Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Preachng Materials for July 6th, 2008

R U M O R S # 508
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor

June 29, 2008


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

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The Story Lectionary – our common ancestor
Revised Common Lectionary – fundamental courage
Rumors – marrying Rebekahs
Soft Edges – private property
Good Stuff – the master and the novice
Bloopers – a fire in the what?
We Get Letters – plumbing on the inside
Mirabile Dictu! – drive sideways
Bottom of the Barrel – the island of Trid
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 John Cameron
There was a child who was asked why he called his crossed-eyed teddy "Gladly". “It’s from a song we sing in church,” he said. “Gladly, the cross-eyed bear.”

Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, July 6th, which is the 8th Sunday after Pentecost.

Story Lectionary
Genesis 16:1-16, 21:1-21
This is a time when we absolutely must look at the story of Hagar. The story is longer than the conventional reading. You can check out the Reader’s Theatre version we have on the Story Lectionary website:
Bruce Feiler, who is Jewish, wrote an excellent book called “Abraham.” In it, he proposes (as others have done) that it is around Abraham that we can bring together the faith traditions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. To do that, we need to reacquaint ourselves with how the legend connects us with Islam through the story of Hagar and her son Ishmael.
Hagar wasn’t on our radar until a few years ago. When I wrote the first edition of “The Family Story Bible,” it didn’t occur to me to include her story until a reviewer pointed out the gap in my presentation. Hagar wasn’t in the lectionary until the Revised Common Lectionary came out. Most people know the name only as a character in a comic strip.
There’s a tendency to paint Sarah as the villain in the piece and Abraham as her wimpy accomplice. It’s important to remember that the legend is told from the Hebrew point of view, and that Sarah is the hero who made it possible for God’s promise to be fulfilled. And slavery was simply an accepted thing in those days, and Sarah had the right of life or death over Hagar. In the sensibility of biblical times, Sarah did the right thing.
But it is God who is writing the script in this legend, and it is God who saves Hagar in the end, though it feels to me as if she winds up with the consolation prize. Because the story goes on to tell us the further adventures of Abe, Sarah and Isaac, we hear nothing more at all about Hagar and Ishmael.
A children’s version of the story of Hagar and her son is in the Lectionary Story Bible, Year A, page 139 and in the Family Story Bible, page 33.


Revised Common Lectionary
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 – I’ve always warmed to the story of Rebecca. She lived a kind of fundamental courage that we seldom honor, but which to me is a far greater courage than that of the military hero.
Rebecca plays the hand she is dealt. In this episode, she does the expected courteous thing and volunteers to water the stranger’s camels. If you are wondering what that involves, check out the reading in the Story Lectionary:
Rebecca had strong legs! She also had a strong heart because when she’s asked if she will go as a bride to someone she’s never heard of in a place she’s never seen, she simply says, “I will.” The truth of course, is that she had no choice.
Rebecca is a role model for all those courageous people who have walked through the night with a sick child, who have cared for elders in the darkness of dementia, who have stayed with work that was important rather than work that was lucrative. There are thousands of such stories and those stories live in the hearts of many people who will hear this story read from pulpits around the world.

Psalm 45:10-17 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
(an alternate reading is Song of Solomon 2:8-13)
When I was younger, I moved on to new adventures, while my elders remained behind. Now I watch younger colleagues move on to their new worlds.
10 The world is waiting for you, my friend.
Do not let yourself be held back by past loyalties;
you have grown bigger than our local puddle.
11 Important people will want to consult you.
International institutions will seek your advice.
Corporate clients will reward you richly for your wisdom.
12 Beware of the things that will tempt you.
13 The camp followers will cling to you;
with perfect teeth and plastic virtue they will try to seduce you.
14 They will flit around you like fireflies;
they will massage your ego.
15 You will become a literary lion, a familiar figure in the broadcast studios;
studio staff will know you on a first-name basis.
16 Your followers will be an influential school;
17 You will be famous.
But. Do not forget who you are.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Books.
For details, go to

Romans 7:15-25a – In a former incarnation – well, actually after I wrote the book “Man to Man,” I trotted around the countryside doing men’s events. The guys who gathered came for a variety of reasons – mostly struggling toward some sort of masculine integrity in the light of the feminist movement.
On several occasions I encountered men who had physically abused their wives and/or children. Some of them wailed, “I can’t help it. When I get mad, I just loose it. I can’t stop myself.”
“Have you ever been mad at your wife when you were in the mall?”
“Well, yeah!”
“And did you hit her then?”
“Ah, no.”
“If you could stop yourself at the mall, how come you couldn’t stop yourself at home?”
If Paul had been with those men’s groups, his argument would have been shot down in flames. He complains he can’t control his “member.” He’s helpless. He’s a slave. Only an external force can free him.
Paul lived in a society where slavery was the norm. A slave could do nothing to earn or gain or achieve freedom. Only the master could grant freedom. In that society his argument made sense.
In ours it doesn’t.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 – And very nicely, the response to Paul’s complaint comes out of the mists of time from Rebecca, and from Matthews gospel.
Says Rebecca, “Look Paul. If you have to do it, you can do it. Have you ever watered ten camels? Have you any idea what it was like to be married to wazzoo like Isaac? Give me a break!”
Jesus is more gentle. “Take my yoke, my spirit, into your soul. You will find the strength you need to conquer your demons. If you accept the tenderness of my love, you will discover the spiritual strength that is part of your very being. It’s a strength and courage you have always had. If you accept my love, you’ll discover that your yoke is easy and your burden is light.”
OK, so I am taking huge liberties with Matthew’s gospel and the “quote” reflects my feelings, not Jesus. But I think I’m somewhere in the ball park.

For children see “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year A,” page 147 where you will find the story of Rebekah and Isaac, and page 150 where you will find a story based on the Matthew reading.
Click the main Wood Lake Publications website at, or click on the following address which takes you directly to the “Lectionary Story Bible.”


Rumors – Many of my male friends married Rebekahs. I certainly did.
For me, this was 50 years ago this August. My friends and I discovered that somehow during the course of the marriage, the Rebekahs found their power. Their strength. Their own sense that they had intelligence and power and perception that was equal to, sometimes greater than, the men they had married.
And like Rebekah of four thousand years ago, these modern day Rebekahs began to take a hand in their own destiny – began to assert themselves. And that made for conflict that strained the marriage.
Whenever we have a hierarchy of power, where one person has power over another, there’s the possibility of conflict. When the Hebrew slaves of Egypt – when the African slaves in the US – didn’t want to be slaves anymore, there was conflict. When women don’t want to be treated like a piece of male property anymore, there is conflict.
On one occasion, when a group of our friends were enjoying an evening together, we realized that all five couples were still married to their original partners. We talked about the conflict we’d gone through and how we had to work through the conflict to find a new and much better marriage.
And we recognized with sadness how many of our friends had lost their marriages trying to do exactly that.
Jesus showed us very clearly what to do with conflict. Jesus walked into Jerusalem, right into the conflict, faced it, embraced it, gave his life into it, and on the other side, found resurrection.


Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
Private Property
One summer, while I was at university, I worked on a bush crew. Before we headed out into the northern forests, our employer issued equipment to each of us: a backpack, a sleeping bag, some instruments, an axe... and a file to keep the axe sharp.
Having had some previous experience with axes, I knew that the only safe axe is a sharp axe. I carefully wrapped my file in waterproof plastic film and tucked it away in my pack.
Others were not as careful. Within weeks, most of the files had been left out in the rain. They were rusty, dulled, useless.
Halfway through the summer, I sat in a remote camp one evening, touching up the edge on my axe. When I finished, another crew member grabbed for my file.
“No!” I said. “You won’t take care of it.”
“It’s not your file,” he retorted. “The company handed them out to all of us!”
I lied. “It is so my file,” I blurted.
“You brought it from Vancouver with you?”
“Yes,” I lied again.
But my answer satisfied him. He left my file alone.
Clearly, he felt he had a right to take, and use, anything that was common property. But private property, personal property, was sacrosanct, untouchable.
It was the first time I became conscious of how private ownership can become something akin to divine right. Since childhood, I had owned a bicycle, some clothing, some sports equipment... But no one had ever challenged that ownership. So the issue never came up.
Since then I’ve realized that in our society private property has become an article of faith – unquestionable, unchallengeable.
A man buys an acreage. It carries a covenant that the land will be preserved as wilderness. Technically, he obeys. He doesn’t sub-divide for housing. But he logs it for firewood; he bulldozes access roads; he stores construction equipment on it. “It’s my land,” he says.
Legally, the beach is public. A couple who own a waterfront lot put up fences to limit access to the beach. “We bought the lot,” they say. “We have rights too.”
A social worker calls on a dysfunctional family. The mother protests, “They’re my kids. No one’s going to tell me how to raise my kids.”
From Moses’ time on, private ownership has been assumed to have benefits. But it also had responsibilities. Ownership was like a lease from God. Eventually, the owner was expected to return it to God, in better condition.
Ownership was never carte blanche, to do what you want with.
In our thinking, private ownership has become so entrenched that most people cannot imagine any alternative. The notion that a river, a valley, an ocean, can belong to everyone offends them. It simply invites someone else to exploit that resource.
Or else it raises fears of socialism, communism, and Big Brother rampant.
But the real alternative to private ownership is neither government control nor anarchy. It is responsibility – even for that which you do not own.


Good Stuff – This from Don Sandin. It’s an old story that’s been around in various versions and may well be apocryphal. In one version, it was a young girl and a tired mother on welfare. It certainly could have happened. And if it didn’t, it should have.
The story rings some bells inside me, because I remember the delight when I played chopsticks on the piano, and a family friend sat down and played with me. I don’t remember what she played, but it was wonderful.

Wishing to encourage her young son's progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her.
Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked "No Admittance.” When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.
Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."
At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy's ear, "Don't quit. Keep playing."
Then leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child and he added a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice offered music that had a beauty far beyond the notes that were heard.


Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – Pat Bonell of Ottawa says that at last Evensong, the reader read "the fire in the brazier" as "the fire in the brassiere".

Eric Lynk says this is the anthem promised in the bulletin: “Sins are Lifted at Calgary."

Forgive us Father, for we have Synod!”
a prayer at a church gathering, via April Dailey

Sign in the church baby nursery: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51)
via Evelyn McLachlan

You nonconformists are all alike.
from a bumper sticker, via John Ellis

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! – When we cease to wonder, we cease to worship.
source unknown via Evelyn McLachlan

After crosses and losses, we grow humbler and wiser.
Benjamin Franklin

These are the days when Christians are expected to praise every creed except their own.
source unknown


We Get Letters –Wayne Seybert of Longmont, Colorado saw a sign once that said, "Eat right, live right, die anyway." His response:
“I am living wrong, eating wrong, playing wrong, drinking wrong. But I am laughing everyday so I can attend the funerals of the people who live right, eat right, play right and exercise right.”

Carl Chamberlain of Lockport, New York writes: “The comment about the civil engineer putting a waste disposal line thorough the recreational area reminded me of this story.” The couple were with child and patiently waiting. The due date came and went. Eventually a new daughter arrived. The mother was not surprised. “I’m a contractor,” she said. “I build houses. It always takes longer to put the plumbing on the inside.”

Laura Baum of New Mexico says this story is “alleged to be true, but who knows? Who cares?”
Little Kellie, went with a neighbor girl to church for First Communion practice. The pastor had the children cup their hands, and when he gave them the "Host," in this case, a piece of bread, he said, "God be with you." Apparently this made quite an impression on Kellie. She came home and told her mother to cup her hands and bend down. Kellie took a piece of bread from her sandwich, placed it in her mother's hands, and whispered, in her most angelic voice, "God will get you."

Eric Lynk of Winsloe, Prince Edward Island, writes: “When I ministered in northern Alberta in the early '80s I had a house church in the community of Valhalla, north of Grande Prairie. Children were included in every aspect of worship. This was especially important for Cara, a rather spirited and very curious little girl of four years who insisted on addressing me as "Minster". We ended the service with the Lord's Prayer.
“The next week, as I arrived at yet another home for services, Cara ran to greet me and excitedly asked, ‘Minster, are you giving us our daily bread and our trespasses again tonight?’"


Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “drive sideways!”)
Velia Watts of Edmonton, Alberta has a collection of wacky warning labels.
* Warning: avoid dropping air conditioner out of window!
* Warning on a blow dryer: do not use while sleeping!
* Warning on a vacuum cleaner: do not use to pick up gasoline or flammable liquids!
* Warning on a wheelbarrow: Do not use when temperature exceeds 140 degrees!
* Callahan tunnel: no end
* Caution: water on road during rain
* Entrance only – do not enter!
* Stop: drive sideways!


Bottom of the Barrel – This is from Evelyn McLachlan who shall surely do several hundred millennia in purgatory for sending this. It’s so bad, I didn’t even read it before I held my nose and plunked it in here.
I would strongly recommend that you do not read this either.

The Island of Trid
Once upon a time, in the middle of the ocean, there was the Island of Trid.
Most of the Island of Trid was covered by a large mountain. On this mountain lived a Giant. The Giant did not allow Trids on his mountain. If a Trid dared to climb onto the mountain, the Giant would kick him into the ocean. Trids are notoriously bad swimmers, and frequently drowned when kicked into the ocean.
The Trids were a very passionate race, and the population had grown quite large. Every square inch of the island, except the mountain, was crowded with Trids.
The Trids spent their days crowded together, dreaming of the open space available on the ever visible mountain. Every few days, a Trid would decide he couldn't stand the crowds any more. He would start to climb the mountain, and the Giant would kick the Trid into the ocean. The Trids were a very depressed people.
One day a traveling Rabbi visited the Island of Trid. Despite their overcrowded conditions, the Trids were extremely generous to this man of God.
The Rabbi decided to return the favor, and to go plead the Trid's case to the Giant. "Surely the Giant can be convinced to share some of the mountain with you," the Rabbi explained.
The Trids were horrified. "Please don't go, Rabbi", the Trids implored. "The Giant will kick you into the ocean, and you will surely drown."
The Rabbi was stubborn, and insisted that he talk to the Giant. The Trids sent out every boat they had. They formed a ring around the island, so that they would be able to rescue the Rabbi.
The Rabbi started walking towards the mountain. No sign of the Giant.
He walked through the foothills, and there was no sign of the Giant.
He started up the slopes of the mountain, further than any Trid had ever been. Still no sign of the Giant.
Finally he reached the summit of the mountain. There the Giant was waiting for him. The Rabbi asked "Tell me Giant, why have you allowed me to climb to the top of the mountain, without kicking me off the moment I started climbing?"
"Silly Rabbi,” said the Giant. “Kicks are for Trids!"

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