Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Preachng materials for November 11th

R U M O R S # 474
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor

November 4, 2007


"A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones." (Proverbs 17:22 KJV)

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I will post each issue of Rumors on that blog so that you can access it any time. And if an issue of Rumors goes missing, you can go and find it there.


Next Week’s Readings – a real squirmer
Rumors – relationship, not ownership
Soft Edges – nuclear weapons, part II
Good Stuff – up to par
Bloopers – eat and get gas
We Get Letters – hope on back order
Mirabile Dictu! – about those angels
Bottom of the Barrel – blame it on Carl
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)


Rib Tickler – He had been used to playing golf in the withering summer heat of Arizona. When he died and went to hell, the heat of the place didn’t impress him.
“Got any golf courses around here?” he asked the devil.
“Of course. Beautiful golf courses. Lots of ‘em!”
“So where do I find the clubs and the balls?” asked the man.
“Haven’t got any,” replied the devil. “That’s the hell of it.”


Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you will probably hear in church this coming Sunday, November 11th, if you are using the Revised Common Lectionary. This Sunday is Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans’ Day in the USA.

Haggai 1:15b-2:9 – This reading, the only one from Haggai in the RCL, is all about a building program. Haggai is jabbing the ribs of the governor and the high priest and telling them to get a move on. Get the temple built – make sure it is better than the last one – because once that’s done, God’s reign will come to earth and everything will be wonderful.
Seems to me I’ve heard that song sung in various congregations where they worked their backsides to the bone trying to get a building built and paid for. Once that was done, the reign of God didn’t come. In fact, the congregation fell asleep. It seems that the most active congregations are the ones most in debt. Except that their activity is all about raising money and not much about mission. Hmmmm!

Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21 – Sorry! Jim does not have a paraphrase of this part of Psalm 145.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17 – Here’s a question of editorial ethics. If you read straight through from verse one to verse 17, you get a very different impression of what Paul is talking about, than if you skip verses 6-12. If we don’t like the theology of those intervening verses (and I don’t), should we read the others?
The reality is that every one of us individually, and every denomination and every congregation cherry picks the passages of scripture that support their theology. “Everybody is doing it!” is not a defense. So let’s just plead guilty and be honest with ourselves about what we are doing.
With that in mind, I would be inclined to focus on the second part of the reading which can be a strong encouragement when we feel somewhat overwhelmed by what we face as Christians and what our denominations and congregations are facing. It’s tough territory, but God is walking with us.

Luke 20:27-38 – This passage is a real squirmer. It deals with levirate marriage, which we would dismiss out of hand because it turns the woman into a baby machine, and nothing more. If a husband died before his wife conceived a child (and that happened a lot, especially when the guys were continually going off to war), the husband’s brother had to take her in and conceive an heir for the dead brother. It served to protect the window who would otherwise starve to death.
The Sadducees did not believe in life after death, and their question isn’t really a question – it’s a trap to demonstrate how ridiculous such a doctrine really was.
Jesus basically tells them it’s a stupid question. That’s not what the resurrection is about.
It could be that valid comments on this passage can only be made by women – preferably older women – who remember what life was like for them when they were more obviously regarded as the property of either their father or their husband.

There’s a bundle of great resources on the Wood Lake Books website, including “Seasons of the Spirit” curriculum – which has material for all ages in the church. A few moments poking around on that site could be very fruitful. Go to the website at:


Rumors – There’s more to that business of levirate marriage. If the surviving brother discovered that the widow was pregnant by someone other than himself or the dead husband, he was expected to kill her. It wasn’t a question of sexual morality, it was a matter of ruined property.
When the prophet Nathan confronts King David about his affair with Bathsheba, David is accused of theft, not adultery.
And David may well have had Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, murdered because otherwise Uriah would have been honor bound to kill both David and Bathsheba.
Now if you think the practice of honor killing has died out, or that it is only practiced in a few backward societies, google “honor killing.” I got 205,000 hits. While the practice may be more formalized or legitimized in some countries, the fundamental concept is alive and well and living in our “civilized” countries.
That’s because women are still viewed as a man’s possession in our collective unconscious. To a lesser extent, men are also seen by women as a possession. Check out the number of romantic songs where the word “my” and “mine” are used.
Granted, those two words can imply a relationship more than a possession. When I use the phrase “my God,” I surely don’t mean that I own God. And when I speak of Bev as “my wife” and she speaks of me as “my husband” we surely don’t mean that we own each other. Or do we?
It gets fuzzy in our world where our laws and our professed values don’t exactly match the reality of our lives. During the years when I was involved in the men’s movement, I found myself in conversation with men who had violently attacked their wives, either physically or verbally. When, in the long conversations, we finally got down to the real issues, it most often boiled down to property. She belonged to him, but she didn’t act as if she belonged to him. Furthermore, his violence was justified because she belonged to him.
There is no easy, quick or simple solution. I am sure there is no single solution, but I am convinced we need to raise up the issue – we need to raise it repeatedly. And we need to confess the misogyny that is still latent even in our most liberated male psyches.
Jesus tells the Sadducees that “who owns who” is not a valid question and in the reign of God, it is not an issue.
Relationship, yes. Ownership, no.


Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
Nuclear Weapons, Part II
It seems I need to offer some explanation about last week’s column. Quite a few readers thought I seriously advocated making nuclear weapons more widely available.
Indeed, one high school student in Sheldon High School – wherever that is – asked for permission to quote my column for her paper on “The nuclear weapon makes the United States lead to social advantages.”
I’m guessing that her English classes don’t include satire.
And from other responses, it seems quite a few of you have never heard of, let alone read, Jonathan Swift’s essay, A Modest Proposal, published in 1729.
Swift wrote it about the desperate plight of the Irish people, impoverished by English landlords, English trade policies, and English marketing. They were so poor, Swift suggested, that the only way they could drag themselves out of their abyss of poverty would be to sell their infants to the prosperous English upper classes. For food.
A one-year-old child, Swift proposed, had not yet suffered enough from poverty and malnutrition to become stringy and inedible. Such a child could be as tasty on the dinner table as a young suckling pig.
Swift wasn’t really advocating cannibalism. Rather, he expected that the very concept of cannibalism would be so repugnant that readers might actually do something about the fate of Irish peasants.
Similarly, I wasn’t recommending handing out nuclear weapons like candy at a Santa Claus parade. I was hoping that people would find my argument so ridiculous, so unrealistic, that they might also question conventional wisdom about gun use and gun ownership.
Especially the NRA’s version of conventional wisdom.
It seems to me that if it makes sense to allow people to own guns for self protection, then it should make equal sense to allow more powerful weapons – with nuclear weapons as the extreme example.
The reverse argument is equally simple – if it’s stupid to allow nuclear weapons into the hands of any fool, then it’s just as stupid to allow guns into the hands of any fool.
Fortunately for my damaged ego, a few people did catch the point.
For example, Padre Dave on AOL wrote, “Amen, brother, Amen! I've held this quite logical approach to the matter of ‘arms control’ for some time. I'm glad to see someone else has finally seen the light! I imagine the NRA will offer you a huge grant to help propagate this idiocy, I mean, ideology across the globe.
“Why must the cowards in power arbitrarily draw the line at hand guns and assault rifles? It is enshrined in the US Constitution that I have the inalienable right to ‘keep and bear ARMS!’ The founding fathers wisely did not use the word ‘guns’ and even went so far as to set no defining limit on ‘arms’ knowing full well the dramatic advances in destructive power and efficiency that we would one day have at our disposal.
“Thanks so much for a most encouraging column. I'll pray for the wildfire spread and adoption of your policy across the world, hastening the glorious day of Armageddon! Hellalujah!”
I’d like to think that his last word was intentionally misspelled.

If you have comments or questions about Jim’s column, write to him directly at Jim also does another weekly column called “Sharp Edges” which is published in our daily newspaper. It has a stronger political-social justice content. If you’d like to receive Sharp Edges, send Jim a note at the address above. Or go to Jim’s web page at: . Click on Sharp Edges or Soft Edges or whatever else you might like to read.


Good Stuff – Dave Towers sends this. It’s a piece about a stewardship program called PAR (Pre-Authorized Remittances) as a way of giving to the church. Dave got it from his dad, Jack Towers, who was famous in western Canada for his work in stewardship, and for his penchant for puns. Here’s what Dave presented to the folks in his church. I’m sure both he and his dad would be delighted if you used it in yours.

When I think of PAR, the first thing that comes to mind has little to do with church finances, and a lot to do with a smooth swing, and connecting just right with a golf ball.
The term PAR just reinforces that line of thought. So, it is with great difficulty that I pull my thoughts from the golf course to talk about PAR in the church.
When you select the PAR method of giving, it is a key way to help the church IRON out the finances that allow it to TEE-UP and DRIVE its programs and services, and of COURSE help avoid a BACKSPIN into the HOLE.
Let me PUTT it to you this way. I don’t want to CLUB anyone over the HEAD with this APPROACH, I just want to take a SHOT at saying, that anyway you SLICE it, I think you will find it a FAIRWAY, FORE you to contribute.
It’s not ROUGH at all, just a simple monthly bank deduction.
For all those who are on the BALL and WOOD like to FOLLOW-THROUGH with this, PAR forms (like a scorecard) are available today, just a short CHIP SHOT away, at the back of the sanctuary.
For others who are on the FRINGE, and who are just LINING UP their thoughts on PAR, please LINK-UP with the treasurer, or FLAG anyone on the stewardship team at coffee after the service. We WOOD be happy to ADDRESS your concerns regarding any HAZARDS or TRAPS you think may exist.
Of COURSE, our congregation will WIN, and the Mission and Service fund WOOD too. That fund is our best SHOT at CHIPPING IN for the work of the church.
SHANKS for you attention to this little PITCH.
I hope I wasn’t OUT OF BOUNDS with the subtle HOOK in the message.
Now let’s SWING into something else.


From the folks who make Rumors possible – An exciting publication from Wood Lake! Marcus Borg and Tim Scorer have teamed up to present a 10 week study session called, “Experiencing the Bible Again for the First Time.
Here’s a study that engages both the heart and the mind – probing the scriptures to find strength, joy and empowerment. Marcus Borg, the biblical scholar and Tim Scorer, the educator, make the study of scripture both fun and exciting.
Check it out at the Wood Lake web site. Click on this address, or copy it into the address line on your web browser.


Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – Margaret Wood of Wick, Scotland, writes: “The Kirk here is in the process of joining two churches together. They call it a ‘linking’ process. We received a newsletter from one of the churches announcing ‘A service of Liking.’ I think I like that better anyway.”

A person who does not want to be identified noted in some minutes about planning for Christmas season: “Put big tree in sanctuary up right after church on Dec. 2. Try to get younger, more active people to help with the supervision of those who have done it for years.”
“Chain-saw needs getting ready for Family Tree-Cutting Saturday. Men’s Prayer Group will eat that day, and get gas.”

Well, this one’s on me. Lyle Phillips of Langley, BC, points out that “in the latest edition of Rumors you state: ‘make the study of scripture both fun and exiting.’ I think many people would find it exciting to make the study of scripture exiting.”
Meanwhile, Dave Woods writes: “This sounds as if they get the same result as I do when I make an appeal at the end of the sermon. I get a good response – everyone gets up and leaves.”
A few have wondered about my reference to “Christmas shoplifting.” That one, alas, was on purpose.

Jayne Whyte of Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan reports that when the lector was reading 2 Timothy 4:6 she stumbled on the word "libation" so that we heard, "I am being poured out like liberation; and my time of departure has come."
Which had Jane thinking, “Oh, that liberation would pour out for all people, all creatures, and all creation.”

Jim Taylor found it in the “Globe and Mail.” Seems one of the Toronto politicians urged his fellow councilors to “corral all of these sacred cows and put them under the microscope.”
If you’ve spotted any good bloopers in your church bulletin or newsletter, or anywhere else for that matter, please send them to me.


Wish I’d Said That! – Definition: A camel is a horse put together by a committee.
source unknown, via Margaret Wood

When we work as hard in peacetime to make this world decent to live in as in wartime we work to kill, the world will be decent and the causes for which men (sic) fight will be gone.
Agnes Keith via Bob Warrick

Heck is the place they send people who don't believe in Gosh!
source unknown, via Frank Chubb


We Get Letters – Dave Towers writes: “Story (legend?) has it that several years ago, a church in Edmonton had ‘Jesus Saves’ on their sign. Some local prankster(s) propped their own sign below it: ‘Gretzky scores on the rebound’.”
Non-Canadians or non-hockey fans need to know that Wayne Gretzky is a Canadian demigod. He was perhaps the greatest hockey player ever. The city of Edmonton went into mourning when he was traded to Los Angeles.

Kent Chown of Montreal writes: “My congregation recently ordered Advent bulletin covers – you know, the ones with ‘Hope’, ‘Peace,’ ‘Joy’ and ‘Love.’ Unfortunately, ‘hope’ is on back-order.

Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “about those angels!”) This delightful list from Peggy Neufeld in Ponoka, Alberta.
* I only know the names of two angels. Hark and Harold. Gregory, 5
* Everybody's got it all wrong. Angels don't wear halos anymore. I forget why, but scientists are working on it. Olive, 9
* It's not easy to become an angel! First, you die. Then you go to heaven, and then there's still the flight training to go through. And then you got to agree to wear those angel clothes. Matthew, 9
* Angels work for God and watch over kids when God has to go do something else. Mitchell, 7
* My guardian angel helps me with math, but he's not much good for science. Henry, 8
* Angels talk all the way while they're flying you up to heaven. The main subject is where you went wrong before you got dead. Daniel, 9
* When an angel gets mad, he takes a deep breath and counts to ten. And when he lets out his breath, somewhere there's a tornado. Reagan, 10
* Angels have a lot to do and they keep very busy. If you lose a tooth, an angel comes in through your window and leaves money under your pillow. Then when it gets cold, angels go north for the winter. Sara, 6
* Angels live in cloud houses made by God and his son, who's a very good carpenter. Jared, 8
* All angels are girls because they gotta wear dresses and boys didn't go for it. Antonio, 9
* My angel is my grandma who died last year. She got a big head start on helping me while she was still down here on earth. Kate Lynn, 9
* Some of the angels are in charge of helping heal sick animals and pets. And if they don't make the animals get better, they help the child get over it. Vicki, 8
* What I don't get about angels is why, when someone is in love, they shoot arrows at them. Sarah, 7


Bottom of the Barrel – Carl Boyle is responsible. Not me. I’m jus a humble cipher, hunched over my little keyboard, doing what must be done. So blame Carl.
A noted biologist, who had been studying little green frogs in a swamp, was stumped. The frog population, despite efforts at predator control, was declining at an alarming rate. A chemist at a nearby college came up with a solution: The frogs, due to a chemical change in the swamp water, simply couldn't stay coupled long enough to reproduce successfully. The chemist then brewed up a new adhesive to assist the frogs' togetherness, which included one part sodium. It seems the little green frogs needed some monosodium glue to mate.

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Ellen said...

Regarding "honor" killings, they are believed to have their origins in misinterpretations of pre-Islamic Arab tribal codes. They pre-date Islam by centuries and, in fact, are un-Islamic. However, most occur in Arab/Muslim countries and in Arab/Muslim immigrant communities elsewhere. It simply isn't empirically the case that they occur everywhere. I think you are confusing crimes of passion with "honor" killings. . .but they are two different things.

Ellen said...

P.S. I wrote a book about this, so I've done my homework.

Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
"Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"