Saturday, October 6, 2007

Sermon Helps for Preachers with a sense of Humor!

R U M O R S # 470
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor

October 7, 2007



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

COME AND HELP US CELEBRATE – Any of you folks living in the central Okanagan (well anywhere, actually, if you don’t mind the drive) are invited to a book launching bash that’s happening on Tuesday, October 16th, between 10 am and 2 pm.
And the book, of course, is “The Spirituality of Grandparenting.” I’ve written a dozen or more books, but this is one that I’ve particularly enjoyed and which turned out to be a full-color, beautifully designed coffee table book with lots of marvelous photos.
Wood Lake Books is staging the event at the McMillan Pumpkin Patch at 3690 Berard Rd, Kelowna. Their phone number is 250-863-6081 and their e-mail is Phone or e-mail if you need directions. There’ll be apricots and pumpkins and hay rides and hay mazes, lots of good fun and an autographed copies of the book.
Bring along your grandkids if they’re either too young or too old for school. Should be fun.
The sad thing is, you won’t meet our grandkids, Zoë and Jake. They’ll be in school.
Click on this Wood Lake Publishing web address ( for this and many other delightful and useful resources. Select “Search by Title, Author," at the top left column of the site.


Next Week’s Readings – the least expected
Rumors – the Samaritan noticed
Soft Edges – Marie-Lynn’s triumph
Good Stuff – the cost of a miracle
Come Celebrate – launching the grandparent book
Bloopers – dead friends
We Get Letters – litaurgo-theological
Mirabile Dictu! – God split the Adam
Bottom of the Barrel – wearing a hat
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)


Rib Tickler – This from Irene Carter of Calgary, Alberta.
“Einstein climbs to the top of Mt. Sinai to get close enough to talk to God. Looking up, he asks, ‘God, what does a million years mean to you?’
‘A minute.” says the voice from God.
‘And what does a million dollars mean to you?’
“A penny,’ says the voice of God.
‘Well, God, can I have a penny?’
‘In a minute’."


Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you will probably hear in church this coming Sunday, October 14th, if you are using the Revised Common Lectionary.

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 – Jim Taylor once described a friend as “utterly insane, in the best sense of the word.” Visionaries, prophets, poets are often a bit loosely attached to the reality we experience – which is why they see things we tend to miss. And what they tell us is often counter-intuitive.
Two weeks ago in the RCL lectionary we heard how Jeremiah bought a field – this at a time when any realistic financial consultant would advise strongly against it. But Jeremiah was enacting a parable of hope.
And he’s still at it in this passage. The Babylonians have dragged the people into exile. They are, quite literally, slaves again. And it wasn’t much fun. Jeremiah should have been sending them encrypted e-mails telling them how sabotage the Babylonians – how to fight for their freedom.
But Jeremiah tells them to live their lives as fully as possible within the system that’s there. In other words, “Get a life.” Did they take his advice? Hard to say. But when they eventually got back home, they had an enriched sense of who they were and what God was calling them to be.

Psalm 66:1-11 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
(Note: Jim’s paraphrase is for verses 1-7.)
A song of immigrants and settlers and refugees, of anyone recovering from a serious illness or debility.
1 On the other side of the mountains, a new world spreads before us.
2 The rocky ridges give way to spreading grasslands;
the shadows of our past to endless sunshine.
4 The far horizon shimmers in holy celebration.
In sacred silence we stand, speechless before the rebirth of possibility.
3 You tested us terribly, God.
At times, we thought we would die, adrift, alone.
5 You scorched us on the deserts;
you froze us on the glaciers.
We could not help ourselves.
6 But you gave us shade against the sun, and fire against the cold.
With your help, we survived every obstacle.
7 Through our trials you taught us that you alone are almighty, and not we ourselves.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Books.
For details, go to

2 Timothy 2:8-15 – “Avoid wrangling over words,” says the writer in verse 14. Us churchy types have a really bad habit of wrangling over words. We’ve all had discussions that degenerated into silly arguments because two people were using one word (or several words) in different ways. The worst part of those kinds of discussions is that they have implicit within them, the notion that the Christian life is about getting your theology right. And the pride that pushes us to persuade the other person over to our point of view, because that will demonstrate the rightness of our own beliefs and opinions.
Does God weep or laugh over such encounters? I have no idea, of course, but I do know that such encounters – such discussions – are only fruitful when there is genuine dialogue. And that involves listening to the other person – not to refute their position or their ideas – but to understand them.

Luke 17:11-19 – Mythologist Joseph Campbell speaks of a category of myth (i.e. a story that carries meaning) under the heading of “the least expected.”
The entire Bible, both the Hebrew and the Christian scriptures, fall under that category. Which brings to mind a bit of slightly anti-Semitic doggerel
How odd
Of God
To choose
The Jews.
That was by William Norman Ewer. (There’s an almost equally well known reply written by Cecil Browne: "But not so odd/As those who choose/A Jewish God/But spurn the Jews.")
The continuing storyline in the Hebrew Scriptures is about a God who has chosen one of the smallest, least powerful and most obscure nations. The least expected. King David, their greatest king, started life as a shepherd, which was pretty near the bottom of the social ladder.
And the storyline of the Christian scriptures is about an obscure carpenter from a hick-town called Nazareth, born under questionable circumstances, who turns out to be God’s chosen one.
It’s a theme that occurs over and over again. In this passage, it is the Samaritan, the foreigner who comes back to thank Jesus – the one least expected.
Again and again this is demonstrated in the life and teachings of Jesus. “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

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.


Rumors – I’m writing this on a Monday morning. I’ve just been across the street to check on a neighbor who has significant health problems – most of them age related. “I was looking out the back window,” he said. “It’s such a beautiful morning. There were some quail feeding on the lawn. I really love the soft browns and muted blacks in the feathers on their backs.”
Remember the old philosopher’s puzzle? If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? Does sound exist apart from the hearing of it?
We talk of beauty and goodness and health and holiness, but I wonder. Do they exist if we do not notice? God has created all this wonder, but is it wonder if we humans do not notice that it is wonderful. Is it possible that the Samaritan leper’s gift to Jesus was that he noticed the wonder of his own healing – a sense of awe that Jesus described as faith?
Neither Bev nor I have green thumbs, but there are roses that bloom in our back yard in spite of our best efforts. Even this late in autumn the odd “last rose of summer” survives the cold nights and is covered with dew in the mornings. A few days ago Bev pointed out one blossom, opening in all its freshness, with subtle shades of red and pink and yellow.
Who but God could create such beauty? Or maybe God doesn’t create beauty at all. Maybe that rose was not beautiful at all until Bev noticed it. We often talk of being called to co-create the world with God, and that concept incorporates a whole lot of stuff. But surely, part of the meaning of that concept is that we are called to make the world beautiful by noticing the beauty.
What does it mean to be a person of faith? Too often we are told to accept a certain theological formula or creed or practice. But the story of the leper has me wondering. According to standard brand Jewish theology of the day, the Samaritan had it all wrong. But Jesus doesn’t check out his theological credentials. He simply says, “Your faith has made you well.”
Perhaps it was the despised Samaritan who noticed the beauty and wonder of his own healing – who was awake to the holiness of what had happened. Maybe that was the miracle Jesus had in mind when he said, “Your faith has made you well.”


Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
Marie-Lynn’s Triumph
When a hurricane destroys a city, when a mudslide buries a village, when a forest fire torches houses and wildlife, we tend to attribute it to an “Act of God.”
Based on insurance policies, you’d think God only does harmful things.
But there is another side.
You may have heard Marie-Lynn Hammond’s albums – or perhaps heard her singing on Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe program on CBC. A co-founder of Stringband, Marie-Lynn has since gone solo. Critics have called her “one of Canada’s best singer-songwriters” – even if she’s not as famous as Sarah McLachlan.
Marie-Lynn is also an enthusiastic equestrian. On August 26, 2006, Marie-Lynn’s usually quiet horse suddenly and inexplicably began to buck – most likely because of a wasp sting. Marie-Lynn was thrown. She sustained five broken ribs, a fractured neck vertebra, and multiple breaks to her right collar-bone. Though she wore a helmet, she suffered a concussion, bleeding in the brain, and damage to a cranial nerve.
She has no memory of the accident. “My memories end just before my horse began to buck,” she says, “and resume about 30 minutes later as I was being loaded into the ambulance.”
Initially, she lost the sight of her right eye. Over the last year, and after endless rounds of therapy, most of that sight has returned, but with serious double-vision problems.
On August 26 – exactly one year after her accident – she went to another horse show. “I felt a need to revisit the scene,” she rationalized.
A friend found her a very gentle horse to ride.
“Originally I was simply going to enter a fun class, that didn’t demand any real riding skills,” Marie-Lynn told her friends, “but that class got cancelled. So I decided what the heck, I would enter English Pleasure (you are judged on how responsive and relaxed the horse and rider are at walk, trot and canter). The judge was informed of my situation, and told me if I felt unsteady or unsafe, I could simply come into the centre of the ring and sit out the remainder of the class.
“We won the class! When I heard them call my number, I was stunned, and then thrilled, and then I began to get all teary, as did many of my friends watching, some of whom had witnessed the accident. And then they began to cheer and holler, and I realized in the most viscerally happy way how far I'd come in a year.”
The judge assured Marie-Lynn that her disability had not influenced his choice: “He told me and others that I had won the class fair and square; he had not made any allowances for me.
“Red ribbons are not something I'm used to getting, so this one is especially precious.”
Whenever I read Marie-Lynn’s letters, I choke up. I get so used to hearing bad news that good news sneaks under my defences.
I think of Marie-Lynn’s triumph should be called an Act of God too.

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 – This from Kausie White:
Six-year-old Tess went to her bedroom and pulled a glass jelly jar from its hiding place in the closet.
She poured the change out on the floor and counted it carefully. Three times.
Carefully placing the coins back in the jar and twisting on the cap, Tess slipped out the back door and made her way six blocks to the drug store.
She waited patiently for the pharmacist to give her some attention. But the pharmacist was busy talking to a well-dressed man.
Finally he spoke to her. “And what do you want?”
“I want to talk to you about my brother,” Tess answered “He's really, really sick, and I want to buy a miracle.”
“What did you say?” asked the pharmacist.
'His name is Andrew and he has something bad growing inside his head and my Daddy says only a miracle can save him now. So how much does a miracle cost?”
“We don't sell miracles here, little girl. I'm sorry but I can't help you,” the pharmacist said, softening a little
“I have the money to pay for it.”
The well dressed man who had been talking with the pharmacist stooped down to Tess’ eye level. “What kind of a miracle does your brother need?”
“I don't know,” Tess replied with her eyes welling up in tears. “I just know he's really sick and Mommy says he needs an operation. But my Daddy can't pay for it, so I want to use my money.”
“How much do you have?” asked the man.
“One dollar and eleven cents,” Tess said in a tiny voice. “It's all the money I have, but I can get some more if I need to.”
“Well, what a coincidence,” smiled the man. “A dollar and eleven cents – the exact price of a miracle for little brothers.”
He took her money from Tess. “Take me to where you live. I want to see your brother and meet your parents. Let's see if I have the miracle you need.”
That well dressed man was Dr. Carlton Armstrong, a neurosurgeon. The operation was completed free of charge and it wasn't long until Andrew was home again and doing well.
“That surgery,” her Mom whispered. “was a real miracle. I wonder how much it would have cost?”
Tess smiled. She knew. One dollar and eleven cents – plus the faith of a child.
A miracle is not the suspension of natural law, but the operation of a higher law.


Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – From the file:
* Sufficient unto the day is the evil eye thereof.
* Take my life and let it be, constipated Lord to thee.
* Thank you, dead friends.

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! – If a person tries to fail and succeeds, which did they do?
author unknown via Velia Watts

Jesus listened and observed first, and then to those who needed healing, he gave healing, to those who were frozen against God's new thing, he gave the warmth of love and the fire of passion, and to those who were beaten down by an oppressive world, he gave encouragement and freedom.
Tom Ehrich via Mary of Bahrain

Velia Watts of Edmonton, Alberta, found these one liners on the web:
* In a Jam? God Preserve Us!
* Forget Big Brother, Speak to Our Father.
* The Ultimate F-Word is Forgiveness.


We Get Letters – Evelyn McLachlan admits this is bad. “Which is why I had to send it to you!” she writes. Now I need to figure out if that was an insult or a compliment.
Did you see the recent story in the Jewish Chronicle about the theft of egg-enriched dough from a north London warehouse?
Unfortunately, the theft happened just before Shabbos and it forced many local bakeries to bake their challas with plain, white flour. A leading rabbi was quoted as saying, "I'm appalled by the rise in white challa crimes."

Chris McMullen sends a note offering a definition of that puzzling term we identified last week. He writes: “I assume that ‘litaurgo-theological’ words are those which have no identifiable meaning unless sung to the accompaniment of a guitar. Here are some examples: ‘Kumbaya’; ‘you are a part of the fa-mi-lee’, and, especially, ‘borning cry’.

Sharyl Peterson of Grand Junction, Colorado relates another incident in the category of sartorial slip-ups. Sharyl has a friend who “served a church that had an overactive heating system in winter, and no air-conditioning during the summer. So, she had developed a habit, while people were going through the line after worship, of unfastening the front of her alb, so she would be cooler.
“One summer day was unusually hot, and she decided that she would just wear underwear underneath her alb, rather than her usual "full kit" (underwear, dress, jacket).
“As folks were going through the line, she automatically reached up and ripped open the Velcro tabs holding her alb closed, letting it hang open – and didn't realize the full impact of what she'd done until the next man standing in line with his hand out froze, gaped at her, and turned bright red. At which point, she did, too!
“I'm not sure exactly what she did, but knowing her, I am guessing she laughed and handled it as gracefully.”


Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “God split the Adam!”)
This from Peggy Neufeldt, who says these came from some “junior church students.”
However, the whole thing bears the marks of significant adult editing, including phrases from other items that have been circulating on the internet. But what the heck? They’re fun.
* In the beginning, which occurred near the start, there was nothing but God, darkness, and some gas. The Bible says, "The Lord thy God is one," but I think He must be a lot older than that. Anyway, God said, "Give me a light!" and someone did. Then God made the world.
* He split the Adam and made Eve. Adam and Eve were naked, but they weren't embarrassed because mirrors hadn't been invented yet. Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating one bad apple, so they were driven from the Garden of Eden. Not sure what they were driven in though, because they didn't have cars.
* Adam and Eve had a son, Cain, who hated his brother as long as he was Abel. Pretty soon all of the early people died off, except for Methuselah, who lived to be like a million or something.
* One of the next important people was Noah, who was a good guy, but one of his kids was kind of a Ham. Noah built a large boat and put his family and some animals on it. He asked some other people to join him, but they said they would have to take a rain check.
* After Noah came Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob was more famous than his brother, Esau, because Esau sold Jacob his birthmark in exchange for some pot roast. Jacob had a son named Joseph who wore a really loud sports coat.
* Another important Bible guy is Moses, whose real name was Charlton Heston. Moses led the Israel Lights out of Egypt and away from the evil Pharaoh after God sent ten plagues on Pharaoh's people. These plagues included frogs, mice, lice, bowels, and no cable. God fed the Israel Lights every day with manicotti. Then He gave them His Top Ten Commandments. These include don't lie, cheat, smoke, dance, or covet your neighbor's stuff. Oh, yeah, I just thought of one more: Humor thy father and thy mother.
* One of Moses' best helpers was Joshua who was the first Bible guy to use spies. Joshua fought the battle of Geritol and the fence fell over on the town.
* After Joshua came David. He got to be king by killing a giant with a slingshot. He had a son named Solomon who had about 300 wives and 500 porcupines. My teacher says he was wise, but that doesn't sound very wise to me. After Solomon there were a bunch of major league prophets. One of these was Jonah, who was swallowed by a big whale and then barfed up on the shore. There were also some minor league prophets, but I guess we don't have to worry about them.
* After the Old Testament came the New Testament. Jesus is the star of the New Testament. He was born in Bethlehem in a barn. (I wish I had been born in a barn, too, because my mom is always saying to me, "Close the door! Were you born in a barn" It would be nice to say, "As a matter of fact, I was.") During His life, Jesus had many arguments with sinners like the Pharisees and the Republicans. Jesus also had twelve opossums. The worst one was Judas Asparagus. Judas was so evil that they named a terrible vegetable after him.
* Jesus was a great man. He healed many leopards and even preached to some Germans on the Mount. But the Republicans and all those guys put Jesus on trial before Pontius the Pilot. Pilot didn't stick up for Jesus. He just washed his hands instead.
* Anyways, Jesus died for our sins, then came back to life again. He went up to Heaven but will be back at the end of the Aluminum. His return is foretold in the book of Revolution.


Bottom of the Barrel – One day a mother and her eight-year-old daughter were walking along the beach, just at the water’s edge. Suddenly, a gigantic wave splashed up on the beach, and swept the little girl out to sea.
“Oh, God,” lamented the mother, turning her face toward heaven and shaking her fist. “This was my only baby. I can’t have more children. She is the love and joy of my life. I have cherished every day that she’s been with me. Give her back to me, and I’ll be in church every day for the rest of my life!!!!”
Suddenly, another gigantic wave flashed up and deposited the girl back on the sand. The mother looked up to heaven and said, “She was wearing a hat!!!!”

Information and Stuff – (Read this section only if you want to know about subscribing, unsubscribing or quoting stuff from Rumors.) It would be nice if you could give Rumors a plug in your bulletin or newsletter. Please invite your friends (and even your enemies) to subscribe. There's no charge: RUMORS is free and it comes to your e-mail box every Sunday morning. Just send your friends the instructions to subscribe [below], and include an invitation to join the list ... perhaps something like this: “There’s a lively and fun newsletter called RUMORS which is available at no cost on the net. It’s for ‘Christians with a sense of humor’.” Please add the instructions to subscribe [below]. If you have a friend you think would enjoy Rumors, and you’d rather not give them the subscribing instructions below, send me an e-mail at and give me the e-mail address of your friend. If you are using something from Rumors in your sermon, give credit only as appropriate, without stopping the sermon dead in its tracks. I am delighted when Rumors is useful in the life and work of the church. As long as it is within your congregation or parish, you don’t need permission. You are welcome to use the stuff in church bulletins or newsletters. Please say where it came from, and please invite people to subscribe to RUMORS. An appropriate credit line would be; “From Ralph Milton's RUMORS, a free Internet ‘e-zine’ for Christians with a sense of humor." ... and please be sure to include these instructions to subscribe to RUMORS: To Subscribe:* Send an e-mail to:
* Don't put anything else in that e-mail
To Unsubscribe:
* Send an e-mail to:
* Don’t put anything else in that e-mail* If you are changing e-mail addresses, and your old address will no longer be in service, you do not need to unsubscribe. The sending computer will try a few times, and then give up..~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*Please Write – If you respond, react, think about, freak-out, or otherwise have things happen in your head as a result of reading the above, please send a note to:
Who knows, I might quote you in a future issue of RUMORS.All material is copyright © Ralph Milton.~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

No comments: