Friending Jesus 
Sunday, February 22, 2009, 08:00 AM - Sermon
Mark 2:1-12

Pastor Christy talks about holy friends.

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.

Time magazine had a article (“Why Facebook is for Old Fogies” 2/12/2009) about how old fogies like me are taking over the previously college only social networking site Facebook, which now has 150 million members around the world. This is equal to about half of the population of the United States. The fastest growing demographic is those over 30. I know I've gotten more friend requests in the last two months than the previous two years. The Time article suggests the number 1 reasons old fogies are taking over Facebook is that “1. Facebook is about finding people you've lost track of. And, son, we've lost track of more people than you've ever met.”

I chose to add Mark 2 reading to the traditional reading of the Transfiguration. Both have social networks in the stories. The transfiguration has Peter famously wanted to stay on the mountain top with his friends, Jesus, Moses and Elijah. The Mark 2 reading had friends bring their friend to Jesus in spite of the crowd around Jesus. Making connections.

Facebook connects people several ways. Most is some variation of friend of a friend. It came be done on purpose, when you friend a new person, Facebook nudges you to ask your friends to be a friend to the new person as well. Bringing others together. Also some people have been know to review their friends' friends and send a message off to them saying, remember me? We have a mutual friend in Tack, or Harry, or Mary. Connections.

Transfiguration has deep and wide meanings. One of them is our reaction to an encounter with the holy. We want to keep it. Holy means set apart, separate. You all know folks, maybe you one of them that get upset if the sanctuary is used for a common purpose, or if communion bread is used for sandwiches. Holy means it is not for normal, everyday use. We want to keep it to ourselves. Just like Peter we want to build structures that will encase the holy for us and our friends.

I think about those friends hauling their friend to see Jesus. I assume they were his friends, who else would carry him to see Jesus, and finding the easy way blocked, open up the roof and lower into the room? As faithful as that was, turn and look at the reason that act of faith was required. There was no room to get him to Jesus through the door, the crowd was too great. I wonder how hard they tried to get in. I wonder how much the people made way for them to bring their friend face to face with Jesus.

The college kids are not to happy about the take over of Facebook. They want it to themselves. I am an old timer on Facebook because a college kid said I couldn't get on because back then only those with college email addresses were accepted. Come let us build booths and keep the good stuff for ourselves. Let us stand in the doorway…and not let others get to Jesus.

Well, in less than a week. I got on to Facebook. All legal, just err…unorthdox. Like coming into the room through the roof. It is what people have been doing since there have been people. We want to come face to face with each other, to connect with the good and the holy other. We take on barriers as challenges. We climb mountains because they are there, we go to the moon because we have never been there.

We can be the ones in the doorway blocking others or the ones on the roof overcoming obstacles. We can be the ones suggesting friends or the ones keeping the old fogies out. You may think this is just a Dear Abby kind of advice. (Have you seen what she has been printing about church weddings lately! ) But look what flowed from the roof removers. Mark 2:5, when Jesus saw their faith he forgive the sins of the paralytic. Let that sink in. The friends' faith caused Jesus to forgive the sins of the paralytic. Their faith brought him to Jesus.

I wonder what the paralytic thought about all this. Was he urging them on…or scared out of his wits. Being hoisted on ropes is not a calming experience, and if you are paralyzed, I imagine it is the fear factor is multiplied. Not to mention the social awkwardness of dropping in uninvited. The gospel doesn't record his attitude, or even that he requested healing of his soul or body. It was important to Mark. He did include that Jesus healing him after seeing the faith of the friends that brought him to Jesus.

Do you have a family member, a friend, a generation, that is paralyzed and will not, no, cannot make a move to Jesus? Your faith can get that person there. You'll have to get creative, raise the roof if people are in your way, come down from the mountain where everything is cozy and holy, but you can friend Jesus. I have a friend Jesus…I think he might be your friend too. And when Jesus sees your faith, looks over his friends, Jesus might pick him to be healed body and soul.

We are raising the roof here. We replaced it last year, now we are in the roof we call the balcony trying to open it up the sanctuary with images to get more folks to drop in and meet Jesus. They can't get in to meet Jesus. Someone is in the doorway, or lingering in private reverie on the holy mountain, building booths instead of making friends for Jesus. We coming out of our comfort zone and getting into valley where the hurting and lost are found. It isn't as nice as building booths for the holy ones on the mountains, we have to make room in our schedule, our comfort zone, our ideas of proper worship, but when the roof comes off, when we come down from the holy mountain we where we can friend Jesus and healing will come when Jesus looks and see the faith of those who brings their friend to Jesus.

Come down from the holy mountain. Get out of the doorway, too late, look the roof is opening up! Folks will come in ways we do not expect and be healed as they find friends of Jesus to bring them to him so he can friend them, forgive them and heal them.


[blockquoteAdvanced 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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Akron Roundtable Prayer 
Thursday, February 19, 2009, 09:00 AM - Prayers
Posted by Administrator
Our Kiwanis President, Kurt Winebrenner. is a banker, but puts his heart in his prayers at the monthly Akron Roundtable meeting:

Creator of us all: During this time of economic and social difficulty, it is very easy to become absorbed in our own troubles and busy lives and to forget those around us. Let us not forget what makes us human and encourage us to make the extra effort necessary to brighten another's day whether it be by offering a smile to a stranger, holding a door or elevator for another, stopping to say hello to a neighbor, or any number of other acts of kindness.

Rather than dwell on the negative events in life, encourage us to appreciate all that we have to be thankful for every day and to share those good things with others.Amen.

Akron Roundtable is held at noon on the third Thursday of every month, Akron Roundtable is a non-partisan forum. Each event, held at the Quaker Station located at the Quaker Square Inn on the campus of The University of Akron, begins at 12:00 noon with the speaker's address immediately followed by a question and answer session. Doors open for the event at 11:45 a.m. The event concludes at approximately 1:15 p.m. $15
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Pot Luck Praise 
Wednesday, February 18, 2009, 06:00 AM - Extra Christy
Many2Many Replaces One4All

Who will prepare your food tonight? Two general options are home cooking by you or a loved one or restaurant fare which you pay others to prepare.

A combination of food by others and food by family is a Pot Luck where each family brings a dish to share with the group in a common meal.

The spreading of the web with social networks like Facebook, encyclopedia's like Wikipedia, video sites like YouTube and photo gallery's like flickr takes a pot luck approach to serving up news, information, video and photos. Folks bring their own content and comments while consuming offerings cooked up by others.

Free Press used to be free if you owned a printing press; now all people can publish. News and information that used to be served by few chefs to many diners, resturant style, has moved to the crowed choices of a many to many pot luck.

Worship is not immune to these changes. I have seen worship move from a performer and audience to conductor and orchrestra to a coach and special teams. Have more people participate in more ways is surprising, fun, and unpredictable just like a pot luck...just like God.

Bringing Worship

What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. - 1 Corinthians 14:26 (TNIV)

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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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