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Praise Worthy 
Sunday, April 5, 2009, 06:00 AM - Sermon, Easter, Podcast
Mark 11:1-11

What is Praise Worthy?


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Heart Writing 
Tuesday, March 31, 2009, 06:09 AM - Sermon, Podcast
Jeremiah 31:31-34

When is new new? What new writing is God putting in our hearts?


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How Grace Works 
Sunday, March 22, 2009, 08:17 AM - Sermon, Podcast
Ephesians 2:1-10

Pastor Christy talks about AIG Bonuses and OUR Bailout known as God's Grace.


This message 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.


Classic free market capitalism understanding of what a government should do and be is that government should have only two jobs. The first job is national defense. The second job is: The enforcement of contracts. So it is surprising to hear calls for the government to void contracts because we are so mad at those executives that got those great big bonuses for losing all that money.

Boy are we angry about that. Imagine! Wiping out peoples' retirements. Wiping out peoples' investments. Wiping out old people and then getting millions of dollars in bonus because it's in your contract, win or lose. Remember how mad the nation was about the auto executives flying in their own private jet to the hearings in Washington to ask for money. They flew a jet to ask for bailout money.

Now we long for the good old days when we just were mad about a welfare queen that drove a Cadillac. But we need to ask, “Why are we so mad?” Why does that get under our skin and just really we can't even see straight because of it? We want to go so far as to void contracts, which goes against most conservative thinkers in America for decades and maybe even centuries.

If I ever have a book I'm going to write about how it could be a spiritual journey to find out what makes you so angry, what makes you so upset, what makes you so critical, and then turn that around on yourself and use that as a discovery for what's wrong in your own life. For, as Jesus said, “If you're going to take the speck out of someone's eye, take the log out of your own eye first.” What you object to in others, is present much more in yourself.

We are not perfect. We are in need of a bailout. We are all in massive toxic debt in God's sight. Maybe this would have been a good Sunday to say “debts” in the Lord's Prayer. Because you know, I think some of us, if we listen to ourselves, if we thought about what we were praying and we thought about, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive those who are in debt to us.” You would then think about all those AIG people, investment bankers, and all the people who took all those trillions -- I don't know if you want to say “Forgive our debtors…” today! Maybe it was good we had sins in the Lord's Prayer instead.

Ephesians tells us that we are all in the same boat. There is no one that is justified, there is no one that is totally good. As mad as you are about the thieves and the swindlers and the incompetents and the folks that took all the money, you're in that boat with them.

We have all followed the desires of our own senses. We have all been in our trespasses. We have all been what we should not have been. We have pensions. I hope so. They're a part of it. Do we have a credit card? Do we buy mortgages? Do we have all that? All that money? All that credit? All that? That's all messed up in it, too. That's all wrapped up into it.

Did we vote for less regulations of the government? Did we say, “Get the government out of the banking”? It's all part of it, too. No one wants it. We want to be graded on a curve. God demands 100% return but we come back with 1%, 2%, 3%, or 4% and say, “Hey, look. We beat the market. We're better than the market. We're outperforming the market, so we're good. We're OK, right?” God is looking for 100%. God invests in us. That last verse in our Ephesians reading: “We are created by God to live a good life.” God has invested in us. How are we doing with that investment of God? What is our return to God?

I think I found out why we were so mad about those investment bankers. We say, “You guys messed up with all the stuff that you've been given. You messed up with your trust. You've squandered what good things you've been given. You have disappointed folks. You have ruined some things.”

You know what? That same thing we could be looking in the mirror and saying to ourselves. There's none of us here, not one, that has given 100% in return to God. We have messed up. God's investment and ours have gone bad. There were some toxic things in our life, in our portfolio. We are all in it together.

The solution for every crisis is not to find someone to blame, not to find a poster child to put on a straight boat, not to say, “Well, look. You are bad and you are good,” to pick winners and losers, and to go on as always lying to ourselves that all is okay except for a few bad apples in the barrel.

But it's important to look at how we all are and where we all need to reform, to change, and to become the kind of people that God expects from us and his investment in it. God has bailed us out in Jesus Christ.

We who had no value at all to him, zero value, were dead in our sins and our trespasses. There was nothing that God could expect to get his return. While we were still dead in our trespasses, while we were no good, while we were upside down, while it cost him so much more than we were even worth and we don't even know why he did it, he came and bailed us out in Jesus Christ.

We don't want to hear that. We don't want to hear that. We're just like those investment bankers. We don't think we are. We think we're better than that. We're good. We're better than that. Remember the curve. Remember, we know that they're there, and we're here. We're a little bit better than everybody else, so it's OK. Not when it's 100%.

When we don't give God 100%, God has to bail you. We don't like to hear it, but it's what God says. It's one of the greatest things. You cannot grow. You cannot truly love. You cannot truly go on a faith journey unless you realize that you were dead in your trespasses and sins.

God bailed you out. Boy, oh boy. None of us deserve that bonus of eternal life. None of us do. I'm not giving it back. I'm keeping it even though I didn't earn it and God lost on the deal. I am going to try to live as I was created to give back to God all the investment, but I can't do it. I can't earn it. I can't go back.

Do you remember "Saving Private Ryan?" In that movie, a group of soldiers were sent to go and get Private James Ryan and bring him back because all of his brothers had died. He was the last surviving one in his family, and the government wanted at least one to be saved from war. A squad went to save this one man, buy one by one they all died. Finally, at the last of the squad, played by Tom Hanks, dies. In his dying breath, his little dying words were: “Private Ryan, just earn this. Earn this.” And he died. We cut to the end of Private Ryan's life. He's now an old man with a family. He's at the gravesite of the character played by Tom Hanks. He explains to him that he tried to live a good life. He hoped he was good.

Did Private Ryan earn the sacrifice of five good men? Can you ever earn that? If someone dies for you, if five good men died for you, do you ever earn it? What would you say? Like Private Ryan, we can spend our lives trying in gratitude for the bailout from Christ that we got but we didn't deserve. Amen.

[
i]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! 9 AM Worship or 11 AM Song & Service. Sunday School for all ages is at 10 AM with a special Pastor's Class at 8:15 AM.



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God's Saving Plan 
Sunday, March 8, 2009, 08:00 AM - Sermon, Podcast
Mark 8:31-38

Pastor Christy talks about ways to invest your life for good returns.


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.


Tough Words. What can we learn from this? I think we can learn that when we want to make a difference when we want to be truly great, there will be suffering and sacrifice. There will be suffering as those around who are in power and even your close friends, like Peter was to Jesus, might try to sabotage you, rebuke, criticize you. For most do not value greatness enough to suffer for it. Most will not pick up a cross to help others easily. This is why Christ had to come and show us how suffering can lead to salvation.

How can you keep from giving up when even your greatest friends tell you that the effort isn't worth the suffering? Accomplishing great things requires great efforts, which is why most folks don't do great things. The answer is in not looking at the suffering from the human point of view, the human assumption that we should never suffer, that any suffering is never worthwhile. Instead we should look our efforts from a divine perspective. What is our values and vision? From God's point of view, what should we be doing with our life? This is very different than the human point of view which is to seek comfort and safety. From the human point of view, suffering is to be avoided, since comfort is not just the highest but the only value. From God's perspective, there are other values than comfort, we see that in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but especially in his suffering, his passion. A vision that is grander than a life of ease.

The human point of view causes us to strive to make money so we can buy comfort for ourselves at the cost of everything else. Jesus tells us that if we strive to make life our aim, we will lose life. You just break even if all you do with your life is live well. To spend one's life to live a life, is to lose a life…there is no benefit, no difference to society…it is as if you have never live, you've lost your life.

But if you live your life for others, for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, even though that sometimes means carrying his cross instead of heading for your couch, then your life goes beyond the human to the divine. If you choose to live a life instead of make a living; if you choose to invest in people instead of profits, if you choose to live as if you saw the world with a God's eye view instead of just your narrow self-interest…you can spend your life for greatness.

How to do this? One answer was found by a man named, Michael Gates Gill. He was an Ivy League graduate and a successful creative director with a six figure salary. Then he got old and advertising is a young persons industry. He was fired at fifty-three after giving 12 hours a day for twenty-six years to the job that required him even missing Christmas with his family of four children to do an New Year's ad campaign for Ford. Yep, Ford called him Christmas Day and told him they wanted him “Now.” He left the still wrapped presents and the tearful children and flew to Detroit.

After an affair that brought him a fifth child and first divorce, he lost his home, family, and friends as well as his job. A few years later the consulting contacts and their payments faded away and he found he had a brain tumor. He found himself at a Starbucks. There a young black woman asked him, “Do you want a job?” He found himself saying “Yes.”

He went from a six-figure salary with an expense account in one of the top advertising firms to a ten dollar an hour barista at Starbucks. He clean bathrooms, restocked the napkins, stirrers and other supplies, sweated over the registered balancing and eventually made the drinks. He began by wondering if the job was beneath him. After a few weeks of honest work and complicated register operations, he wondered if he was up to the job!

In the midst of sweeping one day, he realized that for the first time in a long time, maybe his entire 30 years of working life, he was happy. His journal became, How Starbucks Saved My Life where he shared how much happier he was after he lost his life as a highly compensated creative director at an ad agency. He had a life outside of work. In a CNN interview, he declared he would not give up his Starbucks job if he was offered a half-million dollar salary at a advertising firm. He said the price was too high, the job cost your life. He was always working, even when he wasn't at work, he was still thinking about work. At Starbucks, when your shift was over, you left the job at the front door and had the rest of day to be with friends, family, even your own pursuits, like writing a book. He learned that there is no job worthy of giving your life.

As jobs fail at providing a lifetime of activity, as the credit contraction shuts down the frenzy of constant consumption, I hope we find our lives as we lose those lives. Instead of chasing after economic success with larger houses filled with more things that we gave our life to acquire, I hope we find that we can find our lives in relationship to others, in service to people instead of corporations, in seeking the way of the Lord instead of the ways of the market.

May you find your life after you lose it. Amen.


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Remember the Rainbow 
Sunday, March 1, 2009, 06:00 AM - Sermon, Podcast
Genesis 9:8-17

Pastor Christy talks about rainbows of promise in the storms of life.


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.


An appropriate selection for the beginning of Lent, when we remember both our mortality in the death of Jesus on Good Friday, and our immortality redeemed by the risen Christ. Lent can be seen as the gathering of the storm of death and before the rainbow of new life on Easter on the other side of death.

A pastor I know wished Christians in the audience a “Happy Lent”! I whispered to him later that if he has a “happy” Lent…he is not doing it right. What do you think? Can one enjoy Lent? Have you waited for a storm? Maybe watching it roll in from the horizon or as a crawl on the bottom of the television screen. I remember a California couple being glued to the television as a tornado came through Louisville, Ky. For the mid-westerners, the tornado warning had meant we just moved the party to the basement, but to them it was a fearsome thing, they could think of nothing but updates on television. We had been through tornados and knew we have survived them, and will survive this one. We happily continued the church dinner. Our West Coast friends hadn't seen the other side of a tornado warning. They didn't even know what a thunderstorm was. They had never seen the rainbow the other side of a storm. Without the memory of the rainbow after the storm, the storm a threat, not a promise.

Last Friday morning, my cell phone buzzed four times. All the calls were from one person, me. Actually they were texts that I had sent various times to remind me of a task or a question to ask Friday morning. A high tech string around the finger to jog my memory about what I'm supposed to be doing when.

Today's scripture reading talks about God needing a memory jolt. A God-sized one, a rainbow, God's bow in the clouds. Does God need a memory device? Do we have a forgetful God? I talked to the children today about a memory device, a wedding ring. Just like the rainbow, it is a sign, a reminder of something never to be forgotten. It is more than a historical record, it reaches from that event in the past to present action. Because this happened in the past, my present world is changed. It is not for the danger of forgetting a historical fact but to celebrate a living relationship. Just as a wedding ring is not remind one of a wedding, but to serve as a anchor for a marriage relationship. When a married person hold up his or her hand it isn't to remind them of a wedding event, but to witness to the present relationship that the ring memorializes.

In the Secret Life of Bees, Elizabeth, a little girl, learns from Hira the meaning of the memory stick. A device that recalls the history of the generations before with each knot and nick. It is not a stick recording dead details of dusty history but way for those alive now to become part of the tribe, to be in relationship with their people, their ancestors. The stick is a way into the living faith of dead people.

The rainbow is for us not remember the ending of the flood, but the to witness to the continuing relationship with God who is not the destroyer. No matter how bad the storm, it isn't the end of the world. The rainbow still shines and it arches across all of creation.

It is a sign of the covenant between God and all the living creatures, that no matter how bad the storm…God is not the destroyer. The rainbow is as much for the animals as it is for us humans. Every living creature of all flesh are included in God's promise. The God of creation is concerned not just humans but with all animals. This should give us pause when our actions threaten God's creatures to the point of extinction, God did not save creation for us alone, the rainbow is for animals as well. We still travel in the ark together in God's care, today.

God's rainbow tells us that the storm will pass. God's rainbow tell us that destruction is the way of the world. There will be still be storms, but they will end. They will not be the end of us. Where are the rainbows after life's storms?

After the storm of financial world, folks might see that accumulating things isn't the sure way to happiness. We might have to invest in relationships rather than things. A rainbow might be a return to visiting instead of shopping, to valuing the long term sustainability of creation instead of a throwaway world. Perhaps the growing inequality between rich and the poor will be addressed. Perhaps we will take care of one another instead of trying to build our own solitary empires. Already, people are trending away from spending the future toward saving for the future. We might be on our way to a simpler way of living and thus allow others to simply live.

After the storm of being hitting bottom, of losing everything, a rainbow might appear of soberity and living clean. One that would not appear without the storm.

The mainline church is facing a storm. We might move out into a rainbow of a missional church where we seek not to preserve our era, but promote God's gospel. One of the things I see here is the move from fund raising dinners every quarter with me and my friends…to a missional free community dinner for the poor, our community and members together.

I continue to look for the rainbow in Color Our Rainbow Academy. I know the storms have come, but I have faith that there is a rainbow of hope and promise on the other side in our story together.

Finally, take time from looking for rainbows of God's care to thinking about how you are a rainbow. Do people see the storm or the rainbow in you? Do you shine the message that destruction isn't the last word? Do you remind people of the promises and relationships they have made that make them the persons they are today?

Maybe I was wrong, maybe even Lent is happy if we can remember that the rainbow of Easter is on the other side of the storm.

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! Join us Sundays! 9 AM Worship or 11 AM Song & Service. Sunday School for all ages is at 10 AM with a special Pastor's Class at 8:15 AM.


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