Yesterday and Tomorrow 
Wednesday, September 12, 2007, 08:00 AM - Extra Christy, Radio
I bet you remember six years ago, Tuesday, September 11th as clearly as you remember yesterday's Tuesday, September 11th.

It is now tomorrow, September 12th. What is in store for us after September 11th? Yesterday I participated in the Akron's observance of the anniversary at St. Bernard's church.

This year wasn't about speeches by clergy and politicians. The highlight of the gathering titled The Rhythms of Remembrance and Renewal, was several children's choirs: the Kenmore High School Madrigals, the Shaw Jewish Community Center/Lippman Day School Choir, Unity Gospel Singers and the Islamic Center School Choir. Christian, Civic, Jewish, and Islamic choirs each sang songs of peace and unity and joined together in a secular song given holy meaning in that time and place: "Lean on Me" by Bill Withers:

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

So just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'd understand
We all need somebody to lean on

We were remembering tragic events of the past, but seeing the children of different faiths, singing together about helping each other, gave me hope for the future.

Together From Everywhere
People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.-- Luke 13:28 (NIV)

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Beyond GPS 
Wednesday, September 5, 2007, 08:00 AM - Extra Christy
Global Positioning Systems have been around awhile, I've written about them before. I started wondering how they compared with previous ways of getting voiced, turn by turn directions: asking a real person.

One difference is that Global Positioning Systems are all about the now. Where you are this instant determined by satellites and how to get from that point to your destination on up to date maps. Some even have current traffic conditions continuously updated wirelessly.

Real people, especially in small towns, offer UTB based directions, (Used to Be). "Well, you go north out of town on Old Highway 31 and turn where the red barn used to be." Sometimes I think you have to ask for directions to a destination and specify the year you want them for, "Could you tell me how to get to the mall in 1986?".

God promises a new heaven and a new earth. I don't know if the new heavens will include navigation satellites or if the former roadways will map on the new earth. I do know it will be a very different place to live, with even wolves and lambs having a new direction in life, one without harm or destruction. (see scripture below) A world where lives are not dead ends and where no one is lost.

Maybe we Christians can start YTB based directions, (Yet To Be). We will travel through life with new directions that will be good in the future kingdom of God. One in which we neither harm or destroy. We follow God's path instead of worldly ways, and if the road isn't there yet...maybe our travels will bring it into being.

New Heavens and A New Earth
"Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.

But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.

I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.

They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them.

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.

The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain," says the LORD.--Isaiah 65:17-25 (NIV)

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Serving Angel Food 
Sunday, September 2, 2007, 02:08 PM - Sermon
She remarked to her boyfriend, “I've got to get some clean clothes for church tomorrow. I think I'll wear the nice black shorts.”

Her boyfriend was aghast. He don't wear a dress? What about your Sunday best, men in ties and women in dresses?

She laughed, “Sure, in the 1950s, where did you get that idea?”.

“From The Simpsons, they always dress up for church!”

This is all he knew about church life: from the popular television show, the only current TV show where the characters go to church weekly. The world continually changes, today's college freshman have never known TV without the Simpsons and FOX has always been a major TV network. These come for Beloit college's 2007 version of the “mindset list” a series of observations about today's college freshmen..

For them, a Russia with multiple political parties and a China with multiple business enterprises seems quite normal. They've grown up in a time of triumphant capitalism, where it's common for stadiums to be named after corporations and where product placements have always been yet another clever way for companies to sell their wares.

Food has always been a health concern (with nutritional labels). Consumer awareness about ingredients and fats has always been energized. They've never “rolled down” a car window, and to them Jack Nicholson is mainly known as the guy who played “The Joker.”

Religious leaders have always been telling politicians what to do, or else! Wal-Mart has always been a larger retailer than Sears and has always employed more workers than GM. MTV has never featured music videos.

For them Pete Rose has never been in baseball. Abbie Hoffman's always been dead. Johnny Carson has never been live on TV, and Nelson Mandela has always been free. As for the Berlin Wall, what's that? -- Beloit College web site

How do we welcome such strangers? How we show hospitality to strangers that might be angels, messengers of God to us? Imagine that modern form of hospitality, the wedding reception. What if the hosts said, “We need each couple to bring $50 gift to break even on the wedding reception cost. We need more guests to get the gift count up!” That is what I hear when “We need more people, or we need more young people”. Getting in people for your needs is not hospitality, that is recruitment at best.

“Hospitality is about compensating/equalizing a total stranger with the host, making him feel protected and guiding him to his next destination” Wikiopeida Hospitality is about the need of others people.

Hospitality, host, hostile and stranger have the same root, Host and guests are both strangers. In Greek culture only after welcoming a stranger to your home, washing his feet, and putting the guest at ease could you ask your guest for a name. it is the care of stranger. Welcome the stranger, for they might be an angel.

We celebrate the hospitality of God here, today in communion. This is the Lord's table. We are guests in God's house at the Lord's table. He welcomes the stranger, brings us equal to him as his brothers, washes us clean, protects us from evil, and feeds us to go and do ministry in the world. Communion. Communal people together strangers who are brought together at table.

The services this summer have sought to minister to a post modern, post denominational people. In the words of Leonard Sweet (in Post Modern Pilgrims): Experiential, Participatory, Image Driven, Communal — Funerals are moving into this realm. Especially services run by young people. A traditional person, was livid at a funeral of a young person, “They keep putting things in the casket! It's disrespectful! CDs, games, magazines, notes, even drugs!” We know that caskets are for viewing, but post-moderns have to participate and experience the event. There are now white caskets so people can sign them, and the minister isn't the only one speaking during the services of memories. Even the funeral of Princess Diana showed us that we don't remember the words of the preacher about God and theology, but of her brother who spoke about his real life experiences with her.

Jim and Casper Go to Church describes the experience of a former pastor and an avowed atheist who together visited a dozen significant churches across the nation. Some of the critical discoveries were:

the relative indifference of most churched Christians to unchurched people;

Hospitality would demand that we seek to welcome the people who are unchurched. Not songs we all know, Bible stories we've heard, prayers recited from memory. We went to a church in West Virginia once, they had a hymn sing, but as soon as the number was called out the singing began at the next breath. We were left madly flipping the hymnals to the bemusement of those around.

the overt emphasis upon a personal rather than communal faith journey;

Our story together is not individual. Our focus needs to be where are we going not where I have been. Taking people along with us on a journey, as hosts for each other with provisions for the journey. Warrant Presbyterian Church has a prayer shawl ministry. They gather together in prayer and make a shawl covered with prayer and then present to others who have a special time, a birth, illness, death, or wedding to connect them in the web of prayer with the congregation.

the tendency of congregations to perform rituals and exercise talents rather than invite and experience the presence of God;

Got me there. I'm want to on our experience the presence of God. When is God real to you? What can we clear away and open. Applause, fill in the blank sermons, testimonies, one church cancelled its contemporary service once a month and works on a build for Habitat for Humanity. This is why Easter and Christmas services is so full…they feel close to God then. It is an experience not a duty or a head trip.

the absence of a compelling call to action given to those who attend;

Part of the experience driven people we have now, is the hunger to do something with faith. Committee meetings do not excite the strangers among us, a work group to accomplish a project or an outreach is interesting. We need to link our worship to the ministry and missions we have working in the church/

and the failure to listen to dissident voices

We can learn from strangers who could be angels, when they talk about what works for them in religion or what is missing from the church. Even those who criticism us have useful information. If you hear some criticism, in asking about the church, listen and consider it, it might be the voice of God from a stranger, who is a messenger of God, an angel.

(lack of) spiritual guidance to dig deeper in one's faith.

Men of Luke 15, Sunday School is starting…how can I be more open to spiritual guidance and soul talk. We can offer more mentoring of our new members. Work with our adults to go beyond a Sunday school faith.

Folks who are strangers who are wondering, we do not need them. They are not to be our hosts to our needs and programs and wants. We are to be hosts to them as Christ is to us, who came not be serve but to serve.

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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Faith Texting 
Tuesday, August 28, 2007, 08:11 AM - Extra Christy, Radio
My niece came to visit this month. She saw me struggling to text a message and took pity on my big thumbs seeking and destroying little letters on a tiny screen like an expensive game of battleship.

For those that don't know "texting" is sending short messages to a cell phone screen. One way is "typing" with your thumbs on a cell phone where 26 letters are squeezed on 8 number keys. You repeatedly press a key until you get the letter you want. The word "faith" would be 333-2-444-8-44.

My niece, who is kind to helpless animals and clueless uncles, saw me tapping away and said, "I use T9. It saves a lot of typing." So I turned on the T9 option. And tried to type "faith" - 333-2-444-8-44 quickly producing "E" which morphed into "De" which transformed into "Fee" and ending up with "Defaghitii" which could be a low-cal pasta. Previous letters changed as I typed new ones and changed again when I tried to correct the change! My head was now spinning with my thumbs, was my phone possessed?

My niece diagnosed my trouble: "You just push each key ONCE" 3-2-4-8-4 made "E", which changed to "Fa" then finally "Faith"! The phone guessed what word I was typing and changed the previous letters to match its guess. From 10 taps to 5! My niece's reward was to have Uncle text messages DOUBLED for the rest of her visit. What a blessing!

T9 writing is faith based. You don't see the word you are typing until you are nearly finished typing it. On the way it appears to be a swirl of nonsense leading nowhere near your word goal. Yet in the end, T9 usually guesses right or lets you choose in the case of a tie. ("Good" and "Home" are equal to my phone, which I find comforting.)

Soren Kierkegaard observed that, "Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards." As Christians we know the final word that God is spelling out in history: salvation. Christ came to save the world. It is hard to read that in a brutal death on the cross and the misspellings of the church and its followers through the centuries, but if my phone can find faith in my clumsy hands, how much more can God spell out in the history of the world.

Keep pressing on. God will help you get it right in the end.

Reading Backwards
from the Presbyterian Study Catechism

What do you understand by God's providence?

That God not only preserves the world, but also continually attends to it, ruling and sustaining it with wise and benevolent care. God is concerned for every creature: "The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, you satisfy the desire of every living thing" (Psalm 145:15). In particular, God provides for the world by bringing good out of evil, so that nothing evil is permitted to occur that God does not bend finally to the good. Scripture tells us, for example, how Joseph said to his brothers: "As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today" (Genesis 50:20).

Romans 8:28 "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."

Psalm 103:19 "The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all."

Psalm 145:17 "The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings."

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What's the Buzz? 
Wednesday, August 22, 2007, 08:14 AM - Extra Christy, Radio
I get to walk to work. It is usually a quiet time for me ending with a peaceful turn on the labyrinth at the church's Charlie's Place. One particular morning I was disturbed to hear a loud droning noise like a giant weed whacker! It was moving too. Is Yugo back with a diesel?

Then I looked up. Two Goodyear Blimps were buzzing the church building.

I was so excited by the visit, I forgot to be annoyed at the noise!

It is amazing how the same noise turned from an irritating interruption to an unexpected pleasure. The early church had a similar division of opinion about the voice of God in John 12. Some just heard thunder, others heard an angel. For some the noise was a sign to take cover from harsh weather, for others it was a message from God. The same sound brought gloomy worry to some but glorious hope to others.

There is a lot of noise in our lives. Information, Advertising, Entertainment, and Technology shakes and bellows all around us. What's that noise? Don't stop with your first impression. Look up. It may be that noise is the the sound of something wonderful from the heavens.

What Do You Hear?
"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!"

Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine.- John 12:27-30 (NIV)

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