Giving Doorknockers 
Wednesday, September 24, 2008, 11:21 AM - Extra Christy
When we entered our new house we found a gift from the previous owners that moved there as newlyweds five children ago. A doorknocker with our name inscribed on it. Good people

As I consider how to install the pounder, I related it to my calling. I really am about installing personalized doorknockers for the one who stands at the door and knocks. I cannot open the door for someone else for Christ to enter, nor am I the one to be welcomed in. My place is getting door knockers put in, so folks know that Christ is knocking at the door to their heart.

Hope you hear Christ knocking today. Let me know if I can help.

Here I am!

I stand at the door and knock.

If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,

I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

-- Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

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A Too Generous God 
Sunday, September 21, 2008, 08:16 AM - Sermon
Matthew 20:1-16

Our scripture translates ‘denarius' as “usual day's wage”. Back then there was no social safety net, no refrigerators; most folks lived day to day. If a laborer didn't get the usual day's wage, a denarius, most likely he and his family would go hungry that day.

The vineyard owner may have known this; that may be why he gave a day's wage even to the laborers who only worked an hour, as well as a day's wage to those who worked a day. He wasn't overly generous; he gave only what was necessary for the day, not a windfall.

How many are with the early laborers? Now, this isn't a lesson about the merits of early and late service and who gets the better deal. Lord knows we have enough of that discussion. It is about folks getting enough for the day; about a vineyard owner who is generous enough to ensure that all his workers have enough to live on, at least for the day he hires them. Yet, we are with the early risers. Why shouldn't those who work longer and harder be rewarded above and beyond what they need? That is the American way! It is getting more and more like that. In 1983, 9% of the wealth was held by the top 1% of Americans. Today, that same 1% of Americans have 16% of the wealth, far more than what is needed for the day. World wide it is even worse, the richest 1% own 37% of the world's wealth. You would have to gather up 90% of the world to equal the wealth of that 1%.

Is this radical thinking? Not so much; we pray for it every week. We did it again today. We ask God for our daily bread. Give us this day our bread for the day. Not the week, not the year, not enough for the millennium…just enough for today. That works both ways. If you are poor, you ask to be given bread. If you are rich, you pray that God doesn't give you any more than you need.

Our Old Testament lesson from the lectionary marries this scripture with the Old Testament finding of Manna, literally, “what is it?” or a “whatis”. It was bread that came every day, just enough to live for the day. If one tried to save it and hoard it, gather more than the daily amount, it spoiled. Only daily bread was given by God.

We struggle with giving away daily bread. Why should welfare queens pick up their checks in Cadillacs? In 2006 we spent about 354.3 billion dollars on all entitlements, welfare by all its names. We are annoyed at the generosity of our society, our government that gives others enough to live. Yet that envy robs us of the experience of generosity. Our pensions, our mortgages, our health benefits were saved this month with outlays of billions to save Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae, AIG, and other big lenders. More was spent this month on the corporations than on the poor in a year. And some of those corporate executives actually drive Cadillacs. I'm in it all just as deep as you. I'm a fish in the ocean talking about wetness. But our envy, our greed, has killed our capability to perceive the good generosity of God. Just as we don't see the Government benefits to us because we are looking at others, so too we miss God's gifts because we think we deserve more than those other people.

Since 1948, our productivity has doubled. We are producing twice as much as we did in 1948. So if we choose to get by on 1948 standards we could work half as much. Now 1948 didn't have hot and cold running internet, but it wasn't the Stone Age. It was enough for the day. If we had stayed there we could have had a four hour work day, a weekend that started Wednesday afternoon, every other year off or retiring at 45! Today, as Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe says, “Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.”

I'm not an economist though I play one on PC, the Presbyterian Church. If you are a spiritual person, especially a Calvinist-leaning one, you look at events little and great and try to discern, “What in the World is God doing for heaven's sake?” I see the financial upheavals and I wonder if we will turn from putting our trust in bigger houses and bigger banks and turn from greed to generosity. Stop being envious of others and start wondering if others have enough for the day. We experienced a little taste of that concept with the recent electrical power problems. People were calling and asking, “Do you have enough?” Neighbors were stringing extension cords to those without power. Freezers were filled with food from family and friends. Friends with power had others over for light and entertainment. One of the neighbors with the extension cord across the driveway said, “We have enough for a few lights at night, so we are okay.” We moved from, “We deserve our power” to “Does everyone have enough for the day?”

Bread for the day: When greed stops, generosity is revealed. When we have enough, we are blessed.

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Power Failure 
Wednesday, September 17, 2008, 07:24 AM - Extra Christy
Like people everywhere, our hearts ache for the devastation caused by Hurricane Ike. Ike came by our place Sunday night during our church's Free Community Dinner. The winds were impressive. After the storm, power outages put nearly 2 million Ohioans in the dark. I write this Tuesday, and the power is still out around the church neighborhood. The church has "half" power. We get our power from two grids and only one grid is working now so some things work, others do not. With the outlets working but the lights without power we were faced with working on computers by candlelight!

As the Internet and lights remain out: Folks cope with moving perishable food to friends with power, staying with family, canceling meetings, etc. The greeting is how did you weather the storm? The best answer was from a bank teller, "Well, work is fine but my home is without power...I wish it was the other way around! Then I could stay home!"

Power in the Bible is talked about in 2 Corinthians chapter 12, it says "God's power is made perfect in weakness". When the comfort and convenience provided by electrical power is removed (no football!) Other forms of power come to the front. Neighbors meeting together to remove downed limbs, reading or talking to loved ones instead of watching television, friends keeping perishable food for others, family rescuing relatives from the dark. Folks use the power of love to replace electrical power.
Sometimes it takes a power failure to find real power.

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -- 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (CEV)

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How to Forgive 
Sunday, September 14, 2008, 11:37 AM - Sermon
Matthew 18:21-35

You'll have to forgive Peter. Peter's proposal was actually quite generous; most teachers allowed two or three times forgiveness. Peter went all the way to seven. Jesus, sarcastically responded, seventy-seven times, other versions have seventy times seven. It wasn't a literal number, he was joking to make a point, a number so ridiculously high to show one shouldn't be keeping track of forgiveness.

Forgiveness does not do math. Love doesn't keep score. Jesus points this out in the numbers he uses in the story. It is hard to compare money value from Biblical times. Ten Thousand Talents. Now a talent was the amount a man could carry, so imagine ten thousand men loaded up all the gold they could carry. Way over a million dollars, how could a servant pay that back? Our Bible footnote says a single talent was equal to 15 years wages. He couldn't work off 150,000 years worth of labor, that was the point. It was unpayable, so his promise to pay it back was either laughable or insulting, depending on your mood. A hundred denarii would be a 100 days labor, for a denarius was one day manual labor. In terms of weight a talent was 93 pounds while the denarius went the other way, it was 1/93rd of a pound. So debt he was owed was a pound compared to 930,000 pounds, or 465 tons that he was forgiven. It is a mind boggling difference in amount.

Jesus was pointing out that we are forgiven so we may forgive. Sometimes when someone is complaining about someone, I think, imagine, God has to put up with that person twenty-four hours a day! Not only that but God has to put up with everyone I put up with, plus one other, God has to put up with me. If God lets all those people and I go on living without smiting them and me…I guess I shouldn't have higher standards than God.

Now, I also don't want to suggest that forgiving is forgetting. Jesus doesn't have the king in the story give the slave another several million dollars to hold for him. If anything, the forgiven servant is held to a high standard than others, with the master expecting him to be more merciful because he was forgiven.

Frederic Luskin, Ph.D. has nine steps to forgiveness a couple of them are worth mentioning here. (You can find this and more at,)
Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation
…or condoning of their action.
Give up expecting things from other people,
or your life , that they do not choose to give you.
Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge.

The website of the campaign for love and forgiveness ( even though secular is worth looking at for some helpful techniques.

Another Point of View
Think of a situation in your life where you would like to be forgiven or would like to forgive. Write or record a short description of the situation from your perspective. Now imagine that you are the other person in the situation from that person's perspective. How are the two stories different?

Just Like Me
Resentments, disagreements, and estrangements hurt all parties because they reinforce feelings of separation. Often we can't forgive someone until we can see the situation from their point of view. A good practice to encourage this kind of perspective shift is "Just Like Me." Whenever you find yourself making an assessment of another person, whether you are saying something critical or something complimentary, right after you think or say it, add the statement "just like me." For example, "My partner is so stubborn, just like me." "My friend holds too many grudges, just like me." This activity can help you see that we are all imperfect and make mistakes.

When we shift our focus and judgment from others to ourselves we will find that to which we most object to others is the same things we hate in ourselves. The difference is that we can do something about the way we act and relate. We can change ourselves.

Practice Meeting People for the First Time
Hugh Prather, author of many books of spiritual reflections, considers the steps necessary for forgiveness in Morning Notes: 365 Meditations to Wake You Up. He concludes that "a judgmental feeling about another person is based on the same belief as my fear of making mistakes: I think what someone once did is more important than how the person is now." Practice meeting people as they are right now, as if you were meeting them for the first time. If their past actions dominate your perceptions, this will be difficult.

God's very name is I AM WHO I AM or I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE. God is centered not so much in who you were, but who you are called to be. We once were strangers, but now we are the friend of God. We once were sinners and now we are children of God. God meets us again for the first time every moment of our lives as we grow in understanding, love and forgiveness. Better than we were yesterday, not as good as we will be tomorrow.

Most of us have heard of an intervention where a person is surrounded by friends and family and told of the pain and grief he has caused in each person's life. This is an effective way to get through the fog of denial and the web of lies than keep folks from entering rehabilitation treatment for drugs or alcohol abuse. There is another way

Remind People of Their Good Qualities and Deeds
In The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace, Jack Kornfield describes an African forgiveness ritual: "In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and every man, woman, and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual. Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, each recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days. At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe."

There was a Presbytery executive now retired who ended most of his conversations with the phrase, “Remember who you are and whose you are”. Christians can add to the story told to the person. Now just the story to remember who they are at their best, but the Christian story the love of Christ and story of redemption of God's people from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane from Creation to Revelation.

We are commanded to forgive and we can forgive when we remember who we are and whose we are. When we acknowledge how God forgave us, when we write a forgiving end to the stories of hurt and pain we tell and live, when we see ourselves in others and turn to working on changing ourselves instead of others, and when we value the present reality and future possibilities over past failures. This is what God does for us, and what we need to do to others.

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Christians Have Only 1 Home 
Wednesday, September 10, 2008, 08:12 AM - Extra Christy
For 3 years I haven't lived in "my" home. I lived with my parents in Ohio while my son Robert was finishing school at our previous home in Pennsylvania. The last year I have lived in my aunt's home who graciously let us rent a house she is trying to sell while we looked for a home. Tomorrow we sign the papers and empty our pockets to get a home of our own. (Well, ours and the bank!)

While living away, I've tried to make dwellings home like. Pictures on the wall, familiar furniture, even Bit of Bybee bowls and dishes have helped make a home away from home. But it wasn't the same.

Bette Lynn, my wife, has had a similar experience. For three years she has been living in houses she has been preparing to sell. Neutral paint, generic and muted decorations, organizations made for appearance instead of convenience, and upgrades made with someone else in mind.

For Christians, home is in heaven. Everything else is just a temporary dwelling, a tent, a rental, until we get to our eternal home in heaven. We strive to decorate and remodel to make it like our dream home and succeed in some little and big ways. But this earth is not our home, all of humanity is restless knowing that we do not fit in a fallen, sinful world but our made for the glory of God and to enjoy him forever.

If you are asked how many homes you have...gently and kindly tell the person you have one, just like everyone else, and it is with God in heaven.

Home in Heaven

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. -- 2 Corinthians 5:1-2 (CEV)

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