Friday, July 11, 2008

Preaching Materials for July 20, 2008

R U M O R S # 510
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor

July 13, 2008


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

BE WARNED: Large batches of what you find below is regurgitated from nine years ago because I am suffering from a large dose of summer somnolence.


The Story Lectionary – Rebecca’s legs
Revised Common Lectionary – what kind of a God is that?
Rumors – ice-cream flavor personality test
Soft Edges – birds of a feather
Good Stuff – sitting in my pew
Bloopers – an expensive event
We Get Letters – well, one letter
Mirabile Dictu! – how did we get into this mess?
Bottom of the Barrel – trying to eat one peanut
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)


Rib Tickler – The Rev. was preaching a sermon at the Confirmation service. From the back of the church a large, two headed, fire-breathing monster with horns and a large tail slithered hideously down the middle aisle of the church, and worked its way up to the railing around the chancel.
The minister stepped down from the pulpit, moved over to the monster, placed hands on top of the monster's heads, and said a couple of words. Soon, the monster moved down the aisle, and headed out the back door.
The minister climbed back up into the pulpit, heaved a sigh of relief and said, "Well, I must tell you, I just confirmed my worst nightmare!"


Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, July 20th, which is the 10th Sunday after Pentecost.

Story Lectionary – The reading for this Sunday is the story of Rebecca, a strong woman and a survivor. When I was a child we’d often say, “Don’t chew your cabbage twice.” Don’t repeat yourself. So because it is a hot July afternoon, and I am feeling languid and irresponsible, I will not chew my cabbage twice. I’m just going to give you a web address. Click on this and you’ll get the story of Rebecca’s legs. Yes, you read right. Her legs.
Or you can go to the opening page of the story-lectionary website at:

Revised Common Lectionary – Genesis 28:10-19a
This is the story of Jacob on the lam. He’s diddled his brother and the old man (Isaac). His mother (Rebecca) packed him a quick lunch and said, “Run for it!” With not much more than the shirt on his back, he runs all day, and at night falls to the ground in an exhausted sleep. And there it is that God, in a dream, makes a covenant with him – offers him a blessing and a future – tells Jacob that he is to be the father of a chosen people.
Jacob cons his father, cheats his brother and runs from the consequences. What kind of a God makes that kind of promises to that kind of a person?

Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
Living Through Tough Times
1 I am transparent to you, God.
You can see right through me.
2 I can hide nothing from you.
You read my body language, and detect my deepest feelings.
3 The tiniest quirks of my handwriting reveal everything that's going on inside me.
4 You know what I'm going to say before I've thought it through.
5 I look around at the world, and you are there;
I look within my psyche, and you are there;
Emotion and intellect are one to you.
6 You know me better than I know myself.
I could not stand knowing myself that well–
I need some hidden corners still to discover,
some mysteries still to unfold.
7 Only you can cope with total knowledge.

7 How can I have a life of my own?
8 If I study science, you are there.
If I explore economics, you are there.
9 From charmed quarks to exploding galaxies,
from icebergs to dinosaurs to industrial toxins –
wherever I turn, you will turn up too.
You insinuate yourself into every crevice of my life.
11 Even if I bury myself in my work, you break in,
and upset all my careful applecart.
10 You drag me forward by my lapels;
in the small of my back, you keep shoving me.
12 I cannot keep you out of my life.
So I might as well let you in.
23 I have nothing to hide from you.
Go ahead–look into my soul!
24 I have done my best.
If you find a jealous heart or a spiteful tongue,
clean them out!
I would rather do without them than be cut off from you.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Books.
For details, go to

Romans 8:12-25 – Jim Taylor points out the marvelous images in this passage, of “heirs,” of “children of God,” of “creation groaning in labor,” and longing to “be set free from its bondage to decay.” Then there’s the ringing affirmation, “Hope that is seen is not hope …”
One way of getting inside this passage is to read it as if you are Paul. Make the words your own. Or you might paraphrase the whole passage in terms of your own life and faith.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 – I so often find myself really getting inside a parable, and then feel keen disappointment at the explanation in the second part of the reading. I have a very strong suspicion that the explanation didn’t come from Jesus, but from the early church which tried to make an allegory out of it. I think the parable is much more useful as it stands.
All of us know that we mess up. We make stupid, bad, evil decisions quite often. But we also know that we are made in the image and likeness of God and therefore fundamentally good. Why not take a tall, cool drink out to the back porch, sit there, read the parable, and then reflect on your own life, and wonder how the wheat and the weeds are mixed together.

For children see “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year A,” page 159 where you’ll find the story of “Jacob’s Dream,” and page 162 where you’ll find the story of “The Wheat and the Weeds.”
There are children’s stories for every Sunday in the Revised Common 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. Click the main Wood Lake Publications website at, or click on the following address which takes you directly to the “Lectionary Story Bible.”


Rumors – Those of you who hang around with younger, thinner people might want to try the new “Ice Cream Flavor Personality Test” on a hot summer day. It’s not quite in the category of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or Enneagrams. But hey, it’s summer. The Ice Cream test is more fun.
But not necessarily more reliable. Bev and I took the test. Sort of. Ice cream is pretty much on our “No! No!” list because of the fat and sugar. Besides, the test doesn’t list our favorites, so we had to pick ice cream we only sort of like. Both of us picked Butter Pecan. The test was almost right for Bev, but it missed me by a country mile. With a sample of two people I guess you could say the accuracy of the text is 50%, 10 times out of 20.
Don’t laugh. This is serious stuff. The folks who make Edy's Grand Ice Cream, paid real money to Dr.Alan R. Hirsch (MD), Neurological Director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. (Does the good doctor have too much time on his hands?) Dr. Hirsch claims that distinct personalities correspond with ice cream flavors. Here’s how it works. Pick your favorite flavor of ice cream from the following. No peeking!1) Vanilla2) Chocolate3) Butter pecan4) Banana5) Strawberry6) Chocolate chip If you like vanilla, you are colorful, impulsive, a risk taker who sets high goals and has high expectations of yourself. You also enjoy close family relationships. If you like chocolate, you are lively, creative, dramatic, charming, enthusiastic, and the life of the party. Chocolate fans enjoy being at the center of attention and can become bored with the usual routine. If you like butter pecan, you are orderly, perfectionist, careful, detail-oriented, conscientious, ethical, and fiscally conservative. You are also competitive, aggressive in sports, and the take-charge type of personality. If you like banana, you are easy going, well adjusted, generous, honest, and empathetic. If you like strawberry, you are shy, yet emotionally robust, skeptical, detail oriented, opinionated, introverted, and self-critical. If you like chocolate chip, you are generous, competitive, and accomplished. You are charming in social situations, ambitious, and competent. Dr. Hirsch doesn’t say this, but if you don’t like ice cream at all, does that mean you are cranky, opinionated, boorish, sloppy, anal retentive and have bad breath?
But I just had a terrifying thought. My grandkids don’t really like ice-cream. And they are as close to perfection as humanity has ever attained (This being my totally dispassionate, carefully reasoned judgment).
I love ice cream. And it is a hot July day. I think this whole matter needs more research.


Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
Birds of a Feather
The other afternoon, as I went out for my regular walk with the dog, I saw a bird fluttering among the branches of a neighbour’s cedar hedge. I wondered if it was a mother bird doing the wounded-wing routine, trying to distract a potential predator from its young.
When I got closer, I realized the bird was trapped behind some black netting that the neighbour had strung over his cedar hedge, to protect it from the deer. Gardening books assure me that deer don’t like cedars. That may be true of cedar trees, but certainly not of cedar hedges. Around our area, unprotected hedges all have an hourglass shape – nibbled back almost to the trunk near the ground, filling out only above head height.
To protect their precious hedges, people attempt various measures. Some string up electric fences. Others hide their hedges behind stucco wire. Some lay chicken wire on the ground, hoping that the deer will dislike the feel of it underfoot. Others spray their hedges with smelly chemicals.
This particular neighbour had chosen to wrap his hedge in black nylon netting – almost invisible to the eye.
And this little sparrow had somehow flown in behind the netting, and couldn’t get out.
Since human action had created this problem, I didn’t think I was interfering with nature by reaching in under the netting, grabbing the bird, and setting it free. It panicked at first. Then as my hand closed around it, it gave up struggling.
I pulled it out and tossed it into the air. Its little wings opened. It flew away.
As I walked on, I wondered how it would relate this story to its friends on a bird feeder somewhere.
“It was wonderful! I was trapped by invisible forces. I couldn’t fly. I thought I would die. And this hand, this gigantic hand, reached in and gently held me, and set me free. It was the most amazing experience of my life.”
Or, perhaps...
“It was awful. I was trapped by an invisible demon. I couldn’t fly. I thought I would die. And then this hand, this gigantic hand, grabbed me and squeezed me and hurled me into the air. If I hadn’t spread my wings, I would have crashed. It was the most terrifying experience of my life.”
Same story; different interpretation.
I am not one who believes that God reaches down with a gigantic hand to pluck us out of our troubles when things go wrong. If that happened, God would surely not have let our friend Carolynn die last Sunday morning, writhing in pain from the cancer that had started in her kidneys and liver and spread to her bones.
But I do believe that each of us interprets each bit of evidence of God’s presence in our lives differently. Some treat it as punishment, some as salvation. Some dread it, some welcome it.
The experience may be the same – but the meaning we derive depends on the way we describe it.
Just like that sparrow.


Good Stuff – This from Velia Watts of Edmonton, Alberta, who got it from Howard Olds of Nashville, Tennessee.
A parishioner who had attended the same church and parked in the same spot for 20 years arrived to find that a bearded man of Middle Eastern decent had taken his spot. The parishioner explained that the visitor was in “his” spot, and the visitor moved.
Then after the parishioner greeted everyone and entered the sanctuary, he discovered the visitor was sitting in “his” pew. He explained that his family had sat in the same spot for 20 years, and the visitor moved.
Then when the altar call came and the parishioner went to kneel in the spot where he had prayed for 20 years, he found the stranger in his way again. The stranger said, “Let me guess. I took your place again?” and the agitated parishioner said “yes.”
The stranger then pointed to the cross hanging behind the altar and said, “A long time ago, I took your place there, too. I was just checking to see if it did any good”.


Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – Dave Edwards of Camrose, Alberta, found a bulletin announcement of an event that will have a registration fee: "The event will be held on Oct. 3 & $"

From the file:
* Due to the Rector's illness, Wednesday's healing services will be discontinued until further notice.* Several sinners were delivered to residents unable to attend the meal.

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! – Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private virtue, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics.
John Adams
Virtue is like precious odors – most fragrant when they are incensed or crushed.
Francis Bacon
We should find God in what we do know, not in what we don’t; not in understanding problems, but in those we have already solved.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer


We Get Letters – Well, this week it’s not letters – plural – but letter. Singular.
It is the heart of summer north of the equator and the dead of winter south of the equator, which means that nobody except Garth Caseley was upright and lucid. He writes: “Hallelujah!!! I often wondered what Noah's wife's name was. Thanks for clarifying.”
As for the rest of you – you shouldn’t be reading this stuff. You should be sitting in a comfortable chair with a cool drink in one hand and a book on your lap (a prop) watching the birds or the kids or the lake or whatever – anything except serious thinking.


Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “How did we get into this mess???!”)
Six Phases of a Project1) Enthusiasm2) Disillusionment3) Panic and Hysteria4) Search for the Guilty5) Punishment of the Innocent6) Praise and Honor for the Non-Participants

Bottom of the Barrel – It’s like trying to eat one peanut. Eat one, you eat a bunch.
As a living incarnation of that philosophical principle, there’s Herb Goetz of Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania who sent this in response to our single-peanut Noah/Noee story. He sent all the rest of this. No kidding!
Then four weeks later, Noah and Noee took another inventory. By this time the multiplying really had taken off. The rabbits and the elephants, the goats and the apes were all multiplying. That is, until Noah and Noee came around one of the posts and found two snakes.
Noee: "Where are the other snakes?"
Snakes: "There are no other snakes, Noah."
Noah: "Surely you jest, just the two of you?"
Snakes: "Yup."
Noee: "Did we make a mistake? Did we get two of the same sex?"
Snakes: "No, one of us is female and the other is male."
Noah: "Well, don't you like each other then?"
Snakes: "Oh, no! We get a long fine. No problem whatsoever."
Noee: "Well, what's the matter? Every other animal is multiplying. The rabbits and the monkeys, the cows and horses, the pigs and the geese! Why, all the other animals are multiplying, why not you two?"
Snakes: "Because we can't."
Noah: "What do you mean you can't multiply?"
Snakes: "We can't multiply because we are adders."
Soooooo, Noah and Noee went up on top and sat on the deck. Since they
were sitting on the deck, the rest of the crew couldn't play cards.
Soooooo, then the rains stopped and the sun came out and the waters dried up and it was so beautiful that Noah could not express it any other way than saying, "Hark!!". Which went down in history as the second Noah's "ark."

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