Wednesday, December 27, 2006, 12:34 PM - Extra Christy
I have a fondness for Bingo. It is a game where the chaos of rolling balls becomes orderly rows and columns on a card. Chaos into order appeals to me in puzzles and games. (My desk is another matter!)

A church I served used to play bingo with the residents of the nursing home. The first several games were played legit, the caller would pick and announce letters and numbers and the residents would fill their cards until someone won. Toward the end, there were just one or two left that were still playing and hadn't won. Well, God forgive us, we cheated a little, to make sure the ones still playing could call out BINGO.

The letters and numbers called seemed random, but the caller knew everyone would leave there a winner. Everything we did worked toward that result. We didn't know who or how we would get there, or how long it would take, but the end result was assured.

The eighth chapter of Romans has a verse about calling this kind of Bingo,

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28

Well, Paul wasn't thinking about our Bingo games at the nursing home, but God works like those games. All the random events of our life, those we see as helpful and even those we see as useless or as benefiting everyone but us; in the end are called by God into good. We don't call it Bingo but Providence, God's work in the world. Which according to the Heidelberg Catechism means:

That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things, which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from his love.

Bingo! I have my New Year's Wish to you!

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What Love Looks Like 
Sunday, December 24, 2006, 08:00 PM - Sermon
Philippians 1:3-11
Tonight we know what love looks like. Joseph, Mary and the Baby Jesus surround by animals, angels, shepherds, and the magi. It would look strange today. Having a baby surrounded by animals? With strangers gathered around? No bed for his head, no medical personnel? That isn't the way love looks today. We have vitamins and exercise and classes. We have hospitals, and baby monitors, video cameras, cell phones, doctors, nurses, and social workers. Although afterwards with all the equipment, diaper bag, bottles, car seat, chair, we do sometimes feel loaded down like a wiseman's camel.

The look of love will change as the baby grows. From constant care to allowing tottering steps, from the house to the yard, to the preschool, to school. The look of love will change. A crib that was appropriate and necessary for a baby looks like a cage for pre-schooler and a jail to a teenager. Sitting up with a crying child that will not leave you alone becomes sitting up in a silent house waiting for noise of the teen-ager to coming home.

The love of the church changes too. Sunday School for the last 100 years of the 2,000 years of the church was a way to love children. Now pre-school and day care, rare a hundred years ago when Sunday School began to boom are nearly standard from birth. Has what love looks like changed? To working parents does love look like a loving place 5 days a week instead of one?

People my age were looking to change the world. They were on a journey to find themselves, but they did it in groups. The church was there with them in the struggle for social movements and civil rights. That is what loved looked like to them.

For some it seems all the rules are gone. The great Christiandom where church and state were often assumed to be the same has gone away. So for some love looks like a church full of rules and certainty in a world where everything is in flux.

Connection and emotion is lost in mobile urban settings when television gobbles up time that was spent with family and friends, clubs and groups. Relationships have narrowed down to me thee and the TV; for some love looks like emotional festivals where hearts are tended with moving music and emotional messages tug on heart strings seldom played.

What does love look like now? There is is a site for people to decide 43 things they want to do with their life. They put them into the computer and find other people who have the same goal. They post their efforts, failures and successes. They are running the top new year resolutions now. What do you think “Find a Church” was ranked? Last week it was number 7, it has slipped to number 11 now. What does love look like to these folks without a church? Listen to these seekers:

EmpressHadItUpToHere —The best way I have found to do this is to trust God. Just go, every Sunday, to a church in your town until you feel like you've found home. This is easy if you have a dozen churches in town. It's very hard if you live in a town with thousands of churches. Start close to home, and work your way outward until you find what you need.

The most common way to do this is to research churches or beliefs until you find one that matches you. This is not the best way, IMO, because you can get bogged down in researching and every religion has a spectrum of beliefs. IF you want to go this route, take the Belief-O-Matic Quiz. It'll give you a general idea.

verocca says a week ago — Found A Church, Lost My Faith Not worth it! Seeking a church, I could not feel Jesus in any of them. Each place I went to felt empty, hollow. When I finally stuck with a place for a while, I stayed for a year hoping that Jesus would eventually reveal himself to me… it just didn't happen.

CounterfeitReBelle — I need to do this. I just don't look forward to ‘trying' them all out. Since leaving a church over two years ago after a change in leadership, I haven't looked back. While I don't think it's essential, I think being together with believers help to encourage and edify each other is beneficial on every level. Too bad, there are just as many fakes in the church as there are in the world.

logta65 — Well, I guess I found it. I'm going to keep going to this little church. It's not all I was looking for but I think this is part of my perfectionism problem. I idealize things so much that whenever I'm in front of something, I always look for the flaws therefore making my search unending. I guess I'm going to start going with something small instead of waiting for the big ship to come in. I'll keep going to this one and see where God leads me.

daydreamingmom —- Well, we went. I think it helped that we set the clocks back. Since we gained an hour it was nice not to have to rush this morning.
We did like the church, enough that we will visit again. They have children's chapel that Nate is old enough for, but Carrie isn't. So, for now they did fine in the nursery.

They had communion and after much thought we decided to participate. I went and got the boys from the nursery so they could go up to the altar with us for a blessing. So, went up and knelt…the pastor came by with the “bread” and Nate (age 4) asked him “Hey what is that?” I told him it was bread. But, he didn't want to hear from me, so he repeated the question a little louder. The pastor looked over at him and said, “I'll tell you later.” He seemed OK with that. Then the woman with the wine came ‘round…Yes, once again he asks, “What's that?” She says, “Wine”. And Nate says (in a volume not church appropriate), “But, I don't like wine”.

After the service they came up to me and said I had a very curious boy. We laughed about it. The woman jokingly asked me how he would know he doesn't like wine. Hmmm…because he snuck a sip of mine. I was very embarrassed. But it was funny. And after all that there were several people that invited us back. My children running around wide open screaming did not earn me any sideways looks that questioned what kind of mom I am. I think we'll go back.

What does love look like? Sometimes a little baby, sometimes moral direction in a world without a compass, sometimes a safe place for a child on workdays, sometimes something small, sometimes a word of encouragement, sometimes a welcome of a wild child and his embarrassed parent. We look for love tonight in the manager and every night in the needs and hopes of others.

Copyright (c) 2006. 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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Thoughtful Hearts 
Sunday, December 24, 2006, 07:00 AM - Sermon
Luke 1:39-55

We see the results of Santa coming to town all around us. Lights go up around houses, large balloon creatures invade front yards, and poinsettias sprout even in the aisles of Home Depot. Howe Road becomes a parking lot with traffic lights little more than red and green Christmas decorations. Stores fill with people and presents and our calendars fill with visits and parties.

Luke talks about the chaos brought by the coming of God to town. The impending arrival of Jesus Christ should upset the normal routine as much as Santa's annual visit. The proud are scattered in the thoughts of the hearts, the powerful are brought down from their thrones, and the lowly are lifted up. The hungry are filled with good things and the rich are sent empty away.

Yet, many people welcome Christ without welcoming the change He brings. Holiness and tradition are welded together so completely that thinking becomes blasphemy and change becomes apostasy. Instead of our souls being magnified, they are shrunk to fit. To welcome Christ without thought of what this cosmic event means for the lowly and the hungry, the powerful and the rich is like keeping Christmas as just another day off work without presents, family and carols.

To welcome Christ without welcoming the massive change He brings is like expectant parents looking forward to a new child without being aware of the massive changes coming to their daily and nightly lives! A baby changes things…priorities switch from you and yours to that small child. Talk about a mighty brought low! Sleep used to be a priority. Clean clothes used to non-negotiable. Meals used to be a social event—now they are a logistical challenge. Everything is changed!

If Luke asked you to plan the Christmas party described by Mary…what would you plan? How would you magnify your souls, bring down the powerful, lift up the lowly, send the rich empty away, and fill the hungry with good things? What would turn things upside down? What is in your thoughtful hearts?

What if every Christian lit one bulb in their yard and gave a hefty donation to the project Reach of FirstEnergy to help the poor with their utility bills? Or each bulb lit was for $10 donation?

What if the office party met around the Salvation Army kettle and had the band play in the grocery parking lot?

What if carolers went to the bars and taverns to sing of a different kind of Christmas spirit?

What if instead of shopping for the lowest dollar price, Christians looked for labels that described the price the worker and the environment paid to make the clothes? The human price paid for that pair of $9.99 jeans and $4.84 salmon. Imagine that instead of a restaurant, discount stores were asked and how were the pants prepared? Don't you have any clothes freshly prepared in the United States? Imagine a world where shoppers conversations were, “I don't shop there, the human price is too high.” That would be a world with thoughtful hearts.

NOT IN OUR TOWN is the inspiring documentary film about the residents of Billings, Montana who responded to an upsurge in hate violence by standing together for a hate-free community. In 1993, hate activities in Billings reached a crescendo. KKK fliers were distributed, the Jewish cemetery was desecrated, the home of a Native American family was painted with swastikas, and a brick was thrown through the window of a six-year-old boy who displayed a Menorah for Hanukkah.

Rather than resigning itself to the growing climate of hate, the community took a stand. The police chief urged citizens to respond before the violence escalated any further. Religious groups from every denomination sponsored marches and candlelight vigils. The local labor council passed a resolution against racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia. Members of the local Painters Union pitched in to paint over racist graffiti. The local newspaper printed full-page Menorahs that were subsequently displayed in nearly 10,000 homes and businesses. The community made an unmistakable declaration: “Not in Our Town.” Since then, no serious acts of hate violence have been reported in Billings. —

Similar efforts with good results have happened in Bloomington, Illinois; New York City; Columbia, South Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; Novato, California; and Kokomo, Indiana;

Let the disruption of this holiday, with the closed shops, extra visits, parties, and even traffic, give you a taste and a reminder of how a little baby, God with us, should shake up the world until the hungry are fed, the rich are treated the same as the poor, and the lowly are lifted up. That is the heart of Christmas, if you think about it.

Copyright (c) 2006. 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 Sunday Mornings! 8:15 Traditional Worship and 10:15 Blended. Mingle in our Gathering Room between services and take advantage of Christian Education opportunities at 9:30.

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Christmas Presence 
Wednesday, December 20, 2006, 12:17 PM - Extra Christy
Have all your Christmas shopping done? There is immediate family, extended family, friends, co-workers, service people, salon staff, day care staff, Starbucks barista, teachers, letter carriers...whew!

I think the hardest gift to get is the one for the person who started all of this! Like any other child who is born on Christmas the birthday is overwhelmed by the holiday.

The gifts of the magi: gold, frankincense, and myrrh, are appropriate for a king, but some wags have pointed out that truly wise visitors would have arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical baby gifts.

But what would Jesus want now that he is all grown up? What to you get for the man who has 'the whole world in his hands'?

Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' - Matthew 25:37- 40

From volunteering at a local shelter, to writing cards to service people overseas, to contributing to a mission or charity, you can show your love for the one whose birth we celebrate by doing something in his name for the least of these.

Enjoy your birthday shopping!

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Pay The Cost 
Wednesday, December 20, 2006, 10:00 AM - Sermon, Christmas, Podcast
Posted by Administrator
Matthew 1:18-25

Recorded 12/20/1998

Pastor Christy examines the cost of doing good and being better by giving voice to Joseph taking on the responsibilities of a pregnant Mary.

Creative Commons License
This work by J. Christy Ramsey is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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