One Day or Day One


One Day or Day One? Christy thinks resolutions and being resolute. Read on to learn how to be make any day a New Year’s Day

One Day or Day One?
a sermon by Rev. J. Christy Ramsey
click the title above for a mp3 recording 

Preached at South Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church on January 3, 2016

Based on Genesis 1:1-5


Sermons also avaliable free on iTunes

You don’t have to raise your hand or anything.  These are kind of rhetorical questions.  Have you ever been in a situation where everyone was laughing at you?  Have you ever been in one of those places?  Have you ever been in a place where everyone was laughing at you, and you didn’t know why?  I think that’s even worse.  Why is everybody laughing?  What have I done wrong?

This happened to a Hebrew student that my friend Donna has in her sermon, and I’m stealing this story right straight from her.  And I told her I would soon as I heard it.  She said that the Hebrew class was translating Genesis.  It’s a great thing to do when you’re in Hebrew class, translate Genesis.  One, it’s useful.  Two, you’ve got the answers right there.   And this poor guy’s reading through, and he – and he gets to Verse 5.  Verse 5, which we have a good translation, talk about the first day, evening, morning for the first day.  In Hebrew, the word is “yom echad”, “yom”, “day”, and “echad” “one”.

And that’s how you – that’s when we talk in English, you know, we – order is very important in English.  We go one word, and it makes a difference where things are in sentence – subject, verb, object.  And it’s one of the great inventions of English.  But other languages, they don’t have that.  They go by the different forms of the word, and what the word looks like, and the endings, and the accents, all these change whether it’s a subject, an object, a verb.

This Hebrew student had – really hadn’t got into his head yet.  And so he was saying “[ya heshad]” one day.  And the professor went, “How would you translate ‘yom echad’?”  And everybody else was going holding their breath.  He says, “One, one day.”  And he knew that was right.  One day.  “What, that is incorrect.  Class, how do we translate ‘yom echad’?”  And the whole class yells out, “Day one.”  There’s a huge difference in English, whether you say “one day” or “day one.”

And Genesis, day one.  Did you know the books in the Bible are often named by the first word there?  They weren’t really that creative.  They would just be terrible at getting clicks on the Internet.  Could not write a headline.  Just take the first word, put it up there on top, that’s what it was.  The first word in Genesis is that is “b’reishit,” beginning, beginnings.  Beginning God, first two words.  Day one.

Did you see all that was chaos?  Did you see there was stuff there before Genesis?  It’s not like Big Bang out of nothing.  It was something was there.  There was – there was, like, a murky kind of watery kind of mix-up mess mash of a chaos kind of thing.  And it was – it was a – and then God came, and God said “Let there be light.”  And the light was separated from darkness.  The all from all the greatness came the light and the dark, and there was day, there was morning, and there was evening.  There was evening, and there’s morning, day one.  From a murky, yucky, messy mess to day and night, light and dark.  The beginning.

Any of you been teenagers?  You know, if you ask teenagers, they swear they’re the first teenagers that ever existed, and no one has ever felt this way in the history of the Earth.  And their feelings are unique and powerful and strong.  I know you know this.  I’ve had some.  I’ve been one.  I tell you, I had a particularly challenging one.  Turned out great.  Whew, we made it through.

One day was particularly difficult.  It was about 9:00 a.m.  It was early.  It was 8:39.  It wasn’t halfway through the morning.  And she was back there just, you know how – you know how you cry talk?  Do you know how to cry talk?  You know how they do that is that you don’t talk, and you don’t cry, but you kind of put them together, and you kind of go “It’s the worst day ever.”  You know, I’m crying, but I have something to say, but I want you to know I’m crying.  And so she was inconsolable because, again, teenagers, the only feeling, first one discovered feelings, you’re no – you have no idea what it’s like to be me.  Oh.  So going on and on.

And I finally said to her, I finally got a say, I said, “Rachel, Rachel, when does a day start?”  “Wha-what?”  I go, “When does a day start?  When does the day start?  Is it midnight, you know, when the clock changes, and counter changes midnight?  Is that it?  Or is it – is it dawn?  Is it the dawn of a new day?  Is that it?  Is it when you get up, which is not dawn?  Is it, you know, in the Bible they start the day at sundown.  So, you know, the seventh day is Friday night because that’s the beginning of Saturday.  They start it at sundown.  So, you know, when does the day start?”

And I told her, “You know, Rachel, the day starts whenever you want it to.  And I’m telling you right now, right now, right here, we’re starting a new day.  That old day that was ruined and awful and irredeemable and the worst day ever, that’s over.  Gone.  You and me, we’re starting a new day right now, and it’s going to be a good one.  It’s going to be good because it can’t be worse than yesterday.  That was the worst day ever.  So we’re starting a new one, got to be better than yesterday.”  [Indiscernible] thank Lord that worked for her.  And she [sniffles], “Okay.  Okay, Dad.  New day today.”  She went out and took it on.  Difference between day one and one day.

Did you see all the news reports about how many killings there were?  “Oh, Christy, it’s Christmas.  Don’t.  The decorations are still up, and you’re going to talk about mass killing.”  I have a cute story at the end, so just hold on.  Did you see all the killings in 2015, the more than one a day?  Remember when those were surprising?  Remember when they were unique?  Remember when we heard, “Uh, now is not the time for talking about violence.  Now is not the time for….”  And it turned out it was never the time because we keep having those violence.  We keep having the killings.  And then we moved into our thoughts and prayers are with the victims.  You know, one day, some day, one day, not today, one day we’ll get around to doing something about the violence.  One day.  Not today.  One day.

Now, the numbers, you – have you seen what they’ve done to the numbers, too.  It’s over 330 shootings.  But, you know, shootings, shootings, ah, shootings, that’ll just spoil your day.  Maybe we should only count murders.  Some people only count murders.  And you know you really can’t count the perpetrator, you know, the shooter.  I mean, if they die, you know, it doesn’t really count to God; does it?  Is every life sacred to God?  No, we’ll throw that out.

And then they take – they take it even further down.  And they say, well, what if it’s gang violence?  You know?  Gang violence, you’ve got to expect that.  And then they go, what about, you know, domestic violence?  You know, you’re going to have that stuff.  Happens, you know.  What about, oh, you know, robberies and [doe de do].  They take it on down, take it on [indiscernible] down.  And one, the list got down to one, one.  Now, because certain a number of people have [indiscernible] they could actually die, [doe te to].  Ah, one day we’ll do something about that.  Just the way things are.  Just life in America.  We have violence everywhere.  We have violence in everything.

Football, so American.  You know?  Committee meetings interrupted by violence.  Thank you for the giggle.  Can you believe in football they’re saying, “How much brain damage is okay?”  What?  Well, we’re going [well] helmets because it hurts our brains.  How about not doing stuff that hurts your brains?  How about that?  No.  It’s all right.  Well, someday we’ll get around to stopping the violence in our society.  Some day.  Not today.  Today is not the day.  Who’s God?  God is beginnings.  God is not one day, but day one.

Have you heard about the killings of the Christians?  Have you heard about that?  Have you heard about that?  There’s tension between Muslims and Christians?  Have you heard about that?  Do we just accept that as just okay, that’s the way it is?  They’ve got their scriptures; we’ve got our scriptures.  We’re going to fight, going to kill.  That’s just the way things are.  We just got to accept the world like that, and we got to protect ourselves.  Have you heard about it?

Have you heard about what happened in Egypt?  This was a few years ago.  But there was an incident.  There was violence.  There was trouble.  And the Christians there, they’re Coptic Christians.  They go way back.  Way back.  All the way back to Jesus.  They’re Coptic Christians.  They even have a different calendar than we do.  That’s how far back they go.  And there was – there was a problem with that about conversions and violence and all that.  And the Muslim majority in Egypt said no, this stops now.  And they are – they [indiscernible] we all live together, or we all die together.  We are together in Egypt.  We are one.

And the Christians had their Christmas Eve service that year.  And around the little tiny church with a little bit about Christians were hundreds, were thousands of Muslims.  They stood outside the church, and they said, “We are your human shield.  If anybody is going to do violence to you, they’re going to go through us first.  This will not stand.  This is not who we are.  We do not solve our differences with violence.  We are with you Christians.”  And so the celebration of God coming in body to Earth was greeted by the protection of the body of Muslims.  Day one.

And I’m not saying you begin some, it’s all peaches and rainbows and unicorns and ice cream and this showering confetti throwing.  There’s problems.  We know that from Genesis.  Did the problems end with Genesis?  No, we can really make an argument things all began with Genesis, and problems have come on since.  But it’s a beginning.  It’s a start.  And God is the God of beginnings and of starts and of day ones.

New Year’s resolutions.  How you guys do with those?  Yeah, oh, that good?  This one’s already – you already have said your opinion, [indiscernible].  And we have not talked earlier.  We rarely talk.  You can – you can tell by the service.

How you doing with the resolutions?  What do you do?  Do you guys make resolutions?  A rhetorical question, but you can nod and shake [indiscernible].  A little bit?  My most successful New Year’s resolution is that one year I resolved to wait.  And so every time I was like at the post office or the airport or on hold with the [indiscernible], I’d go, I’d get [indiscernible].  Oh, wait a minute, that was my resolution.  I’m doing pretty well.  I got my resolution going.  All right.  I don’t know if that’s a good way to do it.  [Indiscernible].

I was looking up resolutions, and I found some quotes around the idea of that some people don’t make resolutions, not because they’ll break them, which is one way to go, but they don’t make New Year’s resolutions because they believe that every day is a good day to resolve to do good and to be better.  Every day is a good day to start a New Year’s resolution.  Every day is a good day to resolve to do good and to be better.  When does the New Year start?  It can start today.  And it can start again tomorrow, if you need it.

Ah, geez.  Killings on Christmas, the sanctuary [indiscernible].  What are you going to do?  I’m going down, back down the hill this afternoon.  You guys [indiscernible] you guys can’t catch me.  Ha.

I want to tell you about Bob and Sharon.  And I have permission to talk about my daughter, and I have permission to talk about Bob and Sharon.  So, now, Bob was a good-looking guy.  He was ever better looking 41 years ago.  And he was there working at a gas station, back when they had gas stations with people working there.  Some of you remember that.  Well, back in the day when – when they – when they [gain] that, I think it – I think it was a Wednesday, the day that we keep talking.

But Bob, Bob came out, and Bob, Bob was a single guy.  And he saw Sharon, Sharon.  Now, Sharon had a little boy.  I don’t know the situation there.  Didn’t ask.  Didn’t want to know.  He’s telling the story.  Go, Bob.  Bob was saying, you know, I caught my eye.  She was pretty cute.  She had a little boy.  I know she lived around the neighborhood.  We got to talking, you know.  And I said, boy, that – I really kind of like her, you know.  So he didn’t know who she is.

So she goes, he goes home, and he – and her – his sister’s there with her friend.  And he goes, boy, you know, a Sharon came into the station, I don’t know her last name.  She’s got, you know, she’s a blonde, she’s Italian, she’s got a little – got a little boy, and she lives around here.  And her sister’s friend said, “Sharon, with the little boy, single, lives here, I know who that is.  I know her.  Would you like to meet her?  Would you – I could set you up.  Ooh, ooh, I could set you up with a date.  I could do that.”  And then Bob said, “Well, yeah, I’d, uh, yeah, I think I’d like that, yeah.  Yeah, yeah.”  “All right.  Well, oh, don’t worry about it.  I’ll set it up.”

And so it was set up.  Friday night, you know, Bob’s all slicked up, you know.  He’s got his car all clean.  He’s coming on up.  And he goes up, and he goes, yeah, this is Sharon.  All right, comes up, bup ba da ba da.  Yeah, knock on the door, the door opens to a woman he’s never seen before.  It was the wrong Sharon.  There was two blond Sharons with a child that lived in a block apart.  They had the same house number, but a block off.  He did not know this at the time.  He didn’t know what to do, but he’s a good guy.  Bob is a really good guy.

And he goes, well.  He braced himself and went out on a date.  It was, they both agree, this details, they do go back and forth, but they both agree, worst date ever.  It was horrendous.  In fact, it wasn’t so much a bad day as a good hostage situation, that kind of the scale.  They were both hostage to the date.  And Bob swears that Sharon never let go of the door handle.  It was like it was an ejection seat, an escape hatch.  She was ready to pull and go anytime.  The date hostage situation was over, resolved, as if you will, and she pulled that [right] and bolted for the door.  Well, you know, some days you win, some days you lose, you know.

About a week later, Sharon says she forgot where Bob worked.  Maybe.  She swears this.  She pulls in.  Bob sees her.  What is he going to do?  Because remember back there they actually went out, for you younger people, back then people actually went out and helped people with the gas, actually put the gas in the car.  I know, amazing.  But he’d go – he had to go out there.  So he goes out there.

And here’s something about Bob.  Bob says, you know, “Nothing could be that bad that we couldn’t – we cannot be that bad together.  Let’s go out again.”  And like my daughter, you’ve already had the worst date, so this has got to be better.  And it wasn’t a blind date because they knew each other.  And it wasn’t a surprise date, which is worse than a blind date, the surprise date.  And they had a great time.  They had a wonderful time.  And they met after – then they got to know each other.  They met after work for coffee.  They were inseparable.  They got engaged.  They got married.  They had children.  They have 41 years of life together.

Great love story.  One day, I had a bad date.  But I decided that, instead, I’ll have day one of a love of my life.  Today is one day.  But it can be day one.



Transcipt differs from the recording with some exclaimations and sound effects edited out.

Top photo credit: andrechinn / CC BY

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.




ComputerCorps Christmas Prayer

I spend my days helping out as Technical Director at ComputerCorps in Carson City. I was asked to provide a prayer for the annual Christmas Lunch for Volunteers and Workers.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for the joy of the Christmas season.
Bless the food and those who prepared it
in this special time to celebrate the love and compassion
that was born that first Christmas Day.

We celebrate Christmas blessings in the place of year round blessings
The gifts in this room are not food and prizes alone
but people who reach out every day to help one another and the community
striving to do good better every day.

Thank you for this awesome team,
please bless each one here with a Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year.



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



Serving Size

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

Serving Size
a sermon by Rev. J. Christy Ramsey

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

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


Sermons also avaliable free on iTunes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



Knowledge Puffs Up...Love Builds Up

“I know that.” Is there ever a good time to hear that response? Or say it? Do we worship what we know or what we love? How can we love others when we know better? 

Puffing or Building
a sermon by Rev. J. Christy Ramsey

originally “To Love Knowing or To Know Loving”
Preached at South Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church on October 18, 2015

A message based on I Corinthians 8:1-13 & Isaiah 6:1-8


Sermons also avaliable free on iTunes

 Thanks to for the following transcript, slightly updated. All errors are my own.


I can’t find it.  Can anyone tell me when intermission is?  Why don’t we have an intermission?  I mean, Søren Kierkegaard, great big brain, big, big mind in the church, said that worship is a drama.  Now, he said it to make the point that, in that drama, we are the performers.  We are the ones putting on the show, and the audience is God, not the other way around.  But still, I mean, come on.  Intermission, why not?

Now, I know some of you, and I know who you are, you don’t have to raise your hands, some of you are saying, well, if we had intermission, he went on for another hour.  And then it’s a two-hour worship here or something.  Well, that’s not it, either.  Intermission is very important.  I don’t know if you go to the same place I do, but I think intermission gets more billing than the actual play you’re going to see.  They come out and say, “There will be one 15-minute intermission, 45 minutes into the play, and we will have refreshments out in the lobby, and we will be selling tickets for our next performance over there, and we’ll be doing this, and some of the cast members will be out there for autographs.”  You hear more about the intermission than about the play you came to see.

Why don’t we have an intermission?  That’s a mystery.  But some of you that may have studied this, maybe taken one of them courses you got here about worship, would tell me that, well, there’s no intermission in Isaiah 6.  Yes, friends and neighbors, I do speak of the Bible now and then during a sermon.  I know it’s hard to check, but there it is.  Isaiah 6, as well as being the commission to Isaiah, is also our touchstone, is our basis, our outline, our reference text to what we do in worship.  In Isaiah 6 you see the things that are in worship, right there in Isaiah.

The first thing that we have is adoration and praise and singing and glory, which is what we do.  We have prayer of adoration.  We have a hymn of praise.  We have all these things.  And that’s right there in Isaiah.  And the next thing that happens, did you catch it?  When they get into the presence of God, and they’re singing about the praise and how wonderful God is, and everything glorious, it occurs to Isaiah, as it occurs to every right-thinking human being, what in the world am I doing here?  I have no right to be here.  I haven’t done everything right.  In fact, I’ve done some things wrong.  I am not allowed to be here.  I should not be here.  I am not worthy.

And there it is, in Isaiah, and in our bulletin under the Prayer of Confession.  We are not worthy to be here in this praiseful room with the awesome God that we have.  And the same thing happens in our bulletin that happened in Isaiah.  As soon as we say that, as soon as we say we’re not worthy, we don’t get an argument.  We get forgiveness.  That hot coal comes down off and burns away the sin.  And that is the assurance of the declaration of pardon.  And that’s right in there.

And then the next thing that comes is the invitation, is the question, is the commission, saying we’ve got work to do.  We’ve got things to do.  We have a mission to attend to.  We have people in need.  We have a world that’s hurting.  What are we going to do?  And if things go well, worship doesn’t stop there.  But it goes with Isaiah and us saying, “Here am I.  Send me.”  And that’s the commission and the benediction.  No intermission.  But plenty of drama.  And God is the audience.

What about other worship?  Have you been to other types of worship services?  Contemporary worship?  Some people say all they do is get in, start singing and yelling, and it’s a half hour of yelling and words coming out and praise music and all this.  And then the minister comes out and talks and talks.  Then they have the offering and they go home.  You barely see anything else.  So they call it “hoot and toot, loot and scoot.”  That’s very unfair, but I can’t resist that.  No intermission there, either.

And we argue about worship, don’t we.  There’s not a whole lot in Isaiah so we say, well, this is it.  This is the way it is.  We know how it’s been done.  We like to say that, don’t we?  We Presbyterians, we know how it’s done.  We know the way the things go.  We know what is right.  Did you know that the oldest Presbyterian church, the oldest church in Chicago is Presbyterian?  Chicago was not settled by Presbyterians.  It was settled by Methodists.  But the Presbyterian was the only one that brought the book of church order.  He was the only one that brought the instructions for how to do church.  So they had no choice but to be Presbyterian.  That is our heritage.  We know how to do things.  We know how to do worship.  And if we don’t, we’ll have a committee to find out how to do it.  We’ll get it done.  We know stuff.

But we still argue about what we know and who’s right and who’s wrong.  Even the Presbyterian Church, you get four Presbyterians in the room, you get six or seven opinions.  It never matches up.  And you think that this scripture is about food offered to idols.  I mean, it says that right there in the scripture, “Food offered to idols.”  But it’s really about arguing and about knowing stuff.  And that goes on all through the history of the church.

I mean, I was trying to figure out, when do we have food sacrificed to idols so we could actually use this scripture?  The only thing I came up with was that, when they gather, for city wide ceremonies, at those great big round things.  They sacrifice food for those great anthropomorphic animals.  You know what I’m talking about?  They do it every week in the fall.  Football?  Tailgating?  I’m pretty sure that’s food sacrificed to idols.  Good food, brats and things.

But I don’t think we’re talking about tailgating.  I think we’re talking about arguing.  Oh, and we know about the arguing.  We know about that.  So you look at that arguing, it’s the way we argue now, isn’t it.  We don’t argue with, , a reasoned plan, a position paper, a study.  We don’t argue that way.  We may do it, but we don’t argue that way.  We don’t go out and, say, have a reasoned argument.  We don’t have a controlled study with a blind control group and figure out which is the best according to scientific approved and replicated methods.  We don’t do that.

I mean, just look at the so-called “debates.”  That’s not even a debate, it’s sound bites; isn’t it?  It’s how many of my slogans can I get into whatever the thing they said before, not necessarily answering the question, but getting my sound bite in.  Same thing here.  You see all them quotes in that scripture about we know idols have no existence, right there.  Quote.  We know that sacrificing meat to idols is wrong.  We know that there’s only – and then he brings out the big one.  An applause line, like “Let’s make America great again,” or “U.S.A.,” or “God bless America.”  I mean, when you said this to the crowd, the crowd went crazy?  He said The Shema:  We know there is one God.  There is only one God.   Everybody went, “Wow.”  He’s got sound bites in there.  And he says, “I know all these.”

So that’s how Paul argues.  He says all the sound bites going around– and adds his own.  Did you catch it?  Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  That’s his sound bite.  Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  One of the things I’m trying to stop in my own life, and I am, I’m working on it, I’m recovering, is – and I taught my children this, and they take it into their adult lives – is that there’s never a time when it’s necessary to say, “I know,” to someone.  You can just as easily say “Thank you.”  Even if you know stuff.  It’s not a competition.  It’s not a quiz.  You don’t say, “I know that.”  “Oh, I know that.”  The poor person’s trying to explain, trying to help you out, and you say, “I know” tossing away their help.

That’s what we’re talking about here.  Knowledge puffs up.  Love builds up.  How does that work out?  It’s hard.  Paul goes through and says don’t trip up other people by your knowledge.  Don’t be so knowledgeable.  Don’t be so right.  Don’t be so sure about everything that you destroy the community.

This works in any community. Wall Street, have you heard of it? Paper and shouting people are long gone. They’ve got computers, and they don’t even have people doing trades anymore.  It’s all computers.  And computers got so good, so fast, about how much computers know and all the data coming through and the bidding process, they actually had to slow down computers.  They knew too much.  And that knowledge was destroying the community known as the marketplace.  They knew too much.  Not just computers.  There’s insider trading, isn’t there?  You’re not allowed to know so much.  Because why?  It would destroy the community built up.

So, and this is even true in the financial world, not in just the spiritual world or church or in families or in persons, but also in the great, wonderful, capitalism system.  Knowledge builds up.  Knowledge puffs up.  Love builds up.  How does that work out?

Paul is really good at telling you what to do.  He’s big on that.  You go away or all that, he’ll tell you what to do.  He’s a great, great teller-doer.  But here, did you see the switch?  He goes, “We know this.  We know that.  We know these things.”  We, we, we, we, we.  And then he goes, “If you do this, if you do that, this happens.  If you….”  And then, strangely enough, he switches to “I.”  He gives all the stuff, the problem out there.  It’s a problem we all have.  And then he goes and says, “This is what I do.  Me.  This is how I work it out.  I don’t eat meat if it’s going to give a problem to other people.  I don’t do this if it’s going to cause someone to starve.  I don’t do this.”

He doesn’t say you had to do that.  Doesn’t say everybody had to do it.  Didn’t say that was the Christian way to do things.  He says, “This is the way I work it out.”  I find that great.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful, if we actually had that attitude, be as open as Paul?  What a concept.  Paul is not usually cited as someone that has a openness.  But he says: here’s a problem, and we admit it, and it’s there.  We are working on love, not on knowledge.  We’re working on building up, not puffing up.  And I’m just going to tell you what I do, and you can do however it works out for you.  I don’t do those things because it’s going to cause a problem to somebody else.

And I like that.  I like it when someone says there’s a problem, and the solution is what they do, not what everybody else should do.  Too often us Christians, we use our knowledge and tell everybody else what to do, instead of using the love that we have for others to inform on what we should do, what I should do.  This is how I work out my faith and my thing.  These are the things that are important to me.  These are the things I believe.  And this is how I live it out.  Anyone can do that.  We can all do that.

Well, that’s all great, Christy, but how about a story?  Okay.  Back in Rochester, Indiana, 96 miles north of Indianapolis, due north, 45 miles south of South Bend – somebody asked me where it was.  That’s where it was.  Still is, last I checked.  We had a pillar of the church die.  And it was in a family of pillars.  They were redwoods.  They were majestic.

It was like going to Muir Woods.  You ever been there?  You’ve got to go.  You go there, and the redwoods are everywhere.  And you look up, and you say, who am I?  These redwoods have been there hundreds of years.  Look at how majestic, how strong, how straight they are.  Who am I?  I’m just a flicker.

That’s the way I felt with this family.  I mean, they were there, holding up the church.  They were there before the church was there, and they’re going to be there after me.  I tell you, they were something to behold.  If there was an event, they were there.  If there was funds to be raised, they were given.  If they could go around to the church, and they wouldn’t, but they could say, “I built that.  I put in that staircase.  I put up that wall.”  Pillars.

And we were going to have the greatest funeral for one of them that you’ve ever seen.  We’re going to have the choir singing at the funeral.  We’re going to have the organ pull out all the stops!  We were going to have robes, and we were going to have marches, and we were going to have the best everything.  We were going to holy it all the way up.  It was going to be great.

So the family comes in, and I’m all ready for the worship to end all worship for this service.  We know how to do it, and we’re going to do it up right for this family, and it’s going to be great and honor her faith and her life.  We came.  The family came in.  The redwoods processed in.  And then comes someone I’ve never seen before.  Which is odd, because this family was there every Sunday.  They were there more than me.  And I look, and “Oh, hi, hello,”.  “This is Mary.”  “Oh, hi, Mary.”  “Mary is our sister.”  Oh, oh.  “Mary, thanks for coming in.  Where do you live?”  She goes, “Right here in town, lived here all my life.”  Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.  “Are you – do you go to another church?  What church do you go to?”  “Oh, no, no, no, no, no.  I don’t believe in God.  I don’t believe in God.”

Oh, oh, well.  This has taken a turn.  Okay?  All right.  We all sit down, and we talk.  And I’m talking about the choir and the anthem and organ and the theme and thing and the colors.  And Mary says, “I’m sorry, I don’t want it in the church.  I can’t come.  I can’t come if it’s in the church.”  For once in my life I shut up.  Because I figured, not because I was wise, which would have been good to say, but because I figured, well, these redwoods will take care of this.  They’re not going to stand for this; right?  I mean, these people are all about church.  They’re nothing but church.  The person that did was there every Sunday, and of course we’re going to have it at church.  The church needs to have this.  The congregation wants to give her a sendoff.  The congregation wants to witness to the faith.  We’ve got everything here.

“Can we have it in the funeral home?”  Oh, the funeral home in Rochester was, well, I mean, they meant well.  But it was kind of like playing with the box that church came in.  What’s left of the toy when you take it out, and you just have the cardboard box there, I mean, it was just generic and plain. No even a cross, not anything that is anything – certainly not an organ.  “Can we have it in the funeral home?”  I go, well, this isn’t going to go.  I think, maybe we could compromise, maybe have three hymns instead of five.

And then the patriarch, the main man, said – I go, well, here it is.  This is going to be some wisdom.  I’d better be remembering this.  This is going to be – and it was, but not what I thought.  And he said, “Well, should we accommodate?”  And one after another those redwoods bowed, said yeah, yeah, yeah.  No compromise.  No arguing.  No teaching.  No seniority.  No power plays.  “Shall we accommodate?”  Yeah.  Okay.

So I said, “Well, okay.  Funeral home.  We usually do this.  I’ve got this here.  We can do these prayers.  We’re not going to have a choir, we don’t have the organ.  We can take out this.  We can do this.”  And Mary pipes up, “Wait, wait.  It’s okay.  It’s okay.  Thanks.  Can we just – let’s have it in the church.”  And the redwoods say, “You sure, Mary?”  Goes, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Thanks, yeah.”  Okay.

And we had it in the church.  Do you love the church so much that you would give it up for someone that’s not saved?  I learned something pretty powerful that day, and not what I was expecting.  She wasn’t part of that community until her families were ready to give it up for her.  “We love you that much.  We love you that much, Mary.  We’re not even going to argue.  If that’s what you need, okay.  Okay.”  Knowledge puffs up.  Love builds up.  And that’s how that family worked that all out.  Mom did a pretty good job.  I think Paul would approve.

What about that intermission thing?  Thought I forgot, didn’t you.  Ha ha.  What about that intermission?  I think there was a little intermission right there.  A little stop in the drama and the play and the parts and the labor that we work on.  I think there was an intermission there.  Because intermission is when everyone, when the curtain comes down for just a moment, and you can be who you are with who you’re with, and you could talk to them about what’s going on in the great big drama and the plot and what has happened and what may happen and get caught up a little bit and say, what does it mean when they said that?  Oh, that was in, you take a break and connect up with everybody and get refreshed and remember who you are, instead of in the great big drama story that’s all around you.

And in that way, worship is intermission.  The entire worship service is an intermission between the mission and the work.  Between all of our roles and scripts that we have to fill, and the costumes that we wear, and the parts that we play, and the interactions that we have to get right, and to know our lines and to hit our marks and to do the work that comes to make the great drama appear, worship is, oh, step back.  Hold on.  Remember who you are.  Remember who you’re with.  Take a look at what’s going on around you.  Make sense of it all.  And then you’re ready to go back, with a greater knowledge and understanding and appreciation of what’s going on in the drama all around us.

Knowledge is great.  Knowledge is good.  I spent a lot of time in Louisville, learning stuff in seminary.  But my education wasn’t finished until talking about the church service that was almost not in the church because they loved so much.  They wouldn’t let their knowledge get in the way of that love.  When they built up community then, instead of puffing up the things they knew, how would they – would people say that about me and about you and about all the Presbyterians?  See how much they love, not how much they know.  Love well.  When the intermission is over, go out and play that part in the world.  Amen.

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



You Do Not Choose Retail; Retail Chooses You

The title of this post is attributed to Leon Kauffman, the store manager at the Carson City Best Buy where I used to work. Leon and Geek Squad Deputy of Counter Intelligence at that time, Jeremy Sauls, choose me for Geek Squad in July of 2013. I chose to take “sleeper” status as an Agent August 29th, 2015. I am grateful for Leon and Jermy for giving me a chance to be a part of Geek Squad for two years. 

Everyone helps everyone help our clients but I’ll practice some public gratitude by saluting my fellow badged agents standing with me at #850 from left to right:

  • Thanks to Nathan for geeking out with us, liking songs from before he was born, and already trying that.
  • Thanks to BattleTech, Jamey, for closing tags, tag teaming repairs, and hardware rocket surgery.
  • Thanks to Isaac for double bonus months and knowing no fear in calling clients and deleting partitions.
  • Thanks to Jason, for knowing how to proceed and what to do with agents, clients and computers.

Thanks to all the agents and Best Buy folks I worked with and for the last two years.

As I was taught by my first ministry supervisor: I do not go alone and I leave no one behind.


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


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