Calendar Girl  
Wednesday, May 30, 2007, 08:30 AM - Extra Christy
The Presbyterian Planning Calendar starts tomorrow, June 1st. We have a mid year start day for our calendar because church programs, like schools, often start in September and finish in May.

I have a ritual when I get a new work calendar. I turn to March 1st and mark in my wife's birthday and July 12th to mark our wedding anniversary. Not because I would forget if I didn't write it down, but because when my wife sees my work calendar I want her to know that among all the ties and commitments of my work life, I still note the commitment I have to her all the days of our life together.

One church I served sent out baptism day cards instead of birthday cards. Our baptism date is a date not many of us have marked on our yearly calendars either at home or work, and that is partly why the church sent the baptism cards, to remind folks amidst all their work responsibilities and enjoyable recreations to save time for remembering the beginning of their Christian life and the gift of faith it honors.

Do you know your baptism date? Why not look it up and put it on your calendar? We can always use another excuse to celebrate and the Christian life is a good reason to rejoice. Like marking my wife's birthday and our wedding anniversary "keeping the day" can be a joyful occasion to pause and remember who you are and whose you are.

You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts-limbs, organs, cells-but no matter how many parts you can name, you're still one body. It's exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) - 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (The Message)

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Power Talking 
Sunday, May 27, 2007, 07:30 AM - Sermon
Acts 2:1-21, Genesis 11:1-9

We have the story of two peoples: The people of Babel and the people of Pentecost.

The Babel people are an enterprising, hard-working, patriotic people. They wanted to build a great city, some say the first city, with a tower with its top in the heavens. So they would make a name for themselves and be unified as one people, with one official language. They were such a great people that even God took notice of them, and said of them, that nothing would be impossible for them.

Let's see a proud patriotic people, who stand for unity, for whom nothing is impossible. Sound like any country you know? It is instructive, that nothing in the description of Babel is anything we would consider sinful! We would say they were an admirable people. We can readily discuss the sins of other cities destroyed by God in the bible, but when it comes to the evils of Babel…our speech is incoherent, just a babble.

Part of the reason that the Babel story is unfulfilling, is that it doesn't make sense until the second half of the story is told. And that is Pentecost, which reverses the Babel story.

Babel Pentecost
One language becomes many Many languages become one
Focus on our plan Focus on God's prophecy
Bricks are burned for building Flames to build people
Saved by making ourselves a name Saved by God's name

We are still faced with the choice between Babel building and Pentecost power.

Speaking Babel vs. Listening Spirit:
Babel seeks uniformity by everyone speaking alike. Some words are banned, official language is proposed on one level. The next level goes to groupthink, intolerance for anything that isn't the majority opinion or popular at present. Media is swallowed up by a few corporations that make many speakers into one. The government seeks to spin information and newspapers print press releases instead of reporting the news. Babel seeks for everyone to speak one language, so we will be great.

Spirit people find uniformity not in speaking the same thing, but in listening to all people. Look at the description; everyone was hearing each other for the first time! The miracle was not in the tongue but in the ear. Spirit people find unity in listening to all the voices of the world, even those who have no nation like ethic groups like Cretans and Arabs, or even those whose nations are long gone and have no political power, like Parthians and Elamites even visitors are counted as worthy to listen to. Young and old, men and women, even the wage-slave have the ear of the community.

When we shut up and out others to build ourselves up: We are baking bricks of babel instead of firing up God's people.

Our Plans vs. God's Will
Babel begins with a human plan for greatness and the destruction of a people. Pentecost begins with God's plan for humanity and ends with the salvation of people who call on the name of the Lord. Babel people seek to make miracles themselves to amaze others and build themselves up to heaven. Spirit people ask, “What does this mean?” in amazement over God's great miraculous works in their lives and seek the answer in God's word and prophesy. Where does God want us to go, instead of building ourselves up to be God.

If God is your co-pilot, for God's sake MOVE OVER. We don't seek to become as powerful as God, but seek where the power of God's Spirit is directing us, by scripture, dreams and visions. Go with God.

Sincere and faithful people say and sing God Bless America. I hope God does. Yet let us strive so that America Blesses God. That our people and our country serve the plans and purposes of God in the world. I would love to hear God say, America is a blessing to me and to all my people.

Things vs. People
Babel values working on things. Spirit values working on people. The way to excellence, to greatness of the nation is not the best bricks, the biggest economy or even the mightiest army, but the compassion of its people. In Matthew 25 we see how nations are judged! Not individuals, not private charity, not a million points of light, not faith based initiatives, but nations are judged. It isn't the biggest tower. Neither are nations divided by GNP, conventional and nuclear firepower, lowest gas prices, or biggest houses. It is how nations have taken care of the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned, the naked. Building better people not bricks is the work of the spirit.

Our Salvation vs. God's Salvation
The babel builders want to make a name for themselves, a tower and a city so high and grand it will loom over the land as God reigns from the heavens. The Spirit tells us that the all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. Salvation by making a name for ourselves, or salvation by the name of God.

I believe that all plaques in churches should start with “dedicated to the Glory of God” for we are here not to make a name for ourselves, but to make a name of God echo in the hearts and through the years. When we lose sight of God in heaven and lower our eyes to the monuments we have built, however high, we are building babel and not filled with the Spirit. The question should not be is it good for me, or even is it good for us, but is it good for God and what God is building using us.

Will we build a mighty tower on making everyone speak the acceptable sound bite
or we build a mighty people who listens to all voices as if they were their own?

Will we base our power on our plans or align ourselves with the power of God's graceful will?

Will we build better things or better people?

Will we make a name for ourselves or take on promoting God's name to all we meet and serve?

Listen for God's Voice
Seek God's will.
Build Up People
Give Glory to God!

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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Heating the Refrigerator  
Wednesday, May 23, 2007, 09:00 AM - Extra Christy
Prom for the boy and graduation for the girl meant a house full of relatives and food recently. Our refrigerator decided, perhaps mourning the loss of meaning when stripped of magnet notes for the open house, to die. Everything was running, but nothing was getting cold. However, in a mocking way, it continued absent-mindedly to make ice cubes which melted into a small glacier; I had global warming in my ice tray.

My best male rituals of turning dials and looking concerned at the pipes and parts of the machine did not magically bring the cold back. So eventually the repair person came and instantly diagnosed the problem. The heater was broken. So naturally, the refrigerator wasn't producing cold. Don't know why I didn't think of that. After heating the freezer to remove frost, he removed a panel to reveal an ice wall covering the cooling coils and a burned out halogen lamp. The lamp heats the coils and keeps the ice from covering the metal rods. Without a little dose of heat now and then, ices build up and seals the coils preventing them from cooling anything but the ice jacket around them. The lamp was replaced and the refrigerator and freezer can cool and freeze now that they get a little heat now and then.

Suffering might function the same way for us as a heater for an icebox. Suffering knocks the build up of indifference and routine off and allows us to rediscover what our purpose truly is. It can take us out of ourselves in sympathy to others who suffer what we have endured already and in graciously receiving kindness from others in our suffering. No one wants too much suffering, but not having any at all, might leave our hearts encased in ice, unable to share the flow of life with others, and unable to reach out and be effective when we are needed.

Suffering Produces Hope

By faith we have been made acceptable to God. And now, because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live at peace with God. Christ has also introduced us to God's undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God. But that's not all!

We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us.

All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love. - Romans 5:1-5 (CEV)

Hope you are hot enough to be cold and suffering just enough to have hope.
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Disturbed People 
Sunday, May 20, 2007, 08:18 AM - Sermon
Acts 16:16-34
C Easter 7

This is a disturbing reading:
1. Paul is very much annoyed by the constant cries of the fortune telling slave
2. The profits of her masters are disturbed when Paul, seeking some quiet, cast out the demon
3.The Merchants object to disturbing the whole city by advocating customs not lawful
4.The crowd is stirred up by the commotion
5.The earth is disturbed by an earthquake
6.The jailer is so disturbed by a jail break that he decides to kill himself

There is a concept in leadership which I will be discussing with Derek Starr Redwine, the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian church tomorrow highlighted in a book, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix that of non-anxious presence. This is the idea that a leader can best serve by working on her or his own functioning, specifically, the level of anxiety the leader has. Leaders strive to be less anxious than those they serve. You know how important it is when a leader at least seems to know what is going on, has confidence and a plan to care it out. As opposed to someone who says, “Gee I don't know what we are going to do now!”.

Let's look at the anxiety here. We can expect the demon to be anxious; after all he's a demon! But Paul lets himself get very much annoyed. We all slip now and then, Friedman says that if we work hard at it we can maybe reach 80% of maturity by the time we are 80. But let's focus on his strength. Here Paul is in the deepest bowels of prison under false charges, after already haven been beaten severely and he is having a hymn sing with Silas! What a great testimony to a non-anxious presence. It is being in the moment, with people, the other prisoners are listening, but also being less anxious than those around you, or those you serve as leader. Singing in chains is a great poster for non-anxious presence.

Look what happens, the earthquake, a great disturbance, bounces the doors open and everyone's chains are unbounded, but no prison runs out to freedom! A good thing for the guard, for the punishment for letting a prisoner escape was to receive the prisoner's punishment yourself! The guard was ready to avoid this by killing himself quickly, until Paul calls out “Do not harm yourself, we are all here!”. The cry of a good leader everywhere: “Do not harm yourself, you are not alone, the situation is as hopeless as you imagine”. Then the enemy becomes the believer, the brother in Christ, along with his whole household. (Note: his whole household was baptized; I suppose that could have included infants and those who had not made a profession of personal faith in Christ or whatever other requirement some churches add to baptism. Baptism here, as in the Presbyterian Church, is God's doing, not our own.)

None of this would have happened if Paul was anxious about his faith in extreme circumstances. He could have yelled and complained about his imprisonment, after all he was a Roman citizen, and such mob action on trumped up charges simply were not done against an citizen of the empire! He could have worried about his fate, withdrawn into the darkness and nursed his physical and psychological wounds as a helpless victim of politics and economics. But he sang hymns, and the other prisoners listened. I believe his witness, his non-anxious presence with the prisoners enabled them to survive the earthquake without bolting for the door and a quick fix to the problem of their imprisonment.

Paul and Silas stayed when the door was opened and the chains were removed. How non-anxious is that? How often do we grab a temporary advantage, not thinking about the consequences to others or ourselves? Thinking anxiously that this is our only chance, our only way out. Like the guard, some have decided that life was hopeless and the only solution was suicide. Not so! If we listen to others, we may hear, “Do not harm yourself, we are all here!” That is family at its best, a community at its finest, a church congregation at its highest. “We are all here!” Don't grab the quick fix, the easy out, seek others and the best for yourself in the long run. Friedman says a leader seeks enduring change for the good, not symptomatic relief of discomfort. A leader is challenged by difficult situations, not quick to quit them. Calling for lights and taking an inventory is better reaction than drawing a sword and ending it all! Staying for the trial and exonerated is better than running away from problems and becoming a fugitive. But it takes nerve.

What to do when the earth shakes? What to do when great forces do great injustices?

• Seek enduring change not quick fixes
Just because a door is open doesn't mean you have to rush in; you can stand the pain a little longer and consider what your doing, and you have the capacity to choose not to jump at the quick fix I know a parent who spent 20 minutes with a pre-schooler, reading a magazine on the floor waiting for the pre-schooler to pick up her blocks. The quick fix would have been to pick them up himself, but the enduring change was to outwait a three year old, who did get bored first and picked up the blocks.

• Take a stand, define yourself instead of trying to give insight to others
Singing a hymn of faith, instead of preaching to the guard and others about how you have been wronged, is one way. Family is great. Decide who you are going to be. Be that person and allow others to be where they choose to be without judgment or advice from you. If you are the caretaker daughter, and the others do nothing. Fine. You choose to be responsible, just be present to them by keeping them informed of what is going on, with a non-anxious just thought you like to know. I know of one parent who was told, “I am never going to speak to you again, you're dead to me”. The parent said, “Okay, and called every week, because the parent still had the relationship, that was who the parent was, one who is in relationship with the child. If the child hung up, fine, there be a call next week.

• Accept a challenge instead of quitting when times are difficult
A reversal at work or a setback on a mission, sing a hymn, get some torches to see what is going on and continue to your defined goal. Turned down for a job? Send out two more resumes that day! Work on getting more skills, call and ask the one who turn you down for advice without being argumentative or defensive.

• Encourage responsibility instead of victimhood.
Paul and Silas stay in jail when they didn't have to be. They continued on their mission of preaching and baptizing even the one who was keeping them in prison! We have a job to do, and beating, imprisonment, earthquakes, revenge, is doesn't excuse us from our mission! Church failed you once or twice? If your goal is worship and being a part of the faith community you are not excused! Family failed you? No excuse! Choose to be responsible to your best self not follow your weakest, most injured self.

What about a modern day example? What has injustice, pain, death, and imprisonment in our society? Not exorcism, but how about cancer. Cancer is the disease so horrible that for decades we did not speak its name but called it “a long illness” in the obituaries. This week cancer victims, recast as cancer survivors, held a Relay for Life in Tallmadge. People celebrated the life of those who cancer has claimed, and walked for a cure, raising money. Here is the information from their web site:

Relay For Life® is a fun-filled overnight event designed to bring together those who have been touched by cancer in our community. At the event, we celebrate survivorship and raise money to help the American Cancer Society in its mission to save lives, help those who have been touched by cancer, and empower individuals to fight back….We also celebrate life, friendship, and a chance to work together toward a cancer-free future. Most importantly, Relay gives you the power to help in the fight against cancer. By joining together as volunteers and donors, our efforts help the American Cancer Society strive toward a future where cancer doesn't take the lives of our friends and family.

This event seeks enduring change not quick fix of denial and blame, it takes a stand as being battered by not beaten by cancer, it accepts hardship as a challenge not an invitation to quit, and it encourages responsibility instead of victimhood. This is what people do when the earth shakes.

Just as Relay for Life teams did not give up in the face of cancer. Just as Paul and Silas nerve did not fail them in leading guard and his household to Christ, we cannot let the troubles of our day, the challenges of our time, the political and economic conditions of our world silence our praise or keep us from our message to anxious people everywhere, “Do not harm yourself, we are all here”.

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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Walk By Faith 
Wednesday, May 16, 2007, 10:55 AM - Extra Christy
The front pew in church must be a hard place to get to. Every Sunday thousands of church goers just can't make it! But, we are adaptable, us worship leaders, we ask the children (who don't know any better) to come up front for the children's message! So, for a few moments, we have some company.

One tyke would try every Sunday to make it to the front steps. But grandpa was too big of an attaction; he would veer off into grandpa's pew and climb on his lap to listen to the message, long distance. After a few months, and much prodding from relatives and caretakers, Jayden visited the front steps with his grandpa. For several weeks after that, he would come up for a few minutes, then go back to grandpa. But lately, he's been sticking with the group through the message, prayer and song, well, most of the time.

Until one Sunday. I was talking about how a shepherd leads and protects the sheep. (Only one child admitted to knowing what a "shepherd" was.) We talked about the job but I wanted to demonstrate how useful a shepherd is, so I brought a blindfold. Being foolish and trusting, I put on the blindfold and asked for a child to "shepherd" me around the sanctuary. There were several good candidates, some who needed double digits to mark their age. But, alas, I had no takers. The children would not leave the safety of the flock to be a shepherd, despite my pleadings and the choir's urging. Then I heard a cheer. Jayden, the three year old, came up and took my hand. Without a word, he led me safely around the sanctuary and back to the steps, (pausing to give his grandpa a thumbs up I'm told) I shouldn't have been surprised, after all, wandering around during the children's message was what he had been training for all these months. He was happy to show pastor how to do it.

I hope the kids learned something about what a shepherd was that day. I know I learned that you can be shepherded by the most unlikely person, even one that you thought wandered off the path more than you ever did, if you put your hand out, ask, and wait.

Walking By Faith

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. - 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 (NIV)

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