R U M O R S # 574
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor
November 1, 2009
A DEEPLY TOUCHING STORY
"A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones." (Proverbs 17:22 KJV)
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I post each issue of Rumors on that blog, usually during the last half of the week previous. Or if an issue of Rumors goes missing, or you need a back issue, you can go and find it there.
The Story – two courageous women
Rumors – Boaz remembers
Soft Edges – people and pests
Bloopers – on a private cuddle sac
We Get Letters – church of steel
Mirabile Dictu! – character lines
Bottom of the Barrel – Jesus is watching
Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
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 Bob Buchanan.
A Sunday School teacher was trying to explain about saying grace before meals. One of the pupils was the young son of the minister of that church, so she started the discussion by asking him, "Jerry, what does your father say when the family sits down to dinner?"
"Dad says, 'Go easy on the butter, kids, its three dollars a pound!'"
These are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, November 8, 2009 which is Proper 26  which is also All Saints Day.
* Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 or1 Kings 17:8-16
* Psalm 127 or Psalm 146
* Hebrews 9:24-28
* Mark 12:38-44
The Story (from the Revised Common Lectionary) – Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
Ralph says –
The story of Ruth and Naomi is one of the most moving and powerful sagas in the Bible, because it tells the story of the courage of two women who are caught in a male-oriented system. In this part of the story, Naomi instructs Ruth to deliberately seduce Boaz (“feet” is a euphemism for genitals) because otherwise they will face starvation. Only two snippets of this story are included in the lectionary. It deserves more attention and it is my choice for the story this week even though there is an equally powerful story of the “widow’s mite” in the gospel. If I were preaching, I’d find a way to connect the two, perhaps to talk about the way your perception of morality changes when your back is up against the wall.
If I were going to preach the story of Ruth and Naomi, I would use the children’s version from the Lectionary Story Bible, Year B, page 220, because it tells the whole Ruth and Naomi story. The story is also summarized in the Reader’s Theatre version of scripture, and you could excerpt just that even if you don’t plan to use the whole Reader’s Theatre thing.
Either way, please tell the story. This week’s lectionary selection doesn’t really make much sense without that context.
There is also a monologue, “Boaz Remembers” under “Rumors.” It is not intended for, nor would it be understood by, children. Its best use would be in a study group looking at the story, but it does give some insight into the reality of a widow’s life in biblical days.
Jim says –
To me, the story of Naomi and Ruth is one of the most touching in the Bible. It’s right up there with the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
But I think that most presentations of the story
a) deal with only small fragments of it
b) make Naomi far too nice.
When I read the whole story, beginning to end, I see Naomi as rather embittered by her losses – understandably, since she lost not just her husband, but both sons too. With no male head-of-household, she was a total nobody.
So she decided to return home, where she could at least throw herself under the umbrella of some more distant male relatives. Yes, she tries to persuade her daughters-in-law to stay in their home country, but I wonder if that’s genuine self-sacrifice, or an episode of the “oh, poor me!” blues.
But she must have been a lovable woman once, for Ruth to stick with her.
Then, when they got back to Naomi’s home, Naomi manipulates Ruth to seduce Boaz, an unmarried kin. The climax of the story (Chapter 4:16-17) is that Naomi now has a grandson. She got what she had wanted all along. Her lineage would continue.
Of course, we can see further into the future – that lineage will eventually come to flower in King David.
Psalm 127:1-5 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
In the wisdom of the psalmist's time, children offered the only social security most families had; barrenness was considered a curse. Today, many people choose not to have children, and governments provide the social security.
1 The road of life takes many tricky turns;
you never know what crisis waits around the corner.
2 Each day has only 24 hours;
You cannot accomplish any more by burning candles at both ends;
You will only burn yourself out.
But God knows what you can do, and God will give you the strength you need.
3 God gives family and friends to sustain us when we weaken;
4 They are our insurance against the future.
5 Treat everyone as a friend,
and you will never lack for support when you need it.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Publications.
For details, go to www.woodlakebooks.com
Hebrews 9:24-28 – The passage seems to be around knowing the difference between a sacrifice that is real, and those which are unreal. And it has to do with cost. The ritual sacrifices of the priests cost them nothing, whereas Jesus’ sacrifice cost him everything.
Mark 12:38-44 – Two real incidents come immediately to mind. The two women involved are both dead. In one tiny, struggling congregation where Bev served during her first years in ministry, a woman in the community would make a grand entrance to the church twice a year, and each time would put a cheque for several thousand dollars on the offering plate, even though Bev said to her on one occasion, “We don’t want your money. We want you.”
In another congregation, a woman attended church faithfully and involved herself in the work of the church as much as she was able. Rachel suffered significant handicaps herself and was a single mother with two handicapped children. She lived on welfare which was inadequate for her most basic needs and even less so considering her handicapped children.
And Rachel tithed. Only Bev, who helped her set up a budget, knew that. From the little she had, Rachel tithed, even though Bev suggested she might give less. “If I don’t do that part right,” she said, “nothing else works.” Rachel tithed faithfully, year after year until she died.
So this incident in Mark’s gospel is realty for me. It’s about real people I have known.
There’s a children’s version of the whole story of Ruth and Naomi in “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year B,” page 220 and the “Poor Woman’s Gift” on page 225.
If you don’t own a set of “The Lectionary Story Bible,” click the main Wood Lake Publications website at www.woodlakebooks.com, or click on the following address which takes you directly to the “Lectionary Story Bible.”
Or, if you live in Canada or the US, simply pick up the phone and dial 1 800 663 2775.
Rumors – An Aggada based on the book of Ruth
Boaz remembers. . .
The story of Ruth who had no other options
by Ralph Milton
I am a decent man. I have a reputation to maintain. I live a decent life and say my prayers daily. I thank God for many things, and most especially I say the prayer prescribed for all Jewish men, “Thank God that I was not born a woman.”
Mostly I steer clear of women. They spell nothing but trouble, and in a small town like Bethlehem, there are no secrets.
So when I woke in the middle of the night, naked, my cloak pulled up to my chest, a shudder of fear ran through me. And then, in the darkness, I became aware of a woman beside me. I could hear her breathing. I could feel the warmth of her body. I knew I was in trouble. Deep trouble. My head was pounding and I felt sick to the stomach, from fear and too much to drink. What kind of mess have I gotten myself into?
It was the last night of the threshing season. Big celebration. Lots of good food and lots and lots of wine, and everyone ate and drank and partied till the wee small hours, until they passed out somewhere on the threshing floor. And yes, a lot of men and women got mixed up with each other – they do every year – but I always thought of myself as too smart to fall into that trap.
Now this. And I didn’t even know who this woman was. It was the middle of the night. She put her face close to mine and whispered, “I am Ruth.”
“Ruth? Ruth who? I don’t know any Ruth.”
“I am Ruth, the woman from Moab. I am the daughter-in-law of Naomi, your kinswoman. You were very kind to me and helped me glean grain from your fields. You protected me and gave me food.”
Then the whole thing came clear to me. I do her a favor. She pays me back by giving me her body.
“Damn,” I whispered loudly. Then more quietly because I didn’t want to wake up any of the other drunken bodies scattered around the threshing floor – “I thought you were something more than a prostitute. Do you think I let you glean in the fields just so I could get you into the sack?”
I could feel her stiffen and sit up. “I should have known. I should have bloody well known that no man would understand this.”
“Quiet,” I whispered. “You’ll wake everybody up.”
“Let them wake up,” Ruth hissed. “And I’ll give them a little lecture about what it’s like being a woman. A woman is just half a human, remember. I have no rights. I have no place I can go back to, and no place I can go forward to. I am a foreigner in this country, I am a widow, I have no father and no sons. All I have is a mother-in-law who schemes and plans and figures that if I come here and seduce you, maybe you’ll marry me. But you wouldn’t know what it’s like to have your back against the wall, to have no options, no choices and no hope. It’s no wonder you men pray, ‘Thank God I was not born a woman.’ I would too. Men have all the power and all the choices and I have no power and no choices except the power of sex and so I turn myself into a prostitute in the wild hope that you might marry me.”
I couldn’t see her in the dark but I could feel her anger and her pain. And I could remember her face. I had seen the grim determination in her eyes and in her body as she worked in the blazing sun from early morning till late at night, breaking her back to pick up the few little heads of grain missed by the harvesters. And I had heard her story gossiped in the streets of Bethlehem, how hope had turned to pain and death in her native Moab, of her dedication to her mother-in-law. I had envied her courage, her strength, her commitment. Now I could hear her deep and angry breathing as she sat there beside me on the threshing floor.
She was right, of course. Part of my daily prayer was to say, “Thank God I was not born a woman,” and now, suddenly, I knew why. I was far too weak to be a woman. I would long ago have been crushed by the pain and circumstance Ruth and Naomi had faced. “Thank God I was not born a woman,” because I could never do what Ruth had done, simply to stay alive. Nor did I have the loyalty and commitment she had showed, when she followed Naomi into a strange and distant land.
And then I knew I needed Ruth. Not for the sex and not for the comfort but for the sheer strength and will and hope that lives in such a person.
“Ruth,” I said. “If I can work it out, will you marry me?”
“No,” she said. “If it means death, so be it, but I won’t sell myself again, just to survive.”
“Not for your sake, Ruth. For mine. I have power, but you have strength. As a male, I have rights, but you have purpose. Without you, I am incomplete.”
There was a long, long silence. Then in the darkness of that threshing floor, she took my hand.
Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
People and Pests
Our cat Joey caught a mouse the other day. Joey generally prefers occupying my lounge chair in front of the fireplace to catching mice. In fact, in the two years we’ve had him, this is the first time I’ve seen him catch anything other than his tail in the door.
Joan looked out, and saw Joey playing with something. He grabbed it in his mouth, flung it in the air, pounced on it, then flung it in the air and pounced again...
I went out to check. Joey had a mouse. A small, wet, beslobbered, utterly terrified little mouse. The words of Scottish poet Robbie Burns fitted well:
“Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie, Oh, what a panic's in thy breastie!”
I intervened. I grabbed Joey and held him back.
The mouse, suddenly released from torment, looked around desperately with its beady black eyes. Then it scuttled for the closest shelter, which happened to be – I still find this hard to believe – between Joey’s legs. Under Joey’s belly.
It makes me wonder why biologists would choose mice for testing intelligence.
It also makes me wonder why I should bother protecting a mouse. Mice are, after all, pests. We hire exterminators to get rid of them. Ruthless reason suggests that I would have been smarter to kill the “wee beastie” than save it.
Is it just that they look so cute?
Deer also look adorably cute, with those big soft Bambi eyes. But they too are pests. Joan looked out the other morning and announced, “Look! The deer have stripped the bark off the weeping spruce again!”
She had been out the day before, weeding the flower bed around that tree. The bark was still undamaged then.
This is the second weeping spruce we’ve planted. The deer stripped the first one, two winters ago, by rubbing their horns against its trunk. I protected the second tree through its first winter by building a fortress of chicken wire around it, as impenetrable as most U.S. embassies in foreign countries.
But this year, I was one day late installing the fortress.
I regret to say that I muttered a string of undeleted expletives that once-President Richard Nixon might have envied.
The deer also nibbled the buds off all our roses. Ate all the foliage off a young cut-leaf maple. And chomped a thriving young hawthorn tree back to a hawthorn bush.
And yet I still get a thrill, watching them saunter across our lawn in the evening dusk.
Deer and mice are a mixed blessing. The story of creation says that God made all the creatures, and declared them good. But perhaps goodness depends on its interaction with other elements of creation.
The prophet Isaiah visualized lions and lambs lying down together. Ideally, he believed, all God’s creatures – including humans – should live together in harmony.
I’m willing to make some sacrifices, so that the animals can continue to thrive.
I just wish those animals would try equally hard to live in harmony with me.
Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – In a list of historical events, Jim Taylor found this. “JFK Announces Air and Navel Blockade of Cuba (1962)”
Dan Nighswander of Winnipeg, Manitoba found this in Rumors. "I’m a child of the 150s." He asks, “Is this the year or some sect I haven't heard about.”
Dan, it’s a sect known as “The Fraternal Fellowship of Obsolete Old Fogies,” and it has been mentioned from time to time here on Rumors. I was about to say, “its activities have been reported,” but since it doesn’t actually do anything, it’s hard to report on. And it doesn’t believe in anything except the menu for the next meal.
Stephani Keer got these from J. Leno.
* Dealers wanted to sell copiers, printers and fax machines. Real business with real prophets.
* Church panel applauds mandatory volunteering.
* Busy schedules hurt Overworkers Anonymous
* Dead couple kept to themselves
* For sale: House on private cuddle sac
* Electric hospital bed with trampoline, like new, $750
If you’ve spotted any good bloopers in your church bulletin or newsletter, or anywhere else for that matter, please send them to me. ralphmilton at shaw.ca (change the “at to the symbol and remove the spaces.)
Wish I’d Said That! – Change of opinion is often the progress of sound thought and growing knowledge.
source unknown via Mary in Oman
A closed mouth gathers no foot.
Frank Fisher via Evelyn McLachlan
It is discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.
Noel Coward via Jim Taylor
We Get Letters – George Brigham of Nottinghamshire, England writes: Your piece yesterday about United/Untied churches reminded me of one Palm Sunday long ago. We didn't know the young man who'd expressed an interest in training as a preacher was dyslexic. He read the story of the disciples going to the village to collect a colt very well, except that every time he should have read untie, or a variation of it, he read instead unite, hence:
“Unite it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, "Why are you uniting it?" tell him, "The Lord needs it." Those who were sent went ahead and found it just as he had told them. As they were uniting the colt, its owners asked them "Why are you uniting the colt?" They replied, "The Lord needs it."..... Luke 19.30b ff
Velia Watts of Edmonton, Alberta and her husband were travelling in the San Diego area. He was flipping around the web and came upon a listing for the “Church of Steel.” It is a tattoo parlor!!
Virginia Rickeman of Bethel, Maine writes: The "veterinarian" story may or may not be apocryphal. I live in a large old house given to our church nearly 50 years ago with the stipulation that the church use it as a parsonage. Those who bequeathed it to us were a man and his sister. He made his money on "girly shows" in the big bad city of Boston. His sister acted as his secretary. To my knowledge, the church had no qualms about accepting it....
I wonder if this has anything to do with the church needing to be in the world but not of it. I'm content to let God sort it all out.
Fran Ota got this from Anna Murdock who lives in the eastern US.
“My aunt had given me a box of about 40 little notebooks that once belonged to my grandfather (who was an obsessive/compulsive). They were all about the size of an IPOD and were crammed full of notes. Not just the days of his life, but the minutes and seconds as well.
“In one tiny notebook, he listed every single ache and pain that he had. Another notebook listed every chicken he ever owned, mentioned their names, what, how, when and where they died. Yet another one listed every article of clothing that he purchased, what size, the type of material, the date purchased and of course, how much he paid for them.
“But one of my very favorite books was labelled "Where I Keep Important Information". One entry read "The list of decent ministers is filed under 'D' in my files."
“Unfortunately, there was no "D" in his files!!!! "
Loretta Romankewicz writes: “I have another version of Sally drawing the Nativity Scene. There's a little fat man in the corner of her picture. When asked who that is, Sally replies, ‘That's Round John Virgin’."
Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “Character lines!”)
This from Jim Spinks:
* Chickens: The only animals you eat before they are born and after they are dead.
* Committee: A body that keeps minutes and wastes hours.
* Dust: Mud with the juice squeezed out.
* Egotist: Someone who is usually me-deep in conversation.
* Gossip: Never tell a lie if the truth will do more damage.
* Mosquito: An insect that makes you like flies better.
* Raisin: Grape with a sunburn.
* Secret: Something you tell to one person at a time.
* Skeleton: A bunch of bones with the person scraped off.
* Toothache: The pain that drives you to extraction.
* Tomorrow: One of the greatest labor saving devices of today.
* Yawn: An honest opinion openly expressed.
* Wrinkles: Something other people have. You have character lines.
Bottom of the Barrel – This from Jay Sprout of St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
A burglar broke into a house and shined his flashlight around looking for valuables. He picked up a CD player when a strange, disembodied voice echoed from the dark saying: "Jesus is watching you."
He nearly jumped out of his skin, clicked off his flashlight and froze. When he heard nothing more he continued his search for stuff worth stealing.
Then he heard again: "Jesus is watching you." Freaked out, he shined his light around frantically. Finally, in the corner of the room his light beam came to rest on a parrot.
"Did you say that?" he hissed at the parrot.
"Yep," the parrot confessed, then squawked, "I'm just trying to warn you that he's watching you."
The burglar relaxed. "Warn me, huh? Who in the world are you?"
"Moses," replied the bird.
"Moses?" the burglar laughed. "What kind of people would name a bird 'Moses'?"
"The kind that would name a Rottweiler 'Jesus'."
Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
(NOTE: If possible, the readers should be two women.)
Reader 1: This is the story of Ruth and Naomi. It’s found in the Bible in the book of Ruth.
Reader 2: It’s a powerful story about the courage, strength and faithfulness of two women who found themselves destitute and starving.
1: In biblical days, a woman had only two ways to find a home, security, food – all the things we take for granted. She was either some man’s daughter or some man’s wife. If she had some relatives they might help her out, but basically a woman on her own would simply starve. Ruth was not only a widow without relatives, she was a foreigner.
2: Two things need explaining before we start. Near the end of the story, Ruth goes and deliberately seduces a man named Boaz by uncovering his genitals while he is sleeping. In the story, it says Ruth uncovered his “feet,” but feet was a euphemism for genitals. You will need to decide for yourself whether she did something immoral.
1: The story is in the Bible, not because it’s a story of women’s courage, but because Ruth turns out to be the great, great grandmother of King David. And for Christians the story was important because Jesus traced his ancestry back to King David, and therefore back to a foreign widow named Ruth.
2: So. Are we ready to tell the story?
1: There was a terrible famine in the land of Judah. There had been no rain for years. Naomi’s husband decided to go to the land of Moab, where the harvests had been good. So Naomi, her husband and two sons, took the long walk to the land of Moab.
2: Things went fairly well in Moab. They hand enough to eat. And the two sons found wives. Things seemed to be just fine.
1: But then Naomi’s husband died. Soon after that, her two sons also died. And there was Naomi with her two daughter’s-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. Three widows, who had no way of earning a living.
2: In her desperation, Naomi announced that she was going to take the long walk back to Judah. “At least I have a few relatives there,” she said.
1: “We’re going with you,” said the two younger women.
2: “Don’t even think of it,” said Naomi. “Stay here. Here at least you have a few relatives that might help you. Here at least you might find new husbands.”
1: Orpah agreed. She kissed Naomi and headed back home.
2: But not Ruth. Ruth had developed a deep love for her mother-in-law. And she sang this song to Naomi.
1: Don’t ask me now to leave you
Or to return from following after you.
For wherever you go, I will go.
Wherever you live, I will live.
Your people shall me my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, there I will die,
And there will I be buried.
I swear. May God be my witness and my judge,
If anything but death,
Keeps us apart.
2: And so Ruth went with Naomi back to Judah. The famine was over and things were a little better there now, but still, the only thing that kept the two women alive was Ruth out in the grain fields, gleaning, picking up whatever little heads of grain had been left by the harvester. It was backbreaking work, but Ruth was determined to keep her and her mother-in-law alive.
1: Naomi knew it was a only a temporary solution. When the harvest was over, there would be nothing. So she hatched a plan to have Ruth deliberately seduce a distant cousin of hers, a man named Boaz. If it worked, Boaz would marry Ruth and everything would be fine again.
2: And that is where today’s scripture reading begins. A reading from the book of Ruth.
1: Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, spoke to her.
2: "My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been gleaning grain. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to Boaz until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do."
1:"All that you tell me I will do."
2: So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, God made her conceive, and she bore a son.
1: Then the women said to Naomi:
2: "Blessed be God, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin. May God’s name be renowned in Israel! This newborn child shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him."
1: Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse.
2: The women of the neighborhood gave the baby a name, saying, "A child has been born to Naomi."
1: They named the baby Obed. He became the father of Jesse, the father of David.
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