Monday, August 18, 2008

Preaching Materials for August 17, 2008

R U M O R S # 514
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor

August 10th, 2008



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

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Revised Common Lectionary – educating Jesus
Rumors – tears of reconciliation
Soft Edges – from public to private
Good Stuff – a letter from God
Bloopers – bring ‘em back alive
Mirabile Dictu! – the cars we drive
Bottom of the Barrel – fish and chips
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 Arthur Jones:
Attending a wedding for the first time, a little girl whispered to her mother, “Why is the bride dressed in white?”
“Because white is the color of happiness,” said the mom. “And today is the happiest day of her life.'
The child thought about this for a moment then. “So why is the groom wearing black?”

Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, August 17th, which is the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 15 [20]

Story Lectionary: The story-lectionary concept is under review. Stay tuned.


Revised Common Lectionary
Genesis 45:1-15 – This is what frustrates me about the lectionary. We jump from chapter 37 to 45 – from the brothers selling Joseph into slavery to the reconciliation. The assumption being, I suppose, that folks know the rest of the story. Most of them don’t.
And it’s a powerful legend full of the stuff of humans in a family and how they relate to each other.
This part of the story begins with the dam bursting. Joseph just can’t hold it in any longer and realizes that his rise to power and glory means little. He was a boy who had lost his home and his family and had clawed his way up to power and prestige, and when he had it, there was still this gaping hole in the centre of his life. Love is the fundamental human need, and though we often try to use power and wealth as substitutes, in the long run it never works.
The scene of a weeping Joseph and his speechless brothers begs the question. Why did this happen? How could anyone have been so awful as to do such things? And Joseph chooses to evade the question by saying that God orchestrated the whole sordid affair. Which is nonsense of course, because a God of love doesn’t treat humans that way, but perhaps the fiction is necessary because for now at least, the reality is too hard to bear.
The phrase that moves me is the one at the very end of the reading. “And after that his brothers talked with him.” Well, I guess. For the web of love to be rewoven, those brothers would need to talk and talk for hours and days and months – small talk, big talk, about everything and nothing, and sometimes with tears and recriminations.
Genuine healing takes time – lots of time and commitment.

Psalm 133 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
We don't pour oil over people's head's anymore. But the image of a gathered people, of good things overflowing, still has meaning.
1 How good it feels to have the human family
gathered together for this sumptuous feast.
2 Here we rejoice in the rich repast
of fruit and tree and vine.
Apples and oranges, grapes and cherries,
yield their joyous juices to our lusting mouths.
Drops of surplus pleasure trickle down our chins.
We dab them unself-consciously with rumpled napkins.
3 This gathering refreshes like sweet morning in the mountains,
like a prairie sky polished bright by gentle breezes.
Surely this is what the Lord intended
when God created life.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Books.
For details, go to

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 – Paul is trying to come to grips with the reality that his own people have not accepted Jesus as the Christ.
All have been disobedient with God – Jews and Gentiles alike, though he says in verse 32 that “God imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all,” which I don’t believe. God doesn’t set us up this way. But God works through the disobedience and shows us mercy and love. In spite of everything.

Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28 – I like to call this story “Educating Jesus.” Jesus is having a bad case of burnout. He is bushed. He is deeply, viscerally tired and he needs some downtime.
So he goes for a long hike with a few of his disciples, into a nearby country where he hopes to get some rest.
If my memory serves (which it mostly doesn’t) there is some interesting word play in this story. When Jesus responds to the woman (v.26) he softens the insult by using a word that might be translated as “puppy.”
But the woman takes the insult and pushes it. The word she uses for dogs (v.27) might be translated as “mutts off the street.” She knows exactly what Jesus said and isn’t about to let him off the hook.
What that woman in the story is saying to Jesus is, “Think outside the box. Think some new thoughts, Jesus! Let yourself move outside of your comfort zone and into a reality that seems strange and fearful. And hazy. God is not just the God of Israel. God is God of all creation. That mother gave Jesus a quick and bracing slap in the face to wake him up to a larger reality.

A children’s version of the story of Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers may be found in “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year A,” page 182. The story of Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman is on page 184.
Click the main Wood Lake Publications website at, or click on the following address which takes you directly to the “Lectionary Story Bible.”


Rumors – May favorite way of getting in touch with a story is based on the ancient tradition of the Aggada – telling another story to understand the story. This is my Aggada on the story of Joseph and his reconciliation, which was published in Aha!!! Magazine some years ago.

Tears of Reconciliation
The sobs heaved out of his body. One after another, his large, muscular frame was wracked with grief and pain he'd never known himself to feel. Until this moment.
Joseph had never known how to cry. His life had been a struggle to survive, to prevail, to prosper, to overcome. Joseph survived on his wits. He was the only Hebrew in the Egyptian court, and his very life depended on his ability to be one jump ahead of everyone else. There was no time, no room for weakness, ever. Certainly no time for tears.
But now he was weak. Curled up like a small boy on the edge of his ornate official chair, Joseph wept the tears he should have wept through all his troubled life.
Joseph wept the tears of anger. Anger at his abusive brothers, who years before had beaten him and stripped him of his long-sleeved cloak, thrown him in a pit and sold him into slavery. Anger at the Egyptians for whom he had slaved, whom he had outwitted, and over whom he now ruled. Anger at himself, for the spoiled-brat younger brother he had been, for the lies and the cheating and the manipulation he had used to get his way.
And Joseph wept the tears of loneliness and fear. Torn from his family, thrown into slavery, no love, no affection, no affirmation, nothing but his own wits and studied determination to carry him into each terrifying day.
And now his brothers stood before him. His brothers. These were his own flesh and blood. But they were also the ones who had abused and betrayed him. He should hate and punish them for what they had done, but he couldn't. Because in spite of himself, Joseph wanted nothing in the world more than to be loved once more by his brothers. And his father. Oh, how he yearned for the affection of his father.
His brothers stood before him. Confused. Afraid. They had no idea this Egyptian official was the brother they had betrayed.
"Get out of here," Joseph shouted through his tears to all the Egyptians in the room. "Get out. I want to be alone with these men."
Then he turned on his brothers. "I am Joseph. I am your brother. Do you remember me? Is father still alive?"
The men dropped to the ground, terrified. Only Judah managed to raise his head enough to nod a yes to Joseph's plea about his father.
Again the tears. Joseph knew how much he wanted to be loved, to be accepted by these men, his brothers, and yet his anger at them boiled inside.
"It's all right, my brothers." In his need, Joseph covered up his anger. "God arranged it all. God knew there'd be a famine in the land, and God put me here in the Egyptian court so I could take care of you and my father and our whole tribe. So it wasn't your fault, you see!" Out of his desperate need, Joseph denied his anger and told the pious lie.
Joseph walked up to Benjamin, his youngest brother and embraced him. "Ben, Ben. It is so good to see you. How is Dad? Tell me how my father is?"
Benjamin swallowed hard. "He's fine. Just fine."
"Tell Dad that I'm alive. I'm O.K. And tell him that I've done OK. Tell him I'm in charge of just about everything here, that I'm second-in-command to Pharaoh. Tell him that, will you Ben?"
Ben nodded, still dazed. Joseph wondered why he'd said that. Why was it so important to have his Dad know of his success?
It took days before Joseph and his brothers cut through years of fear and anger and repression to really talk with each other. And one day, Joseph found again the anger he had hidden, enough that he could shout his rage. "Why would you do such a terrible thing?" For which there was, of course, no longer any answer.
Then one day there was confession. One by one the brothers, Joseph too, found words to name their sins. One by one they asked forgiveness from each other and from God. One by one they vowed to purge their lives of jealousy and greed that brought them to such deeds.
Now the tears flowed freely. And sometimes laughter too, as brothers saw each other now as fragile, lonely men who needed more than anything the care and love that only they could give each other.
"The God of our ancestors did not lead us to abuse and to betray you, Joseph," Judah said one day. "Our God is a just and loving God, and would never will such things. But God has used our weakness and our sin and through it has brought life to the land of Egypt and to our father's clan. Thanks be to God."
"Thanks be to God," repeated Joseph and his brothers.


Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
From Public to Private
For years, as I take our dogs for walks in the woods on the hills that flank the Okanagan Valley, I have repeated to myself a mantra: “Enjoy this scene! It could be the last time you will ever see it!”
Until recently, it’s been an abstract principle. On a recent walk, it became all too concrete.
I had to drive to this location, so I don’t go there as often as to some closer areas. Last fall, I saw some survey stakes driven into the ground. By spring, my peaceful dirt track threaded through pine trees arching overhead had been turned by demented bulldozers into maelstrom of mud.
When I went back last week, I found myself walking along a 66-foot wide roadbed of crudely crushed rock. It hurt the dog’s feet. It even hurt my feet, right through thick soles.
In a month or so, I’d guess, the roadbed will be paved, with curbs and gutters and storm grates.
The trees, the shade, the little animals that scurry through fallen pine needles and dry grass, the birds that flit through the bushes picking berries – all gone.
This is development?
I’ve never quite understood how the simple act of planting a few survey stakes in the ground precipitates an inevitable and apparently unstoppable procession – chainsaws, bulldozers, excavators, rock crushers, compactors, cement trucks, paving machines, construction crews...
And then, when it’s all done and fresh blacktop glares angrily back at the sun, people will buy lots beside the road, drive in more survey stakes, and start the whole juggernaut all over again.
There’s already a billboard up at the entrance to the new development. It promises luxury living, scenic views, close to nature...
By the time the builders are finished, nature will have been pretty well exterminated. Any nature remaining will have to depend on whatever the owners of those luxury homes choose to plant in an expensive effort to restore some of what used to be there free.
Oh, the new properties will look pretty, in a Better Homes and Gardens kind of way. But the “nature” will all be artificial.
Perhaps I’m growing more cynical, but the term “development” seems to me to be a euphemism for taking what had been free and turning it into an investment. Someone will throw piles of money at it in the expectation that others will throw even bigger piles back.
Development means transferring unrestricted access into “No Trespassing” signs. Development means imposing our will on the earth, raping it, beating it into submission, instead of collaborating with the existing conditions.
That’s what we do with housing subdivisions. But it’s an equally valid description of how the privatizing policies of The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank attempt to drag “underdeveloped nations” into the “developed” world.
I can no longer think of this as development.
Two centuries ago, a Quaker poet coined the phrase, “I shall not pass this way again.”
Indeed, I shall not. Why would I want to?


Good Stuff – This from John Severson.
A Letter from God
My dear child:
This is God. Today I will be handling all of your problems for you. I do not need your help. So, have a nice day.
I love you.
P.S. And, remember – if life happens to deliver a situation to you that you cannot handle, do not attempt to resolve it yourself! Kindly put it in the SFGTD (something for God to do) box. I will get to it in MY TIME. All situations will be resolved, but in my time, not yours. Once the matter is placed into the box, do not hold onto it by worrying about it. Instead, focus on all the wonderful things that are present in your life now.
Now, you have a nice day.


Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – Jim Spinks sends the story of a funeral director who had his hands full running a funeral parlor and raising two rowdy preteen boys.
Preparing for a funeral one day, he found the hearse plastered with police department stickers, courtesy of his sons. He frantically scraped the stickers off before his clients could read what they said. "Bring ‘em Back Alive!"

From the file:
* The offertory prayer concluded with the words, "In Jesus' name we pay."
* The organist will present a concert of scared music.

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! – Friendship doubles our joy and divides our grief.
source unknown via Evelyn McLachlan
You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.
source unknown
Christian faith essentially consists in an ability to see what God chooses to show and which cannot be seen without faith.
Hans Urs von Balthasar


Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “The cars we drive!”)
With the high price of petrol – with GM no longer producing the Hummer – and other apocalyptic annoyances, this seemed like an appropriate summer hymn to sing.

The tune is “They will know we are Christians ...”

There’s a fish on my Hummer, there’s a fish on my Ford,
There’s a fish on my Hummer, there’s a fish on my Ford,
With my fish I can tell the world I’m driving for the Lord,
And they’ll see how God has blessed me by the car I can afford.
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by the fish on our cars,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our cars.

Bottom of the Barrel – Lost on a rainy night, a nun stumbles across a monastery and requests shelter there. Fortunately, she’s just in time for dinner and is treated to the best fish and chips she’s ever had.
After dinner, she goes into the kitchen to thank the chefs. She is met by two brothers. “Hello, I’m Brother Michael, and this is Brother Charles.”
“I’m very pleased to meet you,” said the nun. “I just wanted to thank you for a wonderful dinner. The fish and chips were the best I’ve ever tasted. Out of curiosity, who cooked what?”
“I’m the fish friar,” said one.
“And I’m the chip monk,” said the other.

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