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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


 

 

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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.

 

Sunday
Jul202014

Weed Gardens

Where do you plant yourself in the garden of humanity? Why are there weeds in our life? Christy examines the problem of evil in Southwest seating, weed wackers, in ourselves and those we love.

Click on the title below for the recorded version, or see the end for the iTunes link.

Some quotes people remember:

  • Were there weeds in the Garden of Eden?
  • Have you ever mistaken Nurture for Neglect?
  • On Southwest Airlines you don’t get a seat assignment… you get a starting position.
  • God loves you and doesn’t want to kill you!

 

Weed Garden
a sermon by Rev. J. Christy Ramsey

A message based on Matthew 13:24-30 with a bit of the creation story from Genesis 3

Most gardens have weeds. Were there weeds in the Garden of Eden? Some would say, no, because God said the plants were “good”:

The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:12

And we know weeds are not good. But I think there were weeds in the Garden of Eden.

Before we talk too much about weeds here or there, how can we tell something is a weed? I grew up in Akron, Ohio, a city boy. If there was something green, we just paved it over, no questions asked.

God thought it would be funny to have me pastor a small church in a farming Indiana. Some farmers in the first church I served tried to wash the city off of me. Like sin it clings tightly. One of the farmers was pretty quick to educate me when I mistakenly called some poor lost plant a weed. He bristled up like farmers do when you insult their children. Weed is a slur to someone who loves plants like a farmer does. I was told that a weed was just a plant where you didn’t want it.

Jesus tells a parable. Now a parable doesn’t make sense all by itself. If it did it would be a story, not a parable. Now the crazy beings with a bunch of slaves, maybe eager to point out the master mistakes or maybe making sure they weren’t blamed for the weeds.

There are weeds in the fields YOU planted. Don’t you love folks that point out that your efforts less than perfect? Especially, when they had nothing to do with the project. Then these folks gleefully volunteer to fix it for you. We can do it better, we can make it right! Let us be the master! Did you catch the crazy? These folks doesn’t understand the whole master / slave concept. The master did the work and the slaves find fault.

The master pretty bluntly tells the slaves they aren’t qualified to fix the field, they weren’t even trusted to plant it! For they would take the wheat out with weeds and so passes on their offer to redo what he has done. Tells them to just leave the weeds alone.

Do you believe that there are a couple churches that passed on having the benefit of my ministry? One was a rural church I visited in the Midwest. Lovely people. I was done before I started. I proved the wise saying It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.” (Maurice Switzer) This little country church had a parking lot. I know parking lots. I’m from the city. This church had weeds growing in their parking lot as high as my knees. Perfectly good parking spaces for cars full of weeds up to here! It looked awful. I said something stupid, about the obvious improvements needed that a city parking lot boy could bring to these folks. Turns out that as practical folk they had taken part of the parking lot and planted sweet corn. “Yep, those spaces weren’t doing anything so we planted some sweet corn.” They are farmers; they see bare ground, that’s opportunity. They were growing sweet corn in their parking lot. What I thought was neglect was actually nurture. What I thought was waste, was something good, part of God’s plan. Those plants were supposed to be there, so they weren’t weeds they were food.

Some folks have a green thumb…I have a pointed finger. If you want something pointed out to you, I’m the one. I’ve made money pointing out stuff. I even point out to God where he did not live up to his potential and even offer to fix it for him. It is good that God hasn’t let me loose, I would probably end up proudly show off parking spaces I cleared where God had some sweet corn growing.

I am SO much more eager to be a weeder than a gardener. I got a weed whacker once. It was in the eighties. I was so happy got a weed whacker. I opened the box and was immediately banned from using it. Like the master in our parable, my wife knows how I work. She has some roses and she emphatically told me that those roses did NOT need weed whacking. She knew I would whack those roses right off. I would be sorry, but she knew. She told me I could whack weeds over there, she didn’t care about those plants.

When you hear that next up on the news talk show is a Christian what do you think the focus is going to be? Going to be about nurturing the good, feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, tending the sick, sheltering the homeless? Is going to about grace, forgiveness, love? Watering Wheat or Whacking Weeds? Most times, going to be weed whacking. That is what we do We love our weed whackers. Sometimes at General Assembly you can’t hear people talk over the racket of the whackers. I think we would raze 100 churches to the ground than to plant 1.

Ever see Bruce Almighty? Jim Carey becomes God, right there I’m having fun. He plays Bruce the man with the pointiest finger ever. Everything is wrong. Every day is Festivus, he airs his grievances long and loud. Traffic is wrong, his job is wrong, his girlfriend is wrong, the weather is wrong. He blames God for it all. God gets tired of it, so puts him in charge and goes on vacation. And he proceeds to make life easy for himself, a new car appears, traffic parts before him like the Red Sea, his career is blessed, his enemies are destroyed, he makes all his dreams come true. Then he decides to pay attention to those prayers he’s been getting. God forward them all to him. He is lazy so he just grants them all. YES to all prayers. Craziness ensures. One of them was that everyone who prayed to win the lottery, won! There were 3.6 million winners and the payoff was a buck sixty! There were riots in the streets!

Bruce Almighty is a modern day parable that shows we don’t do so well in directing out how the world should work, or more specifically we don’t so well in figuring out how God should work in the world.

Anyone fly Southwest? I love the luggage thing. No charge! I’m flying more now that my children are 2,500 miles apart. You know, they get along so much better now. We just had separate rooms going up, now I find out they need their own time zones.  I fly Southwest, which is unique because you pick your seat when you’re one the plane. So it isn’t just front/back, aisle/window. You don’t get a seat on the plane, you get a starting time. You’re never first. You get to pick not only if you sit next to an aisle or a window, but if you sit next to the large man or small child? Or if you are going to be creepy and sit by the young woman? Or scared to sit by the tattooed Mohawk man? On Southewest you get to plant yourself in a garden of humanity.

Once I was looking for sympathy from my wife by complaining about a crying child on the flight…she uprooted my plan by saying, “I never complain about a child on a flight, remember nobody would trade with us so we could sit with Robert?” Robert solve that one. He is the master of relationships. He turned to his mother and said in a quavering voice, “Mom….I’m going to be sick.” Oh yeah. Everyone wanted to trade. Yes, we were those parents once. Once, we didn’t belong on that plane. We were people that were where others didn’t want us to be, a nasty weed in the flying garden of humanity. Could have been plucked out but we are flew together, weeds and wheat, coughers and criers, beautiful and scarred to Akron.

People have interpret this parable in different ways, and God bless them. Some people look at this scripture and say, “Thank Goodness all those bad people are going to get burned; Burning people, Yay God!” That doesn’t really do it for me. Other people take comfort by realizing it is not their job to root out all the evil in the world. Kinda takes the pressure off. Some people need to hear that, and if that helps them do good and be better and sleep at night, God bless them. He does.  

I get a personal and profound meanings out of this parable. The profound message is an ontological one. (A seminary word meaning: a study of the nature of being, what is reality) For me this parable addresses a profound questions that Christians get and have: Why does God allow evil in the world? The answer is here: God allows evil in the world because he loves us. God does not accept collateral damage. God is unwilling to declare war on humanity. I don’t know about you, but if God started whacking out the weeds, I don’t know if I would be in the ground or in the bin.

Now, don’t be like I am sometimes when I’m cranky. When a proud atheist traps you with “If God is all good and all powerful…why doesn’t he allow evil in the world.” Do NOT say “Because God loves you and doesn’t want to KILL you.”

God will not destroy evil because it is entwined with good. You know that. You know evil. Real evil, not just we don’t understand everything yet sadness, but real, death dealing, gut wrenching, senseless evil. Yet you found some good. A reunion at a funeral, aid in disaster, sacrifice in war, sharing in need, rescue in disaster, sweet corn in a parking lot, a laughing baby in a packed airplane. Good runs like a vein of living gold in cruel hard dead rock.

There is the personal. It is a relief. For we know that God is going to let us grow hopefully producing grain, goodness, grace, love for God. We don’t have to worry about getting wacked out of the ground when we don’t bear fruit, when we get in the way, when we are in a place God doesn’t want us to be. There is none of God will get you if you don’t watch out or God punishes you for that or God willed this disaster on you or them. God lets both grow, me and the good people.

We can’t tell what is wheat and what is weed. God calls it. He is the gardener, it is his call what a weed is. If you aren’t where God wants you to be, doing what God wants you to do, you’re a weed in God’s garden. Remember the Garden of Eden where everything was good? At least that is how it was started, but there was Adam and Eve or went where they weren’t supposed to go and did what they weren’t supposed to do.  Adam and Eve, You and Me are the weeds in God’s garden.

Not only were there weeds in the Garden of Eden. We are the weeds. We all are the spiritual descendants of the original weeds in the Garden of Eden. So rather than pointing out the weeds to God and spinning up our weed whackers, we need to know that we are weeds, all of us, but God gives us every change to be wheat, to produce goodness. He is waiting, the patient Gardener for us weeds to become wheat.

 

I dreamt death came the other night
And Heaven’s gate swung wide.
An angel with a halo bright
Ushered me inside.

And there! To my astonishment
Stood folks I’d judged and labeled
As “quite unfit”, “of little worth”,
And “spiritually disabled”.

Indignant words rose to my lips
But never were set free,
For every face showed stunned surprise
— Not one expected me!

-Attributed to several authors

 

 

Recorded live at South Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church on July 20.2014
with all the background hum, volume challenges and surprises that brings. Printed edition revised.


Sermons also avaliable free on iTunes

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