Friday, May 2, 2008

Preaching Materials for May 11, 2008

R U M O R S # 500 (Wheeee!!!)
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor

May 4th, 2008


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

A number of you wrote to say that you were pretty turned off by the Story Lectionary discussion group. I don’t blame you. The program we were using allowed spammers to fill the thing up with porn. It was really ugly.
Not only that, the software wanted all kind of information and it was quite confusing to sign in.
So we’ve put that poor thing out of it’s misery. It is gone. Kaput!
And we’ve launched a new one. Much simpler. No forms to fill in. Just send me an e-mail and say you’d like to be on it.
We’ve also re-named it. We’re calling it “Share-the-wealth.” We hope folks will use it to share their ideas, comments, resources – the wealth of experience, knowledge, insight and material that you have in your heads and filing cabinets.
So please join us. Just send me a note.

Revised Common Lectionary – let’s have a party
Rumors – knowing when to stop
Soft Edges – information overload
Good Stuff – beware of garbage trucks
Bloopers – humming the hymns
We Get Letters – the circle goes round and round
Mirabile Dictu! – poetic justice
Bottom of the Barrel – the power of prayer
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 Wayne Seybert of Longmont, Colorado.
A young girl walks into her father's study and sees that he is writing, so she sits down. Her father looks up and then back to his writing. He takes his pencil and crosses out a word here and one there. He writes more and crosses out some also.
“What are you writing?” the girl asks.
“I’m writing a sermon for Sunday,” says the dad.
“How do you know what to say?”
“God tells me what to write.”
The girl shakes her head sadly. “You’re not listening, are you?”


These are the readings you will probably hear in church next Sunday, May 11th, which is Pentecost Sunday.
Because this is one of the high festivals of the church year, the Story Lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary share the same core reading – the story of the birthday of the church, Acts 2.
And it’s also Mother’s Day.

The Revised Common Lectionary calls for Acts 2:1-21. The Story Lectionary refers to the whole chapter.
The story of Pentecost is one of the most dramatic in our Christian heritage. The celebration of the birthday of the church is gradually gaining the attention it deserves.
It’s important not to get hung up on arguments about whether there were literally tongues of flame, or whether Peter said those exact words. What’s important is the experience.
The people gathered on that Pentecost day had a life-transforming experience. They struggled to put words around that – to find ways of describing what was both beautiful and terrifying, and beyond words.
Pentecost calls us to get beyond propositions and theologies and statements and open ourselves to the work of the Spirit in whatever way that happens for us.
In the Story Lectionary materials, we provide three possible ways of telling the story. You could use all three. Or one. Or none. There’s the scripture reading itself, arranged as Reader’s Theatre. There’s a story of Mary of Magdala “dancing in the Spirit,” and that same story adapted as chancel drama by Susan Heydt. Go to

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
24 Abundant and plentiful are your creations, O Lord;
you imagined them, and they came into being.
The world is full of your vision.
25, 26 You fill the abyss with the ocean, the seamless womb of life.
Upon its surface, you support tankers and freighters and cruise ships;
in its depths dwell creatures beyond counting –
sleek and gaudy, strange and deadly,
anchored like rocks and faster than fear.
From invisible plankton to playful whales,
the Lord God made them all.
27 All these owe their existence to you;
you set each in an environment where it can survive.
29 But if you turned your thoughts away from them, they would vanish,
a fleeting figment of your imagination.
Your spirit gives them life, as your spirit put breath in our clay;
without it, we return to the dust from which we came,
the dead elements of bygone stars.
30 Blow your breath through our being, Lord.
Create us afresh;
renew the life of your creation.
31 Then the glory of God will go on forever;
all living things will rejoice in God's gift of life.
The vision of the Lord will be evident
in all creatures great and small;
32 from coral cells to the continents themselves.
God strokes the earth and it trembles in ecstasy;
The Lord excites the mountains and they erupt in lava.
33 Is it any wonder I sing the praises of God?
As long as I live, my life itself attests God's glory.
34 So may even my imagination be devoted to God,
and let the Lord fill all my thoughts.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Books.
For details, go to

Numbers 11:24-30 – This is one of those passages where you know there are parts you just don’t get. There’s more going on here than we can see from this distance of time and culture.
But no matter. There’s meat enough in there to chew on. Moses doesn’t buy into the idea of a religious franchise – that only those within our area of control get to be prophets.
Moses wants everyone to be prophets. But if we’re going to say that, we need to be very clear what prophesy is and what it is not.
It’s not about fortune-telling, or soothsaying, or divining the future. A better word might be discernment. A prophet struggles to see a situation as it really is – one who through prayer and study and investigation and clear-headed thinking helps us see what is going on. And what the consequences might be.
That’s what Peter was doing at the Pentecost party.

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 – This familiar passage is the origin of the metaphor of the church as the “body” with its various functions and capabilities. But I wonder about the second half of verse 3. “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”
When Paul was writing this, saying “Jesus is Lord,” was treason. It meant you were not saying “Caesar is Lord.” Saying “Jesus is Lord” was risking prison or possibly your life.
But nowadays, in most of the western world at least, the worst such a statement will get you is a strange look and people sidling away from you. And it is very easy for us to say “Jesus is Lord” when it may be a bare-faced lie and the Holy Spirit is nowhere in the vicinity.

John 7:37-39 – Water, it seems to me, is one of the central metaphors of the Bible. And that makes sense because most of the scripture stories take place in aired country where water is scarce and precious. “Living water,” could also be translated as “moving water,” as opposed to a stagnant pond.
Here in Canada, we don’t realize the preciousness of water. Canadians have more water and waste more water than just about anyone. Perhaps we need to push the metaphor a bit more to help us grasp the preciousness of the water – even as we use that metaphor to understand the refreshing preciousness of living water.

A children’s version of the story in Acts 2 can be found in “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year A,” page 116, and a story based on the 1 Corinthians reading on page 118. Click the main Wood Lake Publications website at, or click on the following address which takes you directly to the “Lectionary Story Bible.”


Rumors – “How will I know when it’s time to quit?” I asked Jim Taylor.
“When it stops being fun,” he said.
We were talking about Rumors. During this past week I’ve had about half a dozen e-mails from folks pointing out that we were at issue # 499 and the next one would be #500, although there may have been a bit of slippage in that count from time to time. Keeping track of numbers has never been my strength.
Whatever the exact number may be, 500 is pretty close. When we hit 520, that’ll be ten years! And I have to confess that as I go along, I meet myself coming around corners sometimes. Certainly I’ve recycled a bunch of old jokes. (Can you get carbon points for recycling old jokes?)
And I have to confess that there are some weeks when I am sure I’m chewing my cabbage over and over. Been there. Said that. Done that. We’ve all met older people who manage to be colossal bores. I really don’t want to be one of them.
The good thing, and the bad thing about Rumors is that folks can take their names off the list and I never know about it. There’s instructions at the end of every issue on how to do it. Christian folks tend to be kind and don’t like to hurt people, so they quietly leave without telling me that I’m getting tiresome.
On the other hand, the numbers keep going up. I just checked. 7,233! And every week I get a few kind notes from people who tell me the stuff is interesting/helpful/funny/etc.
And I’m still having fun. I gain far more than I give because I get to flex my mental muscles and to listen for what the Spirit is saying through our lively scriptures and through the feedback I get from you folks. So at the ripe age of three-score and thirteen years, I find myself singularly blessed that I have been given a ministry to kind and gentle people like you, from all over the world.
All of you in ministry of one sort or another. You’re the kind of folks who make the best kind of friends. So I am richly blessed.
A deep, deep thanks to all of you!


Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
Information Overload
Somewhere, flipping through a magazine, I saw an advertisement for Keno, an on-line gambling game.
The ad showed a flock of baseballs heading towards a batter, who was halfway through a mighty swing. The caption claimed that having a lot more balls in the air gives you a better chance of hitting one of them.
It may work for gambling, although I personally doubt it. It certainly doesn’t work for baseball.
A batter can hit a ball because there is only one coming at him. His eyes focus on that single point. His brain calculates the trajectory of that point. His muscles swing the bat to intersect with that unique trajectory.
But fling a dozen balls at once at that batter, and his eye has nothing specific to focus on. The human eye is a remarkable instrument – it can see clearly only an area about the size of a quarter held at arms length. With a dozen balls arriving at one time, the eye doesn’t know what to focus on. The brain, the muscles, cannot coordinate.
If a mighty swing actually connects with anything, it will certainly be pure chance.
Although the ad was about gambling, it identifies a social problem today. We don’t have multiple baseballs flying at us. Instead, we have information.
We suffer from information overload.
The news is filled with situations I should get upset about. My mailbox is crammed with letters from worthy charities, all hoping I’ll connect with them. Television programs spray commercials at me. And my e-mail overflows with unwanted junk.
No one just goes for a walk any more, it seems. They wear iPods or iPhones and their iLk. So that they can still get text messages, stock market bulletins, music, radio programs – yes, even phone calls – while they’re out.
Multitasking works only as long as none of the tasks requires concentrated attention. But you cannot solve homelessness while researching hot tubs while practicing yoga while playing a five-manual pipe organ.
You know what it’s like driving at night in a blizzard? After a while, all those snowflakes whirling at me in my headlights become hypnotic.
I feel the same way about today’s information overload. It comes at me, until I am mesmerized, not by any particular piece of information, but simply by the swirling vortex of the blizzard itself.
The other day, a friend asked, “Didn’t you get our invitation...?”
I actually wanted to be there. But if I received their invitation, I didn’t recognize it. I must have junked along with all the rest of the spam.
The biblical prophet Elijah claimed he heard the voice of God in a “still, small voice” – not in the din of storm, the excitement of flame, or the terror of earthquake.
In our blizzard of information, it becomes increasingly hard to hear a still small voice – whether you call that the voice of God, of conscience, or of inner self.
To hit a home run, you have to deal with just one baseball at a time.


Good Stuff – Robert Bates of Florence, Massachusetts, sent us this item called, “Beware of Garbage Trucks,” by David J. Pollay
Sixteen years ago I learned this lesson. I learned it in the back of a New York City taxi cab. Here's what happened.
I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for Grand Central Station. We were driving in the right lane when, all of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his breaks, Skidded, and missed the other car's back end by just inches!
The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and started yelling bad words at us.
My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was friendly. So, I said, "Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!" And this is when my taxi driver told me what I now call, "The Law of the Garbage Truck."
Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it. And if you let them, they'll dump it on you. When someone wants to dump on you, don't take it personally. You just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on.
You'll be happy you did.


Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – Harvie Barker of Penticton, BC saw a paragraph about worship resources that referred to “our humn book.” Harvie writes: “From time to time I see people in worship services just standing up with a hymn book but obviously not singing. Maybe they had a humn book? Maybe there's a special edition available - with just the music and no words for those who just want to humn along!”

Maisie Parker drove past a church near Birmingham( England), last week. There was a huge notice displayed outside which read "He is not here! He has risen!”
Says Maisie, “Not much point in going there to worship then!!”

* We will hold our annual picnic on the church grounds. In case of rain, it will be hell in the church hall.

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! – It’s time we moved beyond toleration into appreciation of the other’s faith and culture.
Karen Armstrong

Nostalgia consists of longing for the place you wouldn't move back to.
source unknown via Evelyn McLachlan

Faith is the link that connects our weakness with God’s strength.
source unknown


We Get Letters – Chuck Rinkel of Johnston, Iowa writes: “You have just proved how old I am getting. They say that over the years, jokes make a complete circle if you stick around long enough. I'm afraid that all of the jokes in this issue have made that circle, some of them several times for me. Fortunately, most of them are good for a second, third, etc, laugh. Of course the ‘blind pilot’ was the best one.”
Chuck – it’s true. It’s true. Your mind is a little like mine, in that I can remember every joke I’ve been told, but I can’t remember what I was supposed to pick up at the grocery on the way home.
But not all of us are “blessed” in the same way! Praise God!


Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “poetic justice!”)
This by John McTavish of Huntsville, Ontario via Jim Taylor.
This young woman came home from work one day and discovered that her dog had died. Not only was she grief stricken but she had the added problem of having to dispose of the body.
She phoned the veterinarian.
The vet assured her that they would dispose of the body. “But we don’t do house calls. You’ll have to bring the dog in.”
This created a problem. First of all, it was a big dog. Secondly, the girl did not have a car. So she decided to take public transportation.
With some difficulty she managed to squeeze the dog’s body into an old suitcase and off she went. She had to lug the suitcase up the stairs at the station. But fortunately help arrived in the form of a nice young man who noticed her struggling. He offered to lend a hand.
She gladly handed him the suitcase and he lugged it up the stairs. When they got to the top, the nice young man smiled at her and said, “This suitcase sure is heavy. Do you mind me asking what’s in it?”
The girl became flustered and embarrassed. She didn’t want to gross him out by telling him what was in it. So she told a little white lie. “It’s my computer.”
With that, the nice young man took off, suitcase in hand!
The girl didn’t bother chasing him.
Exodus 20: 15.
For that matter, Proverbs 26: 11.


Bottom of the Barrel –
This from Irene Carter in Calgary, Alberta.
In a small conservative town (you get to choose which one), there wasn't a place to get a drink for miles around, so a local entrepreneur saw an opportunity: He started to build a tavern.
The local church started a campaign to block the bar from opening. They prayed and signed petitions. The businessman was polite when congregants came to protest, but work continued on the tavern.
The night before the grand opening, a lightning strike hit the bar and it burned to the ground.
The church folks were rather smug in their piousness after that – until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the destruction of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means.
The church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection to the building's demise in its reply to the court.
“I don't know how I'm going to decide this,” the judge said, “but as it appears we have a bar owner that believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that doesn't.”


Information and Stuff – (Read this section only if you want to know about subscribing, unsubscribing or quoting stuff from Rumors.)
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this great story! And thanks also for correctly attributing it! My name is Chris, and I work with David J. Pollay, the author of The Law of the Garbage Truck™ - Beware of Garbage Trucks™! I just wanted to stop by and let you know that you can read the original story on David’s blog I know he’d love to have you stop by!

Also check out the video of people in New York City taking the No Garbage Trucks!™ Pledge: It’s pretty cool.

Thanks again!