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Keeping up with Christy

 


Preaching 9:30 am Sunday, August 28th at Christ Presbyterian Church in Gardnerville, Nevada


Participating in the Nevada Presbytery meeting September 11-13th at Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center on Lake Tahoe


Attending the Preaching Pastors’ Retreat October 3-5, 2016 at Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center 


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


 

 

 

Tuesday
Sep202016

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.

Amen.

 

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.

 

Saturday
Jul302016

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

 

 

Wednesday
Jul202016

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

Friday
Apr222016

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?

CONGREGATION:  Stop.

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: LYBIO.net
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 lybio.net .”

 


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

Transcription done by edigitaltranscription.com 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.

 

Wednesday
Feb242016

How To Forgive

Photo by Steve Bidmead • Bedfordshire/England How to Forgive Christy helps us forgive with practical practices for forgiving: doing what Christ has done for us.

How to Forgive
a sermon by Rev. J. Christy Ramsey
click the title above for an mp3 recording 

Audio from South Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church on February 21, 2016
Text version is from September 14, 2008 at Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church in Akron, Ohio 

Matthew 18:21-35

Sermons also avaliable free on iTunes

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 learningtoforgive.com              

 

  • 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 Fetzer Institute has practices of forgiveness written by By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat that are helpful for Christians seeking to forgive. Here are a couple:

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.”

Who and Whose You Are

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.

 


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

Transcription done by edigitaltranscription.com 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.