Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Preaching Materials for November 2, 2008

R U M O R S # 525
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor

October 26, 2008


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

Every week I get a gentle letter or two from folks wondering about my health – since their last issue or two of Rumors didn’t arrive. That will undoubtedly happen at some point, but so far neither Jim nor I have missed an issue.
Or they plaintively ask, “Why did you take me off your mailing list?”
On virtually all of those cases, the problem is a “spam filter.” And that’s a problem that can only be dealt with at your end. All of them have ways of putting things on their “approved” list – and all of them seem to have a slightly different way of dealing with the issue.
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Thanks for your cooperation and understanding. You really are a marvelous bunch of people.


Next Week’s Readings – the Promised Land story from another point of view
Rumors – crossing the Jordan
Soft Edges –
Good Stuff – curing victimitis
Mirabile Dictu! – punishment
Bottom of the Barrel – suffering fools
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)


Rib Tickler – Seems the Sunday School class was looking at the second creation legend. They heard how Eve was created out of Adams rib.
Some time later, young Scott complained of a pain in his side. “What’s the matter?” asked the teacher. Scott looked up somewhat woefully. “I think I’m going to have a wife!”

Next Week’s Readings – If your church uses the Revised Common Lectionary, these are the readings you will probably hear in church this coming Sunday, November 2nd, which is Proper 26 [31].

The Story – Joshua 3:7-17 (4:1-9) – The verses in brackets are not in the lectionary. I added them because the RCL stops in the middle of the story. If you can’t tell the whole story, why tell any of it?
This legend says (3:10) that God kicks out the tribes that were already living there in this promised land. It strikes me that aboriginal people in many parts of the world would be identifying with those dispossessed tribes and thinking how Europeans marched in thinking it was their God-given right to occupy their land. Maybe we need to tell this story from their point of view.
In the fourth chapter, Joshua asks for one representative of each tribe to bring a stone with which to build a memorial to this great event. We’re told the stones are still there, under the water of the Jordan. To me, such a memorial tells us that a community – the ancient Israelite community or our country or our contemporary church – has its strength in diversity. Different kinds of people with different talents and traditions are what give us our strength. We could even act this out as part of the “sermon,” asking different kinds of people to bring forward a stone, or some other symbol, to represent their gift.
Don’t waste your time trying to explain the stopping of the river. The story is about a time of transition for the Hebrews. They moved from wilderness into the Promised Land and in the process sent the aboriginal people who lived there into the wilderness. The legend is about a tribal God who is only concerned about the welfare of those tribes.
We have (I hope) a wider vision, of a God who is the god of all peoples. Which makes the occupation of the promised land a much more complicated legend.

Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
Facing fears
2,3 All around the world, millions of people will attest –
1 God is good. God will not let you down.
17 Sometimes that is hard to believe.
Hatred robs black South Africans of hope.
The bias of international mass media makes Palestinians feel despised and rejected;
they hide their faces from us.
Weapons of war maim women and children in Sarajevo.
Poverty pursues refugees from Sri Lanka,
and starvation those from Mozambique.
18 Fear and despair crushes them.
19 But God gives them the strength to continue.
20 God seals the raw wounds in their souls;
God holds them gently in the terrors of their night.
21 They do not doubt God's saving grace.
22 Listen to them! Hear their story.
Hear, and believe, and rejoice.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Books.
For details, go to

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 – This is part of a letter Paul sent to the Thessalonian church. If it seems to you that Paul is “talking down” to the folks just a bit, you are probably right. But that’s the way it was generally done. There was always a status difference between the teacher and the student. Try to get beyond that and try to see what there may be for you in the passage. The passage might also lead us to thinking about people in our congregational or denominational communities that have provided the kind of inspiration Paul brought to the Thessalonians?”

Matthew 23:1-12 – This controversy has been bubbling around in the Christian Church since day one. To what extend do the personal moralities and ethical practices of clergy affect the validity of their priestly functions? Including preaching.
It raged in the medieval church. Can an immoral priest preside at communion? The debate was almost exclusively around sexual morality and it still is, to a large degree. It depends on where you draw the line.
I know a lot of clergy. In fact, I’m married to one. Not a single one of them has – nor would they claim to have – a clean slate. All have sinned and fallen short. Does that invalidate everything they say in the pulpit?
No, it doesn’t, says Jesus. All of us, lay and clergy, know a lot better than we do. All of us need to help each other live up to our own moral and ethical standards.
The last verse is the most radical in this reading. It happens over and over in the Bible, this wonderful inversion, so that Bill Gates finds himself waiting on customers at Radio Shack, and Susie Nobody is no longer slinging hamburgers at MacDonald’s, but is running Microsoft.
It isn’t the sort of thing that happens a lot in our own experience, but that’s how things work out in God’s mind. Furthermore, if those folks with seven figure salaries are climbing to the top of their anthill over the backs of underpaid children in third-world sweatshops, God notices.

A children’s version of the Joshua reading is in “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year A,” page 229. It is called, “The People Claim the Promised Land.” A story based on the reading from Matthew’s Gospel, “Jesus Turns Things Upside Down,” is on page 26.
If you don’t already own this book, click the main Wood Lake Publications website at, or click on the following address which takes you directly to the “Lectionary Story Bible.”

Note: In some congregations where the first scripture reading is often done by a child, or done while the children are still in the sanctuary, they have been using “The Lectionary Story Bible” rather than the regular Bible rather than a regular translation. The idea, I think, is that not only will the children understand more easily, but even adults might get it.


Rumors – The maple tree in our back yard has lost most of it’s leaves. Half a dozen still hang bravely in the autumn breeze. Other trees are gold and russet and glorious.
There’s a sweet sadness that I feel each autumn – “a feeling of sadness and longing / that is not akin to pain / but resembles sorrow only / as the mist resembles the rain.” (Longfellow)
You are reading this just as Bev and I come home after a long sea voyage to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. It’s hard for me not to think of the joys and pains of aging, because that’s the daily realty in which I live.
Some years ago, Paul Williams sent me a “Prayer for Senility,” which is based on the Serenity prayer by (I think) Paul Tillich. “God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked, good fortune to run into the ones I do, and eyesight to tell the difference.”
Seeing myself as an old man is a bit like standing there in the middle of the Jordan with Joshua, laying down a rock that represents who I was and who I am. And then moving away from the river into a conflicted land of promise – if I am able to accept the gifts of grace in age that God offers.
I remember a week at Naramata Centre studying “The Seven Tasks of Creative Aging,” led by Robert Raines who has authored a book of the same name.
Bob Raines has a good sense of humor, and he’s been around long enough that he takes himself quite lightly. So I could certainly say that the course was fun – lots of it – but it was also hard work. At the end of it I was wiped.
The toughest part of the week was dealing with forgiveness. I thought it’d be a piece of cake. Like many in the group, I went in thinking I didn’t really have much forgiving to do. Not me, no, I wasn’t carrying around any unresolved angers.
But then Bob shared some of his stuff, and we went into small groups and found ourselves talking about things we had never really brought to consciousness. Surprise! Most of us discovered dark spots down there that needed a good shot of Draino followed by liberal doses of TLC.
In my knee group at least, every one of us found ourselves blind-sided by unresolved anger at someone who had hurt us or hurt someone we loved. I thought I’d done my forgiving long ago, then discovered there needed to be more scrubbing of the soul. And some of the wise ones told me that is normal, because you can hardly ever let go of all of it in one piece.
Bob talked at some length about how Jesus emphasized forgiveness – limitless forgiveness. I had thought that meant I was called to forgive the same person or persons over and over. Which I guess it does. But I it also means that I’ve got to do the same piece of forgiving over and over until I get all the residue of resentment scraped out of my soul.
Jim Taylor once remarked that we don’t change as we get older. We are the same person we always were. Only more so! But who is that person I always was.
Half way through the Robert Raines event, I found myself looking out the window at the fall colors, which seemed to me more spectacular than usual that year. I remembered learning that leaves don’t change color at all. In fall, the green chlorophyll is leached back into the sap of the tree, and the leaves reveal their true color.
A serendipitous thought that I reflect on every autumn.
Here, now, on the other side of the river – in the autumn of my life – I am finding my true self.


Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor

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 Velia Watts of Edmonton, Alberta
Curing Victimitis
Watch your thoughts; they lead to attitudes.
Watch your attitudes; they lead to words.
Watch your words; they lead to actions.
Watch your actions; they lead to habits.
Watch your habits; they form your character.
Watch your character; it determines your destiny.


Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – from the file
* The monthly seniors’ lunch will take place on Wednesday. It will be gin with lunch at 12:15 followed by card games.
* Good Christians all, rejoice, with heat and soul and voice!
* The pastor will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing, "Break Forth Into Joy."

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! – I am more and more convinced that our happiness or our unhappiness depends far more on the way we meet the events of life than on the nature of those events themselves.
Karl Wilhelm Von Humboldt via Velia Watts

Life is like a B-picture script. It is that corny. If I had my life story offered to me to film, I’d turn it down.
Kirk Douglas

Peace and love are always in us, being and working; but we are not always in peace and love.
Julian of Norwich


Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “punishment!”) Velia Watts of Edmonton, Alberta, got this from her friend David Mar. She doesn’t tell us who David blames it on.
* The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.
* I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.
* She was only a whisky maker, but he loved her still.
* The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.
* No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.
* A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.
* Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other, 'You stay here, I'll go on a head.'
* A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: 'Keep off the Grass.'
* A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
* The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
* The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.
* A backward poet writes inverse.
* In democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism it's your count that votes.
* Don't join dangerous cults: Practice safe sects!


Bottom of the Barrel – It seems that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was once in the English city of Bath. The community was infamous for its disregard of all things religious and moral. One day, Wesley and the mayor of Bath were striding toward each other on a narrow wooden sidewalk.
Upon seeing the noted evangelist, the mayor said, "Step aside, Sir. I do not suffer fools lightly." The ever-sagacious John Wesley replied, "Of course, Sir." and stepped into the gutter. Then as the mayor walked by, he added, "I do it all the time."

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