Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Preaching Materials for October 16, 2008

R U M O R S # 524
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor

October 19, 2008



"A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones." (Proverbs 17:22 KJV)
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Next Week’s Readings – looking into the promised land
Rumors – cat food and crumpets
Soft Edges –
Mirabile Dictu! – for the birds
Bottom of the Barrel – what did Moses really want?
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)


Rib Tickler –Two brothers, aged 8 and 10, were always playing pranks and getting into mischief.
Their parents decided to send the boys to talk with the pastor of their church, a Bible-thumping, God-fearing, pulpit-pounding preacher. The 8-year-old had the first appointment. The pastor glowered at him. "Young man, Where is God?"
No response from the terrified boy.
"Young, man,” he bellowed, “where is God?"
In terror the boy leaped from his chair, ran home, vaulted up the stairs to his bedroom, and hid.
The 10-year-old, hearing the noise, ran into his younger brother's bedroom and found him shivering in the closet.
"What happened?" he said, starting to get scared himself.
"Oh, man, we're in deep trouble," said the 8-year-old. "God's missing, and they’re trying to pin it on us."


Next Week’s Readings – If your church uses the Revised Common Lectionary, hese are the readings you will probably hear in church this coming Sunday, October 26th, which is Proper 25 [30]

The Story (from the Revised Common Lectionary) Moses sees promised land
Deuteronomy 34:1-12 – Moses had vision, and not just good eyesight. I’ve been to the top of Pishgah. It was a clear day and I could see a lot, but I couldn’t see anywhere near all of what Moses apparently saw. People of vision can see beyond seeing.
Bev tells me that Herbert O’Driscoll once told a group of Christian educators that our generation wouldn’t get through the wilderness to the promised land. “We were devastated,” she says. But then she remembers that we are often called to look beyond what we can see. When I give money to cancer research, or spend time with my grandchildren, or struggle with others in my church to discern the direction we should be going – it’s not my own personal future I’m working for.
This is a good story for the gray heads that populate our pews. Being creatively old takes a lot of concentration when we make long-term plans because we need to keep telling ourselves, “This isn’t for me!” Moses probably hoped to get into the “promised land” but he couldn’t have expected to spend much time there. At 120 he still had “all his vigor,” which I think means he didn’t need the assorted masculine aids that assault us daily in our e-mails.
I find it hard, as I look forward to my 74th birthday, not to become more and more selfish. The old body needs more and more maintenance, and the memorial services Bev and I go to are our friends and colleagues who seem to be dying at a fairly regular rate.
So here we stand, looking out to a future we will not inhabit, pondering the meaning of our lives and listening to God’s call to lead us into the week, the month, the year, the decade, whatever time we have left.

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
Note: This paraphrase is of verses 1-12.
1 Lord, your lantern hangs before our tent.
2 Its circle of light illuminates this brief stopping place. We do not know where we are going; We barely know where we have been. We keep our hats handy, always ready to move on.
3 Perhaps the next campsite will be like this one; perhaps it will not. Only you have an overview of our journey.
4 We are here such a short time. We arrive, we unpack, we explore our environment, And then we are gone again.
5 May the good earth be not harmed by our passage. May we be no more dangerous to our planet than a dream
6 that flits across the mind and leaves no mark. Like a firefly, bright and brief, we flicker against the darkness, and then vanish into your warm and holy night.
9 Like clouds driven before a storm wind, our days scud by; Without a sigh, the last light of the sun winks out in the west; You drive the wind, you scroll the sun; You govern the going of our lives.
10 What does it matter how long we live? Sometimes it seems too long; Sometimes it seems as short as the flit of a butterfly's wings...
11 And then we are judged.
12 It's not how long we live that matters. But how well.
13 Do not leave us alone in the darkness. Lord. Take pity on us in our pathetic emptiness.
14 Light up our days with love, and let us frolic in the sunshine of your smile.
15 Make our summers as long when we were children; make the long winter nights as brief as a memory.
16 Let us see your inner nature; lead us into the warm circle of your arms.
17 Be good to us; shape our attitudes as a potter forms clay. Help us become what you envisioned, when you first thought of us.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Books.
For details, go to

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 – Paul can be very hard to understand sometimes, but in this passage, he seems to be much more personal. Rather than sharing his ideas or his convictions, he lets us see who he is. That kind of giving can be very costly.
I’ve had experiences, and probably you have too, when I’ve tried to share myself and had it turned back against me. Many clergy, when they have shared personal struggles with their parishioners (one to one, or from the pulpit) have felt the pain when their personal confession was turned against them.
Sharing ourselves is very risky. But it is essential if we want to communicate our faith rather than simply our opinions.

Matthew 22:34-46 – Jesus could obviously “think on his feet.” There are a number of accounts in the Gospels of Jesus in a verbal contest with his detractors, and Jesus wins every one of them.
Today’s reading ends at verse 46, but I suggest you go beyond that to read the first three verses of chapter 23.
The point is clear. Those religious leaders have all the right answers. Pay attention to them. But take it one step further and “walk the talk.” Because when all is said and done, a lot more is said than done. I don’t think God gives a hoot about my opinions. God cares about me and my life.

For children see “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year A,” page 226 where you’ll find a story based on the Deuteronomy passage, “Moses Sees a New Land.” And there’s a story based on the gospel reading, “The Most Important Things,” on page 228.
To buy a copy of 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, they have been using “The Lectionary Story Bible” rather than the regular Bible. The idea, I think, is that not only would the children understand more easily, but even adults might get it. And the child doing the reading might not stumble around so much.


Rumors – A year or two ago, Bev and I took ourselves down to the local hockey arena where they had a big “Senior’s Festival.”
The place was jammed. Our small quota of geriatric energy was used up trying to elbow our way from one display to the next, and then we couldn’t get near enough to see anything without pushing and shoving.
So I didn’t see anything in particular, but I did come away with some general impressions. There are a whole bunch of people out there hoping to make a buck on the aches and pains and problems of seniors – everything from various prosthetics to herbal remedies to motor homes. And “Financial Advisors” everywhere. Every one of those entrepreneurs was well aware that they were selling to the wealthiest, healthiest, longest living bunch of seniors in history.
A few generations back, prospectors headed for the Klondike yelling, “There’s gold in them thar hills!” Now these same prospectors are setting up booths and buying up mailing lists yelling, “There’s gold in them thar pills.” In the parking lot, after we finally escaped the madding throngs within, was a large RV with a bumper sticker. “We’re spending our children’s inheritance.”
There are lots of seniors with lots of money. There are also lots of seniors living on tea and toast and the occasional can of cat food. There were none of the second kind at that exhibit, which suited the exhibitors just fine. Poor seniors also don’t get all the wonderful discounts offered through the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP). Bev and I are not poor seniors, so we joined and now we get their magazine.
You can tell right off that the CARP mag is not for the little old lady living on tea and toast. They want seniors who can read an add about 10% off on a cruise, starting at $20,000 without choking or laughing. The CARP mag has ads for expensive potions and prosthetics to help you look half your age, and ways to make sure the tax department doesn’t get its hands on your money. CARP should change its name to CARRP, the Canadian Society for Rich Retired Persons.
Lest you think this is sour grapes, you need to know that Bev and I will have a nice, comfortable retirement. We won’t go on a lot of those cruises (though as you read this, we are on one celebrating our 50th), and I don’t worry at all about how much money the tax department gets – now, or when I die. But we won’t be eating cat food either.
I noticed something else at that exhibit and in the CARP magazine. Everything was focused on the idea of making our own lives easier, more fun, more secure, more healthy – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s wasn’t anything pointing in the other direction. Outward, to somebody else or forward to those who will come after us. Nothing for those seniors who’d like to do more in their retirement than take up space and spend money.
The older I get, the greater is the temptation to think only about myself –on my arthritic knees, on the interest rate I get on my savings. Or, how long it is till happy hour when I can have my first drink.
I am genuinely bothered, not so much by what seniors are doing, but by what they don’t do. Their lives become so narrow. “Why should I bother recycling stuff,” they mutter. “I won’t be around long enough to worry about the problem.”
I wish more of us could stand on that mountainside with old Moses just before he died. A hundred and twenty years old they said he was. I wish we could raise our eyes from our own knees and our own flabby body, and look up, beyond our own lifetimes, over the horizon, and dream a future that is not ours.
I wish more of us had a vision of what life might be in the future for those we love and care about and for folks in other parts of the world whom we’ve never heard of. It may be OK to spend our children’s inheritance, but let’s not destroy their legacy.


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.


Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – from the files
* The Rev. Charles Solomon will be coming to our parish for a week’s stay at the Rectory. Anyone wishing to have him for a meal during this week, ask the Rector, please!”
* The sudden gust of wind caught everyone by surprise. Hats were blown off, and copies of the Rector’s speech and other rubbish were blown all over the site.
* We have been so fortunate with both our choir director and organist. Both have been given appointments that will take them from us.

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! – The class distinctions proper to a democratic society are not those of rank or money, still less of race, but of age.
W. H. Auden

Age is not a particularly interesting subject. Anyone can get old. All you have to do is live long enough.
Groucho Marx

Our whole life is in three – we have our Being, then our Increasing and finally our Fulfilling. The first is Nature, the second is Compassion, and the third is Grace.
Julian of Norwich


Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “for the birds!”)
How the Birds Formed a Church
A flock of birds decided to form a church. So they called a meeting and the duck stood up and said, “I think we should require baptism by immersion. It’s the only way we can get their pocketbooks wet.”
But the rooster said, “No, we should baptize by sprinkling. Many people dislike the embarrassment of getting wet all over.” So the argument went on.
The parents said, “I don’t think baptism is the most important thing. What we need is a good program.” All the birds cheered for everyone knows that a church can’t build a reputation for itself without a good program.
Then the mockingbird said, “What about the choir? We must have a good choir, and don’t forget the organ!”
“Oh,” said the thrush, “we don’t want an organ. A piano is much better.” But the titmouse didn’t want a musical instrument at all. And the sparrow said, “It would be just as well to throw out music.”
The goose stood up and said, “What we really need is a preacher who is good with young people. If you don’t attract young people, the other churches will gobble them up for sure.”
But the starling said he thought it was better that the preacher be a good mixer. And the blue-jay figured if the minister could lay off preaching about sin and stuff that almost anyone would do. We just need a preacher who is popular among the townsfolk.
But the real wrangle came over the budget. Some thought that everyone should tithe, if they could afford it. Others thought they should do away with collections and have faith.
So finally the owl arose and smoothed his feathers. Everyone grew quiet for they knew that he had great wisdom. “Brothers and sisters,” he said, “all these things are secondary. What we need is sincerity. Yes sir,” repeated the owl, quite pleased with himself. “Above everything else, we must all be sincere – even if we don’t mean it.”
So they formed a church. And it really was – for the birds.


Bottom of the Barrel – When God asked Moses where he would like the "Promised Land" to be, Moses became very excited.
Instead of allowing Aaron to speak for him (as he usually did), he tried to answer himself. "Ca .. . Ca . . . Ca . . ." he stammered on and on. God got tired of waiting and presumed that he was trying to say “Canaan.”
Poor Moses was trying to say "Canada!"

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