Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Preaching Materials for June 28th, 2009

R U M O R S # 557
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor

June 21st, 2009


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

The Story – it’s who got healed
Rumors – Marie trusts me
Soft Edges – Canadian icons
Bloopers – the logical seminary
We Get Letters – an inordinate fondness for beetles
Mirabile Dictu! – a whirl of dervishes
Bottom of the Barrel – Christian fleas
Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Mark 5:21-43
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)


Rib Tickler – The church board was considering the agenda.
“Item number one,” said the board chair, “someone figures we should buy a chandelier for this here room. I can’t see the sense of it myself. In the first place, it’d be way too expensive, and even if we got one, we don’t have nobody that knows how to play the thing.”
“Besides,” piped up another member. “What we really need in this room is some decent lighting.”


Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, June 28th, Proper 8 [13].
* 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27 or Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15, 2:23-24
* Psalm 130 or Psalm 30 (optional Psalm reading: Lamentations 3:23-33)
* 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
* Mark 5:21-43
The Story (from the Revised Common Lectionary) – Mark 5:21-43
I would have preferred to use the passage from 2nd Samuel, because it is David’s lamentation over Saul and Jonathan. But the gospel reading is too important to neglect and it occurs nowhere else in the cycle.

Jim says –
Ralph’s right – this is too good a story to skip, despite the allure of David’s famous line, “How the mighty are fallen...”
I would look beyond the specifics, the exegesis of the patriarchal culture of Jesus’ time that considered women and children less worthy than men. I would tell the story as part of a consistent pattern of honoring those who are too often belittled by society.
And I would use a modern example. As reported by Associated Press, ten-year-old Kennedy Corpus attended Barack Obama's town hall meeting in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with her father. During a question and answer session, John Corpus mentioned that his daughter was missing school to attend the event.
"Do you need me to write a note?" Obama asked. The crowd laughed, but the president was serious.
On a piece of paper, he wrote: "To Kennedy's teacher: Please excuse Kennedy's absence. She's with me. Barack Obama." Then he stepped off the stage to hand-deliver the note.
I’m not attempting to glorify Obama; I’m trying to say that Jesus’ kind of breaking-the-rules respect for those who often fly below society’s radar still exists, and always has.
It’s up to us to recognize it and to celebrate it whenever it occurs.

Ralph says:
A story within a story, and both of them powerful. What strikes me most about this story is not the healings, but who was healed.
In the hierarchy of first century Jewish life, a child was much less important than an adult, and a girl child even less so. The story has Jesus going out of his way to heal this girl, which tells us again that he was constantly working against the social system which classified some people as more important than others.
That idea is underlined in the story within the story. The woman broke all the rules by being out in public when she was hemorrhaging. She was considered ritually unclean and therefore should have kept to herself to avoid contaminating others. But she forces her way through the crowd, making every one she brushes against unclean. And she touches Jesus.
Instead of yelling at her for making him ritually unclean, he says it was her faith that made her well. Not his action but her faith. Nor does Jesus go through the necessary ablutions to ritually cleanse himself, but proceeds right on to the house of an official of the synagogue who would have been very conscious of such rules.
Jesus kept coloring outside the lines.

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27 – I find verse 26 of this passage deeply moving. My gay friends tell me it shows that Jonathan and David were in a homosexual relationship. I don’t have a problem with that.
But the passage also leads me to reflect on deep friendships – people of the same sex or male and female. Deep and profound friendship is a powerful and beautiful gift that is undervalued. It is a friendship that takes work and it takes years. It grows into a gift that may be deeper and stronger and more satisfying than any erotic or romantic relationship.
I have been blessed with two such friendships. Bev, my wife of more than 50 years, and Jim, my colleague of about 30 years. Such friendships take work, commitment and time.

Psalm 130:1-8 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
A woman described her clinical depression as a deep black pit with shiny walls, too smooth for her to climb.
1 From the bottom of a deep black pit, God, I shout at you.
2 The walls rise above my head, shutting out the light.
Can you hear me, God?
I can't get out by my own efforts.
3 I've tried and tried. I climb part way out,
and then I slide back again to the bottom.
Without your help, I'm sunk forever.
4 Don't judge me – forgive me!
Free me from my secret faults.
Give me another chance!
5 I shall go down in the depths of the pit and wait for your decision.
6 Like parents staying up until a teenager comes home,
like a puppy poised for its master's footstep,
I wait for your response.
I know I will not be disappointed.
7 Put your hope in the Lord.
You will not be disappointed either.
8 God can free us from our failures,
and save us from our successes.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Publications.
For details, go to

2 Corinthians 8:7-15 – This passage is good stewardship material. Paul is writing to the folks in Corinth who have been holding back on helping the hurting folks in Jerusalem. Paul offers healing to the Corinthian congregation through a change of focus and an opening of their hearts to others.

I keep getting more and more reports of people using the “Lectionary Story Bible,” the “Readers’ Theatre” and their sermon, as a one-two-three punch to help adults enjoy and understand the scripture.
Of course, the Story Bible version of the scripture is read while the children are still in church. The adults think it’s for the kids, but they listen anyway, so when the Readers’ Theatre comes along later in the service and offers that same passage from a translation, and that same scripture is then unpacked in the sermon, folks actually remember and learn.
Not all of them, of course. Some would need rockets and sirens. But there’s enough feedback to know that it’s working.
For this coming Sunday, you’ll find a story called “A Sad Song about a Good Friend,” based on David’s lamentation, on page 149 and “Jesus Heals a Sick Girl,” based on the gospel, on page 149.
If you don’t already own this three-volume set – “the largest collection of children’s Bible stories ever published” – click the main Wood Lake Publications website at, or click on the following address which takes you directly to the “Lectionary Story Bible.”


Rumors – I have a friend named Marie. She is six months old, and that’s her name. Some people give their babies traditional names. Marie has a brother named Henry.
A few days ago, after Marie had been fed, I held her on my knee for awhile. Naturally, she burped a bit of dinner on to my shirt. Her mother apologized – rather too much, I thought – but Marie smiled and bubbled and stiffened her legs to stand on my lap.
Marie trusts me. She shouldn’t of course, because I am not a very reliable person. I’ve let lots of people down and will probably let her down someday. Marie is only six months old and has no alternative.
I am a little older than Marie and I have alternatives. I don’t trust everybody the way she does. I trust Marie, but then what can she do to me besides spit up on my shirt.
Former US President Lyndon Johnson is quoted as saying he never trusted anyone unless he had that person’s career in his pocket. Johnson did not understand trust. Trust is not mutual fear.
My friend Jim Taylor once talked about a person who “I disagree with on many things, but I trust implicitly.” I trust Jim, come to think of it, even though I know he may well forget the lunch date we have on Wednesday. I don’t trust him to make all the right decisions or to remember everything or to never let me down on anything.
But I trust him to be a good person, and that he would not take advantage of my vulnerabilities. I am not afraid of Jim.
Maybe that’s the same kind of trust I receive from little Marie. Does she know that I will not take advantage of her vulnerabilities? Do I know that?
The woman with the hemorrhage in today’s Gospel and even Jairus were very vulnerable – the woman through her shame and pain. Jairus through his grief and fear. Like Marie, they had no alternative but to trust.
Perhaps we never know whom we trust – whom we can trust – till we are laid out in a hospital bed, or broke, or in jail, or in a nursing home. Or an infant like Marie.
Perhaps God can’t trust us with the gift of love until then either. Until we are vulnerable. Until we know that the ones we trust can hurt us, but we trust them anyway.
Isn’t it interesting how Jesus’ metaphor of becoming “like a child” keeps coming back to us?


Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
Canadian Icons
Author John Robert Colombo once quipped that the two most Canadian institutions were the National Hockey League and the United Church of Canada.
Since then, both the NHL and the UCC have lapsed into irrelevance. The NHL has moved south. Besides, ice hockey playoffs in mid-June? Get real!
And The Observer, the United Church’s national magazine, has plummeted from some 350,000 subscribers – which made it, at one time, Canada’s fourth largest magazine after the Reader’s Digest, Maclean’s, and Time – to around 60,000.
I would guess that today’s Canadian icons are Tilley clothes and Tim Hortons coffee.
Canadians who travel abroad recognize each other by their Tilley hats. Or by Alex Tilley’s shorts or slacks – clothes that wear forever and have secret pockets tucked deep inside where you can carry your passport and traveller’s cheques in absolute security until you have to dig them out in front of a suspicious immigration official...
I wore Tilley hats for years. A couple actually wore out; Tilley replaced them free. Several others got stolen. Whenever I see a Tilley hat go by, I wonder if it’s one of mine.
I have a long history with Tim Hortons too, starting so far back that the Tim Horton’s logo still had an apostrophe. Our son played kids’ hockey. He idolized Tim Horton, the defenceman. We patronized Tim’s first coffee-and-donut shops out of loyalty.
Today, Tim Hortons is Canada’s largest restaurant chain. A recent study found Canadians preferred Tim Hortons to Starbucks, two to one. Tim Hortons put “double-double” into the Canadian vocabulary.
Joan and I travel back and forth to Edmonton to visit grandchildren. We know every Tim Hortons on either of the two possible routes.
When we come back into Canada, after international trips, we know we’re home when we see that familiar Tim Hortons logo in the airport. Donut and drink later, we’re ready to brave the baggage carousels and customs officers.
There’s even a Tim Hortons at the Canadian forces base in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Having a Canadian flag on one’s backpack used to guarantee a friendly reception anywhere in the world. I’m told that’s not true anymore. Between the seal hunt and armed intervention in Afghanistan, Canadians are no longer welcomed with the same warmth.
The United Church has similarly fallen from favour. We used to have missionaries around the world: India, China, Zambia, Kenya, Lesotho, the Polynesian islands... Wherever they were stationed, because of their example, Canadians were regarded with respect.
Now the church just sends money to overseas partners. Sending money makes good sense. It enables local churches to undertake projects that they couldn’t otherwise afford, at far less cost than sending Canadian personnel.
But money is faceless, anonymous. Only the accountants know where it came from.
Canada still sends diplomatic staff. But they’re virtually unknown outside their own circle of acquaintances.
If Canadians want to be liked, respected, even valued abroad, maybe we should invite Tim Hortons and Alex Tilley to represent us.


Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – Evelyn McLachlan laughed at this bumper sticker.
“Where am I going? And why am I in this handbasket?”

April Daily (who says she is an “ecstatic Penguins hockey fan”) says the lector should have read (from Corinthians), “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others..." Instead, the lector read: "...we try to ‘persecute’ others...."
“Gee,” says April. “I hope not!”

Evelyn McLachlin's story about the church sign "losing" a word reminded April of the time at "The Lutheran Theological Seminary" of Gettysburg, PA, in preparation for the ‘Luther Bowl’ (a football game between LTS Philadelphia & LTS Gettysburg) we removed the ‘O’ from theological, leaving the sign to read: ‘Lutheran The Logical Seminary.’ Made perfect sense to me – only logical, of course.”

Sharyl Peterson of Grand Junction, Colorado chuckled at this in the bulletin: "The minister and liturgist will come down the aisle and pass the peach of Christ to you..."

Tim Hayward of Trenton, Ontario tells this one on himself. Reporting on the activities of children at a meeting of the church Conference, Tim said, “these were children brought to conference by their ‘delicate’ (delegate) parents.”

Nicole Burassa-Burke of Scarboro, Ontario, saw this on a church message board.
“Our Sundays are better than Baskin Robbin's"

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! – Blogging is the first draft of history.
Nobel Prize committee, explaining why blogs are now eligible in the writing and newspaper categories. Via Stephani Keer

Nobody roots for Goliath. Wilt Chamberlain via Evelyn McLachlan

It is better to deserve honors and not have them, that have them and not deserve them.
Mark Twain


We Get Letters – Fred Brailey of Orangeville, Ontario writes: There's an apocryphal tale of some theologians asking the late geneticist (and polymath) J.B.S. Haldane what could be inferred about the mind of God from the works of creation. The response : "God has an inordinate fondness for beetles."
“There are over 350 thousand species of beetles. Beetles represent just 40% of all insect species. But then, there are myriads of other microscopic forms of life, including viruses and bacteria, serving who knows how many purposes in the ecology of evolution. Similar things inside our bodies ensure our biological survival.”

Marilyn Stone of Springfield, South Dakota writes: “I love your story of David, especially ‘Guess what Davey told his Dad to do with the sheep?’
“The whole thing makes more sense to our society when told as a sports story. But now I'm trying to figure out HOW I tell or read it to my SMALL congregation. Well, heck, I may just take a chance and read it to them anyway! I'm 63 years old. They're not going to fire me!”


Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “a whirl of dervishes!”) This can make a fun game – give people a list of occupations or kinds of people and ask them to dream up collective nouns. If you add any really good ones to this list, send them to me.
Some examples:
* a mass of priests * a modesty of nuns* a pomposity of prelates * a serenity of monks* a solemnity of bishops* a limit of patients* a herd of roomers* a multitude of sinners* a sowing of doubters* a cloud of pessimists* a horde of misers* a slough of despondents* an abrasion of critics* a semblance of orderlies* a stink of complainers* an unction of do-gooders* a fallacy of Freudians* a whirl of dervishes* a gathering of Zionists* a harmony of transcendentalists* a tide of humanitarians* a vigilance of fundamentalists And when the chaplain has done her best, and God calls us home:* a body of undertakers * a solicitude of morticians


Bottom of the Barrel – Why Church School teachers go grey. Or, “Who’s on First?”
It was one of those days. The Sunday school teacher just knew the lesson would not go well.
It started when young Todd asked a question. “Teacher, is there a Christian flea?”
“Where did you get an idea like that?” the teacher demanded.
“Well, the preacher read it from the Bible. She said, ‘the wicked flea from God.’”
“Well, Todd, that means that the wicked men flee.”
“Then is there a wicked woman flea?”
“No, no. It means that the wicked flee – they run away.”
“Why do they run? “Who?”
“The wicked fleas.”
The teacher had almost lost it by this time. “No, no. Don’t you see? The wicked man runs away when no one is after him.”
“Is there a woman after him?”
“No, there is no woman after him?”
Todd was more confused than ever. “Well, what about the fleas? Are there wicked fleas and Christian fleas?”


Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Mark 5:21-43
Reader I: This is kind of a weird story we’re reading today, isn’t it?
Reader II: It’s really two stories. Jesus heads out to help a high official of the synagogue, and on the way, he encounters a woman with a hemorrhage.
I: Am I the only one who gets a bit twitchy about these healing stories. I can’t help wondering if these things could really happen. I mean, if Jesus could heal a few people here and there, why couldn’t he heal everybody.
II: That’s a really good question, and I don’t know the answer. But that’s not the point of the story.
I: So then what is the point?
II: It’s who Jesus healed. Women weren’t much valued in first century Israel. In fact women were only slightly more valuable then cattle. Children were only important if they were male, and so a young girl is down fairly low on the social ladder. So in our story today, we have Jesus healing a girl-child and a woman.
I: Wasn’t there something weird about that woman he healed? Didn’t she push her way through the crowd to touch Jesus?
II: Weird is an understatement. This was a woman whose menstrual flow was continuous. She took a huge risk. She could have been killed for shoving her way through a crowd. A menstruating woman was considered ritually unclean and that was hugely important in first century Israel. She broke all the rules. And so did Jesus by healing her.
I: OK, so enough blabbering. Let’s get on with the story.
II: A reading from the 5th chapter of the Gospel of Mark.
I: When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side of the lake, a great crowd gathered around him. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and when he saw Jesus, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly.
II: "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live."
I: So Jesus went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak,
II: "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well."
I: Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus was aware that power had gone forth from him.
I: "Who touched my clothes?"
II: His disciples had no idea.
I: "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, 'Who touched me?'"
II: Jesus looked all around to see who had done it.
I: But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.
II: "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."
I: While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house.
II: "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?"
I: But Jesus overheard what they said. He turned to the leader of the synagogue.
II:"Do not fear, only believe."
I: Jesus allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.
II: "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping."
I: They laughed at Jesus. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand.
II: "Little girl, get up!"
I: Immediately the girl got up and began to walk about. She was twelve years of age. At this the people who had gathered were overcome with amazement. Jesus strictly ordered them that no one should know about this. And he told them to give the child something to eat.

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