Thursday, January 3, 2008

Preaching Materials for January 13, 2008

R U M O R S # 483
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor

January 6th, 2008



Illigitimus non carborundum*


Next Week’s Readings – limping into the future
Rumors – thank you
Soft Edges – farewell Oscar
Good Stuff – installing love
Bloopers – a forth Sunday
We Get Letters – wisdom
Mirabile Dictu! – God or the lawn mower
Bottom of the Barrel – the heavenly computer competition
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)


Rib Tickler – There was a bad snowstorm in the Midwest. Chicago’s O’Hare airport had been closed for hours. The passenger agent was desperately trying to reschedule a long line of weary travelers.
Finally a priest found his way to the head of the line. “What is your final destination,” asked the agent.
“Heaven, I hope,” said the priest. “But today I’ll settle for Cleveland.”

Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you will probably hear in church this coming Sunday, January 13, if you are using the Revised Common Lectionary. This is the First Sunday after the Epiphany, and the Baptism of Jesus.

For children see “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year A,” pages 44 & 47 (see below).

Isaiah 42:1-9 – God’s dream of justice! God won’t bring justice by stomping on the bad guys. Verses two and three imply gentleness, tenderness – constant wooing, encouraging, loving – the way the best parents we can imagine would teach their child the art of life.
It’s not for lack of power that God chooses this way to bring justice. We’re talking about the God of the cosmos (v.5) who created a universe far more vast and complex and wonderful than we can even imagine.
God takes us by the hand (v.6) and teaches us that justice is a way of being – a way of living in a relationship of respect and love with all of God’s creation. God could impose justice, but that would take away the precious gift of freedom we were given when we were created – creatures made in “the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26) who accepted God’s challenge to taste the fruit of the tree of “the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17) and leave the garden of innocence to live as partners with God in creation.
And yes, I do believe (although there’s lots of evidence to the contrary) that humankind is moving forward – limping (like Jacob – Israel) into God’s dream for our world.

Psalm 29 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
1 Blow, blow, you winter winds.
Polish earth and sky with your power,
2 until every street and sidewalk is scoured clean,
until a shining earth reflects the glory of the heavens.
3 The spirit of the Lord roars across the oceans;
it bursts upon the mountains, and cascades down to the sea again.
4 The rush of the wind drowns out all other sounds;
the force of the wind drives the clouds like wild horses.
5 It bends birches and willows to the ground;
it breaks the strongest branches of the mighty oak.
6 Dust flies before the storm;
mice and gophers scurry for their holes.
7 Lightning skewers the sky;
8 Thunder rolls across the land;
the whole earth shivers.
9 Before the anger of the Lord, nothing stands unbent;
The leaves fall off the trees;
the cities empty their streets;
The mountains hide their heads in clouds.
10 The Lord commands the storm;
God rides the wind like a surfer on an ocean wave.
11 Let the wind be always at our backs, Lord.
Lend the strength of the storm to your people.
Then we can weather the worst,
and come through to the calm on the other side.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Books.
For details, go to

Acts 10:34-43 – I think the gospel writers were a bit down on Peter, because they paint him (quite often at least) as a bit of a klutz. But in this passage he is an articulate theologian and preacher.
I can identify with the klutz more than with the theologian – the klutz who loves deeply and passionately without any real ability to explain why or how – and with a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease.
Never mind. Here’s Peter explaining it all to me. And it all makes sense and I nod sagely. I just wish our poor, fragile churches didn’t spend so much precious energy debating these kinds of things.
The famous theologian Karl Barth, it is said, boiled all his ponderous systematic theology into the first two lines of the old children’s hymn. “Jesus loves me, this I know /and the Bible tells me so.”

Matthew 3:13-17 – I read this story, and I remember about a half-dozen years ago, Bev and I were on a Pilgrimage with the Vancouver School of Theology. We were on the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland. It’s a miserable wind-swept place but so full of history and Spirit, it made the hair on my neck stand up on end.
It was a sunny day, and our little group of pilgrims sat on the grass and the rocks near the coastline while we celebrated communion. As the elements were passed around, a pure white seagull circled overhead. Every one of us took that seagull to be the Spirit hovering over us.
Of course, every one of us also knew at the rational level that this was simply a hungry bird looking for lunch.
But God’s great gift to humans – unique to humans, I think – is imagination. Imagination to see beyond the rational – to see beyond mere facts – to move beyond the obvious into the realm of the Spirit, and know that the Holy Spirit can use a hungry seagull to be for us, at that moment, the hovering wings of the Holy Spirit bending over us.

There are children’s stories for every Sunday in the Lectionary, in “The Lectionary Story Bible,” by yours truly. The marvellous illustrations are by Margaret Kyle. There’s at least one story for each Sunday, usually two, and occasionally three. Go to the main Wood Lake Publications website at, or copy this address into your browser to get directly to the page about this book.

Rumors – I am writing this on New Year’s Day. 2008.
Last night, I did my year-end ablution – not your normal shower thing but filling the tub with nice hot water and soaking in it for a good long while, allowing the water to penetrate the calluses and crud accumulated over the year, and then watching all the “stuff” of the year past slosh noisily down the drain.
Today I will also change the batteries in our clocks and in the smoke alarm, and reflect on the gift of power and the gift of time and the gift of safety.
I’ve done all this for years, always laughing at myself a little. Always aware that at one level these are silly little actions that don’t change a thing. But at another level I am absolutely serious. We live our lives on several planes, and all of them must be cared for if life is to have balance and meaning.
One of the gifts for which I give thanks on this New Year’s Day is this little weekly outburst – Rumors.
Because ritual, story, song is the way we feed our Spirit – the way we nourish the “made in the image of God” person we are. But ritual, story and song need more than just the doing of them.
They need reflection. We need to bring them into consciousness – to think about them – to roll them around in our minds to discover their true nature – to taste them and know if they are sweet or acidic – and then to set aside those that no longer nourish the soul.
That’s why Rumors is such a gift to me. It pushes me to bring into consciousness much of my interior life – and to do that publicly in your presence. I do that, knowing that you will receive these ramblings with kindness and good humor, and treat them with care and love. Rumors has been going on for years and I have never once felt that trust violated.
No, I don’t mean that I share all my innermost confessions with you. There are things I share only with my closest friends. Some things only with family. Some things only with Bev. Some things only with God. And there are things deep down that I don’t even know about.
But still.
At an important and powerful level, this little thing called Rumors is a great gift to me. Knowing that you read these words, that sometimes they touch a tender part of your soul, is a central part of that gift. Of course that feeds my ego. But it feeds me at a much deeper level as well.
So I thank you. I feel honored and grateful.
And I offer the prayer that 2008 may be a year of creativity and joy, and that God will fill your soul with grace and power and hope!


Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
Farewell Oscar
The year 2008 feels a little colder than 2007 – and not because of the weather. Oscar Peterson died two days before Christmas.
I never knew Oscar personally. But I knew people who did know him. Which is, after all, the way most of us get to know those who actually change the world. Even Jesus told his disciples that most people would have to get to know him through them.
Oscar Peterson had lots of disciples.
The one I knew best was a tiny man – almost the opposite of Peterson’s bulk – named Al McNab. Al worked the night shift as Music Director for radio station CJOR in Vancouver. It wasn’t supposed to be the night shift, but he came to the station after playing jazz piano until 2:00 a.m., and then organized the music for the next day’s programs.
Al tried to teach me about chord progressions, without much success. He had more success playing vinyl LPs of his heroes: Previn, Brubeck, Monk, Garner…
But he always turned to the legendary Art Tatum as his ultimate example.
In the 1950s, Peterson was just beginning his climb to international fame. His famous Carnegie Hall concert happened barely a decade before.
Al would pull out Oscar Peterson’s early albums. “This guy,” he assured me, “is the next Art Tatum.”
And he was. After his death, the British Guardian newspaper editorialized, “No one in the history of the art form, short of the great Art Tatum, can ever have played jazz piano with quite the same exuberance, verve, and technical majesty as Oscar Peterson.”
Those of us who play with words like to suggest that words are our primary vehicle of communication. It’s not true – we also communicate through touch, through art, through music.
"There's an extreme joy I get in playing that I've never been able to explain," Peterson said in a 1996 interview. "I can only transmit it through the playing; I can't put it into words."
Of all musical forms, it seems to me, jazz offers the best analogy for life. Every day, like every performance, is an improvisation. You know the basic melody – and the chord progressions Al McNab tried to teach me – but what you do with that melody depends on how you and the people around you interact.
Guitarist Lorne Lofsky, who plays with Peterson’s quartet in the 1980s, referred to “situations where you never know what's going to happen from one moment to the next.”
There’s no script, no conductor; you collaborate creatively, or you crash...
Obituaries suggested that memorial donations be sent to Christian Children’s Fund or World Vision. All his life, Oscar Peterson was a religious man. On one occasion, Peterson put on an impromptu concert during Sunday morning worship at Toronto’s Bloor Street United Church.
Until I read those obituaries, I had never known that his middle name was Emmanuel – the Hebrew word meaning “God with us.”
It seems appropriate. Oscar Peterson was not God, but in his music, God surely rejoiced.

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 Chris Duxbury in Australia. It’s been bopping around the internet for years, and Chris is simply the last person to send it to me. I’m not sure why I’ve resisted putting it here in Rumors. But I will trust your powers of discernment because it’s interesting and quite possibly useful to you.

Installing LoveTech Support: Yes? How can I help you?
Customer: Well, after much consideration, I've decided to install Love. Can you guide me through the process?
TS: Yes. I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?
Cus: Well, I'm not very technical, but I think I'm ready. What do I do first?
TS: The first step is to open your Heart. Have you located your Heart?
Cus: Yes, but there are several other programs running now. Is it okay to install Love while they are Running?
TS: What programs are running?
Cus: Let's see, I have Past Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Grudge and Resentment running right now.
TS: No problem. Love will gradually erase Past Hurt from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory but it will no longer disrupt other programs. Love will eventually override Low Self-Esteem with a module of its own called High Self-Esteem. However, you have to completely turn off Grudge and Resentment. Those programs prevent Love from being properly installed. Can you turn those off?
Cus: I don't know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?
TS: With pleasure. Go to your start menu and invoke Forgiveness. Do this as many times as necessary until Grudge and Resentment have been completely erased. Cus: Okay, done! Love has started installing itself. Is that normal?
TS: Yes, but remember that you have only the base program. You need to begin connecting to other Hearts in order to get the upgrades.
Cus: Oops! I have an error message already. It says, "Error – Program not run on external components." What should I do?
TS: Don't worry. It means that the Love program is set up to run on Internal Hearts, but has not yet been run on your Heart. In non-technical terms, it simply means you have to Love yourself before you can Love others.
Cus: So, what should I do?
TS: Pull down Self-Acceptance; then click on the following files: Forgive Self; Realize Your Worth; and Acknowledge your Limitations.
Cus: Okay, done.
TS: Now, copy them to the "My Heart" directory. The system will overwrite any conflicting files and begin patching faulty programming. Also, you need to delete Verbose Self-Criticism from all directories and empty your Recycle Bin to make sure it is completely gone and never comes back.
Cus: Got it. Hey! My heart is filling up with new files. Smile is playing on my monitor and Peace and Contentment are copying themselves all over My Heart. Is this normal?
TS: Sometimes. For others it takes awhile, but eventually everything gets it at the proper time. So Love is installed and running. One more thing before we hang up. Love is Freeware. Be sure to give it and its various modules to everyone you meet. They will in turn share it with others and return some cool modules back to you.
Cus: Thank you, God.

From the folks who make Rumors possible – Some new and exciting things are happening in the Christian community. Editor Mike Schwartzentruber has gathered thoughts, stories and wisdom for a faith of transformation, and offers them in a book called, “The Emerging Christian Way.” It has become a best seller in the Christian community, and a “must read” for those with the courage to explore new ideas and more faithful ways of being God’s people.
Go to 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. Or phone 1-800-663-2775.


Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – Jens Hanson writes: “We attended a church in New Mexico on December 23. That Sunday was identified as the “Forth Sunday in Advent.” There was no comment about that so maybe it is a special Sunday, not an error.”
Jens, I often wonder if the Spirit nudges typists fingers so they make “errors” that offer an insight. There may be someone in that congregation who read that as a commission to go forth into Christmas to experience the miracle of God’s grace.

From the file:
* Sign in a church kitchen: Will ladies kindly empty tea pots, rinse around and before leaving, please stand upside down in the sink."
* Sign-up sheet for anyone wishing to be baptized on the table in the foyer.
* Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say "hell" to someone who doesn't care much about you.

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! – What lies behind us and what lies before us are inconsequential compared to what lies within us.
source unknown via Don Sandin

One old friend is better than two new ones.
Yiddish Proverb via Jim Taylor
God does not believe in atheists. Therefore atheists do not exist.
source unknown, via Evelyn McLachlan


We Get Letters – Doug Lawson of Sherwood Park, Alberta has me totally confused in his analysis of my Latin “motto” last week. “The first verb is imperfect subjunctive and the second present subjunctive? If you found those verbs as such, okay, but why not use the present indicative for both?”
I have no idea what you are talking about, Doug, since I never understood English grammar, much less Latin grammar. I just try real hard to write good for youses guyses, like, you know, without never none of them double negatives and dangling pickles and stuff like that there, whatever.
A batch of others also wrote telling me that the Latin “motto” was mistranslated. But I got it off the net, and everybody knows that means it must be correct.

My friend of many years, Vern Ratzlaff of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan sent a personal note of greetings. I was particularly struck by a phrase at the end of his note where he expresses gratitude for “the many things said and written which have kept me off balance.”
That’s some of what we mean when we talk about “wisdom.”


Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “God or the lawn mower!”) This is one of those collections of delightful children’s sayings, which show distinct signs of adult redaction. Doesn’t matter. They’re good fun and some are worth remembering.
* I believe you should live each day as if it is your last, which is why I don’t have any clean laundry because, come on, who wants to wash clothes on the last day of their life? –Age 15
* Give me the strength to change the things I can, the grace to accept the things I cannot, and a great big bag of money. – Age 13
* It sure would be nice if we got a day off for the president’s birthday, like they do for the Queen. Of course, then we would have a lot of people voting for a candidate born on July 3 or December 26, just for the long weekends. – Age 8
* Democracy is a beautiful thing, except for that part about letting just any old yokel vote. – Age 10
* Home is where the house is. – Age 6
* I bet living in a nudist colony takes all the fun out of Halloween. – Age 13
* For centuries, people thought the moon was made of green cheese. Then the astronauts found that the moon is really a big hard rock. That’s what happens to cheese when you leave it out. – Age 6
* My younger brother asked me what happens after we die. I told him we get buried under a bunch of dirt and worms eat our bodies. I guess I should have told him the truth – that most of us go to hell and burn eternally – but I didn’t want to upset him. – Age 10
* When I go to heaven, I want to see my grandpa again. But he better have lost the nose hair and the old-man smell. – Age 5
* I once heard the voice of God. It said “Vrrrrmmmmm.” Unless it was just a lawn mower. – Age 11
* As you make your way through this hectic world of ours, set aside a few minutes each day. At the end of the year, you’ll have a couple of days saved up. – Age 7
* Think of the biggest number you can. Now add five. Then, imagine if you had that many Twinkies. Wow, that’s five more than the biggest number you could come up with! – Age 6
* If we could just get everyone to close their eyes and visualize world peace for an hour, imagine how serene and quiet it would be until the looting started. – Age 15


Bottom of the Barrel – Bill McSeveney sent this along. It’s been here before, but Bill implies there’s an important moral to the story. And surely, on this first Sunday of the New Year, we need something with a moral for our morale.

Jesus and Satan were having an on-going argument about who was better on the computer. They had been going at it for days, and frankly God was tired of hearing all the bickering.
Finally fed up, God said, "That’s it! I have had enough. I am going to set up a test that will run for two hours, and from those results, I will judge who does the better job."
So Satan and Jesus sat down at the keyboards and typed away.
They moused.
They faxed.
They e-mailed.
They e-mailed with attachments.
They downloaded.
They did spreadsheets!
They wrote reports.
They created labels and cards.
They created charts and graphs.
They did some genealogy reports
They did every job known to humanity.
Jesus worked with heavenly efficiency and Satan was faster than hell.
Then, ten minutes before their time was up, lightning suddenly flashed across the sky, thunder rolled, rain poured, and, of course, the power went off...
Satan stared at his blank screen and screamed every curse word known in the underworld.
Jesus just sighed.
Finally the electricity came back on, and each of them restarted their computers. Satan started searching frantically, screaming:
"It's gone! It's all gone! I lost everything when the power went out!"
Meanwhile, Jesus quietly started printing out all of his files from the past two hours of work.
Satan looked over at Jesus. "Wait!" he screamed. "That's not fair! He cheated! How come he has all his work and I don't have any?"
God just shrugged and said, “Jesus saves!”


* Don’t let those [of questionable parentage] wear you down.

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: