Keeping up with Christy



Minding the Outlet Store Monday and Wednesdays at ComputerCorps in Carson City, Nevada

Preaching at the 11 AM services Sunday, December 9th at Valley Presbyterian Church in Bishop, California




Entries in pcusa (4)


Serving Size

How Much Do You Tip God? Christy thinks about tipping and tithing. Read on to learn how to be a cheerful giver, free of complusion.

Serving Size
a sermon by Rev. J. Christy Ramsey

Preached at South Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church on November 29, 2015

Based on Genesis 14:17-24 and Luke 19:1-10


Sermons also avaliable free on iTunes

How much do you tip?  I never know.  Have you noticed, how long ago did they start printing the little tip amounts on the check?  Have you noticed that?  Ten percent, 15 percent is this much, 20 percent is this much?  I’m looking at that, I go, what?  Oh, you think I’m going to forget to tip?  And then I got to thinking, wait a minute, maybe they think I forgot math.  I don’t know which is more upsetting.  They might be right about the math stuff.

How do you know how much to tip?  Well, you might tell me, some of you, you know, “Well, you know, Christy, depends upon the serving, you know, how they’re doing.”  Well, actually, they’ve actually studied tipping.  And one of the things they discovered is that service only accounts for about 4 percent of the variation in tip.  So everything else comes in, and only 4 percent of the difference is the actual service.  It’s more to do with the weather, whether you’re the opposite gender of the server.  You could go – the server gets an extra buck if they squat down when they talk to you.  If they say their name, tip goes up.  Yeah.  All sorts of things other than the quality of the service.  So tipping, amount is not related to the service.

Well, why do we have so much tipping?  You know, America’s one of the top tipping places.  We’ve got something like 31 professions that we tip.  It goes down from there.  Canada’s got 26 or 27.  Scandinavians are in the teens and below.  Japan is four.  They only have four professions that they tip.  And Iceland is zero.  Zero in Iceland.  That’s the way they are.

So you think about, well, how did we get so tippy; you know?  Why did we even start this stuff?  You know, it used to be un-American to tip.  It was un-American to tip.  Times, no less than the Times had an editorial about how terrible and un-American tipping was because we’re all about not having classes, and everybody’s equal, and everybody gets treated the same.  You know, America, you know, the way America’s supposed to be.  Everybody’s the same, equal to equal.  And you just can’t, you can’t just buy to be special.  Also we didn’t have classes like good old, bad old Europe, you know, we didn’t have the rich, you know, pouring, trickling down some wealth on the other classes, the unfortunate.  No, not in America.  We didn’t do any of that.  No, zero, dumb, no.  In fact, tipping was outlawed in several states.  You weren’t allowed to do that.

Well, what happened?  Strangely, Prohibition.  Prohibition brought back tipping.  And that’s why 70 percent of who we tip are in restaurants and hotels, because that’s who lost out in Prohibition.  They took away the alcohol, they took away all that money, and the hotel and bartenders and taverns were going [gasp] what are we going to do?  We’ve got to get every money we can, do the tipping thing.  You know.  And so, you want to get paid, you’d better get some more income.  And so that’s how tipping came back.  Accidentally, from Prohibition.

Well, is it so bad?  I mean, isn’t it nice to give money?  You know, sometimes we’re not allowed to tip.  Sometimes it’s against the law to tip.  Have you ever tried to tip a police officer?  They don’t appreciate it.  They take it very poorly.  Judge, government officials are prohibited.  In fact, the esteemed folks at – Geek Squad agents are not allowed to be tipped.  I got $20 once, had to turn it in.  I was in so much trouble.  Agh.

And remember Iceland?  What was Iceland?  Who, quick, zero.  Right, it was a guy from Iceland who studied tipping.  You know how this is going to go.  This is not going to go well for tipping.  A guy from Iceland, and his name is Magnus Thor Torfason – you know, I had to use him because Magnus Thor, not just Thor but Magnus Thor, yeah, I love that – he had a study of tipping.

And he plotted out tipping on one, you know, how much tipping there is in a country, and how much corruption.  And he found they just matched up pretty well.  The more the tipping, the more the corruption.  Because, you know, it’s just a step over to bribery.  And if tipping’s okay, why not a bribe?  So maybe there is a problem with tipping.  At least according to Magnus Thor.  Can’t trust Magnus Thor, who can you trust?

Are we talking about a lot of money?  I mean, it’s just, you know, restaurants, hotel.  I don’t go out to eat that much.  What does it matter?  Well, how much money we talking about, Christy?  Well, you know, it adds up.  NASA, NASA went to the moon, space station, flying, you know.  NASA, they go for like 20 billion a year.  That’s how much we spend on NASA.  Tipping, 40 billion.  So that’s two NASAs! 

Now, to be fair, you know, that 40 billion, churches get a hundred billion, about, somewhere around that.  And then all charities, you put churches and everything all together, you get like 300 billion.  So the 40 billion.  But, you know, a billion, you know, a billion here and there, it really starts to add up.  So you’re talking to some money.  Tipping.

Well, let’s turn that over, inside out, upside down, and all around.  Because if we take that percentage, and we change it all around, we get tithing.  Now, tithing is a tenth.  Straight up, that’s what the word means, tithe, tenth, straight up.  But for me, for now, I’m just going to talk about percentage, just the percentage part, you know that – on the little thing, 10, 20, 50.

We get the story of the kings coming up to meet Abram, who’s later Abraham.  The choir was worried that you wouldn’t know that.  So there you go.  Later on they’re always changing their names in the Bible.  Don’t know why.  So Abram/Abraham’s out there, and they get a tithe.  You know, they’re just – the king comes up, oh, you’re great, you’re great.  Here’s 10 percent of everything I’ve got.  Oh, great.  That’s what they did back then.  They did a tithe.  You know, you’re so great.  I’m so great.  I’m happy to – it was like, well, they couldn’t take selfies, you know.  So it was kind of like the selfie of the time, you know, oh, look at us, we’re here together, and we’re great.  You know.  They did that, but they did the tithe thing.  That’s what they did.

And it wasn’t all about you did wonderful things so here’s a little something for you because you did good service.  It was inside out.  It was like who I am, who you are, I want to say something happy, I’m glad to be here, this is coming out of my heart, and I’m just proud to know you.  Boom, here’s 10 percent.  Here’s a tithe.  See, it’s not about service and how you’re doing and the weather and whether you squatted down when you took the order, and if you said your name and all that stuff.  It’s like, this is who I am, and I’m happy to be here with you.  Here’s 10 percent.  It’s a tithe, 10 percent.

Now, it’s not always 10 percent.  Well, you know, yeah, there’s all these rules back in the Old Testament, 10 percent for the temple, 10 percent here for that support, and there’s a whole big system to support the temple, and also the orphans and widows and charity.  That was the 10 percent going off with the tithes there.  And also there was some tithe that you got to keep and have a party with, like a Thanksgiving.  You know?  Where you came in, and you go, hey, we had a good year, woohoo, you know, it’s Thanksgiving.  They did some of that, too, with the tithe back then.

But once you get over to the New Testament in Acts, they changed a little bit.  In Acts, especially those early chapters, avoid those.  Oh, my gosh.  Because you know what they do there?  Everybody comes, and they give everything.  They sell everything and give it to the church.  In fact, there was two that really missed the stewardship whole campaign idea kind of thing.  And they got struck dead.  You know, you guys are worried about an extra letter, maybe a phone call if you miss the pledge.  But geez, back then, oh, my gosh, you missed it, boom, down you went.  Oh, that was something.

And, now, Jesus said to rich young ruler, remember him in Luke 18, the rich young ruler, you know, that said, hey, I’ve been good, I’ve done good, what do I got to do to get [indiscernible]?  He said, “No problem.  I love you.  Sell everything you have and give to the poor.”  [Gasp]  Oh, a hundred percent, again, hundred percent.  I didn’t see that on my bill, hundred percent, whew.  Yeah.

Well, we got Zacchaeus.  Now, he’s not a hundred percenter.  Okay.  You know, he’s a 50 percenter.  Still pretty good.  Pretty good tithe.  You know, he’s a 50 percenter.  Behold, half of [indiscernible], boom, to the poor, right here and now, [doom?], out it goes.  You know?  And that’s 50 percent, and that’s pretty good.  And then he says, I’m not saying I did, but if I happened to accidentally, you know, steal from somebody, I’ll repay it.  I’ll replace it fourfold.  I’ll give them what I took and then three more times over.  So fourfold, that’s pretty good.

You know, Leviticus, there’s actually a law, if you steal from someone, you’ve got to give it back.  There’s actually a law.  And it says you’ve got to give it back plus a fifth.  There’s that 20 percent.  So in the Bible you have to tip if you steal from someone.  You have to restore it, plus here’s a little something, here’s another 20 percent.  The tipping, right there in the Bible.  But Zacchaeus doesn’t start at 20 percent.  He goes 300 percent.  I mean, I’m glad he didn’t give me the bill, you know, well, there’s 10, there’s 20, and there’s 300 percent, if you want to do that tip, that’d be fine.  Zacchaeus checks out the 300 and goes right over that.

Well, you know where I’m going.  Are you a tither or a tipper?  It’s a horrible day to join the church.  You think, oh, Christmas, candles, got to be – what could go wrong?  So for maybe some new people, and maybe some people that, now, let’s talk about that.  Let’s talk about that thing.  Hundred percent, Christy, you’re crazy.  Fifty percent, you’re still weird.  Twenty percent, I don’t know, I didn’t steal nothing.

Well, what do people normally do?  Well, in 1968, Presbyterians gave 3.1 percent of their income to the church.  High watermark for the Presbyterian Church USA, 3.1 percent, 1968.  But ever since I’ve been a minister, since the ‘80s or some, we’ve always been bebopping around 2.2 percent, somewhere around there.  We took a little step back to 2.1 percent.  Part of that is because, God bless us as Presbyterians, we’re not – we support all sorts of things.  Not just the church.  We do all sorts of good things.  And some of that money goes to things we think we’re going to make a difference, that people who are making a difference, and it makes a difference if we help them, those two things.  So but we’re about 2 percent.  Two, 2.1, 2.2, somewhere in there is where we are.

So what to do, then?  Should I just – now, here’s what I think, what I would recommend you do, because I’m nothing if not practical.  That’s what they say about me – never.  But 2.2 percent, I’m thinking, if you’re thinking about what you’re giving, thinking about what you’re giving, don’t be a tipper.  You know what a tipper is?  Tipper is the one who figures out what’s needed, what’s customary, what’s necessary, what’s printed on the bill.  What am I getting for this?  What has it done?  How’s the church done for me?  How’s the people gone?  Heck, fire, they don’t even have a preacher.  What do they need money for?  That’d be a tipping.  That’d be tipping thinking.  You know, what have I gotten out of this, and how much do I owe?  That is tipping God.  And then, you know, that’s fine.  That’s fine.

Now, in the Bible, in the Scriptures, in 2 Corinthians 9:7, it says, you know, give what you have made up your mind to, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for the Lord loves a cheerful giver.  We all know that one, I hope, cheerful giver.  But I also want to tell you, I want to witness to you that God accepts grumpy gifts.  He’s perfectly fine with that, too.  So if all you’re doing is tipping, that’s fine, too.  I ain’t putting you down.  Tipping is good if you want to go that way.

But I want to talk to you, want to consider moving on over to percentage giving.  Not tithing, because, oh, we’re crazy.  Not tithing, but percentage giving.  And the way to do this, figure out what you gave last year, figure out what the percentage of that is, and commit the same, not the same amount, commit the same percentage.  No more money out of your pocket, but different kind of head.  I’m going to give that percentage.  Not that amount, that percentage.  Just submit that change this year and see how that goes.

Now, if you already are a percentage, or you’re feeling a little bit, I need a little bit more than that, I can do better than that, and you look at it, and you say, whoa ho ho, I’m below 2 percent, yeah.  Maybe you want to go up to that 2 percent, 2.2 percent, somewhere around there.  Maybe you want to do that and move on over to that percentage.  And if you’re already giving percentage, God bless you, maybe you want to consider, you know, I could do another percent.  I think I could do another percent this year.

And remember, it’s not about the bills.  It’s not about the expenses.  It’s not about the service.  It’s about who you want to be.  Who do you want to be?  Do you want to be reluctant and under compulsion?  Because that’s an option.  You can be reluctant and under compulsion.  People can tell you how much the church needs, and how much everybody should pay, and everything would be great, and how we need the money, and how it’s cold out there, and how we’ve got this bill, we’ve got that bill.  Now, that’s reluctant and under compulsion.  You can go there.

But I can get you out of that.  And that’s Scripture.  All you’ve got to do to be a cheerful giver is do the first part.  Give what you’ve made up your mind to give.  Make up your mind.  Say I’m going to give 2 percent.  I’m going to give 3 percent, 4 percent.  Heck, I’m giving 10.  Make up your mind.  And look what the Bible says.  You’ll be cheerful.  You’ll be a cheerful giver.  Isn’t that better than reluctantly or under compulsion?  It’s about who you want to be.  Do you want to be reluctant and compulsory, or do you want to be cheerful?  Do you want to be a tither, a percentage giver, or a tipper?  It’s up to you.

So Barry Creech is a strange duck.  He’s a Baptist that works for the Presbyterian Church USA.  He’s right under the people that’s in the headlines.  There’s, like, him, and then Linda Valentine, him, he’s a big, big cheese.  And we’ve been buddies for a long time.  I actually applied for a position with Barry Creech.  I had a really good argument and paragraphs and all this stuff about why I should be hired.  And he wrote back, you know, and it’s saying, you know, hire for General Assembly.  I wanted to go the General Assembly and them pay the bill, you know.  So I had all this thing written up.

And he wrote back to me, he goes, “Nah.  Nah, we’re not going to do that.  But come anyway.  We’ll pay.”  What a great guy.  So I came, and we worked.  We were friends.  We’re going out to eat.  We went out to eat, and did you – have you noticed about serving sizes?  If you’ve been around, they kept getting bigger, aren’t they?  They’re, like, huge now.  They’re, like, huge.  Just go out and ask, could I please have a six-ounce steak, please?  I mean, that’s a normal serving.  They’ll say, no, we don’t have six-ounce steaks.  How can they not have 6 ounces if they have 12? So they get huge things, and we had huge amount of foods.

And I said, “What are we going to do with all this food?  We live in a hotel.  We don’t have a refrigerator.”  And Barry said, “Let’s take it with us, and we’ll have something to give to the homeless on the way back.”  And sure enough, a guy came up to us and said, “Hey, can you help me out?”  We go, “Here you go.”  Wow.

Do you want to be reluctant and under compulsion and give God the leftovers?  Upset?  Or you want to say, you know, I got enough.  I don’t have to get sucked into all the compulsion and eating everything before me.  I don’t have to go and consume and take everything.  You know, I’m a kind of person that thinks about God and others first.  And I’m going to give back to God.  And I’ve got enough right here.  Because what are you going to do when you come to the empty plate?  You say, oh, my gosh, I need to go get more.  You say, no, that was enough, or I put that off.  I’m good.  Then you’ll be cheerful.

For those of you who are keeping count, we’ve done stewardship, Thanksgiving, and new members.  We now have Advent.  This is my last sermon this year.  All inspiration must go.  So there’s going – this is Advent.  And Joseph and Mary are looking for a place to bring Christ into the world.  Some places don’t have room.  They don’t know who these people are.  They may not be safe.  There’s no room for some places.  Zacchaeus had room.

But, you know, it wasn’t Christ come into the house that brought salvation there.  It was when Zacchaeus changed.  When he turned, as we heard our new member said, turned from evil and turned to Christ and said, “Look here, right now, I’m giving half of what I got to the poor.  And if I have defrauded anybody, I’m giving them four times back.”  And Jesus said to the crowd, he didn’t say it to Zacchaeus, he said to the crowd, “Today salvation has come to this house, for he, too, is a child of Abram.”

Be a cheerful giver.  Welcome Christ, and let him turn your life around.  Amen. 


Transcipt differs from the recording with Linda Valentine and Magnus Thor Torfason correctly identified, getting the Rich Young Ruler into Luke 18, correcting the number of tipped professions in various countries, the additon of chapter and verse to the 2 Corinthians reference to the cheerful giving, and best guesses where I mumbled.

Much of my information about tipping came from the Freaknomics program on tipping and links from that podcast.

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.



Without A Doubt

Matthew 14:22-33

Doubt is everywhere.

In 2008, the film, Doubt, with Meryl Streep as a Catholic sister, generated 5 Oscar nominations. It is a story of a faithful sister who wrestled with the poison of doubt in the church and in her heart.

More dramatically, doubt has a major supporting role in our news and infotainment enterprises both personal and corporate: Vaccines, moon landing, government cover-up, General Assembly actions, global warming, health cures, additives that poison. “Is your tap water killing you, story at 11.”

Doubt has a noble calling, some say all scientific or even all progress is based on doubt. Of testing and seeking truth in the physical world or even the spiritual realm.

Doubt can be life or death, freedom or captivity, justice or travesty. Criminal convictions must be beyond a reasonable doubt. Not just a preponderance of the evidence or the high probability of guilt, but a level of sureness that is beyond a reasonable doubt. Doubt that a glove fit, is enough to save a man from conviction of a double murder.

Doubt in our scripture is between fear and faith. Fear is backing away, resisting or fighting. Faith is trusting, going forwards, taking a leap out of the boat, a way of life. Doubt is the “maybe” between the “no” of fear and the “yes” of faith. The word is rooted in betweeness. It is based on “two”. Dual, double, doubt. Contradiction, pulled between two things, two things that cannot be together are held together by confusion. Doubt is in the terms “jumbo shrimp”, “square circle”, or “short sermon”.

Our scripture is doubt full. Is it Jesus or a ghost? Can’t be both living and dead, friend and fiend. Then the whole walking on water, it is either water or walking, not both. I doubt it.
In our scientific world, when faced with doubt, we want to banish it with knowledge. To decide one way or the other, to cut to the truth. From the Garden of Eden on, we experiment to find what is true.
In computer world, we have a test for unsureness, an if-then test. If X then Do Y. Peter programmer tries this: IF you are The Lord, THEN have ME walk on water. Prove it to me, make my truth, eliminate my doubt, perform my test, make me a miracle.

Don’t get distracted at this step. This isn’t about walking on water, fear of the storm, keeping your eyes on Jesus, faith giving you supernatural powers. Those are good sermons but for another day.
Miracles are distracting. Let’s not be distracted here. Did you know the Gospel of John has no miracles? Every mighty work that is miracle in the other gospels, is called a “sign”. They are only there to reveal God. I like that. Signs, not miracles.

Ever been to a national park? Around here there may be towering mountains of the toughest granite in the world, soaring into the heavens, evidence of mile high glacier…stunning. And down at our level, next to the parking spaces, is a sign. Maybe 4ft x 4ft. People stand before the valley, lake, and mountain and take pictures of the sign.

I think we do the same thing with miracles. We are like a tourist marveling over the font choice, the prose, the information, the quality of the metal, discussing the meaning and importance of the sign in our lives. We get into arguments about what the sign really means. We get mad at each other over various sign reading and split off, because that reading of the sign isn’t keeping with the historic understandings of the sign. We tell people that other signs are no good, not to be trusted, come and look at our sign which it is SO much better and a true experience.

What difference does the sign make to the mountain? With None of the Above quickly growing as a religious choice, now 1 in 3 among the youngest adults, but growing throughout our culture according to the Pew Research Center: Christianity has declined about 8% while unaffiliated grew  by almost 7% between 2007 and 20014. Yet the questions were about denominations and organized churches, not spiritual interest or practice. This is promised in a future study. I wonder how many people are telling us to get out of the way with our signs, they want to go directly to the mountain?

Moving the miracle out of the way, looking at what the sign is directing us to, we pick up Peter in the midst of sinking, where he says “Lord, Save Me!” Note there is no “IF you are The Lord, THEN save me” there is not “IF you are The Lord, THEN put me back in the boat, or on the land and I will then be able to fully resolve the truth of the matter of your Saviorness.” No, Peter moves from sinking to saving - from being of two minds to a single heart. Lord, Save Me.

Jesus knows this change, he calls Peter “LittleFaith” it is one word in the Greek, like we would say, “Goofball” which is not the same as saying “spherical object with a irregular shape.” It is not about the faith, but a nickname gently mocking his being between fear and faith: Silly Peter, Why did you doubt? Why were you of two minds? Why are you testing instead of trusting?

I can walk on water sometimes. We all do in Ohio we call it “ice skating”. Maybe you can too. But this scripture is about doing triple axles on a lake, it isn’t about getting out of the boat in faith, it isn’t about keeping your eyes on Jesus and not minding the storms of life. We are not looking for superpowers for the next Marvel action film. Don’t fill your spiritual photo album with pictures of the sign and miss the mountain. It is about moving out of the in between of faith and fear we live so much of life in, the doubt zone. The maybeness that paralyzes and keeps us from taking a stand against the wind, keeps us from staying in the boat with our fellow disciples, keeps us arguing over signs instead of going to the mountain top where our dreams and God’s dreams for us meet. The maybeness the IF-THENs experiments and tentative, conditional allegiance that we set up which keep us from being saved by Jesus.

You know there is another computer command. In addition to IF THEN there is a statement called an unconditional branch statement. It always moves program execution to the destination, it is GOTO. Put away the IF this THEN Jesus. GOTO Jesus. Trust unconditionally the path that starts with the first step of faith: “Lord Save Me.”

Matthew 14:22-33

22Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 28Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”


Old Time Religion

Here is my first recorded sermon. I was asked to preach at Carol McDonald’s installation as Associate Synod Executive. Scripture readers include Lucia Bamgardner (sp?) and Sue Whitford. Thanks to Jay Hudson for running the video (He was NOT expecting the preacher to move!)  Enjoy!



Here is a handy grid of when the 220th Presbyterian General Assembly in Pittsburgh’s exhibit hall is open. The hall full of missions, ministries, books, swag and stuff, opens a day before the start, varys from day to day during, and closes 3 days before the end.