Wedding Insurance 
Wednesday, June 6, 2007, 12:18 PM - Extra Christy, Wedding
Did you know you can buy Wedding Insurance? In an update of the Old English rhyme's method for insuring good luck, couples (and their parents!) can purchase insurance for the big day:

Something old........change of the old wedding date
something gifts covered
something borrowed...deposits lost by business closing
something blue.......provides professional counseling
& a silver sixpence in her shoe......extra expenses covered!

I have been in a lot of weddings over the years, some were major productions and others were simple affairs. One included a horse drawn carriage while another was held in a living room. (Note: If you want a quick service, have a roaring fire behind the pastor!)

I wonder what Marriage Insurance would be like. For while a wedding is a big day, marriage is intended for the rest of our days. Premiums of love would have to be paid daily, in the form of thoughtfulness and kindness. Coverage would be summed up in another wedding poem found in the Book of Common Prayer:

for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
till death us do part.

We don't seal Marriage Insurance with a notary's stamp and ink signatures but with the seal of the Spirit and promises written on our hearts:

Eternal God, without your grace no promise is sure. Strengthen them with patience, kindness, gentleness, and all other gifts of the Spirit, so that they may fulfill the vows they have made. Keep them faithful to each other and to you. Fill them with such love and joy that they may build a home of peace and welcome. Guide them by your word to serve you all their days.

Enable us all, O God, in each of our homes and lives to do your will. Enrich us with your grace so that, encouraging and supporting one another, we may serve those in need and hasten the coming of peace, love, and justice on earth, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Two Together

Jesus answered, "Haven't you read in your Bible that the Creator originally made man and woman for each other, male and female? And because of this, a man leaves father and mother and is firmly bonded to his wife, becoming one flesh-no longer two bodies but one. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart."

- Matthew 19:4-6 (The Message)

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The Miracle of Hope 
Sunday, June 3, 2007, 08:28 AM - Sermon
Romans 5:1-11

Twice this week I have talked to people going through some tough times. One asked me if they were placed in this situation by God to teach them something. I don't pretend to know God's mind, but I do know that God takes all our choices, all the choices of others, all the influences and events and weaves his good gracious will out of them. This pattern of God's weaving is most clearly seen from a distance of years looking back over our lives. We can't see it here and now.

The more perspective we have on our life, the easier it is to see the patterns traced by God. Yet life can only be lived in the present, and plans made for the future, both places where God's providence, God's good gracious will, is not conveniently marked out for us.

Since I'm living just up the hill on Hillside Terrace, I can walk to work. Often I take a turn at the labyrinth over at Charlie's Place. A labyrinth is a path, without dead ends like a maze, that leads the traveler from the outside to the inside. It twists and turns but eventually, if you stay on the path, you will arrive at the center of the labyrinth. The only way to get lost in a labyrinth is to step away from the path. While on the path, it is as confusing as the mountains of Pennsylvania I left. You can see where you want to go, but you never go directly there. In fact, I have walked the labyrinth several times, and I am still surprised when I reach the center, for the path winds. At times I am far from the center, other times right next to it, only to be led to the outside edge again. Yet, I've always arrived at the center, where the youth and their helpers have placed a brick cross.

I believe humanity is in God's labyrinth. We are headed to the center of God's will for humanity. There are many twists and turns. We cannot see past the next bend. Our only job is to stay on the path, to move forward as we can, even though it seems not to be the most direct route to our destination. How do we know we are on the path? Well, Romans suggests that if we are suffering…we must be going towards hope.

Suffering produces endurance. The more you experience, the more you can endure. Adult children often wonder how their parents will endure some disappointing news. They forget that their elders have suffered much over the years and that suffering has produced endurance. When they find that the news was not as devastating to their elders as they feared, they begin to learn that suffering produces endurance. Now, during the suffering, I am sure that people were not rejoicing. I'm glad I'm suffering now. I'll need the endurance in my later years, yet God manages to work his way out even among suffering.

What is character? For me, it is what is irreducible about you. What is your nature if everything unimportant and temporary was stripped away, what would be left. Suffering produces endurance over the long term. Enduring suffering, not giving in to it, strips away all that is unimportant and temporary, leaving your character exposed. I've often heard it said of someone, “She is fine as long as she gets her way.” Well, I think that is true of most everyone. What happens when someone has to endure hardships, setbacks, and compromises? There you see someone's true character.

How does character produce hope? How does your very essence, revealed by enduring suffering, bring about hope? It is good to look at the opposite sometimes. A hopeless person is one who has given up, not moving forward, not looking for change. Someone who has lost all hope is walking the path God has laid out. They sit down in the labyrinth; convinced they will never get to the goal. But someone with endurance, someone with character, who continues on even when things are all twisty turney and the goal is not in sight, this is a hopeful person. Hope is wishes with wings, Hope is moving forward on God's path of love.

There is a film coming out, June 22nd, a sequel to Bruce Almighty, named Evan Almighty. The whole movie is an answer to prayer in a suffering hope sort of way. The hero gets what he prays for, but there is a whole lot to go through before the prayer request is fulfilled. In the movie, there is a taste of what I'm hearing in Romans 5, what I'm traveling in the labyrinth. Morgan Freeman as God says: “If you pray for patience, do you think God just… gives you patience? Or does he give you opportunities to be patient? If you pray for courage, do you think he just gives you courage, or opportunities to be courageous?”

I asked for wisdom...
And God gave me problems to solve.
I asked for prosperity...
And God gave me brains and the strength to work.
I asked for courage...
And God gave me danger to overcome.
I asked for love...
And God gave me troubled people to help.
I asked for favors...
And God gave me opportunities.
I received nothing I wanted.
I received everything I needed.
My Prayer has been answered. — Anon.

What does this mean?

1. Stop and look back where God has taken you over the years. See if you can trace God's path in your life. When was God with you? Can you trace the path from suffering to hope?
2. Keep track of your prayer requests. Not like wishes, waiting for the delivery so you can sign off on delivery. When does God give you an opportunity to make your prayers real in your life? How can you live in hope of your prayers?
a. Say you pray for reconciliation with a family member. What can you do in the hope that this will come true? Does it involve some suffering on your part? Even better! You're on the hopeful track if you endure some suffering!
b. Say you pray for a job…can you get up early, get ready for the day, ask people for contacts, target a company and call for a name you can talk to about a position?

3. If you can, for a brief time, when you suffer, look for the hope. They are bound up together, like the pain of childbirth and the joy of parenthood, like the scream of that newborn and the relief that their lungs are working well

The miracle of hope is that it is born of suffering. The greatest miracle of hope is that of the suffering savior, Christ, who endured the cross and brought eternal hope for humanity.

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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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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