Be Angry, BUT... 
Sunday, June 28, 2009, 06:19 AM - Sermon
Posted by Administrator
Genesis 4:1-8
Mark 3:1-6

How to be Angry.

some ideas from Store in the Nooma video series by Rob Bell

Is it ever okay to be angry? Moral folks like church folks like to separate emotions into good and bad, or allowed and prohibited. Some Christians will slice and dice the human experience until the ideal Christian is just a hollow shell of a human, serene and calm in all situations.

The Bible recognizes anger, our gospel reading states that Jesus was angry. This is no surprise any more than the revelation that he was hungry. Anger is a part of the human condition, and we Christians, insist that Jesus was not just God wearing a human disguise pretending to be one of us, but Emmanuel, God with us, fully human as well as fully divine.

The Bible even encourages anger! Commands it in Ephesians 4:26: Be Angry! Some would tone down the imperative form to “It is OK to be Angry”. I go sideways between command and permission with exhortation, “For God's Sake, Be Angry!” There are things in this broken world that are a cause for anger!

Jesus is angry here at the silence of religious folk at the tension between following religious law of respecting the Sabbath by doing no work and doing the work of good, even, or especially on the Sabbath. Angry leads to action. It gives Jesus the energy to push past the prohibition of waiting until after the Sabbath to heal. What's the rush!? Jesus is in a rush to do good and heals with his anger.

There is a lot of anger in the Mid-East. Christians for the most part have responded by fleeing. In the last 50 years, one estimate has the percentage of Christians in the Holy Lands dropping from 20 percent to 2 percent. Caught between struggles of Israelis and the Palestinians and the target of violence official and otherwise, most Christians of the Holy Land no longer live in the Holy Land.

“Even as Christians, we can get very angry,” says Rev. Mitri Raheb one Christian who has stayed. “Whenever I get angry, I start a new project . . . and channel the energy into ministry.” Raheb, pastor of Bethlehem's Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church, is involved in a lot of ministries. Besides the church, there is a K-12 school, a health and wellness center, a cultural and conference center, and a college. Programs include elder care, child development, young couples ministry, promotion of the arts, and “authentic” tourism. The stoles I brought back from Palestine were made by folks in his programs and sold at his church compound in Bethlehem. A lot of people have benefited from Rev. Raheb's anger.

Angry is not an excuse for sin, nor is a a license for lawlessness, it is a flare sent up that something is wrong, as Rob Bell says in the Nooma video, Store, “your will has been blocked.” Like any emotion, it is not determinative but informative. Emotions are information about ourselves not directions to act from outside ourselves. What we do with that information is up to us. One of the best ways of using the time gained by counting to 10 when angry is to step back and ask yourself why am I so angry.

Cain could have reflected the problem was not Abel but his own relationship with God. He could have decided to do well, as God directed, to improve his sacrifice work on his relation with God instead taking his anger out on his brother. Anger led to sin, to violence, the first murder.

Jesus was angry. As our Nooma video host Rob Bell tells us today, it is in the Aorist tense. A tense we don't have in English. It isn't past, present, future, perfect, or even pluperfect. It makes no assumption about time. It happened at some point. Bing. It could mean Jesus was angry briefly. He was angry at the silence of the religious people when he asked them if it is was okay to do good and heal on the Sabbath. He took that anger, and brought about a healing. His angry argument was to heal a man's hand, demonstrating where he was on the debate. Where Cain let anger carry him away like a beast crouching at the door, Jesus use his anger to increase healing in the world.

In this month's newsletter column, I talked about a study that showed how people are becoming more bitter. They are angry and hopeless. Believing there is nothing one can do in the face of situations that makes one angry poisons the soul, and turns one bitter and destructive. If you are angry, and it is not only human to be so, but if you are a Christian paying attention, there are many good reason to be angry, to be passionate for Godly causes; then you must find some positive way to make a difference.

Youtube and elsewhere has the story of Johnny the Bagger. (Search for “Johnny the Bagger” later or click here now) A bagger was challenged to make a customer's trip to the supermarket memorable, special. At first, he thought there was nothing he could do, he was just a bagger. Then he started to include “Johnny's Thought of the Day” positive messages or quotes that he would print on small slips of paper and put in the bag. Folks loved the extra touch and soon were making daily instead of weekly trips to the store, just so they wouldn't miss the “Thought of the Day”. Johnny's line was always the longest in the store, but people wouldn't move to an open register, they wanted to the “Thought of the Day.” Other employees started adding extra touches, cartoon stickers on the wrapped meats and giving away flowers to customers that used to be thrown away. Moral increase and stress vanished.

Anger is very human. It is very faithful, for there is a lot of trouble and hurt in this world to get angry about if you are a good and moral person. The question before us, will our anger lead to misdirected violence and tragic death or will we seek the cause of our anger and work to heal and help our neighbors and those who suffer. I hope you follow Jesus, Pastor Mitri, and Johnny the bagger's example and work with your anger and frustration to produce healing and happiness. Amen.

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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See Greater Things 
Wednesday, June 24, 2009, 07:08 AM - Extra Christy, Radio
Posted by Administrator
Looking at the Big Picture

About ten years ago, my first Palm had black letters on a green screen. You "typed" by drawing artwork inspired by the alphabet for each letter.

Now my Palm Pre phone has a keyboard and can show me a radar weather map of Ohio, TV shows, email, text messages and even make a phone call. It brings the world to my palm.

I need to look up from the small screen and remember the big things that I'm involved in, networked with all other Christians, not just those who "tweets" I follow. Nothing less than bringing the world back into the hand of God. This connection should give me more goose bumps than a smartphone.

I hope small things in our palms don't distract us from the large things in the world.

God's Palm

Can a woman forget her nursing-child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; - Isaiah 49:15-16a (NRSV)

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All Can Be First 
Wednesday, June 17, 2009, 07:27 AM - Extra Christy
Posted by Administrator
First Time and First Place

At the Big Tent event in Atlanta last week a speaker told of a congregation that didn't use the terms "guest" or "visitor" but instead "those with us for the first time".

"First" is often used referring to a finishing: who completed a task or race first, and took first place. Yet it can also mean that there is more to come, like the above use that assumes that folks are with them as the first of many times with the congregation. (I assure you that the prize winning first place meaning will not be the first thought of your current spouse when you introduce him as, "My first husband." )

Not everyone can have a first place finish. Yet everyone can be first in the other sense by starting something good and new.

In the Bible, the gospel writer Matthew encourages us to be first in making things right with an enemy. It is nice to finish first, but today I hope you start first.

Being First
"Or say you're out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don't lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you're likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won't get out without a stiff fine." - Matthew 5:25 (The Message)

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Looking It Up 
Wednesday, June 10, 2009, 07:44 AM - Extra Christy, Radio
Posted by Administrator
What Does It Mean

I pull off at a Scenic Overlook on my trip to Atlanta. The family stared at me as I pulled in beside them. I thought, "Great, this buzz cut must be giving off an escape convict vibe." I stayed away so as not to spook them anymore.

Yet them one came up to me. She asked where in Ohio I was from and then asked about my license plate, which shows the Bible verse Acts 2:12. They said they looked it up, but wanted to know why I put it on the plate.

Seems I can't tell the difference between the escape convict stare and glaze gaze of a confused Bible student. (You would think I would be used to the latter by now.)

I told them it was circular; one looks at the licenses plate and wonders, "What does Acts 2:12 mean?" and then looks it up and finds the question is the answer, for the verse asks, "What does this mean?"

Some folks end their search for meaning in a Bible quote. I believe our search for meaning begins in scripture. It is God's question to all of our answers; a question that calls for a response not in a quote carefully cited, but in a life faithfully followed.

I hope the next time you look something up in the Bible, you don't stop there, but look up as well.

Looking It Up
All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, 'What does this mean?'
- Acts 2:12 (NRSV)

There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.
- 2 Peter 3:16b (NRSV)

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Sunday, June 7, 2009, 06:25 AM - Sermon, Podcast
Posted by Administrator
Matthew 14:25-31
1 Corinthians 1:26-29

God knows us and still chose us. Christ believes in us even when we doubt.

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.

some ideas from Dust in the Nooma video series by Rob Bell

We have two scriptures about being chosen. In addition, John 15:16 reminds us that the disciples did not choose Jesus but Jesus chose them. Here he choose Peter to come to him walking on the water. He took a few steps and began to sink, Jesus catches him and asks him why he doubt. Rob Bell, in the Nooma video today, makes the point that Peter was not doubting Jesus, Jesus was walking on the water, he was doubting Jesus faith in him that he could walk on water as well. Think of that, Jesus having faith in us and chiding us for not having the same faith that he has in us.

First Corinthians tell us in more poetic and abstract language that God chose, low, weak and foolish in the world eyes to shame the world's values. Jesus' disciples were not the best of the brightest students, if they were they would have never been fisherman, they would have been rabbical students from their youth. It is as if a professor went out to the trade schools and picked his graduate students for a Ph.D. program. God chose the low, weak and foolish to be his A-Team. If you read the gospels, you will find the disciples were a bumbling bunch. They even deserted Jesus when he got in trouble…neither scholars or heros.

Lately I have been intrigued by who is the real person. I mean, if you commit a crime, does that define who you are? Red, in movie The Shawshank Redemption, talks about the one crime he committed, as a young man. He has served 40 years for that crime, growing old in prison.

There's not a day goes by I don't feel regret. Not because I'm in here, or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try and talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can't. That kid's long gone and this old man is all that's left. I got to live with that

What if the time dimension is like the other dimensions of height or depth or length? All laid out in a landscape of eternity? We are traveling through it, a little moving map point called NOW YOU ARE. Whose to say what instant, or even what year we are who we are? Are we are whole life? Who we are at work? Or as a young couple? Or as parents? Or just the end? Or the worst? Or the best?

Obituaries are a study in this struggle of defining at last who someone is. First comes the picture decision. Here is one of an 80 year old man with wrinkles and a forehead that meets his spine. Over here is a dashing young woman with hairstyle from forty years ago when the picture was taken. Another has young and old, before and after. Still another has a couple or includes a pet. All of seek to announce, “This is the person that is gone.” Now the text varies. Some have a faith statement, most list survivors, some clubs and awards, all mention services or memorial suggestions. A few have a biography as if to keep him alive or introduce her to new friends after her death. The one time I was asked about an obituary, I suggested it wasn't a place to summarize a life, but to connect with folks that knew the person, so you add clubs and survivors not as trophies, but as links to others in those organizations or those who know and care about the survivors' grief. Maybe, on the other hand, that is a way of summarizing a life, not with achievements, awards, and accomplishments—but with connections and relationships.

Today is Trinity Sunday. We didn't have the traditional Trinity readings, it is hard to find them conveniently packed together in the Bible, but what I like about the Trinity is the idea of God as relationship. The basic reality of God is one of relationship, Father to Son to Spirit to Father and back again. As the book The Shack illustrated, God is in relationship not just with you and all creation, but within his very being. To know God deeply, is not to know facts about God, or some mystic essence, but to know a relationship, to be in a relationship. It is not so much a knowing as a way of relating.

Knowing something was what the Gnostics taught was the essence of Christianity. Some secret knowledge that set you apart from everyone else. The bumper sticker, “I FOUND IT” years ago, even some churches or denominations that believe they got it and to hell with the rest of them, are the inheritors of the Gnostic heresy. How strange that a God that is relationship, to be reduced to a set of faith statements, or a salvation method, or a set of morality rules. It is like making a map with those web sites that give you a beginning and an end with one route to go between. Woe be unto you if you step off the map, the one true way to glory. GPS units are better, they let you wander but nag you to get back to their way. I set mine not to ever to say “turn around”. Annoys me. So it suggests I make three rights and then a left. We lost two carloads of Kiwanians yesterday, because their GPS took them to the closed service entrance of the Boy Scout camp. Much better than a rigid set of directions or a removed authoritarian director to have some scout the way for you, “Look, come with me! I am the way!”

How is God related to our lives and how are we related to others? A lifetime is made up of relationships. It cannot be reduced to a single point in time, a decision, an action or a statement. None of these can replace a relationship.

I gotten Facebook friend requests from people I haven't heard of since high school. Who knew that even after moving back to Akron, I would connect up with more people by computer than by face to face meetings? I look at my friends and it is like a map of my life from grade school, college, seminary, Holy Land trip, previous churches, my time on PresbyNet computer conferencing, which one of these persons and times am I, who am I?

God chose to be related to you. Not because of this incident, or that prayer. But because God is relationship and he wants to be related to you. Nothing you did earned it, and nothing you do can ruin it. There is no day that God is not with you. No time that God was not urging you to come to him, even if you doubted. God chose you, and lucky us, he chose the foolish, despised, and weak to friend.

God is relationship: Father Son Spirit. Folks have insisted on the phrase Father Son not just because we like manly God, but because it speaks to the heart of God, a relationship that a functional description, like Creator Redeemer and Sustainer loses. When you are in relationship with others, you are following in the path and the way of God and I believe the ultimate reality of this universe.

God sees your whole life; in all of its wonder and sorrow, grief and joy, the past and the yet to come as well as this instant today. Christ still chooses to be your God, your friend, your savior, your hope and is calling you to him. Your obituary is a collage of pictures and pages of newsprint of the relationships from birth to death. And God is in every picture. God is a member of all your clubs. For where there is good and true relationship, it is a reflection and a testimony to God. A God who calls us to believe in our best selves as he does — and walk where he walks. 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! 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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