Saturday, September 5, 2009

Preaching Materials for September 13, 2009

R U M O R S # 566
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor

September 6, 2009


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

Holy Kamolie Batman! Whoda thunk it! 8 Gs. 8004 people subscribe to Rumors!
That’s either good news or bad news, depending on your viewpoint, but since those who have unsubscribed in disgust are not likely to be reading this, I guess it’s good news.
It feels good anyway. It’s a good time to say thanks to all those who have sent in stuff to add spice to the whole thing. Especially Jim Taylor..
To celebrate, I am going to throw caution to the wind and put real sugar in my tea tonight instead of that chemical sweet stuff.
And I shall drink a toast to all of you who at least skim through this stuff week after week.
It has been suggested we’ve reached those numbers because you are all a bunch of skinflints and you’ll subscribe to anything if it’s free.


The Story – the most crucial question
Rumors – a big hunk of identity
Soft Edges – delighted to help
Good Stuff – giving up everything
Bloopers – gossip music
Mirabile Dictu! – double your money
Bottom of the Barrel – disciples wag their tales
Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Mark 8:27-38
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)


Rib Tickler – David Gilchrist used this to finish a sermon. Possibly not a good idea David, because then people might really listen to sermons and who knows what kind of problems that would generate.
Here’s the story.
After church service, a member and a visitor were discussing the new minister.
"Why did you let the other pastor go?" the visitor asked.
Because he always preached that if we didn't mend our ways we'd go straight to hell."
"But that's just what the minister said today!"
"Yes" replied the member, "but the other one acted as if he were glad!"

Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, September 13th, Proper 19 (24)

* Proverbs 1:20-33 or Isaiah 50:4-9a
* Psalm 19 or Psalm 116:1-9 (optional Psalm reading: Wisdom of Solomon 7:26 - 8:1)
* James 3:1-12
* Mark 8:27-38
Proverbs 1:20-33 – Sophia (Wisdom) was a wise woman but in some respects not very smart. She can’t understand why the folks she’s been calling to in the street don’t want to listen to someone tell them they are doing everything wrong.
When I went out to begin my very short career as a country school teacher, my dad, a career teacher, told me: “It’s all about patting people on the back. Mostly you pat them on the shoulder and when you have their trust, then you can pat them a little lower sometimes.”
Lady Wisdom tells the people that because they were so dumb and didn’t listen to her scolding, when all the awful things happen that she has predicted, she’s going to say, “I told you so.” That should make her really popular.

The Story (from the Revised Common Lectionary) – Mark 8:27-38I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for the disciples. Biblical scholars may spend months – years even, trying to understand what Jesus is saying here. And Jesus seems to have expected them to understand in the course of a day’s walk.
I also feel a bit sorry for the folks in our congregations. Us religious professionals spend our lives working on biblical material, and then look down our noses when the folks in the pews come up with simplistic understandings of this material.
Having just written “The Lectionary Story Bible,” I would like to have stopped Jesus in mid-discourse and said, “OK, explain that to a seven-year-old.”
When I get to be in charge of everything, I would require all persons studying for the ministry to re-write one of the synoptic gospels for children. Not John. I’m not that sadistic.
Since there are few signs of anybody putting me in charge of anything, all I can do is plead with those who will deal with this passage in preaching or in bible study to recognize how opaque this passage is.

Jim says –
I love the rich, rolling sonority of the Psalms (either 19 or 116) but I cannot ignore Mark’s story of Peter’s confession and Jesus’ subsequent teaching. (I would remind hearers that in John’s gospel, it’s Martha who makes this “Great Confession,” not Peter – which might be one reason why some of the early church patriarchs lobbied against including John in the canon at all.)
I would like to drive Peter’s message home, over and over. So I would build the whole service around a liturgical refrain:
Leader: "Who do we say that he is?"
Congregation: “He is the Messiah” or perhaps preferably “Jesus is Lord!”
I would use that litany in my prayers, between hymns, for the offering, and repeatedly during the sermon. I would use it at least a dozen times, even more if possible. I would ring the changes by having people whisper it, shout it, say it to each other, say it to God. Whatever the day’s news headlines, whatever the tale of joy or of woe, our response is the same as that of the early church – “Jesus is Lord!”
In Mark, Jesus teaches the disciples about the suffering he (and they, and we) will inevitably experience. Whatever comes, we will affirm, “Jesus is Lord.”
Thanks be to God. Amen.

Psalm 19 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
1 Quarks and electrons, crystals and cells;
stems and trunks and limbs and bodies–
2 on the land, in the water, in the air–
the elements of the universe wait to expand our understanding.
3 Rocks have no words, nor do cells have syllables,
4 yet their message can be read anywhere.
Even the fiery stars,
5 racing at unimaginable speeds through space,
6 yield their secrets to those willing to probe the limits of God's universe.
7 And what do they find?
An underlying harmony, a delicate equilibrium
built on the value of every thing,
living or inanimate, past, present, and future.
8 There are no exceptions.
No one is above the law of interdependence.
9 Life dies and becomes new life;
spirit and flesh are one.
My fate is inextricably linked to yours,
and our fate to the trees and insects.
10 This is the beginning of wisdom.
It is better than wealth, more valuable than possessions.
11 Awareness of it will change you forever.
12 But we are too often blind;
we close our ears to the voices of the winds and the waves, to the insights of the rocks and the plants.
13 God, keep us from thinking we know it all;
human minds cannot encompass eternity;
an assembly of facts does not equal truth.
14 Keep us always open to wonder, to beauty, to mystery,
O greatest of mysteries.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Publications.
For details, go to

James 3:1-12 – Those of us who have made or are making a living out of words need to sit up and take notice. Our skills, used irresponsibly, can do huge amounts of harm, especially if some people guide their lives by them.
It means, among other things, that there needs to be some kind of consistency between the words we speak or write, and the message we are offering.
I have a deep concern for the environment, especially global warming, and that’s often the subject of my verbal outbursts. But while Bev and I are doing a lot, we aren’t doing as much as we could.

“The Lectionary Story Bible” offers a story based on Proverbs 1:20-33, “Lady Wisdom Speaks.” It’s on Year B, page 192. “Strong as a Rock” is a story based on Mark 8:27-38 found on Year B, page 193.
Every clergy library and every church library should have a complete set. Year C offers a complete index to all the stories.
There’s at least one story for each Sunday, usually two, and occasionally three. 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 can full warm and fuzzy and noble when I change something in my life patterns that reduce my impact on the environment. But when it’s imposed, I pout.
Last spring, I had a couple of “incidents” that – umpteen tests and specialists later – was finally diagnosed as brain spasms.
“Think carefully,” the neurologist says, “of things you do that would result in injury to yourself or someone else if you had a spasm in the middle of it.” The most obvious thing – driving.
Giving up the wheel, I’d thought, would be an inconvenience – more to Bev and to Jim than to myself – but I find myself feeling like a teenager who’s been grounded. Or a crook under house arrest. Even when I have nowhere I want to go, I feel like that.
Is it a “guy thing?”Is the symbolic significance of not being able to drive greater for most men than for women? I remember a few years ago driving with a friend whose eyesight had deteriorated well past the point where it was no longer safe to drive. He finally gave it up, but only after he had endangered himself and many others.
The other thing I’m wrestling with is the fact that I do not feel well. The prescription that addresses those spasms has a bunch of side effects, the main ones being headache and queasy stomach.
I don’t enjoy writing when I don’t feel well, and I’m not enjoying this issue of Rumors. But I’m writing it because I’m the guy who does Rumors. It’s a big hunk of my identity. I can’t not write it.
When Jesus asked his friends, “Who do people say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?” I’m sure he had more significant things in mind than my petty struggles with driving or my emotional need to write Rumors. But surely that was part of it.
During the course of his ministry, it slowly began to dawn on Jesus who he was – and what he was called to be. And it scared the blue spots off his skivvies.
We use our own experiences as lenses through which to understand the God story. And as I read that passage, I ache for Jesus.


Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
Delighted to Help
I had another birthday this week. So I decided to give myself a week off and make use of a letter I wrote, tongue in cheek, a while ago when I got fed up with a flood of unsolicited mailings from eminently worthy organizations who all wanted me to support them financially.
Although this letter is addressed to the Canadian Red Cross – an organization I respect, by the way – its real target is every charity that views my wallet as a bottomless pit.

Dear Red Cross,
I’m not sure how long you’ve been sending me letters. Certainly I did not initiate this recurring correspondence.
Let me state first that I have no animosity towards you. I value the work you have done, especially during wars. I do not hold the tainted blood scandal against you any more – although I admit that at the time, I was angry about your apparent preference for protecting your reputation over your compassion for the victims of HIV-infected blood supplies.
I have, however, my own list of over a dozen charities that my wife and I support financially. I won’t bore you with the names of these charities, or the reasons why we choose to support them, except to say that we have some kind of personal connection with each one. So we’re not likely to stop supporting any of them. But also, since we’re already giving well over ten per cent of our retirement income to these worthwhile causes, we are not likely to add a new charity to our list either.
I’ve been wondering how much it costs you to send me your more-or-less monthly requests. I visited my local copy shop and requested an estimate for a large volume printing of a personalized four-page letter, with reply card and prepaid return envelope. They estimated the direct costs of paper, card stock, envelopes, color printing, and stuffing at $1.95 per unit. Then it would cost you 54 cents to mail the letter, plus another 54 cents if I reply. I’m guessing that each letter must also involve at least $1.00 worth of staff time, just for handling and processing, for a total of around $4.00 per piece.
Obviously, this does not include any additional inducements you enclose, such as fancy return address labels, personalized note pads, corporate calendars, etc.
Conservatively, then, your mailings to me must cost you around $48 a year.
I’d like to make a deal with you. If you stop sending letters asking me to contribute, you would automatically have an additional $48 available for your various worthy causes. That’s revenue that you wouldn’t have otherwise, just as valuable as if I sent you a $48 donation.
As compensation for forgoing the pleasure of your correspondence, I would appreciate a charitable donation receipt for the $48 I shall be saving you each year.
Otherwise, I look forward to not hearing from you.
Yours sincerely,
Jim Taylor


Good Stuff – This from Don Sandin.
A plump businessman, dripping with gold and diamonds, came one day to visit Mother Teresa, fell at her feet, and proclaimed, "Oh my God, you are the holiest of the Holy! You are the super-holy one! You have given up everything! I cannot even give up one samosa for breakfast! Not one single chapati for lunch can I give up!" Mother Teresa started to laugh so hard her attendant nuns were concerned. She was in her mid-80s and frail from two recent heart attacks.
Eventually, she stopped laughing and, wiping her eyes with one hand, she leaned forward to help her adorer to his feet. "So you say I have given up everything?" she said quietly.
The businessman nodded enthusiastically. Mother Teresa smiled. "Oh, my dear man," she said, "you are so wrong. It isn't I who have given up everything; it is you. You have given up the supreme sacred joy of life, the source of all lasting happiness, the joy of giving your life away to other beings, to serve the Divine in them with compassion. It is you who is the great renunciate!"
To the businessman's total bewilderment, Mother Teresa got down on her knees and bowed to him. Flinging up his hands, he ran out of the room.

Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – Donna Fowler-Marchant of Fayetteville, North Carolina remembers when she was in a small church where she had to do everything including the bulletin. She intended to type, “I Am Thine, O Lord,” and maybe it was a Freudian slip. Anyway, she typed, “I Am Thin, O Lord.”

Marie Zettler tells of “a lovely ecumenical outdoor worship service at our local agricultural fair today.” After the service, the program listed “Gossip Music, outdoor stage.”
Marie, we have “Gossip Music” every Sunday morning at our church. Except they call it the “Prelude.”

Katherine Roark of Lexington, Kentucky says the "Simon Pizza" blooper last week reminded her of typing Matthew 23:1-12. It should read: "He who humbles himself will be exalted," I typed, "He who humbles himself will be exhausted." Probably also true!

Marilyn Leuty says her folks in Grimsby were a bit surprised when they read in the bulletin that "’Doubt’ is available in the office.” Some of the folks were saying you really didn’t need to go as far as the church office to find doubt. Then it turned out that “Doubt” is the name of a movie available for viewing by people in the movie discussion club.

Coral Cogs Smith of Grange, South Australia has a husband with a set of sore ribs. The worship leader said, “Let us say a Prayer of Thanks as the children leave for Sunday School” Said husband “nearly fell off the pew” laughing, so Coral “gave him a good wifey glare and a nudge in the ribs with my elbow.”

If you’ve spotted any good bloopers or fun incidents in your church bulletin or newsletter, or anywhere else for that matter, please send them to me.


Wish I’d Said That! – Any government that takes credit for the rain should not be surprised when it gets blamed for the drought.
Dwight W. Morrow via Cliff Boldt

Joy is the serious business of heaven.
C.S. Lewis via David Kaiser.
Whatever you do, do it with all your might, for things done by halves are never done right.
Anonymous, via Mary in Oman


Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “double your money!”)
This from George Brigham who has just moved to Retford, Nottinghamshire, England. He got it from Roger Piper (of Teddington, West London.
George and Roger, you have just made the biggest contribution to the life and well-being of the church since the invention of duct tape.

How to increase the weekly offering…
* Theological Basis: 'As a man winneth so will he giveth.' Hez. 6:15
* Purpose: The ' BLT' (bottom line theory) is to get more money to find its way into the offering plates on Sunday mornings.
* Plan: Three simple steps to explosive giving:
1. When the stewards bring the collection bags forward the minister or local preacher will place all the offering envelopes in a big round bowl.
2. One of the stewards will step forward and draw out one of the offering envelopes from the big round bowl.
3. The 'winner' (person or family whose offering envelope is drawn) will receive double their money back!!
* Benefits: Listed below are some of the outstanding benefits from this “Sure Fire Stewardship Campaign”:
1. More and more members will begin using offering envelopes.
2. When you make the offering envelopes available only to church members you will be astounded at how your membership will grow.
3. Members will naturally put in more money because they know that if their envelope is drawn they will get more back (never underestimate the intelligence of your members).
4. Your worship service will reach new heights of excitement. You can imagine the excitement and drama each Sunday as the winning envelope is drawn.
5. You will have no trouble lining up stewards because of the excitement, honour, and prestige that comes with the job (and the opportunity to be the last to insert their envelope).
6. Your finance committee will never again have to worry about buying those expensive offering envelopes. When this new scheme catches on members will be more than willing to buy their own. You will also discover that many will buy more than one set of envelopes. I call this the 'bingo syndrome.'
7. Ministers will no longer have to work quite so hard on their sermons as that will no longer be the 'main event’ in the service.


Bottom of the Barrel – The Bishop of the Arctic many years ago put together a team to translate the Bible into the Inuit language. The team found it hard to find the correct translation for the word “joy,” which was important because it is used in the New Testament at least 60 times. They could find 37 words for snow but that wasn’t helpful.
So one day the Bishop said to the Eskimo people: “Look at those huskies over there. They have finished their work for the day. The word we want is the word that describes what those huskies are experiencing.”
Some months later, when the Inuit Bible translation was completed, it was Easter at a local church and this is the English equivalent of what the congregation heard when a woman got up to read the lesson: “The disciples were in the upper room for fear of discovery and Jesus appeared to them. And when the disciples saw the Lord they wagged their tails!”


Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Mark 8:27-38
Reader 1: Did Jesus have a driver’s license?
Reader 2: Of course not. They hadn’t even invented cars in those days.
1: Yeah. I know. I was just kidding. But this passage we’re going to read seems to have to do with identity.
2: Exactly. But I wonder, was Jesus really wondering who he was, or did he already know?
1: Well, let’s read the passage and find out. This passage if from the 8th Chapter of the Gospel of Mark.
2: Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples.
1: "Who do people say that I am?"2: And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets."1: "But who do you say that I am?"
2: Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah."
1: And Jesus sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.2: He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter.
1: "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."2: Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and spoke to them,
1: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

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