Seeing from a Distance 
Wednesday, March 26, 2008, 12:30 PM - Extra Christy
My distance vision has improved! So my new eye doctor told me this week. I was congratulating myself until my doctor told me that is what happens to near sighted people when they got older. Ouch!

I have noticed my distance vision improving with age. Not the physical sight, but spiritual vision. As I get farther away from events, the hand of God shaping those times comes into focus. I remember praying to God asking why everything was pushing and pulling me to leave a church as pastor. I didn't get an answer then. I just went where I discerned God was calling, though it made no sense to me. Years later, looking from a distance, I sense that God wanted me away from the pulpit so I could be in the pew with my family during our children's high school years. My sight is better at a distance.

Another time I was wondering while I was called back to being a pastor, away from my secular job. It happened in less than a month. I was amazed that I was in a church so quickly and grateful for a paying position. I started as interim pastor on September 1, 2001. Ten days later, I saw better why God had decided that church needed a pastor so quickly, for reasons much greater than my cash flow.

I'm getting new lenses for my glasses so I can read without lengthening my arms. It is not so simple to glimpse God's writing in our lives. Sometimes it can only be done from a distance.

Correcting Our Sight

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.-- 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (NIV)

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Wear A Sweater Tomorrow 
Wednesday, March 19, 2008, 12:14 PM - Extra Christy
Tomorrow, March 20th, is Wear a Sweater day in honor of what would have been Mr. Fred Rogers' 80th birthday. I was an interim pastor in Fred Rogers boyhood church and got introduced to the wide reaching ministry of Rev. Fred Rogers. (Yes, Mr. Rogers was Rev. Rogers, a Presbyterian minister!)

One of Fred's songs was "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" where he asked the viewers to be his neighbor. The concept choosing others to be our neighbors helped us one evening with one of Jesus most difficult commands, "to love our enemies". A member recalled the Godfather Part II quote "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer". He suggested that if we brought our enemies close enough to us...they would cease being enemies and become neighbors, whom we could love.

I hope you choose to wear a sweater tomorrow in honor of Mr. Rogers. I pray that you choose to put on Fred's heart and seek to make all people your neighbor.

Love Your Neighbors

You have heard people say, "Love your neighbors and hate your enemies." But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong. If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors love their friends. If you greet only your friends, what's so great about that? Don't even unbelievers do that? But you must always act like your Father in heaven. -- Genesis 5:43-48 (CEV)

Fred Rogers gave a moving testimony to the Senate in 1969 that is just as important today as it was then. It is on YouTube It may be the best seven minutes you hear today.

(The URL is: ... 6575573317)

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

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Shouting Stones 
Sunday, March 16, 2008, 12:20 PM - Sermon, Easter
Palm Sunday
Luke 19:28-40 (not lectionary)

Stop the world I want to get off! How often have you wanted to stop a movement, a trend, a change? We could probably list a dozen easily. The decline of good jobs, the rise in bad divorces, ballooning corporate executives pay, flatting of wages, the rise of violence and decline of kindness, the graying attendance in churches and the rise of challenges to public Christianity, televisions everywhere and neighbors nowhere are a couple that come to my mind.

Pharisees are yelling “stop” here. Rather, they want Jesus to tell his followers to stop. One of the things I learned in college religion classes was talking to an upper classman who criticized my presentation on Pharisees. In the hall after class, he challenged me to see the Pharisees as sincere religious people that were following God the best they knew how. Over the years, I have put myself in particular and Presbyterians in general, not in the role of the palm wavers, tax collectors, sinners, healed or disciples that “get” Jesus but in the role of Pharisees. Pharisee who question, quiz, and quibble with this untrained, populist preacher who was upsetting not only tradition, but the government as well. It would be very difficult for a good Presbyterian to be anything other than a Pharisee in Jesus' time given a chance. We are the good, religious folk, who know how God is to be worshiped from long experience.

I believe that I and most of the good faithful Presbyterian folks I know would not be waving palm branches but Stop Signs out of concern for Jesus' safety from the Roman government as well as from the religious establishment. “Jesus this is upsetting people, palm waving is not an approved and accepted form of worship” Stop them!

Good, kind faithful folks have told me to stop praise worship, to stop the use of credit cards, to stop folks being asked to donate to worthy causes, to stop couples living together, to stop air conditioning, to stop the lottery, to stop stores opening on Sunday.

Here is one of the few times that Jesus says the request is beyond is ability to stop. Even Jesus cannot stop the praise and joy of the people breaking out. The change is coming. Jesus sees that even if he did stop the people shouting praise, the stones would shout. I believe he wasn't talking about stones talking but about the impossibility of stopping the praise and joy of the people who had found their Savior.

My family has an odd tradition of shouting stones. It has recently been passed down by my daughter to children she watches. When the car went into the tunnel we would roll down the windows and scream at the top of our lungs…to hear the echo from the stones. Sadly, we neglected to tell our Uncle of this practice when he traveled with us. He almost jumped out of the car when everyone else in the car started to scream. Waving palm branches seems pretty tame compared to our road trips.

Like my Uncle we are sometimes surprised by the shouting. We want it to STOP! We stand with the Pharisee giving advice to Jesus, “Jesus you have to STOP these people. Folks are going to get upset, it might be the death of you. This is not the way it is done.”

One of things we yell STOP is the globalization of jobs. When products and services are broken in to components and parts of the process are sent all over the globe. We can't stop it. Dwight Murphy summaries Thomas Friedman example of Rolls Royce in The World is Flat

One of these is Rolls-Royce. If the firm's name brings to mind the image of an elegant car, that is years out of date. We're told that “Rolls-Royce doesn't even make cars anymore (that business was sold in 1972 and the brand was licensed to BMW in 1998).” Instead, the company's core competency today has become “making gas turbines for civilian and military airplanes, for helicopters, for ships, and for the oil and gas and power-generation industries.” The business structure based on interconnectivity results in Rolls-Royce's now employing “people of about fifty nationalities in fifty countries… It outsources and offshores about 75 percent of its components to its global supply chain.” It “partners” with other companies and with universities for products, services and research. [by Dwight D. Murphey in the Spring 2006 issue of The Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, pp. 107-114.]

Rolls-Royce doesn't make cars. They don't even make gas turbines. They make 25% of a gas turbine. The critical parts like the blades that are grown from a single crystal are made by them. The 75% of the turbine that can be made cheaper, better, and faster by others are made by others.

I imagine folks were betrayed that Rolls-Royce quit making cars. I bet a couple were disgruntled that they lost 75% of the manufacturing of their remaining product: gas turbines. They died to the old way to find new life. They didn't try to shut up the screams of globalization that made the world flat, they found out how to thrive in the world without walls where distance no longer matters. If they didn't, someone else would have done it cheaper, faster, and better. There is no stopping progress in the world as other countries build and invest and come on to the world stage. We are no longer the only actor on the world stage.

Rolls-Royce still makes power. In fact, now that is all they do. They are still the best at what they do. They found out how to be the leader in power generation in this new world. Rather than trying to stop the parade they got out in front and led it. Their core values have not change. How they accomplish being the best, strongest, most powerful engine has changed to fit into the new world.

We cannot shut up the future that is screaming into the world any more than the Pharisees can stop the new King of Kings coming into the world. We don't have the power to stop people from using credit cards, we don't have the power to bring Goodyear tire manufacturing back to Akron. We should not have that power either. Religion is best when it is struggling. It is at its worse when it is powerful; for a struggling religion relies upon God while a powerful religion relies on the powers and processes of this world.

We can welcome the new. We can repent, witness, believe, love, grow , and serve in this century as well as in the last. Just differently. Our focus is not how can we stop the world, but how can we go into this world. Soon everyone will be working for themselves. Reputation will be as important in next years as seniority was in the last for job security. How can the church help people move their reputation from one job to the next? It used to be important in business to be seen as church can we make it church help folks get their daily bread? Can we be in the reputation business? Or will it be eBay reputation points that determine entry into the world wide web of commerce?

How can the church ensure health care follows folks from job to job and covers children and the poor? Churches have made hospitals and clinics in the last century, how can we get health care in this century? Instead of buildings of stone and glass, maybe we need to build a shelter of insurance and co-opts. Or we can leave it to the politicians and pharmacological medical complex to distribute health care.

Christians were behind education institutions. We made high school free in this nation so that farmers could get a job in factories; we moved the nation from farms to cities in a few generations. Now education is needed throughout life to move from factory floor to the world arena. How can church encourage, support and celebrate life long learning?

Churches were the first into nursing homes and the care of the aged. Can we be a part of the spectrum of care now that extends from home health through assistant living into nursing care? Should we have affordable senior housing or leave it to the speculators and developers?

Churches were the hub of the community. Can we move into hospitality, bringing the extended family to strangers living alone together? Some churches have wedding/party ministries that support and extend hospitality.

Do you have your hands over your ears yet? Do want everything to be quiet and peaceful? Do you want to put down the palms and pick up the stop signs? We could, but even the stones will shout. If we don't serve God, God will find others that can serve him in this world. No one has job security in this world, not even Presbyterian churches. Followers of Jesus are ready for the future, the inbreaking of the kingdom, when everything is turned upside down, Christ is there to lead us to God. Wave a palm. Hosanna! Welcome the King of Kings that brings in a new era.

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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Connecting Sidewalks 
Wednesday, March 12, 2008, 10:49 AM - Extra Christy
Why are there blizzards? Akron received over a foot of snow last Friday and Saturday, prompting the cancellation of church services Sunday. (Don't blame me, I'm in sales not management!)

During the avalanche, I was pleased to see a fountain of snow erupt in my front yard. A neighbor was blowing snow off my walk along with the rest of the block. All right! With that head start we were able to keep the sidewalks clear by periodic attacks with our shovels during the day.

One reason for blizzards might be an opportunity for kindness. Tales of neighbors and strangers coming together to help each other (like our neighborhood snowblower) were common last weekend. In fact, by clearing the sidewalks along the street, our neighbor had connected us and brought us all together.

Jesus Christ clears the path not only between us and God, but also between us and others. All of our identities, walls, divisions are knocked down by Christ's overwhelming love for humanity. Like a blizzard, everything else is of secondary importance, compared to the grace of God's acceptance which covers all of our shortcomings and offenses. We are all connected by the grace of God and the love of Christ in one community of the Holy Spirit.
Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you.

How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.-- 1 Corinthians 5:18-6:1 (Message)

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Things That Make Us Happy 
Wednesday, March 5, 2008, 08:13 AM - Extra Christy
Things that make us happy is the most difficult article to write in our monthly newsletter. It lists good news among the members of our congregation. (I got the idea from Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church in Louisville, KY) It was missing this month and I was pleased to hear it was missed. We don't often stop to list the happy things as often as we post our gripes, chores, and appointments, so it is hard to find happy things for the newsletter.

Coming events and pastor reports fill a newsletter with the Pastor's article as icing on top. Getting all that together is a time consuming job, and they must be included! In the newsletter and in life is difficult to do extra things we don't have to do, like remembering tell ourselves and others to be happy about good things in our lives.

Church elders and pastors from a region meet together as a Presbytery. One Presbytery assigned a member to give a resolution of thanks at the end of the meeting. The good things we had done were brought up; everything from the good church meal shared, to missionaries commissioned. It was an unnecessary item of business, no vote or discussion was required, but I found it to make the rest of the meeting worthwhile.

Consider keeping a list of things that make you happy. It would be good to review at family meal times or just before going to bed. In the midst of all the things we have to is good to do things we don't have to do, like remember to be happy. It helps make the what we have to do worthwhile.

Things To Think About

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.-- Philippians 4:4-9 (NRSV)

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