lord had appointed it or not; he charged us, before God and his blessed angels, to follow him no further than he followed Christ: and if God should reveal anything to us by any other instrument of his, to be as ready to receive it, as ever we were to receive any truth by his Ministry. For he was very confident the Lord had more truth and light yet to break forth out of his holy Word.

Where is God's light breaking forth from his holy Word? I can't wait to see the film “Amazing Grace” about the idealist William Wilberforce who maneuvers his way through Parliament in 18th century England, endeavoring to end slavery in the empire. There is an example of more light breaking forth from the holy Word. What light awaits the 21st century?

Seen God
I have been close to God a few times. I was on a camp-out. Running all over the place at night. When I got up the next morning, I found that my lens was missing from the glasses. I despaired of finding it. It could be anywhere. But I looked, not want to come home with glasses that needed repaired. I looked and looked, had others look. I gave up and prayed. Just stopped where I was and prayed that I would find my lens. I opened my eyes and saw some reflection on the grass right were I was looking with my head bowed. I stopped breathing. Could it be? I reached for it, thinking it was a trick of the early morning dew. It was my lens.

Have you had moments like that? When God poked you and you giggled like the Pillsbury dough boy in the commercial?

For the glory of God, you have to pause, pray, and peer. Make room for God's glory, remove the veils that cover his presence from us and you will see rainbows that God is with us, even when we are not with God.

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Snow Day 
Wednesday, February 14, 2007, 08:16 AM - Extra Christy
Midwest Ohio had its blizzard last night. Today, schools, businesses, and governmental offices are closed as people stay home waiting to be plowed out. In anticipation of the storm, a flurry of phone calls, emails, radio, TV and web site updates blanketed folks with cancellations and cautions.

All over Ohio priorities were reordered; a family went to visit an elderly relative before the storm since their meeting was cancelled; late night work addicts went home early, dinners were calmly eaten at home instead of hurriedly in the car on the way from activity to exhaustion.

There is a story of priorities in Gospels. It is about preparing for the arrival not of snow but salvation:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:38-41 NIV

It is good to have interruptions in our prepared and planned lives full of worry and upset. By canceling the urgent, we have time to consider the important.

Hope your Snow Day helps you find what is truly necessary
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High School Lessons 
Wednesday, February 7, 2007, 08:30 AM - Extra Christy
I came across some information that a high school classmate mentioned she was interested in at our reunion last summer. When I emailed it to her, I added the hope that she was making good use of the geometry proofs we learned in Mr. Nutter's class over a quarter of a century ago.

Now I was thinking of my favorite proof: The Means-Extremes Property of Proportions and other mysteries of lines and angles. But she was in the same class learning a different lesson:

And yes, I LOVED Mr Nutter and his class and if I don't remember the geometry, I remember his wonderful spirit and slow-talking technique that made it so much easier to grasp the concepts. I have found myself pulling in those skills, because of his fine example. I wonder if he's still around somewhere, I'd like to tell him about his positive influence.

Paul, author of large amounts of the New Testament portion of the Bible, often has his rules, proofs, and teachings quoted by Christian students. But at the end of one his lessons, he encourages them not to memorize just his teachings but...

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.- Philippians 4:8-9 NIV

I hope you learn much more that what is taught, and take those better and broader lessons into the world with the God of peace.

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Hot Lips 
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 07:00 AM - Sermon
Isaiah 6:1-8

A few weeks ago I talked about this verse in ExtraChristy, my blog for a weekly devotion that is mailed to the homebound and emailed to several dozen others.

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".

It is tough to do, we look around at the situation, our own “land of unclean lips” and say: this isn't going to be an easy call to answer. So we have perfectly good excuses and reasons, just like all prophets: Isaiah's was he wasn't good enough. He wanted the holy to leave him be, an man of unclean lips in a land of people with unclean lips.

There are woes around us. We do live among people of unclean lips. A couple of you were with me last week at the Linda Theater for the meeting of the business owners. When Bill Lawhorn asked how many had been robbed nearly fifty hands went up. In our parking lot we had a car broken into while a mother was picking up her children at Color Our Rainbow. The metal grates around the trees out front were stolen last fall and a set of shelves disappeared from Charlie's Place.

We can join the chorus of woes. I was visiting last week and one of the homebound told me she was worried about someone because she seemed to “let it grow on her” and had given up. We can do that, we would have every right to do that. We, like Isaiah, have seen the horrific gap between the holy should be and the unclean of what is. The gulf between what God is and what life is seems too large for someone like us to bridge. Woe is us! Leave us be! It is too much.

Paul talks about his call in our Corinthians reading. “The least of all apostles, the last of all, unfit to be called an apostle”. Paul had persecuted the church, looking to kill the unpatriotic blasphemers who were following this Christ. He was on his way to do just that, when God stopped him and called him. Paul or Saul as he was called then, had a hard time accepting his call and faced a understandably suspicious church. Could God have called someone else was probably a question both Paul and fearful Christians that met him asked themselves.

Well, lets go fishing. That is a good thing to do when times get tough, get away from it all in a low stress sport like fishing. Fishing is basically extreme waiting. I mean if the sport was serious about getting fish, I think it would be called catching. In our gospel, we have professional fishermen, after working all night and listening to a sermon, being told to put their nets out again. Lots has changed in the millenniums since this story, but telling a fisherman how to fish is as bad idea now as it was now. Peter says, as we expect, we have already tried and we are tired. What we don't expect, is that he puts down his nets one more time. He gets out of the boat, out of his comfort zone…and a tremendous catch that fills the boats is the result.

Now, like Isaiah before him, and Paul after him, Simon Peter turns away from Jesus' call: for he is a sinful man. He too has seen the difference between where God is and where he is and has given up being able to cross that gap. Jesus words to Peter does not deny he is a sinful man, any more than God denied that Isaiah was a man of unclean lips. “Be not afraid, I will make you…”
Isaiah, Peter, and Paul. Great leaders for God. None of them were worthy of the job. None of them sought the job. All of them knew it was ridiculous to even try. Yet when they were touched, but a hot coal, a healing hand, or a reassuring word from God, they realize as Paul says “By the Grace of God I am what I am”. We are not to look at the people of the land, the web sites marking burglary, the hands raised in shared pain, the empty nets of years of effort, but at God.

Guess what? God made Isaiah good enough. Unclean lips; God cleans them! Saul the persecutor becomes Paul the apostle, Simon the fisherman becomes Peter the rock on which the church is built. What is holding you back from answering God's call to service, in the church, in your community or in your family? Guess what? God can touch you and burn away what is holding you back, turn you around, put aside your fears that the emptiness of your life is all there is for you.

How to do this? First, listen for God's call. Where is God giving you an opportunity? A couple of people have answered the call for VBS? Do you hear that? Others have stepped forward for outreach and mission with the God Squad. Others have been called to face down pounds of potatoes for Dinner Committee…others have volunteered for Kairos and reached out to those in prison, others have agreed to be elected to session and deacons.

Second, listen to your fears. Tell God about them. It is okay to have doubts. I believe that anyone that wants a call that is sure they are doing God's will is disqualified. For all the holy ones I see struggle with God's call; recognize that they are not even close to living up to what is required and fight off fear of the holy. Tell God about that, talk to your friends and family, write in your journal, for God listens, God knows that if you were where you were he wanted you to be, he wouldn't have to call you.

Third, put the first two together, let God listen and answer your fears. Realize that it “is not you, but the grace of God this is with you”. Accept God's grace and help in the different forms in appears, whether it is through your own spiritual growth, a change in circumstances or the aid of others. Let the burning coal touch your lips, become fit for God, get out of the comfort of the boat; and former enemies become brothers and sisters, emptiness is filled. In faith, follow where God leads you, do not stay where your fear leaves you.

When one person in a General Assembly discussion group claimed that serving in the Presbyterian Church headquarters was like being on the Titanic, I rose to the challenge and asked people to pick their position on the PCUSA Titanic cruise.

1. Playing in the band
2. Rearranging deck chairs
3. Heading for the life boats
4. Filling officer vacancies
5. Pulling on the oars
6. Drilling holes in the bottom
7. Bailing out the water
8. Using the Bailing water to baptize
9. Looking for fun activities with Julie from the Love Boat

I had nine and only need one more for a top ten. Then, things changed, I got this reply: The good news, Christy, is that for many of us, the best analogy for Christians and the church (insofar as boats go, anyway) is that we should have been in the water all the while. That's where the rest of the people are.

Come on in where the people are, where God is calling you, the water's fine…or it will be by the grace of God.

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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EcuNet Traveling Stole 
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 06:30 AM - Church

Here I am with the Ecunet Traveling Stole. It started its journey in October of 1992. Various members of EcuNet religious computer conferencing group have passed it around since then. Several layers of signatures are on the back, on 3 panels. The book I'm holding is the stole's diary written by the wearers over the years.

I am wearing the late Elinor Mosser's robe. She was a stellar support person for PresbyNet, the Presbyterian section of EcuNet. She wore this robe and stole at her farewell service April of 1996 when she left the church pastorate to be "pastor" to PresbyNet.

I thought the robe and stole should be joined again in tribute to her.

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