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Keeping up with Christy

 


Preaching at the 9:30 AM service Sunday, April 2nd at First Presbyterian Church in Virginia City.


eCycling at Earth Day in Reno Sunday, April 23 10 AM - 2 PM with ComputerCorps

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Saturday
Jan072017

An Amazing Tapestry

 

My grandmother was a teacher by profession, but the lessons she taught extended outside the classroom. My grandmother was my hero. It was through volunteering in her 1st grade classroom that I developed a love of teaching. It steered me to my career as a kindergarten/first grade teacher today.

When I was younger I remember everywhere I went with grandma it was “Oh Mrs. Ramsey!!! Do you remember me?!” Of course she did and she would chat with them about their life and ask about their family. She was like a celebrity. She was able to touch so many people’s lives.

She treated everyone with dignity and respect no matter their age or ability level. She cared about everyone she crossed paths with be it the dry cleaner, a student, a church member, or someone in her own family. Grandma truly cared about people and was a champion for those who needed extra help in life. Growing up with her, my hope was that I too could make such an impact.

As I have grown up, I have realized what a weight caring so many can be. The extra stress and time it takes and how this extra effort and love can go seemingly unappreciated. However, my Grandma made all that caring and support seem so effortless. She rarely complained and always kept a positive demeanor. I don’t know how she managed it all. I struggle to extend myself the way that she did on a daily basis. Sometimes I want to wall myself off and just pay attention to my own needs. But then I will miss out on the joy of getting to know and care for others. I, like many others in this room, know this joy because of my grandma.

The time I spent with her growing up help shape me into the person I am today. I had the pleasure of getting to spend the last week of her life with her. I did not know that was the case at the time, but I feel so blessed to have had that extra time with her. I am amazed at the lessons and gifts she was able to bestow on those around her, even at the end of her life. It is truly a testimony to her character. It serves to inspire me to work even harder to be the person who is there for other people.

I didn’t understand it all as it was happening, but upon reflection I see the amazing tapestry of lessons she weaved to create a beautiful Christmas together.

She showed me it is ok to ask for help when you need it. She always stayed at least one step ahead of her illness, making sure plans were in place so she could remain as active as possible.  After 32 years of witnessing and receiving her compassion and love, I was able to reflect that back to her and help her. The woman that showed me what a joy it is to help people allowed me to feel that joy as I helped her. It isn’t often that you are able to offer something to your hero. My grandma gave me this gift.

She made sure Robert, Catherine, and I were organized and had a plan to host Christmas in her house. Robert had been following grandma’s lists to prepare for Christmas even before our arrival. Grandma had the foresight to make sure everything was in place so we could be successful. Where other people would have been overcome with helplessness, my grandmother had the fortitude to continue on in the same manner she had always lived her life. Her tenacity was inspiring. She continued to do her hair, makeup, and put together outfits to her last day. She wanted to look good and have a good time with those around her.

Even as her health declined, she insisted on having Bill, Jan, Cindy, Brian, Jenn, Chris, Catherine and myself together for a Christmas dinner. She taught a lesson in gratitude when she said it was important to her that she could repay the kindness to Bill’s family for all the times they have hosted her. Though she could not come downstairs to join us for dinner, she knew that having us all come together would create a special memory that we would cherish. Grandma knew this was her final party and she wanted to be surrounded by people who knew and loved her and that she knew and loved.

As my grandmother, Robert, and I posed for a picture in our silly Christmas getup, she made me promise that when I look back on this Christmas I will remember this moment and all the fun we had creating this day. That I would forget how sick she was and not let that be mark on the memory.

Grandma of course we will remember the joy and love we shared on Christmas. Your compassion and consideration for your family was reflected in everything you did, down to your last breath. You even made sure to wait until all your boys could be home. You always loved your family coming together and being the destination. I will remember you always as the courageous, empathic, and nurturing woman I love and respect. Thank you for bestowing these gifts and lesson to me and to all those you have impacted in your life.

 

By Rachel Ramsey, granddaughter

 

 

Saturday
Jan072017

Get In The Picture

Mary Lu Ramsey  

July 12, 1937 – December 27, 2016

Who here is NOT in a Mary Lu photo? Not so fast. She had 5,000 on flickr and many more waiting to be photoshopped: lighting corrected, wrinkles ironed out, beards evened up, bodies smoothed, red-eyes removed, basically making us look to all as only someone who loves us dearly sees us.

What do you say to all this? Not just to the unstoppable love of God, that Tom read from Romans but to that obituary on the back of the bulletin? She wrote it. What a wonderful life.

  • Sister, student, spouse,
  • artist, activist, advocate,
  • teacher, tutor, tech,
  • professor, photographer, presbyter,
  • musician, moderator, mom

and grandmom. Grand indeed.

Like, Tom, I have a favorite version of Romans 8. I like the alternate translation found in a footnote of the New International Version for verse 28. And we know that in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good. God is the subject not things in this translation, and there is a partnership with those who love him to make all things good. I commend to you this understanding rather than the fake good news that somehow bad begets good, pain produces progress, or sadness is the seed of joy all by themselves like God was an cosmic insurance adjuster reacting to evil by making us whole again after damage and injury, paying us back so we can go shopping for new and better goods.

Instead, this reading matches up with the rest of the reading of God’s action in the world and our lives. And, it points out that how those that love God back, join God in loving the world into the good, a vast angel wing conspiracy for bring good into the world.

Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was a Presbyterian Minister who was ordained for children’s ministry on television. He was asked about how parents and teachers can help children deal with the horrors natural and human made that beam out for our screens. He shared what his mother did for him. She told him to look for the helpers. For the firefighters, rescue workers, medics, ordinary people who turn from their own sorrow to ease the suffering of others. Don’t focus on the chaos and destruction,  Look for the helpers, look for the helpers.

Speaking of helpers, my brothers Tom and Tim are here. They stepped up when needed. As always; as our parents did and taught us to do. There is one brother not here in body, Ric. Ric had a challenging life. Struggling with learning disabilities that made parenting and teaching him a struggle. How to behave, how to learn, how to read, things that came easy to his parents, things his brothers did well for the most part, were to him mysteries difficult to grasp, and he was difficult.

Did you read that after Ric was born, Mom went on from college to get her Master in Education with reading specialization, started as a part-time tutor for children with learning disabilities, which lead to a career teaching children who struggled with school how to read and learn. At the end she passed on her knowledge to another generation of teachers so they can give the help she struggled to find for her son Ric. Along the way she was a lifelong advocate for children with learning disabilities, strongly supporting Akron Area Association for Children with Learning Disabilities throughout her life, other than family, they were the last group she hosted in her home late this year, the aging activists she called the group. Did you see what she said about her education and training helping children with learning disabilities “her best teachers were her children”. Ric mostly I imagine. Mom was subtle like that, unlike her son who she NAMED JOHN.

I’m not telling you that all sadness and difficulty can be overcome, swept away, made all better. You know better. In fact, on the day she said everything went wrong, Ric, overwhelmed with life stopped struggling in this life and left it. Yet even in that horror we see Mom’s hope and work for the good and the better. We see Mom at Compassionate Friends helping others get through the hell of losing a child, giving the help she needed to others. Joining in with them in that vast angel wing conspiracy working for good with God. Look for the helpers when everything goes wrong, for the last 79 years you would most likely see Mary Lu…helping.

In 1907 a pastor, William Watkinson, wrote “it is Better to light a candle than curse the darkness”. A candle? In this and many other dark areas of life, Mary Lu was fireworks.

About those thousands of photos. When she was limited in what she could do, when breath was a struggle, she still wanted to photoshop, when she could not get to her desktop computer these last days her concern was not so much being bed ridden but that her notebook didn’t have photoshop on it.

Sorry Mom. I didn’t understand about those photoshopped photos. At the last when she couldn’t do all the good in the world she wanted, she turned to bringing the good out of even the most evil of photographs. Teasing beauty out of blandness, illuminating darkness, smoothing the rough edges in faces and bodies left by life’s struggles. Doing in photos what she did in life. Working for good in all things. Making the world a better place for those around her. Being the helper good people looked for.

When we look with fondness at all Mary Lu gave for children, church, and community, we remember the great gift given by God in Jesus Christ, who left heaven and came to us to show us how to live and die for others, as a servant for others. Because of his great gift, Mary Lu and we have life eternal.

Even though we know God’s power and love make Mary Lu as real and present to God as she ever was to us in this life. We still hurt, we groan inside too deep for words at her absence from our human senses. I have no prayers to answer the questions or fill in the blanks left by Mary Lu’s passing, we have to rely on God’s spirit to bridge that gap between the twin realities our aching loss and God’s amazing grace. For I cannot take away the pain that you feel at Mary Lu’s passing. For love and grief are different sides of the same coin, they are joined in this life, the only way to not receive grief is to reject the gift of love. Even Jesus wept at the passing of his friend, Lazarus. When we lose someone we love we grieve. So to deliver you from the grief you feel I would have to eliminate the love that you have for Mary Lu. You wouldn’t want me to do that even if I could. But what I can tell you that Mary Lu is at rest, free from the weakness of disease, and she is at home with the Lord, breathing easy.

Don’t let the grief of her passing end the spirit of kindness and helpfulness that Mary Lu embodied. Instead hold on that kindness, and honor her and Christ by joining with God bringing good, being a part of that vast angel wing conspiracy when folks look for the helpers, may they see you in that picture.

 

Granddaughter Rachel Ramsey had her own message.

 

Monday
Nov142016

Soul Opportunity

Rev. Sue Washburn writing in Presbyterians Today Sept/Oct 2016 p. 4

When the world goes dark, the faithful testify with their lives to the light of the world

Soul Opportunity
a sermon by Rev. J. Christy Ramsey
Click the title above for a mp3 recording 

Audio from Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church on November 13, 2016, text below edited from a flawless transcription made by edigitaltranscriptions all errors are mine. 

Luke 21:5-19

Sermons also available free on iTunes

Transcript being prepared.

 


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

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

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

Saturday
Oct152016

Got Any Change?

Christy asks us to consider if people can really change.

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

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

Acts 9:1-20

Sermons also available free on iTunes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can people change?  If we let them. 

Can people change?  If we encourage them.   

Can people change?  If we allow it. 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

Got Any Change

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.

  


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