When the Godly Disappoint 
Sunday, July 8, 2007, 08:17 AM - Sermon
2 Kings 5:1-14

“I thought he would…” Criticism comes when expectations are not met. Naaman expected Elisha to come out and call on the name of the LORD his God and wave his hand over the spot and cure the leprosy! Instead he gets a message to go and wash in the Jordan seven times. Elisha didn't even come out to see him much less touch and heal him! No wonder scripture says he was angry and went away in a rage!

The least religious have the greatest expectations of religion. It is bothersome to the holy crowd. Why are people like that?

1. They got their expectations from media, everything from horror movies with demons and warrior priests to dramas where the pastor pronounces a married couple man and wife instead of husband and wife. Horror movies are not documentaries, and movies like License to Wed aren't a good description of pre-marital counseling, ministers don't have comedy writers feeding them one-liners. Media magnifies expectations.

2. The less experienced you have with something, the simpler it seems. Think of before you drove a car, it seemed so simple, but when first tried it, you couldn't get the key to work. Or before you got married, or had kids, or started a job…it looked easy until you tried. Every now and then I talk with couples who put down on their inventories that marriage will solve all their problems. Experience corrects expectations.

3. Some are looking to be disappointed. They need to justify the lack of time and attention they have given matters of faith. What better way to get a “get out of church free card” then to get angry that they have failed you. The Yiddish proverb is right: “If you don't want to do something, one excuse is as good as another.” Expectations to fail are usually fulfilled.

Have you met someone like Naaman? Wanting faith but rejecting religion? Ready to buy a religious wedding, but not follow the teachings and ideals of marriage? Willing to go to a holy show, but not follow the instructions given during the performance? I think we have a lot of Naamans around us. Maybe you have a little Naaman in you.

Our Part in Miracle
Look at the genius of Elisha. He requires an act of faith, that Naaman do something, before the healing occurs. Elisha might have known that such requirements would have made Naaman angry. Maybe that is why he didn't go out to see him! Have you asked God or a prophet of God, or a prayer chain for a healing? A cure? A miracle? What have you done in faith in partnership to that request? Washing out leprosy seems futile, but doing what the prophet teaches is an expression of obedience to and faith in God than the healing powers of the Jordan river.

There is no reason to wash in the Jordan river, instead of the rivers of Avana and Pharpar in Damascus except faith. Here is a place faithful people part from others. Others want an action to make sense without God or faith. A recent scene of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip had the Christian character teaching the producer how to pray. She takes him to the chapel and tells him to get on his knees to pray. Like a modern day Naaman, he objects wondering why God needs him to kneel. Her answer: “The knelling isn't for Him but for you.” God doesn't need our obedience, our faith; our faith is for us not for him.

This is the difference between magic and miracle. Magic is control of the deity. You put your faith quarter in and out pops your prize, like God was a cosmic gumball machine. Miracles come through faith, doing and living as God directs; living in love of God and others even though there is no payoff. It is bathing in the Jordan seven times even there is no way that the magical waters of Jordan will cure leprosy. It is doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God even though there is no cash prize. Faith is its own reward. Miracles come as God wills, as we do what God wills.

Ever been in Naaman's place? You have gone to God, in prayer, in church, to a pastor or parent, or friend and gotten less than you were expecting? The worship and song didn't lift your up. The sermon was tepid. You didn't get your prayers answered. Do you get relied up about how they weren't faithful? The angry and rage almost covered up Naaman's failure of faith. We are most angry when our shortcomings are reflected in other people. Because, emotions are all about me. Naaman was there angry that Elisha hadn't done the minimum for his cure, until his servant pointed out, indirectly that Naaman hasn't done enough for his cure either.

When you are angry. Look at yourself, not at the other, as wrong and condemn to hell he or she might be! Put that aside and ask why that person has so much power over me? Why does that person hook me so much? What can you do in your own life and outlook that you see a lack in the other person? When Naaman was able to focus on what he needed to do, rather than what Elisha should have done…God was able to work miracles.

God's Working of Miracle
Holy people may fail. If we rely on them to come out wave their hands over our problems and cure them. Look at this story at the beginning and the end…a slave girl—not holy witnesses to Naaman's wife her faith that the prophet can cure Naaman. This sets the healing in motion. Then when everything goes horribly wrong…it is Naaman's servants again that turn Naaman's rage into faithful obedience…at least obedience, he might have been grumbling, I suppose.

You can be these people, sharing your faith like the slave girl, or encouraging and supporting obedience like Naaman's servants. If you don't have people like this around you get them. For it takes more than holy people waving their arms to make miracles happen it takes those who suggest ministry and help to people and those who encourage those who need to take steps toward healing and wholeness.

Be a part of the miracle, seek out God's way, look at obstacles and disappointments as opportunities for faithful action. Listen to the prompting and encouraging of others on your path to healing, and in turn, be a prompter and encourager of others.

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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Freedom For and Freedom From 
Wednesday, July 4, 2007, 12:35 PM - Extra Christy
Happy July Fourth! A day to celebrate freedom! What is your idea of freedom? Is it freedom from rules and constraints? Or freedom for doing the right thing?

Dov Seidman in his book How writes a lot about rules.On page 96 he states "True Freedom lies not in the absence of constraint; true freedom lies in the transcendence of rules-based thinking." The transcendence is not asking the utilitarian question of what is the rule, can we do this, but what is the value involved: given what we believe, should we do this.

Did you know that July 2 was the date Congress declared independence? July 4th is the day the final draft of the Declaration of Independence was adopted which:

"...declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"

So we celebrate not the day we broke the rules, (July 2) and declared freedom from England but the day we declared our values and beliefs, and how independence was the only way to honor those beliefs; what our freedom was for: Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Hope you use your freedom for declaring your values today and every day.

Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. - Galatians 5:1, 13-14 (The Message)

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Freedom Fruit 
Sunday, July 1, 2007, 08:14 AM - Sermon
Galatians 5:1, 13-25

We are entering the world of the fruit of Spirit. The works of the flesh are breaking down in this hyperconnected, world. It used to be works you made, what you did. Who you were, how you behaved, didn't matter as much. It was nobody's business, and outside of an expensive private investigator, it couldn't be anyone's business. Now leave an angry phone message and it is on the internet. Treat a girl rotten and get on the who not to date web site. Even minor things are recorded, I remember grossing out a friend of mine: “according to the Rotary's web site you have been a guest at Rotary five times in three years, when are you going to join?”

The book titled How by Dov L. Seidman argues that when everyone can do things cheaper, faster, better than the next person when everything becomes a commodity, HOW you doing something is the only thing that sets you apart from everyone else. In this view, Google isn't a search engine for finding web pages, it is an reputation management system. Google itself is almost spiritual in its motto “Don't Be Evil” which came from a desire not to make rules to direct individual actions on WHAT they should do in various circumstances, “Be on time for meetings” but HOW to act in all situations.

Wikiopedia talks about Google:

Google also falls victim to general criticism of companies that promote their corporate social responsibility, since many economists and business leaders believe that a corporation's first duty is to maximize shareholder value. This point of view holds that corporate social responsibility is either cynical and empty self-promotion (if the company's social responsibility claims are false), or detrimental to shareholder value (if the claims are true). Google, however, claims a third position, that a Don't Be Evil culture is a prerequisite to building shareholder value in the long term for a company that requires public trust to achieve its mission.

I maintain that the works of the flesh is greed, taking short-term profits. Short cuts to quick profits. The pay-off for fornication is quick and fleeting, the same with drunkenness, anger, quarrels, jealousy. All have there counterparts in the corporate world where we are seeing vast changes from the abuses of the Enron scandles and others. For the whats that used to make profits, the widgets, the cars, the people who answer the phone, all are made quicker, cheaper, and more efficient by someone else. People are now looking at how companies work, not what they produce. For the whats are becoming the same.

IBM got out of the computer making business, international business machines, and is now in the consulting business, trading making WHATs into selling their HOWs. Ever take an camera to an Art Fair. Don't do it. A picture of a painting can be copied at a photoshop, enlarged, and hung on the wall in four hours. Next month it could be $19.99 at the discount store. WHATs are becoming less important.

The world of the flesh is failing. It destroys itself. Instead comes the world of the spirit. Note there is only one fruit of the spirit. Not several fruit“S” (You can amaze and astound your friends with that trivia. Many gifts of the Spirit, just one fruit of the Spirit. ) If you are of the spirit, all these flow from the Spirit. It is the “Do be evil” idea of Goggle. All from there instead of from rules on rules.

To live and guided by the Spirit is to work on these items. Dov Seidman talks about it as trust. It is good idea. He has a bio-chemical and anthropological argument for using trust, but we have a better one. Living and being guided by the spirit is at its heart. The belief that the world is good and it is headed for a good purpose. Christians see this in the creation story, were God calls the creation good. We also see it in God's love for people shown in Jesus Christ. It you know the outcome is good, if you believe in God's providence, then it is easier to be patient. If you trust in God to work things out, you can have more self-control. If you don't look at the short term profit, the instant gain, the individual pay-off but the spirit of God in the kingdom, you will see more fruit of the Spirit.

Look at the Gospel…here is a disciples what to take short term profit on their mission to discipline the ones who rejected them. Jesus takes the longer term view…he doesn't punish folks who aren't ready for him yet. He has patience and self-control. What if he did that today? The films would be on youTube and the news, the bloggers would crucify him, and his message and his reputation would be ruined. The reputation latter is climbed one rung at a time, but when you fall, you slide all the way down.

Time and again, I've seen it is it not the incident, the offense, that causes the uproar but the reaction to it but the individual or the institution. And how often have you heard it said, “It isn't what was done, but how it was done.” The flesh is all about “Just Do It” get it done, self-indulgence, short cuts, and short term. The Spirit is about longer term values, about other people, relationship where trust and reputation matter and flow. Google, if they were more theological, might be tempted to replace, don't do evil with the positive, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”.

How would this work out? What would a world, a culture, an economy based on the fruit of the Spirit instead of the self-indulgent works of the flesh look like? It would be one not based on rules and laws, for the Spirit is not subject to rules and laws. How can you legislate trust, patient, generosity, kindness? If all lived by the Spirit, we wouldn't need some many laws, Jesus and the epistle today says they can all be reduced to one, “Love your neighbor as yourself”

What about the abusers? Rules are useful for minimums, for safety to set the floor. But not for motivation or inspiration or the ceiling as Dov Siedman says. You cannot make a rule to be the best for one cannot envision all the possibilities and situations and cover them with rules.

The wave was invented in October of 1981 at an Oakland A's game by Krazy George, the world's sexiest professional cheerleader. Siedman says getting a stadium full of thousands of fans to cooperate and make the wave cannot be done by hiring them (who has that money?), scaring them, (who can frightening folks across a stadium?), or making a rule that everyone has to jump up at the right time? It can only be done with trust in the community. That is how the Spirit transforms, by transformation relationships and people into communities that help one another, that see the bigger picture of a mighty wave of humanity when flesh self-indulgent folks only wonder what's jumping up and down going to do for me?

Be a part of the wave. Live and be guided by the spirit.

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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iPhone Home 
Wednesday, June 27, 2007, 12:33 PM - Extra Christy, Radio
The iPhone from Apple comes out at the end of this week and people are already lined up to buy the latest $499 technical wonder. An innovation for this phone is that it has one button. All the controls from dialing a number to surfing the web are done using a touch screen: your finger taps, slides, and swirls through phone, music, video, maps and messaging. The one physical button is used to bring you back to the home screen, no matter how many levels deep you are! The reviewers say this means you can never get lost in all the screens and options!

It is true that you are never lost if you know how to get home. Lost isn't not knowing where you are right now, but not knowing how to get back home. The sole Apple iPhone button makes sure its users are never lost in "a twisty maze of passageways" like some computer games. Just knowing the way home is available is comforting during challenging times and inspires the timid to forge on courageously.

A Christian is also comforted and encouraged during the explorations of this life knowing that our home is in heaven. We are never lost here on earth as long as we know where our home is. We can be encouraged in our explorations in this life, cheerful even, because we know where home is. I think this is why some church members tell me that when they don't go to church service on Sunday, they are lost the next week. They benefit from a weekly reminder of directions to their heavenly home.

Hope you always know where home is.

Our Home
Our bodies are like tents that we live in here on earth. But when these tents are destroyed, we know that God will give each of us a place to live. These homes will not be buildings that someone has made, but they are in heaven and will last forever. While we are here on earth, we sigh because we want to live in that heavenly home. We want to put it on like clothes and not be naked.

...Always be cheerful. As long as we are in these bodies, we are away from the Lord. But we live by faith, not by what we see. We should be cheerful, because we would rather leave these bodies and be at home with the Lord. But whether we are at home with the Lord or away from him, we still try our best to please him. After all, Christ will judge each of us for the good or the bad that we do while living in these bodies. - 2 Corinthians 5:1-3,6-10 (CEV)

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The Fear of Miracles 
Sunday, June 24, 2007, 08:11 AM - Sermon
1 Kings 19:1-15a; Luke 8:26-39

Elijah wished for death. It is strange if you read the preceding chapter. In chapter 18 he has his greatest victory, victory of the forces of Ba'al, the god of growth and rain. He challenged the priests of Ba'al to a God contest, complete with teams, fans, and even trash talk. He won. Not only did he beat the pagan priests, he and the victorious fans killed them all! They didn't mess around in God contest back then. But, Jezebel vows revenge and Elijah runs and hides. Have you felt like him? “I'm the only decent person left…the old times were so much better…everyone is out to do me in.” God gave him a great victory, a powerful sign that helped restore the worship of God to the country and broke a killing drought with life giving rain…yet Elijah ran away from God's great miracle.

The villagers of our demon processed man feared miracles, too. Jesus heals a man of being processed by a legion of demons so powerful they caused him to rip off his clothes and chains the villagers tried to use to calm him. When Jesus sent the demons out of the man and they entered a herd of swine, the violence of the demons caused the pigs to stampede over a cliff to their deaths! But the man, freed of the demons, was now in his right mind. He could talk and keep clothes on. The villagers saw this miracle and told Jesus to leave! You see crazy we know, destruction we are used to, but miracle? Healing! We are just not prepared for that, take that somewhere else Jesus.

Ever know a family where someone has cast out the demon alcohol? Suddenly they are in their right mind. Like our demon processed friend in the Bible, he is a different person. Families have a hard time with the change. They are used to craziness, to violence and abandonment. They hate it, but it is familiar and comfortable. Now the drunk is sober, and wants to be treated as an adult or a parent or both! They have opinions that are based on reason and experience, not inebriation. We don't expect miracles. Some fall off the wagon, because they are pushed by others who are afraid of miracles.

Death is expected. Sometimes welcomed. Miracles are always a surprise. We expect people, churches, and machines, to grow old, decay, run down. We have an entire industry devoted to death. They do a great and necessary job at funeral homes. Not so much miracles. There are no miracle homes. It is hard to make a home for the unexpected guest, I suppose. Much as I enjoy being with funeral directors, we fight sometimes over their desire to make a church sanctuary look like a funeral home. I think it should look like a miracle home: with great symbols of miracles on the walls and windows.

Have you noticed how much memorial and death we have compared to life and miracles. I was thinking about the memorial flowers. I like them. Others do, too. Often we have to ask people to choose another date because so many people contribute to the flowers. I want the first Sunday in September for my brother, Ric. I've bought flowers for him in 4 different churches over the years in three states. What would be the miracle expecting donation? Flowers remember, Miracles hope in the future. Maybe Happy Dollars like they have in Kiwanis. For a dollar donation to the Boys and Girls fund, anyone can brag about a miracle, a joy in their life. Maybe we should have in addition to memorial flowers, miracle doughnuts. The doughnuts today are brought to you by the Smith family on the birth of their daughter, or a birthday, or a new job. Expecting Miracles, welcoming them instead of fearing them is a mind set we have to seek.

In church it is very comforting to get slowly smaller every year. It is easy. It is expected. No one acts surprised with another year of loss in total membership. Because giving lags behind attendance, growing smaller is financially easier, too. If attendance is growing, you have that lag working against you. Growing churches have monthly financial crises, new people with new ideas. New ways of worship. What if the contemporary service takes off? Turmoil! Chaos! Change! Shut it down! It is making us two congregations, that isn't really worship or singing. We can save money by just having one service, send that other service away into the exile of Saturday night…we can't have miracle and life and newness around here. It is unnatural, it is unexpected.

Miracles are always unexpected changes in the order of things. Nature runs down into decay. Miracles are new life and that is always messy and upsetting. Ask any new parent about the changes the miracle of a baby brings. Only with a lot of support and understanding from those that have been there before is there any hope of the new parents coping with the miracle of life.

Do not be like Elijah and run away from miracles because change brings challenges. Don't be like the villagers that ask Jesus to take the first boat out of town because he just did not understand the way things were around here. Be like the demon released man and welcome the miracles in your life, telling everyone you know what God has done for you and welcoming that miracle power in others.

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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