TechCamp Norms

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


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




The Internet

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


The Light of the World is Green

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

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

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

Philippians 4:8-9

Sermons also avaliable free on iTunes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited from a transcript by eDigitalTranscriptions



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

[10 Sec Pause]

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

“speech transcript from .”


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

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

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



How To Forgive

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

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

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

Matthew 18:21-35

Sermons also avaliable free on iTunes

You’ll have to forgive Peter. Peter’s proposal was actually quite generous; most teachers allowed two or three times forgiveness. Peter went all the way to seven. Jesus, sarcastically responded, seventy-seven times, other versions have seventy times seven. It wasn’t a literal number, he was joking to make a point, a number so ridiculously high to show one shouldn’t be keeping track of forgiveness.

Forgiveness does not do math. Love doesn’t keep score. Jesus points this out in the numbers he uses in the story. It is hard to compare money value from Biblical times. Ten Thousand Talents. Now a talent was the amount a man could carry, so imagine ten thousand men loaded up all the gold they could carry. Way over a million dollars, how could a servant pay that back? Our Bible footnote says a single talent was equal to 15 years’ wages. He couldn’t work off 150,000 years’ worth of labor, that was the point. It was unpayable, so his promise to pay it back was either laughable or insulting, depending on your mood. A hundred denarii would be a 100 days labor, for a denarius was one day manual labor. In terms of weight a talent was 93 pounds while the denarius went the other way, it was 1/93rd of a pound. So debt he was owed was a pound compared to 930,000 pounds, or 465 tons that he was forgiven. It is a mind boggling difference in amount.

Jesus was pointing out that we are forgiven so we may forgive. Sometimes when someone is complaining about someone, I think, imagine, God has to put up with that person twenty-four hours a day!  Not only that but God has to put up with everyone I put up with, plus one other, God has to put up with me. If God lets all those people and I go on living without smiting them and me…I guess I shouldn’t have higher standards than God.

Now, I also don’t want to suggest that forgiving is forgetting. Jesus doesn’t have the king in the story give the slave another several million dollars to hold for him.  If anything, the forgiven servant is held to a high standard than others, with the master expecting him to be more merciful because he was forgiven.

Frederic Luskin, Ph.D. has nine steps to forgiveness a couple of them are worth mentioning here. (You can find this and more              


  • Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation or condoning of their action.
  • Give up expecting things from other people, or your life , that they do not choose to give you. 
  • Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. 


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

Another Point of View

Think of a situation in your life where you would like to be forgiven or would like to forgive. Write or record a short description of the situation from your perspective. Now imagine that you are the other person in the situation from that person’s perspective. How are the two stories different?

Just Like Me

Resentments, disagreements, and estrangements hurt all parties because they reinforce feelings of separation. Often we can’t forgive someone until we can see the situation from their point of view. A good practice to encourage this kind of perspective shift is “Just Like Me.” Whenever you find yourself making an assessment of another person, whether you are saying something critical or something complimentary, right after you think or say it, add the statement “just like me.” For example, “My partner is so stubborn, just like me.” “My friend holds too many grudges, just like me.” This activity can help you see that we are all imperfect and make mistakes.

When we shift our focus and judgment from others to ourselves we will find that to which we most object to others is the same things we hate in ourselves. The difference is that we can do something about the way we act and relate. We can change ourselves.

Practice Meeting People for the First Time

Hugh Prather, author of many books of spiritual reflections, considers the steps necessary for forgiveness in Morning Notes: 365 Meditations to Wake You Up. He concludes that “a judgmental feeling about another person is based on the same belief as my fear of making mistakes: I think what someone once did is more important than how the person is now.” Practice meeting people as they are right now, as if you were meeting them for the first time. If their past actions dominate your perceptions, this will be difficult.

God’s very name is I AM WHO I AM or I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE. God is centered not so much in who you were, but who you are called to be. We once were strangers, but now we are the friend of God. We once were sinners and now we are children of God. God meets us again for the first time every moment of our lives as we grow in understanding, love and forgiveness. Better than we were yesterday, not as good as we will be tomorrow.

Most of us have heard of an intervention where a person is surrounded by friends and family and told of the pain and grief he has caused in each person’s life. This is an effective way to get through the fog of denial and the web of lies than keep folks from entering rehabilitation treatment for drugs or alcohol abuse. There is another way

Remind People of Their Good Qualities and Deeds

In The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace, Jack Kornfield describes an African forgiveness ritual: “In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and every man, woman, and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual. Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, each recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days. At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.”

Who and Whose You Are

There was a Presbytery executive now retired who ended most of his conversations with the phrase, “Remember who you are and whose you are”. Christians can add to the story told to the person. Now just the story to remember who they are at their best, but the Christian story the love of Christ and story of redemption of God’s people from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane from Creation to Revelation.

We are commanded to forgive and we can forgive when we remember who we are and whose we are. When we acknowledge how God forgave us, when we write a forgiving end to the stories of hurt and pain we tell and live, when we see ourselves in others and turn to working on changing ourselves instead of others, and when we value the present reality and future possibilities over past failures. This is what God does for us, and what we need to do to others.


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

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

Christy Ramsey. Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a
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Pointers and Retrievers


Photo by Kevin Christopher Burke on Flickr.comPointers and Retrievers Christy takes salvation up a notch, from John 3:16 to 17 moving from me and mine to the world.

Pointers and Retrievers
a sermon by Rev. J. Christy Ramsey
click the title above for a mp3 recording 

Preached at South Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church on February 14, 2016

Based on John 3:16-17


Sermons also avaliable free on iTunes

The church has left the building.  Have you heard about this program?  They had it down in Carson City.  Have you ever heard of this?  It’s a program, and I really can’t – I couldn’t find it, where it started.  It might have been the guys’ seminar.  I don’t know.  But it’s a thing where churches cancel their Sunday service to go do Sunday service.  It’s a strange thing.  They give up their worship time, their worship hour.  They have all the people come.  And they go out, and they do service projects.

One church packed thousands of ready-to-go disaster food relief packets so that they could immediately be shipped and give a family sustenance for three days.  And they put it all together and packaged it all up, and that’s what they did on Sunday morning.  Other one went up and cleaned up a place.  Some places fixed up some houses that needed repair.  Just all sorts of projects that they go out, and they cancel service to give service.  They go out from their building.  The church leaves a building and goes out and bes the church in the world.  That is a huge sacrifice.

And I’m not just talking about listening to the choir and drinking the fine coffee and desserts afterwards.  Not that kind of sacrifice.  There’s more of a sacrifice.  It’s not just leading the preaching and the teaching and the singing and the praying.  It’s the offering.  There’s, like, two people here at least that were doing that math already.  Wait a minute, they didn’t get an offering on Sunday? That is a big thing.  Because the offering doesn’t go to the church that Sunday.  The offering goes to the world. The church has left the building.  It’s a hard program.  Carson could only stand it for, like, two or three years, and then they, they switched it to Saturday.  It’s hard.  It’s hard to leave the building, to give that all up, to give up our service for service to the world.

Now, I know what you’re all thinking.  Like you think, every time I preach, what in the world does that title have to do with what he’s talking about?  Pointers and retrievers?  Valentine’s Day?  I thought he was going to go with puppy love.  Darn, we missed it again.  Pointers and retrievers is about stores I’ve been to, churches I’ve served, and people I know.  It comes down to pointers and retriever.  And you know this.  You just haven’t thought about it.

Pointers and retrieve – have you ever gone to a store and asked for something, for, A, find someone, A; and then, B, ask for it.  Where is this?  And what do you get?  Do you get a point?  Over there?  That’s where they should be?  It’s where they used to be?  That’s where I think it’d be?  That’s where something I don’t like is, and [indiscernible] send him over to you?  Huh?  You get a pointer?  Over there somewhere.  I think it used to be there, should be there.  And you know, if you get enough, you can get a game going, you know, because you get – and then you get closer because, you know, there is no distance in pointing.  It’s just a directional thing.  It’s not how far.  You know, I tried to get a thing, what if we did the fingers thing?  That was a little further, that was way far.  It’s not really going anywhere.  If you could help, I got a Kickstarter project.  We might be getting that going.

All right.  But you get over there, and you get near the place in the same direction, and you get the next sales person, they give you another point; you know?  And then you go that way, you get another point.  You know, it’s like you’re a pinball, you know, trying to hit the target, boom, boom, all over the place.  Oh, pointing.  Then there are some stores, some stores, they don’t have any pointers.  They got retrievers.  “Oh, I’ll go get you that.  I’ll get you that.  Wait right here.”  I don’t like that so much because I am a little nervous.  They’re not coming back, you know.  Maybe I don’t think well enough of myself, but I’m thinking I’ll never see them again.

I really like the retrievers that say, “Come on.  It’s over here.  Come on.  I’ll take you.  Come on.  Let’s go.”  And they go, and they look for it with you.  [Indiscernible], it was here.  Where is that thing?  You know, and they find it.  It’s not where it used to be, or not where it should be, or not where it was last week or any of that stuff.  It’s, “We’ll find it together.  Come on.  Let’s go.  Let’s go get that.  We’ll get it together.  We’ll figure this out ourselves.  We’ll find it.  I don’t know where it is, but I will find out.  We will find someone somewhere to get it.”

Retrievers.  There’s people like that, too; isn’t there?  Find people?  You go and ask for help, and they say, “No, you can get help over there.”  “Oh, these people over there might help you.”  “Oh, there’s that book over there.  That book there might help you there.  And while you’re there, you can do that here, and you should live your life there and get that job there, move there.”  Lot of pointers.  If you’ve got a couple retrievers in your life, keep them close.  “I don’t know, let’s go.”  “I’m bringing my truck.  You’re moving, I’m bringing my truck.  When you want me there?”  Not “There’s some moving companies over there, they’re really good.”  Pointers and retrievers.

Churches are like that, too.  Oooh, he’s gone from preaching to meddling.  There he goes again.  Why can’t we have some puppy love jokes?  That was fun.  You can go over there for salvation.  Do this, do that, find Jesus.  If you get this here, come to this service now, we open up our doors here, come here, do this, do that, do the Bible, do the confirmation, do this, do that.  You can do that.  Then there’s retrievers.  I’ll come and get you.  I’ll come and be with you.  This is from the deacons.  We know you’re having a hard time.  Retrievers.

And now is the place – I like to give, you know, subtitles for people, you know, know what’s going on next is now we get to the scripture.  Because some of you say, “Does he ever get to the scripture?  There’s scripture.”  John – and I’m just doing two verse – there’s a lot of verses here about a lot of stuff.  There’s a whole born again anew from above thing.  That’s a whole sermon.  And if you get it, if [B&C] doesn’t get the thing done, you might hear that one.  But tonight, today, you’re just hearing about 16 and 17, just 16 and 17.  That’s all.

Now, the 16 verse, that’s a pointer verse.  I think it doesn’t have to be, but it too often is.  How do I get eternal life?  Well, you go to Jesus.  You go to Jesus to do that.  That’s how you do that.   For God so loved the world that he gave – and it said he gave his only son so they may not perish but have eternal life.  You know that eternal life starts right now.  That’s present.  It’s not after death.  It’s not a death insurance thing.  It doesn’t start after we die.  The Greek says it’s now.  Get eternal life right now.

And too often we stop at John 3:16.  Too often we stop there.  We don’t go to the next verse.  We say, oh, great, me and mine, we’re saved.  Yeah, we know the way to Jesus and to Heaven.  We’re going that way, yeah.  Then there’s that pest – there’s more than one verse in the Bible.  That’s bad news to some people.  And then John 3:16 goes to 17 and messes everything up.  We had it gone down, we got ourselves saved, me and mine, we’re with Jesus, we’re eternal life, yay, rah.  And then you get the 17th verse, like Jesus, you just couldn’t quit there.  You had to go on.

And he talks about “For God sent.”  What?  Wait a minute.  Last verse was “gave.”  What’s this “sent” stuff?  Oh, no.  What are we getting into now?  The son into the world.  Wait a minute.  The world?  If you look at John, the world’s not a fun place.  The world is a bunch of people that are nasty, that are hostile, that are chaos, that are after Jesus, that don’t believe.  And that’s the world.

Not the good folks here at South Lake Tahoe.  Gosh, this is a good church.  I have never in 35 years of pastoring heard so many Bible pages turning during a scripture reading.  I congrat- proud of yourself.  That’s amazing.  They’re actually reading the Bible.  I was actually – I had chills.  I went up there and go, “Whoo, what’s that?”  Salute.

But it’s the world.  The people don’t read their Bible.  And people don’t have, well, they may have a Bible, but they never open it.  People that are hostile to religion, or even worse than hostile, indifferent, don’t care, don’t think it matters.  That’s who God sent Jesus in.  Whoa, [indiscernible].  Not to condemn the world?  Well, that’s no fun.  We’re not to condemn the world?  That’s like our number one favorite thing to do.  [Indiscernible], we’re going to cut down the debates to, like, 20 minutes, if we can’t condemn the world.  Not to condemn the world, but the world through him be saved.

Wait a minute.  We’re saving the whole world.  Oh, ho, ho, I thought it was just me and mine.  But you’re telling me that it’s the world, the one you’ve been telling me is so awful and hostile and chaotic and against Jesus, all those outside things.  It’s cosmo.  It’s cosmopolitan, the cosmos.  The whole mess.  The whole mess of things will be saved through Him.  I should have just stopped, like the football players fan says, just that one verse.  You go to 17, you’ve got to go save the world.  Wow.

What does that look like, that world-saving stuff?  How are we different then?  One thing’s different is evangelism.  Oh, he’s saying the “E” word.  This is a really upsetting sermon.  Evangelism.  When, you know, you know, it’s too often the question is how are we going to get young people to church?  How are we going to get the young people to church?  If that is your question, your answer is doomed.  Doom’s a little strong.  I’ll back up.  Very difficult, not doomed.  Maybe just [doo].  Because you’re starting all wrong.  You’re trying to save the church.  You’re trying to get the church, the world to save the church.  No, the church saves the world.  You’ve got it backwards.  It’s not going to work right.

And I tell you, I know, I’ve raised some of the young people.  Got to live with them, raise them right up.  And they don’t need saving.  Just ask them.  They’ll tell you.  They’ve been told by their parents, they’ve been told by their school, they’ve been told most by mass media that they are the greatest thing ever, and they deserve the best.  And they don’t need saving.  So we come peddling salvation to them, well, huh, we don’t need any of that.

But that’s John 3:16.  What if we peddled John 3:17?  Because they, God bless them, and I’m serious, they have a burden, they have a desire to save the world.  They want to fix the world.  They want to save the world.  And if we figure out that’s what we’re about, they’ll join up with us.  Or more likely we could join up with them.

That is something people want to be involved in, not, hey, we’re here to have a great church.  They don’t care.  They’re not into save the church.  They didn’t go through World War II where the institutions saved the world and the freedom and got the Nazis and all that.  And we loved the institutions back then.  Back before I was born and after, why, that was the great Fifties.  That was super institutions save the world.  We all worked together.  We made these great things.  We built up a spiritual industrial complex in the Presbyterian church in the mainline denominations because we were going to rid the world of evil, and that’s just like the Nazis.

Yeah, it’s a different world now, sorry.  Don’t trust the institutions.  The young people don’t trust the latest app unless they built it themselves.  And next week’s app is something different.  But they still have the good and clean and passionate desire to make a better world.  And if we tell them we’re about that, and if we are about that, if the church leaves the building and does service to the world instead of service for themselves, there’ll be plenty of people.  All kinds.  All messed up.

The Serenity Prayer has a longer version than just the three sentences that we normally associate it and see on plaques.  Niebuhr, when I wrote it, wrote several versions.  One was a long one.  One of the ones that I’ve been working with that’s been helping me with my issues, which you can ask me about later, but it’s taking, as Jesus did, this world as it is, not as I would have it.  Taking as Jesus did the world as it is, not as I would have it.  I do a lot of “as I would have it” stuff.

But after looking at John 17, I’m thinking that if Niebuhr was looking at that verse, maybe he would have written yet another version and changed one word and said “loving,” as Jesus did, this world as it is, not as I would have it.  That’s tough to do.  Loving as Jesus did the world as it is, not as I would have it.  Jesus died for that world, the world he was in:  brutish, slavery, militaristic, awfulness, betrayers.  That’s the world he died for, not the world he was calling us to.  That’s the world he loved.

Salvation – and sometimes I do little bumper stickers for people that like to remember one thing for, like, when people ask them, and they weren’t really listening.  So this is the time to listen for that, you know, a tweet, if you’d do a tweet.  But it’s “Salvation is like potato chips.  You can’t stop with one.”  John 3:16 may think that John 17 says “For God so loved me.”  But he didn’t condemn me, but saved me.  No, it’s the world.  You can’t stop with one.

There’s a church in Arlington, Virginia, First Presbyterian Church of Arlington, Virginia.  They’ve been having some troubles lately.  They’ve been there about a hundred years, though.  But this year is going to be their last Easter.  By their choice.  Got out among the congregation, the community, and talked to them, talked to the cops and the teachers and the service workers and the people that make the town go, and listened to them, and felt their pain that they could not afford to live in the community they worked.  They had to go way out somewhere because there was no affordable housing.  And that, oh, yeah, there was some affordable housing.  One year they had 122 affordable housing units, 122; 3,600 people applied for those.  Hundred twenty-two; 3,600 people wanted them.

This church, beautiful church, big land, wonderful location, said we’re going to sell our property, tear down our church, and build moderate income housing.  Reserve them for seniors, people that grew up here and lived here and can no longer afford to stay, and other people that need it.  They sold their property to a nonprofit that’s been doing housing developments around that at a 20 percent discount.  Woohoo, Presbyterian.  Gave them all up, and now they’re giving away the parts of the church, the pews and the Bibles to other churches, the homeless shelters, furnishings, getting ready to close up about May or June.  And in their place will be a place that serves the world, the poor, the struggling, the working every day, everyday stiffs.  The church has left the building.  



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

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

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