Sunday, April 8, 2007, 04:00 AM - Sermon, Easter
Mark 16:1-8
Easter Sunrise

There is a pre-school with a huge picture of an ear on the wall. It appears the preschoolers can walk into it. It is there for telling. Instead of tattling on every little thing to the teachers, they can go over to the ear and tell the ear what Ricky did or what Susie said. It helps the preschoolers with their need to tell even thought it is just a drawing on the wall.

At some time most of us learned not to tell. We learned what was private family matters, confidential among professionals, and topics not for public discussion. We also learned what we could talk about, the weather, sports team, maybe the latest round of American Idol, and with some the most popular post on YouTube. We don't talk about religion or politics, although sometimes you can sneak politics in under the guise of entertainment and religion if framed in a horror story of the extremes of too much or too little religion.

This morning we have a story of telling. The original ending of Mark was 16:8, “They did not tell anyone because they were afraid”. A story of politics and religion too fearsome to tell, even though they were instructed by an angel to do so: That Jesus was not dead, but risen, and gone ahead to meet the disciples back in the old stomping grounds in Galilee.

We are left entrusted with the greatest news, for Mark's gospel leaves us hanging. They didn't tell anyone because they were afraid, not even the ear drawing on the wall. Can we remember what it was like to be in pre-school, when we were fearlessly bursting to tell trivia as news, good, bad, and embarrassing? Or how about a little later, waking the parents up on Christmas morning because it was almost dawn and time for presents! Or calling family and friends that we got the job! As the filters and constraints of society and age have descended upon us, it seems most of our lives are passed in an elevator, traveling with others in comfort, but without speaking to one another about anything, much less things that matter.

Easter means We have something to tell.
Death is not the end of the story; Christ has defeated death there is life beyond death

God bends everything to his good purpose, the greatest evil, the killing of Christ, God with us,
is turned by God into the greatest good, salvation for humanity, life after death

Jesus Christ is not dead but alive and ready to meet us in our life

We have read the last chapter of the book of history, and death is defeated and God wins

Nothing can separate us from the love of God, not military and political power, not betrayal,
nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God shown in the resurrection of Jesus.

Let Easter be a time to focus on telling. That Jesus is not dead to be visited at the tomb on Sunday. But he is alive, and not only that he is waiting for you at home, at work; he is not just alive he is in your life! A live Christ is a fearsome thing compared to a dead Jesus. But life is a fearsome thing, we need all the good news we can get, and the news that Christ is alive and waiting to meet us where we are going, is news to tell everyone. Tell the world, Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed and waiting to meet you in your life. 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.

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Bundles of Joy 
Wednesday, April 4, 2007, 07:17 AM - Extra Christy
A child was confused by 193 Easter Baskets waiting for delivery in our hallway this week. I told her that sometimes the Easter Bunny couldn't find children that can't stay at their homes with their mommies and daddies, so the church people help the Easter Bunny out by making and giving the children these baskets. Not my best children's sermon but it seemed to reassure her and explain the basket explosion in our halls.

There is an average of 1,000 children in the custody of Summit County children services, and dozens more are in various shelters sprinkled throughout Akron. Today church people delivered the baskets to the shelters and those at the Summit County home. There were baskets for the children, teens, parents, and even one for the staff to share. One staff member told us, "Thank you, our staff have been calling, "we don't have candy for the children!", but I told them "Don't worry, it's coming."

Not being at home with mommy and daddy is a difficult time for a child. Maybe having a colorful basket of candy and a stuffed animal will help their Good Friday life sparkle some with Easter resurrection hope, for while the Easter Bunny might have trouble finding them, God is with them in good times and especially in bad.

If you are in a Good Friday time...don't worry Easter's coming!

Children Come to Jesus

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.. - Mark 10:13-16

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How Much Horsepower in a Donkey? 
Sunday, April 1, 2007, 07:30 AM - Sermon
Luke 19:28-40
Palm/Passion Sunday Year C

Superpowers are popular again in our culture. Superhero movies range from X-Men to Spiderman. The Color Our Rainbow kids made a big poster about the one superpower they wanted and why. The two most popular ones were flying and being invisible. Heroes is a popular Television show about people finding they have superpowers from reading thoughts, to invulnerability to harm, to painting future events, and yes, flying and being invisible.

Palm/Passion Sunday is about power. The power of the Palm that the crowd was looking for and the power of the Passion that Jesus chose. The first kind of power is horsepower. When a king came to conquer, he rode a war horse into the city. Michael A. Lindvall, the author of our Wednesday night studies says:

Theoretically, I suppose that Jesus could have chosen to be a Messiah on a war horse and vanquish the Romans, the world's more familiar expression of power. This kind of power is the United States military in Iraq. This is the power of a police cruiser sitting on a city street keeping cabbies from running the light. This is the power of me telling my teenager, “Do that and you're grounded for week.” This is the power of the IRS telling you, “Pay up by the middle of April or else.”

The power of the horse, horsepower. To make our will be done on earth as it is in mind. You know the world would be so much better if everyone would just do things my way. The funny thing is, everyone believes this about themselves, with various degrees of passion, to be sure.

Yet Jesus, the one person who can accurately claim that the world would be better off if we did things his way, doesn't use horse power to drive his way into our lives. When a king came into a town in peace, he came on a donkey. Down low, probably dragging his feet in the dirt. The power of the passion, the humble donkey is not power to make others do what we want, but power to make ourselves do what others want, giving service instead of enforcing servitude. Choosing who we are in the world, not choosing to struggle with others in the world.

This is not a rejection of power, but a way to use power, saddling up the war horse or arriving in peace. Philippians has a hymn to the power Jesus exercised. From being in the form of God, he didn't demand that awesome power, but emptied himself becoming a humble servant of all, and thus became the most powerful of all.

Millard Fuller in Love in the Mortar Joints tells of his personal journey from material wealth to spiritual riches. He was a wealthy man, a powerful man, but his health was broken, his children were strangers, and his wife had left him. He walked away from a successful business, sold all he had and gave it away, and worked as a servant for what became Habitat for Humanity, building homes here and abroad, for poor people with no interest loans and all the funds put into building more homes. He gave away his power, and became a servant, and yet changed the lives of thousands who had a decent home instead of a shack, and built a decent home for his spirit, where there was a shack when he was powerful as the world measures power. Power used for a mansion or power used for homes for the poor.

What are your powers? As Americans, even the poorest of us have economic power far beyond the ordinary earth dweller. What do we do with our power? How do we use it? As a nation, as the last remaining superpower, how does our nation use its power? Do we ride in as conquering hero on a powerful horse, or as a servant on a humble donkey of peace?

How confused must the people been--the king welcomed by cheering crowds, ending up on a cross, betrayed and abandoned less than a week later. The folks would have been asking themselves, what happened to the power that we saw displayed last Sunday? The cheering crowds, the shouts of king!? From that to a disgraced death on the cross! Where did all that power go?

Yet we know, that the power was not in the Palm Sunday parade, for what if Jesus had conquered the Romans, became a king as the world knew kings, fulfilled the wildest hopes of the crowd? By now he would be like all the other great kings of long ago: a trivia answer on Jeopardy, a page in Wikiopedia, an essay on the AP History Final. But because of the power of his passion, his obedience to God in service, even to death, he is the savior of the world, worshipped by millions, the motivation for good works, charity, hospitals, schools, food banks, the world over. Our church overflows with Easter baskets and food panty donations, not by the power of command, but the passion of love and service. Not the power to change things, but the power to change people.

We do not look for laws for Christianity requiring displays of faith in objects or people. We could write in on election day with votes like a mighty horse and compel schoolchildren and agnostics to behave like Christians, even pray like Christians. Get married like Christians or go to jail. Rather we should seek our passion and not our power, seek to out do everyone else in service and love, even if we “get crucified” doing it, for we know that passion lasts longer than power, that changing our hearts and our service demonstrates broader, deeper, richer power than changing things.

Choose passion for others instead of power over others. Look for service instead of salutes, spiritual practices instead of power plays, a cross to carry instead of a palm to wave.

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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The Way Out 
Wednesday, March 28, 2007, 08:00 AM - Extra Christy
"How do you get to the second floor?" asked the frustrated repair person. "I tried the elevator, but the doors don't open!" That's odd I thought. We have a 21 year employee of Otis elevator on our board, and we get very good service on our elevator.Curious, I got on the elevator with him and went up the the second floor.

On the way up, as I watched him give the "elevator stare" to the front of the car, I realized the problem. The elevator has two doors. You get in the "front" door on the ground floor, but due to additions and remodeling, on the second floor you get off the "back" door. When he got to the second floor, as far as he could see, the way out was blocked! He never turned see the open door behind him.

If the door in front of you is closed, look around, there might be open door behind you!

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone.
God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out
so that you may be able to endure it. - 1 Corinthians 10:13

Hope you always find God's way out,

J Christy Ramsey

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Do You Want the Deluxe Accessory Package? 
Sunday, March 25, 2007, 08:00 AM - Sermon
John 12:1-8

Do our possessions possess us? Our Gospel tells us that even the person who wanted to sell the perfume and give it to the poor really wanted to keep the riches for himself. He wasn't against having costly things, just others having costly things instead of him.

Some would have you believe the answer to the dilemma of having and not having is to ignore it. To separate the spiritual from the material, and God only cares about the spiritual; forgetting he is the creator of the material and the one who blessed the material world and called it good.

Others would tell you to give up the material, sell what you have and give to the poor. Jesus tells the disciples to do just that in Luke 12. What do rich Christians do in an age of hunger? What do you do when approached by someone who asks you for a dollar? The easy thing is to give him a dollar. The smart thing might be not to make eye contact and ignore the person. I know one person who says, “I don't give money, but would you like me to pray with you?” He says it acknowledges the other person and changes the subject from the material to the spiritual. He is a little weird in other ways, too.

If you don't give away all you own to the poor, how much do you keep? There are homes where there is a little narrow path between piles of “clothes, books, magazines, spoiled food, firewood, car parts, tires, bank statements and 50-year-old tax records” (USA TODAY 2/18/2004). Called hoarding, it is uncomfortable and unsafe to be around. In extreme cases floors have buckled under the weight of several dumpsters full of possessions. While extreme forms are an exhibition of obsessive compulsive behavior, we probably all have junk drawers of various sizes. And if you ever watch programs such as “Clean Sweep” where a team tackles clutter with Toss, Sell and Keep piles, you know how hard it is to reduce the Keep pile. They always have to make them cut the Keep pile in half. If you don't have a cable show to come and help you with your possessions, preparing for a move is a good review of your relationship to your possessions. My precious books took a big hit, after lugging them from one interim position to another; ⅓ of them were given away or sold. It was hard (I might need them someday!), because hoarding supplies is emotional rather than rational process.

Our lesson last Wednesday suggested three ways to deal with possessions:

Moderation - TOSS
Moderation the old Stoic philosophy from ancient Greece: Moderation in all things. I suppose you could find some Christian support around the concept of sharing burdens, but it is a strain. The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes and an old song by the Byrds gives support to this idea:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

We can work on knowing when it is time to keep or a time to throw away, time to scatter and time to gather. We can look at our closets full of clothes from years and body sizes long gone and remember John the Baptist's words, to let the one with two coats give to one who has none as a preparation for the coming of the Savior. Never thought cleaning your closets would be way to welcome Jesus, did you? Gandhi is quoted as teaching “Live simply so that others may simply live.” Currently, we are being told that moderation in our energy use might be necessary to survive as an independent people and even to simply survive!

Materialism - SELL
“The second answer (to possessions possessing us) is to remember that sweet as the things of this world may be, they can never fill that empty place in the human soul that aches for spirit. Augustine said that there is a “God-shaped void” in all of us. No matter how much stuff you stuff into that void, only God will ever fill it.” (Thoughtful Christian Lent Study) We can try to substitute toys for touches, sweets for soul food, and mansions for community, but they don't fit or fill the hole we have for the spirit.

There is a story in Luke 12 where the famous quote “Eat, Drink and Be Merry” comes from. It is about a man who made great barns and filled them with all the material wealth he would ever need. He then said the famous line, “Eat, Drink and Be Merry” only to be corrected “You Fool, tonight your soul is required of you and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” The question of what and how to prepare is answered in another scripture, which we sometimes quote before our offering:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Majesty - KEEP
The third option given last Wednesday was found in our scripture for today. Mary did not hoard the perfume, saving it because she might need it some day, nor did she hold it as an investment because it was worth thousands of dollars in today's money. She kept it and used it for the glory of God. It seemed to be just what Jesus needed then, an anointing for his coming burial. A sacrifice from Mary that bonded her to Jesus' own sacrifice.

There is perhaps our most helpful answer to free us from being possessed by our possessions, to excise the demon possession, to recover from affluenza, to examine how we use our possessions, entrusted to us by God, to the glory of God. We have another verse from Romans 12 used before the offering: “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: if service, in our serving; whoever contributes in liberality; whoever does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

Moderation, Materialism, Majesty. Toss, Sell, Keep. The best way to possess our possessions instead of the other way around is to let God have them and us to use both for his glory. Neither making them an end in themselves nor tossing them out in an effort to be completely spiritual. Percentage giving or pledging a specific amount is often mentioned, too often according to some. But I know a foster parent who told me, I can't preach or give lots of money, but I have a big home and a big heart so I take in children. I know a person with a car who drives people who can't drive themselves. I know a person who can cook who makes dinners for others.

Today you can ask, do I have more of this than I will ever use or need? Get rid of it! Am I substituting this thing for a feeling or a relationship that I lack? Get rid of it? Am I using this for the glory of God! Get on with it!

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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