Friday, August 7, 2009

Preaching Materials for August 16, 2009

R U M O R S # 564
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor

August 9, 2009



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

The Story – a cry for wisdom
United Church of Canada General Council Delegates – an announcement
Rumors – an apology
Soft Edges – leaving a legacy
Bloopers – sexcess
We Get Letters – super jowl
Mirabile Dictu! – alge-bra
Bottom of the Barrel – chocolate, the perfect food
Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
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 Peggy Neufeld.
A little boy was waiting for his mother to come out of the grocery Store.
A stranger approached and asked, "Son, can you tell me where the Post Office is?"
"Sure!” said the boy, “Just go straight down this street a coupla blocks and turn to your right."
“Thank you,” said the man. "I'm the new pastor in town. Why don’t you come to church on Sunday. I'll show you how to get To Heaven."
"Awww, come on...” said the boy. “You don't even know the way to the Post Office."

Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, August 16th, which is Proper 15 [20]
* 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 (or Proverbs 9:1-6)
* Psalm 111
* Ephesians 5:15-20
* John 6:51-58

The Story (from the Revised Common Lectionary) 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

Jim says –
I do not find myself inspired by any of the recommended readings for this Sunday. But given the choice between further exploration of an extended metaphor (John), good advice (Ephesians), and a transfer of power (1 Kings), I’d probably go with Solomon asking for wisdom.
Perhaps that reflects some personal bias – I like to credit myself with occasional flashes of wisdom.
In reality, there’s not much evidence of Solomon’s wisdom in the rest of his biblical story. Most of it is about his possessions – from his thousand bedmates to his building of an opulent temple.
And so I would want to ask what makes us important. Is it our bank accounts? Our charitable donations? Our multitude of toys? Our sexual conquests? The enthusiasm of our fan clubs?
These are more than just questions for individuals – they also apply to societies collectively. What makes our nation, our civilization, significant and worthwhile?
We tend to have short collective memories. We think in terms of one generation, or two – probably three generations at the most. The Bible gives us an overview covering the evolution of a culture over more than 2,000 years.
Two thousand years from now – if humans survive that long – what will make our culture stand out in history?
I suspect that anything less than commitment to God’s purposes will leave us with as hollow a claim to fame as Solomon’s.

Ralph says –
There’s an interesting side-light in this story. It reflects an unhappiness that even the great King Solomon was known to worship at the altar of the fertility gods in the hills. It was a struggle throughout early Hebrew history – Yahweh versus the gods who promised abundant harvests and many children.
Those gods were so much easier to understand and the rewards they promised were so much more immediate. And the struggle has been there throughout history especially now that the gods of the consumer culture are strong, articulate and pervasive and use the media so effectively.
If you listen-look-read the ads carefully, you’ll discover that they offer everything the Christian faith offers – acceptance, meaning, fulfillment, love, hope, the abundant life. They can’t deliver, of course, but they make the promises over and over to the point where people have a sense of being fulfilled when they respond to the ads. And the rewards are so much more immediate.

Psalm 111 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
1 The bright blue planet spins in the vast darkness of space;
let all who live on the earth rejoice.
2 Only on this one tiny orb do we know life exists;
let all who live on the earth give thanks.
3 The vision takes our breath away;
let all who live on the earth open their eyes.
4 This fragile ball bursting with life is a work of art;
let all who live on earth recognize God's goodness.
5 Foxes and fieldmice, humans and whales, eagles and ants--
all are woven together in a tapestry of relationships;
let all who live on the earth recognize this reality.
6 And God has delegated responsibility to us;
let all who live on the earth be mindful.
7 We must exercise care not to upset the delicate equilibrium of shared life;
let all who live on the earth understand their responsibility.
8 A tapestry cannot be reduced to a single thread;
let all who live on the earth accept their responsibility.
9 This egg floating in the dark womb of the universe is like God's own embryo;
let all who live on earth treat it as holy.
10 We share an awesome and terrible responsibility;
may God live forever.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Publications.
For details, go to

Ephesians 5:15-20 – The exhortation to be wise seems to include only one for instance – don’t drink yourself blotto. I’m sure there are lots of other examples of how the gift of wisdom is lived out in the life we confront from day to day. Kindness. Generosity. Hopefulness. Justice. Inclusiveness. Many more.

John 6:51-58 – If it was ever necessary to explain the nature of a metaphor, it would be with this chapter. The alternative is the doctrine of trans-substantiation which may well be based on this passage.
I would think it would be necessary to say a few words about metaphor if I were going to read this passage. Otherwise the folks in the pew – if they were really listening – would be badly misinformed.
I do remember a lawyer leaving church somewhat angrily saying, “I don’t like being told to be cannibalistic!”


Attention people coming to the meeting of the United Church General Council this week in Kelowna.
Margaret Kyle and I will be in the UCRD bookroom from Tuesday noon through till about 2pm. Then we’ll be at Wood Lake Books from noon through most of the afternoon for the official launch of the three-volume Lectionary Story Bible.
You’ll be able to have the complete set signed by both of us, as well as other books (such as The Spirituality of Grandparenting) that are still in print.
It would be great to see you there.


Rumors – Nothing in this space this week. Between a rush trip to Winnipeg for the service of my nephew Tim Hunt who died very suddenly, and a week at a church camp with my kids and grandkids, there has been neither time nor energy to write anything worth reading.
Sorry about that.


Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
Leaving a Legacy
I suppose I must be coming closer to the end of my life. A sure sign seems to be the number of organizations that implore me to include them in my will.
I doubt if they know something about my health that I don’t. More likely, anyone who passes a certain birthday becomes fair game.
“You may not be around much longer,” seems to be the message of these entreaties. “But you can continue to influence events by leaving some of your money with us.”
It’s an insidious but persuasive argument. Because all of us want to leave some kind of enduring legacy, don’t we? Or, to put it another way, none of us want to feel that our lives have been meaningless – that when we pass, poof, we’re gone, as if we had never been there at all...
So people with lots of money fund university departments that will bear their name. They establish libraries or museums. Erect buildings. Or just put up a park bench with a brass plaque on it...
It makes me wonder what constitutes lasting fame.
After the death of novelist John Updike last January, John McTavish, a retired United Church minister and Updike fan, collected some of the tributes and eulogies lavished upon the writer.
They came from other authors, like Erica Jong and John Irving; from editors who had worked with Updike; from classmates; from relatives; from people who had never met him but had their lives changed by reading his books...
One such tribute came from British journalist Bryan Appleyard. His comments (edited slightly) bring into focus the difference between being newsworthy and being significant.
“I know there’s been a lot written about Updike,” Appleyard wrote. “But if Barrack Obama or Tony Blair had died, the coverage would have been Updike squared if not cubed. Yet the death of an age’s great artist is surely infinitely more important than that of one of its politicians.
“Do you know, for example, who was prime minister when Charles Dickens published Bleak House? Of course, you don’t. (It was the Earl of Aberdeen – who he?). At the time, Forgotten Aberdeen, as we must now call him, would have seemed much more important than the publication of a mere novel. Not now. Bleak House stands like a rock and poor old Forgotten doesn’t stand at all.
“That’s the point – except for a few rare exceptions, all politicians are of their time and nothing more. History diminishes them by turning them into pawns of its hindsight narratives. But, for centuries, Updike will be read and discussed. Our strutting, fretting leaders will, along with us, have vanished.”
No doubt Appleyard recalled the speech Shakespeare wrote for Macbeth: “Out, out, brief candle; life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.”
Maybe so. But the author of those words is still heard, more than 400 years later.
Now that’s a legacy!


Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – This from Carl Boyke:
The church is glad to have with us today as our guest minister the Rev. Shirley Green, who has Mrs. Green with him. After the service, we request that all remain in the sanctuary for the Hanging of the Greens.

Tim Hayward of Trenton, Ontario was helping his congregation celebrate an anniversary. The materials they had gathered, said Tim, reflected “the sexcess of their fifty years together."

Nancy Prieb found this in the Sunday bulletin: “The Fundraising Committee will be serving lunch today following worship. The menu is a Salad Bare Buffet including salads, sandwiches, salad bar type items, desert and drinks.”

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! – Have a good day. Unless you have made other plans.
source unknown via Lestor Wilcox

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
Winston Churchill via Mary from Oman
You can't control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.
source unknown via John Severson


We Get Letters – Sharyl Peterson of Grand Junction, Colorado writes: “The comments on "Dare to be a Spaniel" (including the "purple spine") reminded me of other hymn bloopers I've actually heard:
The most famous, which lots of us have heard, is about the large bruin named Gladly, as in "Gladly, the Cross-eyed Bear"
When my Uncle Harold used to teach kindergarten Sunday School, one Christmas his little darlings stood up and sang out, "Hark! Harold's angels sing!"
And, one of my "vintage" church members (she likes this term better than "elderly") told me how her fellow grade-schoolers learned a new song for the annual Sunday School Parade: "Lead on, O Kinky Turtle."

April Dailey, of Ford City, Pennsylvania writes: Speaking of the “Super Bowel”, “would the winner of a world championship spelling bee be the recipient of a ‘Super Vowel’? A dog show, a ‘Super Howl’? Something truly for the birds could be called ‘Super Fowl’?
“A bunch of monks contending for the ‘Super Cowl’? Carpenters, the ‘Super Dowel’? A person with the most pronounced double chins, the ‘Super Jowl’?”

David Sprang of Gladwin, Michigan offers:
* a font of baptized
* a chalice of communicants
* a sanctuary of the saved
* a nave of pew sitters
* a congregation of witnesses
* a hymnbook of singers
* a communion of sacramentalists
* a flock of preachers

Bev Ares offers this very helpful exercise plan for people like you and me.
Begin by standing on a comfortable surface, where you have plenty of room at each side. With a 5-lb potato bag in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute, and then relax. After a couple of weeks, move up to 10-lb potato bags. Then try 50-lb potato bags and then eventually try to get to where you can lift a 100-lb potato bag in each hand and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute. After you feel confident at that level, put a potato in each bag.


Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “alge-bra!”)
One of the things you learn as you get older is how to always find someone else to blame. In this case, it’s Sharyl Peterson of Grand Junction, Colorado. Or is it that the whole state of Colorado is so high up in the rarified atmosphere that they just get this way after awhile?
The Philosophy of Ambiguity * What do you do when you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?
* Would a fly without wings be called a walk?* Why do they lock gas station bathrooms? Are they afraid someone will clean them?
* If a turtle doesn’t have a shell, is it homeless or naked?
* Can vegetarians eat animal crackers?* If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has a right to remain silent?* Why do they put Braille on the drive through bank machines?
* How do they get deer to cross the road only at those yellow road signs?* Does the Little Mermaid wear an algebra?* How is it possible to have a civil war?* If you ate both pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?* If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?
* Why are hemorrhoids called hemorrhoids instead of asteroids?* Can an atheist get insurance against acts of God?


Bottom of the Barrel – Sharyl Peterson also sends this item (which proves my point – see above). It is heartily endorsed by daughter Kari.
Your Irish coffee as "all four food groups" reminded me of some frighteningly little-known facts about why chocolate is the perfect food:
1. It is a vegetable. Yes, a vegetable. It is made from cocoa beans, which grow on a plant.
2. It also contains dairy products, used to make it smooth and creamy. Eat enough chocolate and you can forget about drinking all those glasses of milk a day that the Daily Food Pyramid suggests.
3. If you eat the kind with nuts, you're adding protein and fiber to your diet.
4. If you eat the kind with little bits of cereal in it, you're also getting a serving of grain. And it's way better than a couple of slices of wheat bread.
5. Eat the kind with raspberries in it, or chocolate-covered fruit of any kind, and you're also getting a fruit serving.
6. Eat chocolate-covered ants, and you boost the protein. However, most of us are willing to forego that.
7. Finally, buy Fair Trade chocolate, and you're doing justice work in the world.
What could be better than that?


Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

Reader 1: I just noticed something. The first part of this passage tells us that David died at home in bed. That was pretty unusual, I think – for kings to die that way.
Reader 2: Exactly. And he reigned for 40 years. Most kings were lucky if they weren’t killed on the battle field or assassinated by a member of their own family. You remember last week Absalom tried to do-in his daddy.
1: So this reading begins with the death of David and the beginning of the reign of Solomon. David was known as a great military leader, but Solomon was known for his wisdom.
2: Solomon was also known for worshiping in the high places – in the pagan altars up in the hills.
1: Maybe he was trying to hedge his bets. He worshipped the Hebrew God, but he wanted to keep the fertility gods in the mountains happy too.
2: So let’s begin. A reading from the book of First Kings.
1: Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David.
2: The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem.
1: So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.
1: Solomon loved the God, walking in the statutes of his father David. Except that he also sacrificed and offered incense at the high places.
2: The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.
1: At Gibeon God appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, "Ask. What I should give you?" And here’s what Solomon replied.
2: You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today.
And now, O Lord, my God, you have made me king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in.
And now I am in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted.
Therefore, give to me, your servant, an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?"
1: It pleased God that Solomon had asked this.
2: This is what God said to Solomon.
1: "Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.
I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you.
If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life."

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