Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Preaching Materials for October 19, 2008

R U M O R S # 523
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor

October 12, 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 – the face of God
Rumors – head in the clouds, feet on the ground
Soft Edges –
Good Stuff – three books of God
We Get Letters – she’s moved to heaven
Mirabile Dictu! – swine empathy
Bottom of the Barrel – when Luther hit his thumb
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 Severson. It’s really only funny in the US where the “how will I pay for this?” question arises in this way.

A man suffered a serious heart attack and had an open heart bypass surgery. He woke up from the surgery to find himself in the care of nuns at a Catholic Hospital.
As he was recovering, a nun asked him questions regarding how he was going to pay for his treatment. “Do you have health insurance?”
"No,” the man croaked. “No health insurance."
“Do you have any money in the bank?”
"No money in the bank."
"Do you have a relative who could help you?" asked the nun.
"I only have a spinster sister. She is a nun."
The nun bristled. "Nuns are not spinsters! Nuns are married to God."
“Alright, already!” croaked the patient. "Send the bill to my brother-in-law."

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, October 19th, which is Proper 24 (29)

The Story (from the Revised Common Lectionary) The Face of God – Exodus 33:12-23
There are two good story themes in this passage. The fear of going it alone. And the euphoria and terror of seeing the face of God.
A beautiful, new hospice was opened in our community a few weeks ago. It will bring many blessings to those who are dying – the most important (in my mind) is the way it encourages loved ones to be with the dying person in their final hours. There’s a playroom inside and a playhouse outside for children, among many things. And volunteers who will stay with someone who is not blessed with family. No one should take the journey into death alone.
The Hebrew tradition, which is apparently in other cultures as well, is that if anyone sees the face of God, they will die. Those traditions probably have their roots in this legend that swirls around us with its ancient ambiguities and questions.
There’s a Buddhist saying; “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” In other words, if you meet someone who claims to know all, see all, understand all – it’s probably a demon.
Two blessings God gives us humans. We cannot see God face to face. We cannot know the future. Either one, at the very least, would drive us mad.
And that kind of knowledge is not at all the same as a strong and lively faith.


Psalm 99 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
Though we have climbed earth's highest mountains, the peaks remain as inhospitable to our life as outer space. Ancient peoples saw these fearful heights as the habitation of the gods.
1 Like a halo of holiness, the spirit of God envelops the earth.
In the stillness of space, God's spirit gives life;
let us acknowledge our insignificance.
In the emptiness of infinity, God's spirit creates life;
let us acknowledge our interdependence.
2 Look up if you would see God;
raise your sights beyond your repetitive routines.
3 But do not attempt to face God as an equal--
Fling yourself face down on the earth
Before the creator of the heavens.
4 Almighty God, you love to do right.
In your dealings with your creation, you are always fair.
5 We humans grovel before your greatness.
Humbly, we kiss the humus from which you fashioned us.
You are holiness itself.
6 The humus holds the recycled cells of those who came this way before us;
Step by step they searched for you, until you found them.
7 By the pillar of fire and the whispering breeze,
by bonfire and whirlwind, by prophecy and parable,
you showed them your way.
8 Because they tried to follow you, you forgave them their failings;
But those who laid traps for them, you did not tolerate.
9 So pledge allegiance to our God!
Gather at the foot of the mountain, where even the rocks reach up towards our God.
Our God is holiness itself.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Books.
For details, go to

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 – What Paul is talking about here is sometimes called “Lifestyle Evangelism.” The most powerful witness we have is our own lives. If what we proclaim doesn’t match what we live, it will at leas fall flat and possibly drive people away from the gospel.
But often we take that too far. We avoid talking about our faith except in circumstances like a Bible study group or if we are preaching. Sam Keen, in one of his books, says that while the vast majority of Americans claim to be Christian, only about 1% have ever talked about their faith with another person.

Matthew 22:15-22 – I was confused about this passage as a child. “Render unto Caesar” is what I heard from the old King James Bible. But the only meaning of the word “render” that I knew of was in the purifying of lard when we processed the pigs in the fall. What would Caesar want with a bunch of lard?
I’m always a little uncomfortable with these stories of how the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus, and he turns the tables and makes them look silly. “Look! See how our guy beat your guys!” One-up-man-ship. It seems inconsistent with the personality of Jesus I find in the rest of the gospel stories. You don’t show God’s love and justice by putting other people down, even (especially) when they deserve it.
But the question – what belongs to the Empire and what belongs to God was a huge question then as it is a huge question now. Or to phrase it in modern terms – what does God’s justice and concern for all creation demand and what does the free market economy demand?

There’s a children’s version of the Exodus story, “Moses Sees God,” in “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year A,” page 222, and of the Matthew story, “Trouble for Jesus,” on page 224.
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 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.


Rumors – It’s about that business of seeing God, face to face. Moses, at least in the Hebrew tradition, was the greatest prophet, bar none. He asked to see God’s full glory, but all he got to see was the deity’s derrière. Too much glory is not good for people.
In the farwell narrative it says that Moses knew God face to face (Deuteronomy 34:10), but who says the Bible is consistent? Anyway, these stories come from the time when God was a tribal deity – before being promoted to God of all creation.
The stories of the rich and famous are littered with the lives of people who struggled for fame and glory, and when they got it, it destroyed them. Every person climbing that kind of ladder should have a colonoscopy once a year. Among other things, the procedure puts you radically in touch with your humanity and fragility. Enduring a colonoscopy is a different experience than signing autographs.
We need both. We need to know we are treasured. Valued. Special. Unique. Important. We can encounter God. We can speak with God the way Moses did. We can actually see God, though not directly.
We also need to know that we are “a dime a dozen” and if we disappeared it wouldn’t even show as a blip on the timeline of civilization.
When St. George the Knight with the red cross on his shield, rides home after conquering the fearsome dragon, the people along the way shout glad hosannas and his path is with fragrant blossoms strowed. (“Strowed” being the past-pluperfect subjunctive – or whatever – of “strewn.”) When St. George reaches the door and calls, “Honey, I’m home!” the fair princess Uma calls, “Hurry up and get in here. The cat just ate a bird and then barfed it up on the kitchen floor.” He doesn’t even get to take off his hot, itchy armor first, much less visit the bathroom.
Always both-and. The fair princess Uma will let her George know that she loves him, values him and is proud of his accomplishments. But right now he needs to get down on his knees and clean up the mess.
Grandchildren do a great job of this. Here’s a blurb I wrote about a decade ago after the folks at St. Stephen’s in Edmonton hung a doctorate around my neck.

Arriving home from Edmonton with my shinny new doctorate in hand, I hit terra firma with a refreshing thud a day later. “How’s Dr. Milton,” said daughter Kari at the door. She was impressed.
But Jake and Zoë? It’s the same old grandpa they see. “I’m going to nursery school,” announces Zoë, who knows what is important and what is not. And Jake offers a new song called “Grandpa’s Whiskers,” sung to the tune of “You’re In the Army Now.”
“They’re always in the way,
The cows eat them for hay,
They cover the dirt
On Grandpa’s shirt;
They’re always in the way.”
Plus assorted verses about Grandma dreaming of Shredded Wheat, etc. And after the song, they climb on my lap to show me their latest treasure.
Knights named St. George and Grandpas named Dr. Milton need the help of children to understand what is fundamentally important and what is not.

We are created “in the image and likeness of God.” The same God who pronounced all creation, including us, to be “very good!’ also reminds us, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Thanks be to God!


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 – In the Christian tradition there are three "books" about God.
The first is autobiographical, written by God, we call it creation. It is so big, and we are such integral components we find it hard to get the whole picture.
The second is biographical, written by a close relative, we call it incarnation. It is smaller and easier to read but is so radical we still find it difficult to get the real picture.
The third is a compilation of anecdotes, stories, history, poetry, recollections, observations and reflections written by his followers, We call them Scripture, and treat them as one unit. It is such a culturally conditioned composite we still find it difficult to get our minds around.
We need to be multi lingual, multi cultural, multi temporal, multi radical to even begin reading these books about God.
Robert Dummermuth, Australia


Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – From the file:
* When parking on the north side of the church, please remember to park on an angel.
* Will the last person to leave please see that the perpetual light is extinguished.
* You cannot serve both God and Merman.

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 wake up in the morning and don’t know whether to save the world or savor it, and this makes it hard to plan my day.
E.B. White

We want to simplify our lives, but we don’t want to be inconvenienced.
source unkown

Where God calls you, is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep needs, meet.
Fred Buechner


We Get Letters – Mike Glover of Mirfield, Yorkshire, England found this genuine epitaph in Edgerton Cemetery.

Here lies Josie Madigan
She died aged 57
She spent her lifetime moving house
And now she's moved to heaven


Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “swine empathy!”) With all the effort to use inclusive language to include women, it’s time we developed some politically correct ways to describe men.
A few samples.
* He does not have a beer belly; He has developed a Liquid Grain Storage Facility.
* He is not quiet; He is a Conversational Minimalist.
* He is not stupid; He suffers from Minimal Cranial Development.
* He does not get lost all the time; He discovers Alternative Destinations.
* He is not balding; He is in Follicle Regression.
* He is not a redneck; He is a Genetically-Related American.
* You do not kiss him. You become Facially Conjoined.
* He does not get falling-down drunk; He becomes Accidentally Horizontal.
* He does not act like a total ass; He develops a case of Rectal-Cranial Inversion.
* He is not short; He is Anatomically Compact.
* He does not have a rich daddy; He is a recipient of Parental Asset Infusion.
* He does not constantly talk about cars; He has a Vehicular Addiction.
* He does not have a hot body; He is Physically Combustible.
* He is not unsophisticated; He is Socially Malformed.
* He does not eat like a pig; He suffers from Reverse Bulimia.
* He is not a bad dancer; He is Overly Caucasian.
* He does not hog the blankets; He is Thermally Unappreciative.
* He is not a male chauvinist pig; He has Swine Empathy.


Bottom of the Barrel – The Study Group leader was giving the folks a bit of background on the 16th century reformer, Martin Luther.
“Luther nailed his 95 theses ...”
“Feces?” asked Jennifer.
“No, theses! Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the church door in 1517, and according to the record he hit his thumb with the hammer.”
“I’ll bet nobody wanted him around after that,” said Jennifer.
“Why not?” said the surprised leader.
“Because nobody likes a sore luther.”

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