Keeping up with Christy

Joining the faithful at #UNCO16West October 24-26, 2016 San Anselmo, CA on the campus of San Francisco Theological Seminary

Preaching 8:00 am & 10:30 am services Sunday, November 27th at Holy Cross Lutheran in Reno, Nevada


Got Any Change?

Christy asks us to consider if people can really change.

Got Any Change?
a sermon by Rev. J. Christy Ramsey
Click the title above for a mp3 recording 

Audio from Truckee Lutheran Presbyterian Church on October 2016, edited from a flawless transcription made by edigitaltranscriptions all errors are mine. 

Acts 9:1-20

Sermons also avaliable free on iTunes

Can a person change?  George Wallace, four term governor of Alabama.  His first run was in 1963.  He started off his campaign by standing on the exact spot where Jefferson Davis took the oath of office for the Confederate States of America.  They have a star in Alabama, and you can stand there.  And he stood right there and said in 1963, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” He was elected governor and pursued those policies, as he promised, of segregation, against the civil rights, the poster child of those who would stop any kind of rights for African Americans, for the blacks in the country.

Twenty years later, in 1983, George Wallace again became governor of Alabama.  But this time, 1983, he would gain 90 percent of the black vote in Alabama.

Can a person change?  Well, in 1972, while running for President – the most successful third-party candidate in recent history.  No third party candidate has done as well as George Wallace.  In 1972, during the race for the President, he was shot five times in an assassination attempt.  One of those shots severed his spine and left him partially paralyzed.  His son, George Wallace, Jr., said that his father had two lives, one before the assassination and one after.  George Wallace, Jr., in his book, George Wallace, The Man You Never Knew By The Man Who Knew Him Best,” George Wallace, Jr. said that, lying there on the pavement, shot, paralyzed, close to death, was a Damascus Road experience for his father, a conversion.

George Wallace, in the years and decades that followed between the shooting and his final term as governor, sought out civil rights leaders like Rep. John Lewis, said he was wrong, and asked for his forgiveness.  George Wallace went to black churches, apologized, said he was wrong, and asked for their forgiveness.  George Wallace, after getting 90 percent of the black vote in his last term of government, appointed blacks throughout his administration and to his cabinet.  The first one to do so, starting a practice in diversity that continues today, starting with the example that George Wallace set.

Can a person change?  Saul, on the road to Damascus, not for a vacation, not for a guest preaching gig, nor any happy or good reasons. Saul was on the road to Damascus with letters, with writs of arrest to drag back the Christians to Jerusalem where they could be tried and, if all went well, stoned to death. 

Saul, not Paul yet, Saul on the road to Damascus, struck down.  Something happened.  You can read all sorts of theories.  They’re making a diverting hour, if you want to do that.  But something big happened to Saul on the road to Damascus.  He was struck down.  He was left blinded.  He heard the Lord and had to be led by the hand away.

Can a person change?  Well, Saul went from being letters of death and destruction for Christians to writing letters of hope and encouragement.  He went from tearing down the church to building it up.  He went from trying to wipe it out to being the best evangelist in the history of the Christian church.  He wrote most of the New Testament.  What we think of as normal and orthodox and the way to do things goes to Saul, now Paul.

Can a person change?  You may say, “Well, I guess so, Christy.  But I really don’t want to be shot or blinded.  Is that what you’re telling me here?  We should be going out that way?  Is there any other option?  Could I have Option C, please?  Something not, you know, a near death experience?  Is there something a little bit less that I could do?”

But, you know, there’s another guy in the scripture today.  He is kind of the hero of the story, and he doesn’t get near enough credit:  Ananias.  Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been in an Ananias position.  It is not a comfortable position.  Ananias is just, far as I know, he’s minding his own business.  He’s not on the road to Damascus.  He’s not making speeches about segregation.  He’s not running for governor.  He’s not a public person.  He’s not just trying to get through the day.  And the Lord comes to him.

Now, Ananias does something right, and this is something I always try to tell people when we talk about when an angel comes, or God, or Jesus comes.  You know, you want to watch what you say.  You know.  Because it’s kind of a big thing.  And Ananias gets it right, just like good old Hymn 525 in the Presbyterian Hymnal.  “Here I am, Lord.”  When God calls you, the only thing you can say, the best thing to say is, “Here I am, Lord.”  Boom.  I’m here.  Present and accounted for.  You know, don’t say “What?”  Or “Who are you?”  Or “Why are you bothering me?”  None of that.  Those are all bad answers.  The best answer is, “Here I am, Lord.”

So a strong start for Ananias.  Strong start.  We like that.  But then it goes, gets bad really quick because, when the Lord tells you to do something – and, you know, especially the Risen Lord, you know, the glory, everything there; you know?  And don’t correct the Lord.  If you want to, don’t do it.  Resist the impulse of trying to tell the Lord how he got things wrong.  He got off easy on this one.  Pretty much just repeat it.  But he was saying, “Hey, Lord Risen, Ruler of the Universe, Lord of All Creation, Savior of Humanity.  You probably don’t know this, but that guy Saul, he’s coming after us.  He’s a nasty guy.”  Ananias doesn’t think he changed.  There’s no reason to think that he changed.

And the Lord pretty much just repeats to him, “I’ve chosen him.”  And doesn’t even give the – Ananias goes, hey, he’s a different kind of guy yet.  Because, see, I don’t think he was.  I mean, he just got the – all Paul got was a zap in the eye and, you know, why do you persecute me, you know, he just sort of got convicted, if you will, just God saying “You’re doing it wrong” kind of thing.  We don’t know if he changed.  And neither does Ananias.

You ever been in Ananias’s situation?  Thinking that you should be doing something, but you don’t want to?  It’s risky?  Ever been in an Ananias kind of situation, where you’re in an opportunity to help someone, that you can say you can help someone, but you don’t know, not only do they not deserve it, but it might work out of costing you a lot.

Have you ever been in an Ananias situation where you had to trust that someone will change?  Not that they had changed, not the whole believing thing, but they will change.  Ananias goes to Saul, the persecutor, the one that was trying to drag his friends and himself away from their homes and their family, to take them to religious trial that was just nothing but a show, so that they have an excuse to torture and kill them?  Ananias went there and healed that person and blessed that person, and prayed that the Holy Spirit comes onto that person.

Ever been in an Ananias situation?  Is change possible?  I submit to you that change is possible when we allow it.  I submit to you that other people can change when we allow it, when we make the place available in our hearts and in our spaces and in our minds to allow other people to change.  What if John Lewis said to George Wallace, “Forget you, man.  Forget you.  All the harm you’ve done?  Selma?  You were governor during that.  How dare you come in here and say that?  Sure, now you want this.  Forget you, man.”

What if the black voters of Alabama said to George Wallace, “Oh, no, oh, no, you’ve been governor twice before.  Ha ha ha.  You’re going to – fool me twice, no.  No way, man.  We’re not voting for you.  We don’t believe you.”  George Wallace would never have changed.  He never would have appointed African Americans throughout his administration and on his cabinets.  He never would have had that last term as governor to change Alabama.

What if Ananias never went to Saul?  That would have been a reasonable thing to do, a logical thing to do, a safe thing to  do, a smart thing to do.  He had no guarantees.  He’s going to do all this.  All right.  He had letters of death in his – with him for Ananias.  And Ananias went.  So you’re healed.  Holy Spirit comes upon you.  You can change.  I submit to you that that’s when Saul changed to Paul.  I submit to you that’s when the ministry began.  I submit to you, that’s when he got the Holy Spirit, not on the road when he gets zapped down and blinded.  That wasn’t the Holy Spirit.  I think the Holy Spirit was the healing and the blessing.  And you know what?  That was Ananias.  That wasn’t Saul.  That was the Holy Spirit working through Ananias to change Saul.

Can people change?  If we let them. 

Can people change?  If we encourage them.   

Can people change?  If we allow it. 

You probably heard of this guy called Gandhi.  He’s a very, very popular guy to quote in sermons.  He’s so popular, he even gets quoted in things he didn’t say.  You know you’ve made it when people are doing all the work for you.  You may have heard the quote of Gandhi that said, you know, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  That’s great.  “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” attributed to Gandhi.  You could find that right on the Internet, you know.  It’s all over.  But he never said that.  He never wrote it.  Now, he might have, but they didn’t have Twitter back then.  You know, that would have been a great tweet, Gandhi.  But no.  He went – he might have said that, if that were bumper stickers then or Twitter was a thing at that time.

But what he did say was something more profound.  How about that?  More profound than Twitter.   He did say,

“We but mirror the world.  All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body.  If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.  As one changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change toward him.  This is a divine mystery supreme, a wonderful thing it is, and a source of our happiness.  We need not wait to see what others do.”

We are but a mirror of the world.  The world is in us, and we are in the world.  You know, Gandhi wasn’t a Christian.  Well, he claimed to be a Christian.  He claimed to be a Hindu.  He claimed to be a Muslim.  He claimed to be everything.  That’s the kind of guy he was.

But the world in a person and the person in the world sounds to me like the incarnation, sounds to me what Jesus Christ was and is – the world made flesh.  The savior of the world in a person.  Because of the way he lived, because of the way he lived and died and rose again, because of that person, the world changed.  Because of who he was, the world changed.  The world was redeemed by that person.  Gandhi knew that.  We’re not just fish in the ocean, moved by the currents out of control.  We also affect the ocean as we move ourselves.

Ananias changed the world by changing himself.  Which allowed Saul to change to Paul.  Which allowed the New Testament to be written.  Which allowed the great news of Jesus Christ to spread throughout the civilized world.  Have you ever been an Ananias?  Have you ever had an opportunity to help someone change?  Have you ever had an opportunity to believe in someone’s change?  Have you ever had an opportunity to act as if someone was actually better than they were?  You see, if you want other people to change, if you want the world to change, Jesus Christ shows us.  Gandhi knows.  Gandhi knows this.  Wallace lived it out.  We see it in the conversion of Saul to Paul.  If you want the world to change, if you want others to change, Gandhi tells us you do not have to wait to see what they do.  You do not have to wait on them to change.  You can change how you react to them, how you talk to them, how you bless them, how you heal them, how you ask for the Holy Spirit to be with them.  You don’t have to wait on the others.

The question, then, is not can other people change, which is what we often think of it.  But the question is, how can I change so the world will change?  How can I be a blessing?  How can I act as if the world was a better place and thereby make it a better place?  We believe this.  We believe in the incarnation.  We did not have special crazy supernatural bolts of lightning from the heaven.  We didn’t have worlds moving around.  We didn’t have thunderclaps.  We didn’t have all sorts of supernatural events.  We had a person who changed the world by being that change, incarnate. God’s will lived.

We believe that a person can change the world.  And we believe that we have the ministry of that person within us, as well; that we can be people that live and believe and act and treat others so that they are free to change, so that together we can change the world. 

Can people change?  If we do. Michael Jackson had several songs, several number one songs, great career as a musician.  There’s a song that was number one, the first song he did not write.  He did not write the song “Man in the Mirror.”  It was written by Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett.  But it may have been his favorite.  It was definitely his most spiritual.  He even got a church choir to help him sing it and present it.  And I couldn’t help but think of that when I read about Gandhi saying, “We but mirror the world.”

Here are some lines from “Man in the Mirror” by Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett: 

“I see the kids in the street with not enough to eat.  Who am I to be blind, pretending not to see their needs?  I’m starting with the man in the mirror.  I’m asking him to change his ways.  And no message could have been any clearer, if you want to make the world a better place.  Take a look at yourself, and then make a change.” 

Performed by Philosopher and prophet Michael Jackson.  The world can change.  People can change, if you do.  Amen.


Post differs from the recording with some repeats and speaking errors edited out.

Transcription done by Recommended for fast, accurate, and patient transcriptions.

Christy Ramsey. Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Neighbor Lives Matter

The extra white Christy is challenged by Black Lives Matter and other four word phrases

Neighbor Lives Matter
a sermon by Rev. J. Christy Ramsey
Click the title above for a mp3 recording 

Audio from Truckee Lutheran Presbyterian Church on August 2016, edited from a flawless transcription made by edigitaltranscriptions all errors are mine. 

Luke 10:25-37

Sermons also avaliable free on iTunes

Who is my neighbor?  Four words.  Four words.  Who is my neighbor?  But I think you got a little hint of what was really going on when you heard the introduction to the question:, desiring to justify himself, you got a little hint that there might be a hidden word in there. What do you think that hidden word is?  The lawyer’s trying to justify himself.  I think there might be a hidden word in there: NOT, who’s NOT my neighbor?

I think he’s looking not to expand the list but to cut the list down.  What’s the absolute minimum neighborness I need to get into heaven, Jesus?  I think there’s a little hidden word in there to justify himself.  Who is my neighbor?  Psst…I mean…who’s not my neighbor? <wink> I mean, surely there’s a lot of not-neighbors.  There’s a lot of far away people.  You could get the list edited down to just a few, right?  I mean, if he thought the neighbor list was huge, he could have asked for the the few that didn’t make the list…that would be the shorter list.  But he’s hoping the neighbor list has fewer names.

What is a neighbor, anyway?  The word is absolutely unambiguous.  It is very, very old word for “nearby”.  It’s a location kind of thing, how close you are to somewhere.  And it goes back to ancient Greek about the neighborliness is location.  Somebody nearby.  Well, that’s been changing over the centuries a little bit.  You’ve got Jesus at stake here.  But more recently, in the classic Lend-Lease Act, way back before World War II, FDR talked about neighborliness, that Great Britain was our neighbor. A neighbor who had a house fire and needed to borrow our garden hose.  By garden hose he meant aircraft carriers and destroyers and armaments and war things.  But still, he appealed to the country of understanding Great Britain as our neighbor that needed some help, needed us to lend them something as a neighbor would do, and then we’ll get it back later.

Neighborness is some kind of a cultural affinity, perhaps because we speak the same language we’re neighbors.  Maybe we’re neighbors because of other things like religion or because we have the same values, or maybe we’re neighbors because of our nation that we live in.  Maybe that is kind of the nearness, not just location, but nearness of heart, nearness of values, nearness of outlook, nearness of history, nearness of heritage, nearness of ideology, nearness of nationalism, that kind of near thing.  Maybe.

There’s a principle of law that actually is the Neighbour Principle.  It’s actually in the English common law has been brought over here.  Good old Lord Atkin.  There was a huge big case, Donoghue v Stevenson, I think it is, but Lord Atkins decided in 1932 the Neighbour Principle

Lord Atkin sort of summed it up his idea of a neighborliness. He made his decision based on a new idea of what it meant to be a neighbor– this was not a concept in law before.  He came up with the neighbor principle in law that said: that you are required, the person,

the actor or non-actor, is required to consider reasonably other people who might be affected by their action or by their inaction in any particular matter. 

See that switch there, kind of change of perspective of what makes a neighbor.  Instead of the qualifications of the other, instead of the qualifications of the other, let me see, let me go through my list and see if you’re my neighbor.  Are you this?  Are you that?  Are you this?  Are you that?  Are you this close?  Are you that close?  Lord Atkin sort of changed it, turned it upside down and said, neighborliness is NOT about the other person at all, but about YOU.  It’s on you, in your head, to think about other people, to go and to think about neighbor as somebody else.  What is a neighbor in your head?  You have to say how can I be a neighbor to someone else, NOT how they are a neighbor to me. It is flipped. How am I a neighbor to others?

Now, it’s a good thing that we have this concept because that Samaritan, I don’t know if you know Samaritans.  As for me…some of my best friends are Samaritans.  Back in Jesus’ time, most good people were prejudiced against them. Samaritans were the worst.  They were – I bet they were considered to be worse than the hated Romans.  If you wanted to say who do you hate the most, eh, Samaritans would be number one, very much.  Survey would say Samaritan! DING! right there at the top of the list.

Samaritans were heretics.  They were half-breeds.  They were traitors.  They were collaborators.  They were filthy.  They didn’t know how to worship God right.  Take everything you could hate about a person or a group add it up and:  Boom, Samaritans.  In any shape or stretch of the imagination, they are not neighbor.  If you were a Jew back in Jesus’s time, and especially if you’re a lawyer back in Jesus’s time, especially if you’re a good observant righteous Jewish lawyer back in Jesus’s time, Samaritan is not a neighbor in any way, shape, or form.

But Jesus tells a story.  And you know Jesus, he doesn’t just answer the the question, does he?  He doesn’t answer the question who is my neighbor.  You see what he asked at the end?  He flipped it around, like Lord Atkin.  He flipped it around.  He didn’t say how who qualified in the story to be a neighbor to you.  He said, “Who acted as a neighbor to the person that fell among robbers?”  Whoa.  The lawyer didn’t bargain for that.  See, the lawyer wanted a short list.  You know, just maybe the neighborhood, you know, just a few people.

Jesus did make a short list! He took that list down to one, the lawyer.  Not about other people, but about the lawyer himself.  There’s only one person you’ve got to worry about being a neighbor or not, lawyer.  It’s you.  Are you a neighbor?  That’s all you got – that’s it.  You’re done.  You’re done with the list of qualifications and understandings.  All you’ve got to ask is, are you acting as neighbor?  And you’re done.  Four words.  He just had to mess it up.  Switched it around.  Who was a neighbor to the one who fell among the thieves?

Now, you’re going to get upset.  Stick with me.  What if we had a question to ask Jesus today, who would come up – what would they ask Jesus today?  Would they ask the neighbor question?  Maybe.  I think who would ask those four word question today would be “Black Lives Matter”.  Now, were you too upset to notice that was only three words?  Right, I’m not going to ask for a show of hands.  But just like that other question, there’s an extra word there.  Word that we hear that’s not spoken.

And the thing that makes “Black Lives Matter” so upsetting is that all of us do not hear that same unspoken word.  That even makes it more upsetting.  Some of us, some of us hear exclusion.  We hear ONLY Black Lives Matter.  And we get upset because of the unspoken word that excludes.  But that word is not heard by others it is only in your head.  Other folks hear a different unspoken word, a focus, Black Lives Matters TOO.  Black Lives Matter ALSO.  Talking about focus, but not exclusion.  Whoa, what would Jesus do?  I don’t know.  And I’m not Jesus.  Good thing.  He’d only last three years in the ministry.  He’s a failure by the world’s measure.

But I was a firefighter for a couple of years.  I think we had a motto, a slogan, a rallying cry. Something like “Preserving Life and Property,” I think was on our motto on our side of our trucks.  But, you know, I think you could argue that we acted and we lived out, we trained and we moved, and we did everything in our power to live out the unpublished motto that Burning Houses Matter.  Burning homes matter.  That’s what we focused on, buddy boy.  If there was a house burning, that got our attention.  We got out of bed.  We got up from the dinner table.  We left our family, and we went a running to that burning house.

I was in the Volunteer Fire Department.  You had – four minutes to get to the station and get on a truck or you were walking to the fire.  Those trucks were gone in four minutes.  So the alarm went off, you better be running.  You’d better be in your car.  You’d better totally focus on getting there NOW because in four minutes everybody’s going to be gone, and you’re going to be walking to that fire.  We dropped everything because burning homes matter.

Now, Christy, don’t all homes matter?  Don’t we all pay taxes?  You burnist! Everybody’s home is just as valuable in their heart as a burning home!!  Why do you hate other homes?  Why do you pass them by?  How come you don’t come up to their house with lights and sirens and dance around with ladders and fountains of water? Why do you do all that for just burning homes?  Don’t you like the other houses you just speed on by? Do you hate them?  No.  It’s Focus.  Not exclusion.

FDR got it right, and the Samaritan got it right.  Lord Atkin got it right.  Who’s your neighbor?  Who needs you?  Who needs a neighbor?  That’s is who youryour neighbor.  Whoever needs you.  That’s who it is.  That’s who matters.  Have you studied the great philosopher of our time, Louis C.K.?  You can buy tickets to a comedy show and see him, but he’s really a philosopher.  A lot of philosophers are comedians today, and I understand it pays better than a Ph.D.

But he has something that I am just gave to my TechCampers at ComputerCorps two week TechCamp for young teens and I said this to the kids, because, you know, children, can get pretty competative between one another. Louis C.K. told his kids

the only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure they have enough.  You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if they have more than you. 

The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure they have enough.  And guess what.  If they don’t, you give them some of yours.  What a world that would be, if we didn’t think about how we measured up to other people, didn’t worry about how much we were getting what we needed, about what we were doing, but instead if we thought about how am I fulfilling what other people need from me, how am I being a neighbor, measuring ourselves instead of others.

Now, if you want a graduate course in this understanding, I recommend Love Wins Ministry.  Hugh Hollowell is great at very gently and nicely just pricking our big balloon ego right in the spot.  And he’s a religious guy, and he knows how to do it.  2010, one of his blog entries was about a frequently asked question: should I give money to panhandlers?  That is a big issue, I know, for Christians.  And you can argue about it, say, “Oh, I always do.”  “Oh, I never do.”

And so Hugh talks about that. 

“You know, I understand, maybe you’re in a hurry.  You’re late for an appointment.  You don’t have time.  And you had to go, you had to go.  Maybe all you can do is that look at that other person, acknowledge their presence, and move on.”

Hugh says that the thing to do in that situation is whatever the most relational thing you can do.  Whatever it is, it’s the most relational that you can do.  Because Hugh works with the homeless, and he says the opposite of homeless is community.  And he works on homelessness by making relationships.

Now, he says – he gives you an out.

“If you’re busy, if you’ve got too much to do, if you don’t have time, if you’ve got an appointment, look at the other person, acknowledge their presence, and then later on pray for them.”  And then Hugh, he goes, “And then pray for yourself.  Pray for your lifestyle that has allowed you to get so busy that you don’t have time to show love and mercy to another human.”

Did I warn you?  Ouch.  It’s not that other person that is needy.  You’re needy, too.  “But Hugh, should I give money to a panhandler?  What if they use it wrong?”

“Well, if you can’t give money, if you can’t give any gift without giving it as a gift, without severing the ties to it and letting that person do what [indiscernible], if you can’t give money without feeling that way, then don’t give money.  You can buy a bunch of waters and put them in a cooler in your back and hand them out.  You know, 24 waters and hand them out to the [indiscernible].  You can buy a gross of socks, couple dozen socks and hand them out to the homeless people.  You can do that if you don’t want to give money.  But if you don’t want to give money”

– here it comes.  Oh, Hugh.

“If you don’t want to give money because of how they would treat it, consider for yourself why you’re more concerned about your relationship with money than your relationship with another human.” 

[Whistles]  Who is my neighbor?  Not about what they’re doing, how they are, what checklists they get on.  But am I being a neighbor?

Gee, Christy, all you had to do was preach, and you come and bring the whole congregation down.  Ugh.  Well, then, let’s tell a Mister Rogers story, huh?  Yeah, go out with a Mister Rogers story.

Mister Rogers, a Presbyterian pastor, member of the Presbytery of Pittsburgh, I had the privilege of being the pastor of the Latrobe Presbyterian Church where his family worshiped, where he grew up in Latrobe.  Great, great, great family.  Rich, oh, my gosh.  So much money.  Oh, and thank you Jesus, they loved to help out Latrobe Presbyterian Church, even though he moved to Pittsburgh decades before I arrived for a brief ministry.  He has passed away.  There are stories going around.  Some of them are true, a couple are not.  He’s never shot anybody, never was in the military – got to watch those things internet memes.

But if Fred Rogers met you he always knew your kid’s name.  He always asked when you saw him.  I never met him.  But people would talk about him around me.  And they would just get misty-eyed.  They’d talk about even when he was a kid, and the chauffeur was giving him a ride to school every day, he’d pick up his friends and have them go along with them in the limo.  He was quite the man.

One of the stories about Mister Rogers was that they sent a limo for him, you know, a really nice limo.  Mister Rogers wouldn’t ride in the back, sat upfront with the driver.  And they went to an executive house for a meeting, and he found out the driver was supposed to stay outside with the car while they were in the house, having their meeting.  And he made them bring the limo driver in with them.

And on the way home he was sitting in the front seat.  Probably a long day for Mister Rogers.  And they were talking.  And the limo driver says, “Oh, yeah, I live right over there.”  And he says, “You do?  You do?”  And the driver continues, “Yeah, my kids are big fans.”  “They are?  Oh, could we go visit?  It be all right if I went and visit with them?”  Well, yeah.  And so the limo driver took Mister Rogers to his own home.  And they sat, and he met the family, and he played the piano, and they sang neighborhood songs, and THEN he went back to his hotel.

That song, you know, in “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” he says, “Since we’re all here anyway, won’t you be a neighbor?”  Since we’re here anyway, won’t you be a neighbor.  There’s only – it’s a really simple answer, turns out, to who is my neighbor.  If you look at it the way Mister Rogers did, Lord Atkins did, if you look at it the way even Hugh Hollowell did, it’s a really simple thing because you only have to answer for one person.  And Louis C.K. would remind you that, too.  Who is my neighbor?  And you twist that around, saying who am I a neighbor to, and work on your own neighborness, instead of how other people should be neighbors.  What a wonderful world that would be.



These are the 25 names that are included in the above image:

Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Jordan Davis, Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, Emmett Till, Amadou Diallo, Kimani Gray, Jonathan Ferrell, Renisha McBride, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Myra Thompson, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Daniel Simmons, Clementa Pinckney, Sharona Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Laquan McDonald, Cameron Tillman and Tanisha Anderson.


Post differs from the recording with some repeats and speaking errors edited out.

Transcription done by Recommended for fast, accurate, and patient transcriptions.

Christy Ramsey. Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a
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TechCamp Norms

ComputerCorps holds 3 TechCamps every summer for youth aged 10-15 to learn about technology. Each camper goes home with their own computer but they start the two weeks together with a these norms.


  1. The only time you look in your neighbors’ bowl is to make sure they have enough - Lewis C.K.
  2. Never “Don’t Know” always “Let’s Find Out”
  3. Fueled by Frustration - not discouraged
  4. Helping others is NOT doing their work
  5. Carpe Diem
  6. DEvilFaults - Always Choose Custom Settings
  7. Be Safe - The Warehouse is Trying To Kill You
  8. TechCAMP not TechSchool
  9. Be in the Moment
  10. You don’t HAVE to do anything here - You GET to
  11. We are Friends and Neighbors helping those who need help
  12. Hand Tight is Just Right




The Internet

TechCamp is studying the Internet at ComputerCorps so I showed them this classic explanation of the Internet from the British comedy series The IT Crowd


The Light of the World is Green

Think of things worthy of praise: Be an Encouraging Christian  Christy argues the Light of the World is Green not Red.

Green Light Christians
a sermon by Rev. J. Christy Ramsey
Click the title above for a mp3 recording 

Audio from South Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church on April 17, 2016, edited from a flawless transcription made by edigitaltranscriptions all errors are mine. 

Philippians 4:8-9

Sermons also avaliable free on iTunes

Why do we need green lights on the traffic signals? If they were important we would call them “go lights.” But we call them Stoplights.

If you take away the green light at the bottom, what difference does it make?  I mean if there wasn’t a traffic light, you’d just go anyway; right?  It’s like an automatic green.  Why do we have those things?  Oh, my goodness.

I think I need to turn to an outside expert to explain why we have traffic signals.

In the movie “Starman”, the alien Starman comes and learns about humanity.  He drives up to a yellow light and he just floors it.  His terrified passengers yells: “I thought you knew what you were doing.  You told me you watched me.  You told me you knew how to drive by watching.”  The Starman responds, “Oh, I watched you.  I learned everything:  red light stop, green light go, yellow light go very fast.”

That’s not true, in case any of you are out there thinking, oh, that’s what the preacher said.  No, yellow means stop. If you’re ever in Latrobe, Pennsylvania you can get a ticket for not stopping at a yellow light.  Friends have told me this. You’re supposed to stop at yellow.

What is the good of a green light, yellow light, red light? Red is stop; yellow is caution, warning, slow down, look out, maybe stop.  You’re in the danger zone.  Green means go, but we go anyway.  You know, there’s people like that.  Especially Christian people are like that, aren’t there?  There are red light Christians. There are yellow light Christians. There are green light Christians. 

H.L. Mencken said “Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone somewhere is happy.”  Red light Christians.  Now, we don’t have to go – we don’t have to go to current things, Christians who say stop, stop, stop.  We can go back in time.  Christians are always being stopped.  Christians – those Puritans, they tried to stamp out Christmas.  Tried not to let that happen.  There was a fine if you didn’t go to work on December 25th, or if you were caught celebrating at all.  In America, in New England, Christmas was banned as un-Christian, pagan, terrible, awful thing.  Stop.  Stop it.

Women wearing pants in church.  I remember that.  Oh, that was a huge, huge eternal hellfire issue. Jesus wore a dress but I don’t know if that had anything to do stopping the pants. Christians are always telling you, stop, stop, this has got to stop.  I mean, now we’re at, I think we’re – I think the holiday that we’ve got our sights on is Halloween now.  We’re trying to stomp that out.  I’m not sure.  Sooner or later we’re going to have a Halloween season in the church. In a couple of generations, the church will be decorated in orange and black for the Halloween season. And it’ll be okay.

Stop doesn’t always work.  And I’m not sure that’s the best witness into what Jesus wants to us doing, to be stoplights.  But if you listen to some people, they will tell you how you shouldn’t do this, shouldn’t do that.  No dancing.  No smoking.  No gambling.  Not in Nevada.  Never hear that in Nevada.  But no, no, stop, stop.  You know, being just Red Light Christians doesn’t work.

I know a little about red lights.  When I was a volunteer firefighter, we sort of had a love/hate relationship with the red lights.  We’d love them for other people, but we weren’t too fond of them ourselves.  You know, when you’re driving a couple-ton truck full of water, as the truck drivers reminded me constantly, water just doesn’t stop instantly.  It keeps going even if the truck stops.  So you just can’t slam on the brake, Christy.  This isn’t a car.  Oh, they got after me.  I had a remedial fire engine driving I had to go to.

When I started at the fire station, and you know when you start a job, am I the only one, when you start something, you don’t ask every question right away?  Do you say, well, I’ll ask about this today, and I’ll ask about that tomorrow, and then, you know, you sort of ration them out; you know?  And after about a month I asked them a question had been bugging me since day one.

Right on the inside of the old fire station, about this high up, very inconvenient, there was this old-timey light switch, the flip kind on a metal box light switch, right there.  But it was way up here.  And it had this old yellow paper over it.  And the paper, in black magic marker it was written, “Do not use.”  Why is that switch up there?  Why is there a paper over it saying “Do not use?”  What in the world?

Well, after a while I got up courage and asked one of the old-timers.  And I said, “Hey, what’s that switch up there?  The one that has the paper over it saying ‘Do not use’?”  He explained: “Oh, that switch.  Huh.  That turns all the lights in town red.”  Maybe they ought to lock that up or something, but no.  Oh?  There’s more! He continues: “Yeah, we don’t use that anymore.  We used to, and then they had that right-on-red law.  And now it doesn’t stop traffic, so we don’t use it anymore.”  Even turning every light in the town red doesn’t stop people.  Red lights don’t always work, and even when they do, they don’t work for long.

Well, what about those yellow lights?  You know that we’re – you know that we’re kind of, sort of, you know, saying no, but we’re saying we’re not going to be mean about the no?  We’re going to be kind of nice about the no?  How about the yellow?  Yellow light Christians, how about them folks?  You know those folks.  You know, they’re, you know, what’s the biggest yellow light in our history and our life?  Well, I think it’s the “don’t ask, don’t tell,” that one.  That’s kind of a yellow light.  It’s wrong, but just don’t talk about it.  As long as you don’t talk about it, it’s okay, but not really, you know, it’s kind of the – that, that didn’t work real well.  That did not work well.  People were tortured, actually tortured so that they would tell and get kicked out of the army without benefits, without any status at all. Yellow Lights are ignored too often to really work.

And, you know, all the folks that say not yet, too soon, too much a hurry, we’ve got take this slow.  You know, the oppressed people, the people that are suffering, the people that are under the thumb, they never say that.  They never say, oh, it’s too soon.  Yeah, I can wait another lifetime, another generation, another decade.  The yellow lights, whoa, wait, wait, wait, don’t do that yet.  It’s too much; you know? Doesn’t work for folks waiting to go into equality or yearning for relief.

What about the slippery slope argument? If we allow this, well, then, this terrible thing would happen.  You don’t want this terrible thing, do you?  Well, then you’re against this reasonable request.  

You know the slippery slope now?  You know what the one is now?  They’re going to check your birth certificate before you go in the restroom.  And you thought you were mad at TSA delays at the airport.  You know, what about now?  “Please allow an extra hour before going to the restroom so we can check your birth certificates.  There’ll be a line.”  Who has that job?  Is that a big problem?  They said, well, you know, it’s to keep the women safe.

Well, no women ever said that, I don’t think.  Women are not safe anywhere.  I’m sorry to break it to you.  It’s not a bunch of assaults in a public restroom that’s a problem.  Safety for women is everywhere.  It’s even in their own homes.  I am totally for safety of women.  I am totally for safety of everyone.  I don’t care what gender you are assigned, could be, was, will, whatever is your identity.  I am for your safety, and that bathroom birth certificates are not safety for anyone.  Safety is for everyone, everywhere, all the time. I want safety in all the rooms and outside not just one little restroom for one gender.  That’s ridiculous.

But that’s yellow lights; isn’t it?  The slippery slope?  If we allow restroom freedom, terrible things will happen: women will be assaulted everywhere.  Got news for you.  Already happening.  Let’s work on that problem and not on this little false yellow light thing here.

There was a religious professor in Grove City College, very conservative college.  I went there.  I get props for that.  But he somehow slipped in.  I think he might have been a sleeper agent for the liberals and any day he was going to be activated.  But he was there, and he was talking about slippery slope.  And he says, yeah, that’s why I’m against curbside trash pickup.  Once you allow them to take garbage off your curb, next they’re going to be into the yard and taking the bicycles.  Next they’ll be up to the porch and taking the patio furniture and throwing it away.  Finally, they’ll be wheeling out your appliances and putting them in the trash truck.  You don’t want the government stealing your appliances, do you?  Well, then you’re against curbside trash pickup.  That Professor is no longer there. Made too much sense. Yellow lights do not put Christians in the best light.

But, you know, some of them are good.  Red lights, red lights.  Yellow lights, some of them are good.  I’m okay with – I’m okay with some things.  You know, stop the violence.  Yeah, big red light on that.  Stop, stop fighting.  Stop hurting people.  Stop discrimination.  Stop a lot of things.  I’ve got a big red light on those.  And, you know, yellow lights are good, too.  My wife, is a physical therapist. And most of her stuff I – she’s going to correct me later.  But most of her stuff is get people up and walking.  It’s a huge change in your quality of life, if you can get out of bed and go places you need to go, even in the house.  And she says, you know, fear of falling, that’s very handy. You really need that to learn how to walk and how to move around.  You need the fear of falling.  That’s a big yellow light.  Whoo, watch out.  That’s not safe.  Grab onto a bar.  Use your walker.  Do whatever you need to do.  Do not fall.  Big yellow lights.  I’m good with yellow lights.  Some of the yellow lights.

But back to why do we have green lights?  You know, I was worried about this.  This was bothering me.  And again, Bette Lynn gave me the answer.  She goes, “Well, if you didn’t have the green light, you wouldn’t know if the traffic light was broken or not.”  Well, you know what you do at a broken traffic light.  Let’s see how well – what do you do if the traffic light’s broken, like a power outage?


PASTOR RAMSEY:  Four-way stop, thank you.  No, it’s not go as fast as you can and beat the other people, as some people think.  It’s a four-way stop.  So if we didn’t have the green lights, everything would be a four-way stop. No one would know, is that signal working or not?  Is the other people seeing red or not?  I don’t know.  But a green light, a green light says, I got you.  It’s okay.  I’m on it.  I’m on the job.  I got you.  I got the others on red.  Come right on in there.  Yeah, you’re good. Encouraging.  If there’s anything worthy of praise, if there’s anything good, think about these things:  big green light.  It is not necessary.  You should go on your own.  But, boy, does it help to go when you have a green light smiling at you.

If you don’t see a green light, you just might stop because you don’t know if it’s okay to go or not.  You might think that traffic light is broken.  And you know, the same is about Christianity.  If all the people hear are red lights and yellow lights. If the Christian message is only about stop, don’t do this, don’t do that, the culture is terrible. If preachers are yellow lights: we’ve got to watch out, things are going to get terrible.   People are going to think Christianity’s broken.  Because they never see a green light from us.

Yet we do have green lights.  We just don’t tell anybody.  We’re full of green lights:  baptism, big green light. Weddings and marriages are big green light; go and coming.  And then funerals, even funerals, green lights.  It’s not that bad.  It’s not over.  It’s not a stop for us.  The message of funerals should be a big green light, that death is not a stop.  And even the littler celebrations.  Not just hatch, match, and dispatch, which is the ones we’re good at, but also all the little events. We need to celebrate membership where we say yes to seekers joining Christ’s church. Folks need to see our signal that we believe in you, we accept your promises. Commissioning to missionary work and mission trips.  Ordination and installation of officers, yes.  Go, go and lead.  Do that thing.  Choir recruitment, yeah, you can come up and sing.  We’re all for you, yeah.  Big green light.  You’re supposed to sing.  You’re supposed to lead.  Go.  Do it.  Encouragement.

We do that, but we don’t tell anybody.  We think the most important things are the red and the yellow lights. We preach only about the cautions and the don’ts and the stops.  I will tell you, and as our scripture says in Psalm 23, the most important things are saying I am with you.  I go with you to the darkest valley, the most enemies.  I have a table for you.  I’ve got a place for you.  Don’t worry.  Green light.  I got you.  Come on.

You know, we do not call Jesus Christ is God Stop Us. A Divine Red Light.  We do not say that Jesus Christ is God Warn Us. A Holy Yellow light.  What do we say?  We say Emmanuel, God With Us.  God Go With Us.  Green light.  That is our identity.  We’re here so that you can be blessed to be a blessing.  We’re here so that you can be forgiven to forgive.  We’re here that you can go through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil.  God’s got you.  Big green light.

Two more stories.  So back to the firefighters.  You never see anybody more serious about something than a dedicated volunteer.  I mean, an employee can be dedicated.  But a volunteer has to be really dedicated. They are not getting paid, so they’d better have another good reason to be there.  Everyone has to take a test in Ohio to be a volunteer firefighter.  I accidentally became a volunteer firefighter and had to take the test.  Look at this body. Not the fabulous fit specimen of the firefighting caste.

They said, “Okay, okay, okay, Rev, come on.  We’ve got to take this test.”  It’s called the Firefighter Agility Test.  What they want to know is that you’re not going to screw them up on a fire run.  That’s what they want to know.  So you’ve got to climb up a ladder – and climb down – without freaking out.  You’ve got to be able to be blindfolded and crawl around in a maze without freaking out. You’ve got to be able to carry this dummy, without falling and having to be rescued yourself.  These are things they want to know before you can do before they go through fire with you.

And so John Love, one of my great mentors, was reading off the official Ohio regulations for these tests, da da da da da da da.  Very serious guy.  Da da da da da.  He’s a funeral director.  They lean toward serious.  Da da da da da.  He’s reading them all out.  And at the very end he says:  “And in all these tests, we are not allowed to physically assist you.  But we are allowed to cheer.”  And what?  He said “cheer” in his serious funeral director/firefighter captain voice.

And that’s what they did.  They weren’t allowed to help me, but they were allowed to cheer.  “C’mon, Preacher, you can do it, you can get up there.  Oh, you’ve got this, you’ve got this. Only a little more, Go Rev Go!”  They were there all the way through. Got me through it.  We aren’t allowed to help you, but we’re allowed to cheer.

Another guy, big mentor in my life, Jerry Gordon, great, great Christian, great, wonderful guy.  He and I split up the Salvation Army for the county, doing that together, great guy, helped each other out.  He was the one that was the mentor for my daughter in confirmation, helped her and led her through making a public decision for Christ.  A real special bond.  Great guy.  And he wanted our small church to do Relay for Life. And when they do Relay for Life in small towns, really, it is a serious business.  None of this 12-hour jazz.  It was all weekend, buddy.  And everybody’s going to be out, every team is going to have someone on that track all night long, buddy.  We’re going to do it right.

So I thought, yeah, he’s a little ambitious, you know.  So I said, “Hey, Jerry, Jerry, I’m with you.  Jerry, put me down for an hour on the track, your worst hour.  Whatever you can’t get, put me down, I’ll be there for you, buddy.”  He goes, “Really?”  Because, again, you know my physique is an issue for endurance tests. And I said, “Yeah, really, really.  I want to do this.  You’re going to have trouble.  I know you’re going to have trouble with this getting enough people in the night, and whatever hour you need, I’ll be there, I’ll do an hour.  I can do an hour.”  And he, “All right, all right.  You sure?”  “Yeah, I’m sure.”

I got, like, 3:00 a.m., buddy, 3:00 to 4:00 a.m., walking around the high school track, 3:00 to 4:00 a.m., walking around doing this, you know.  Da da da da da, da.  Oh, it is dark, dark, dark.  And I’m tired.  So I get out there, and Jerry’s there. I go out there, lap one.  Out from behind the scoreboard, Jerry Gordon, “Go Christy, go Christy, go Christy, yay, yay, go Christy.”  I jump a little and smile, Okay.  I’m kind of sleepy, walking around.

Next lap, behind the food stand, out pops Jerry “Good job, go, way to go, way to run.  Yeah, you’re the man, you’re the man.”  Every lap he’s jumping out from somewhere different and yelling at me.  One time he came out of the Porta-Potty.  I am still kind of freaked out about that.  You know, Jerry could have slept.  He could have taken the hour off.  He could have done that, I would have gone around the track anyway.  He wasn’t allowed to help, but he was allowed to cheer and that kept me from stopping.

I hope you do that.  I hope there’s people in your life like Jerry Gordon and John Love that, even if they can’t help you, and I hope they help you, but I hope they’re always cheering you on, saying, “Way to go.  Good job.  You’re doing well.”  You guys are doing well as a people and as a congregation.  And I hope people keep telling you that all the time.  I hope they don’t say, “Oh, haven’t you got a minister yet?  Well, tsk, tsk, tsk.”

You know, I hope that people are saying you are doing great with mission trips.  You’re doing great with worship.  You’re doing great with Bread & Broth.  You’re doing great with all these programs that you keep going without a minister.  You are doing great with welcoming and worship and music and outreach, doing all – so you’re doing a seminar the end of this month and opening it up to the community.  Something that even Presbytery take notice of, and that’s not easy to do, to get Presbytery to take notice of you in a good way. Yeah, they’re even sending money down to you for that.  So good on you.

And I want to encourage you.  And I want you, when you think of things, when you think of how the church is going, when you think about how your life is going, I want you to think about the scripture.  Is there anything, anything, anything worthy of praise?  Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure.  Anything worthy of praise.  All the good things.

Think about these things.  Be green light Christians.  Know that you can go and tell other people they can go so they don’t think the church is broken.  So they don’t stop everywhere, saying, well, I don’t know, is it good or not?  I don’t know.  It could be red or yellow, I don’t know.  But you say green, yeah, you’re welcome here.  Yeah, you belong here.  Yeah, we’re glad you’re here.  Yeah, you’re okay.  Yes, we love you just the way you are.  And yes, use any bathroom you want.  Not a problem here.

I want to leave you with a Presbyterian minister from Latrobe – Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Fred Rogers did his ministry in Pittsburgh, as Mister Rogers in “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,”.  I was blessed to be in his home church as interim for 18 months.  Got to meet the neighborhood.  You know, all the characters in the neighborhood were from his family, his extended family.  And Daniel the Tiger used to come up and talk to me about the sermon.  And it was so neat because they kind of look like the puppets.  It was so neat.  And so many good stories about Fred Rogers, how wonderful and caring and loving he was.

I want to leave you with this video. Go ahead and do what Mr. Rogers tells you, for 10 seconds and the rest of your life.  And that’ll be the end of the sermon.

Edited from a transcript by eDigitalTranscriptions



[Fred Rogers Acceptance Speech for Lifetime Achievement Award– 1997]
Thank you. Thank you. Oh it’s a beautiful night in this neighborhood. So many people have helped me to come here to this night. Some of you are here, some are far away and some are even in Heaven. All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, 10 seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are, those who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life. 10 seconds of silence. I’ll watch the time.

[10 Sec Pause]

[Mister Rogers] Source:
Whomever you’ve been thinking about, how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel they’ve made. You know they’re kind of people television does well to offer our world. Special thanks to my family and friends, and to my co-workers in Public Broadcasting, Family Communications, and this Academy for encouraging me, allowing me, all these years to be your neighbor. May God be with you. Thank you very much.

“speech transcript from .”


Transcipt differs from the recording with some exclaimations removed and some patter while I checked my notes edited out.

Transcription done by Recommend for fast, accurate, and patient transcriptions.

Christy Ramsey. Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.