Thursday, January 14, 2010

Preaching Materials for February 28th, 2010

R U M O R S # 590
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor
2010-02-21

February 21, 2010

A MOTHER HEN AND HER CHICKS
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Motto:
"A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones." (Proverbs 17:22 KJV)
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If you’ve been holding back on your letters until Bev and I got back from our sun soaking session, now’s the time to let ‘em go. We’re back.
Please put something like “Rumors” on the subject line so the spam filters don’t get twitchy, and give me your name and where you are from – even if this is the 4987th time you written. My memory is full of holes.

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The Story – prod and twist the story
Rumors – Jesus was a sissy
Soft Edges –
Bloopers – not afflicted by a church
Mirabile Dictu! – Tom Swifties
Bottom of the Barrel – the spirit in which it was given
Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Luke 13:31-35
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)

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Rib Tickler –
Q: Why is it that chicken’s can’t talk?
A: Because God doesn’t like fowl language!
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Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, February 28th, which is the second Sunday of Lent.
* Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
* Psalm 27
* Philippians 3:17-4:1
* Luke 13:31-35 or Luke 9:28-36, (37-43)

The Story (from the Revised Common Lectionary) – Luke 13:31-35
There’s a temptation to go with the Abraham story and that grisly business of chopping all those animals in two. The alternate reading in Luke is the transfiguration story, but I can’t resist the tender image of the hen and her chicks.

Ralph says –
Feminine images are rather sparse in the Bible. I remember the image in Luke 13:34 every spring as I walk along our creek and delight in the clutches of fuzzy ducklings feeding along the edge of the water under the steady eye of the mama duck.
Sometimes at dusk we’d see mama duck tucking her babies under her wings where they will be as warm and safe as it is possible for wild ducks to be.
It is heartbreaking sometimes when a single duckling becomes separated from the clutch and goes whistling frantically for mama who is nowhere in sight. And when it spies Bev and I on the pathway, it goes skimming along the water in a desperate attempt to escape.
We always want to re-united it with its mother. But mostly that’s impossible because we don’t know where mother duck is either. When we’ve been successful, it is by scaring the little bird to run away from us in the direction of the mother.
We probably have to prod and twist that story of the ducklings too far to make it a useful parable. Except perhaps to help us know that sometimes our desperate run from perceived but unreal danger may lead us back into the arms of a loving God.

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 – Some commentators waste a lot of precious ink and paper trying to explain that business of the animals cut in half and laid out in a row. It is an obscure and ancient ritual intended to please a God who demanded sacrifice. Let’s leave it there.
The legend has value for us because it is about faithfulness in the face of negative evidence. It could be a valuable story for congregations facing declining membership.

Psalm 27:1-6– paraphrased by Jim Taylor
The same week that a friend was to be married, she was diagnosed with cancer.
1 In the darkness of the night I lie awake and tremble.
But with the dawn, fears fade away.
When I can see with my own eyes that there is nothing to be afraid of,
why should I fear?
If I could see with God's eyes, I would know I have nothing to fear.
2. No, not even if scalpels carve up my flesh,
even if treatment poison my body,
I have nothing to fear.
Malignant forces that might harm me will surely self-destruct;
By their own rapacious appetites, they will destroy themselves.
3 Though fate stacks the deck against me,
I will not despair.
Though tumors grow within me,
Yet I will remain confident, as long as you are with me.

4 I have only one desire, one goal in life:
I want to be part of your family.
I want to look along the thanksgiving table
and to feel the bonds of kinship--
with my cousins, my ancestors, my descendents.
5 Within that family I can feel safe.
I can hide my face in my mother's skirts;
I can rest my head on my son's shoulder.
6 Within that family, I need no longer fear what anyone thinks of me;
I can sing and dance;
I can be the joyful child that you created.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Publications.
For details, go to www.woodlakebooks.com

Philippians 3:17-4:1 – This passage also speaks to the question of faithfulness in the face of overwhelming evidence. It’s the evidence of declining membership that is most difficult for us. We look at some of the more successful conservative and fundamentalist groups and it seems they have simply baptized consumerism so that membership in their churches is easy and comfortable for those who flock to their entertaining worship.
In the face of all that, faithfulness is hard. Very hard.
But for many of us, that faithfulness is following the only path we can walk.

“Paul and the Church in Philippi” is a children’s version of the Philippians passage which you can find in “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year C,” page 89. ‘The Poor People of Jerusalem,” on page 91 is based on the Luke passage.
There are children’s stories for every Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary, in “The Lectionary Story Bible,” by yours truly. The marvellous illustrations are by Margaret Kyle. There’s at least one story for each Sunday, usually two, and occasionally three. 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.”
http://tinyurl.com/2lonod
Or, if you live in Canada or the US, simply pick up the phone and dial 1 800 663 2775.

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Rumors – As Rosemary Haughton points out in her book “Tales from Eternity,” Jesus was a sissy. There’s no getting around it. He cried in public, he loved flowers, he liked to play with babies, and when people came up and said insulting things, He’d give gentle answers.
Jesus was not your typical “he-man.” He was singularly lacking in “macho.” In a real sense, he was “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” even though I’ve always disliked that phrase. It’s true, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness and for that he had to be physically tough. He could get mad and drive out the moneychangers.
That’s not the point.
The fact is that a very important aspect of his personality was what our culture would probably describe as “feminine.” As Rosemary says, “no progress can be made in holiness by either the individual or the churches, unless both men and women are willing to release the captive princess, the ‘feminine’ side of human nature.”
Of course it’s wrong to call certain qualities “feminine” and others “masculine.” They are all human qualities and exist in both sexes. But the idea that real strength is found in tenderness and weakness is, I think, central to the concept of what it means to be Christian and what it means to be fully human.
It’s an idea that scares many men silly. It threatens all our cultural ideas of what “masculinity” really means.

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Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor


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Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – It’s wonderful what gets typed into bulletins. It’s too bad so much of it gets found and corrected.
* As we move into the new worship center we want to ask everyone to avoid carrying food or drink (coffee, soft drinks, candy, pot, etc.) into the sanctuary.
* The outreach committee has enlisted 25 volunteers to make calls on people who are not afflicted with any church.
* Parents are asked to remind their children to be on their pest behavior.

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.)
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Wish I’d Said That! –
People run away far quicker than they come towards you.
Paul Gambaccini via George Brigham

Jim Taylor sent along these quotes and comments.
“When bad [people] combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an un-pitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”
That is by Edmund Burke from his essay: ‘Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents’. It is often mis-quoted as:
“All that’s necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good [people] to do nothing.”

“The hottest fires in hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis”
Edmond Burke – again, with some dispute on the actual original quote.

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Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “Tom Swifties!”)
To chase away the February blah’s here’s a bit on Tom Swifties. If you are the preachifying type, the challenge is to work some of these into the homily to see if anybody notices.
Tom Swifties are a step lower than the pun. Worse then that, they are addictive. What’s a Tom Swifty? I’m glad you asked. An example: “I ordered chocolate, not a vanilla sundae,” I screamed.

Now imagine (if you dare) a clergy couple making a house call.
“Ring the bell,” she snapped.
“I already did,” he harangued.
“Welcome and come in. What’s your sermon topic tomorrow?” the man of the house divined reverently.
“We haven’t decided,” he faltered demurely.
“But the choir will perform,” she chimed.
“I’m afraid I won’t be there,” the man said absently.
“That’s too bad, but what about next Sunday? “she asked weakly.
“I have to get up too early,” the man mourned, “and the beagles have to be fed,” he added dogmatically.
(“Those aren’t beagles, they’re mongrels,” she muttered.)
“But you need an occasional shot in the arm,” he added pointedly. “What about your wife, Mabel?” he enjoined surreptitiously.
“She spends the day sewing and gardening,” the man hemmed and hawed.

Here are some biblical Tom Swifties.
* “She is bone of my bone,” said Adam disjointedly.
* “I have sinned,” said Adam originally.
* “I was afraid because I was naked,” said Adam embarrassedly.
* “We can use these leaves to make aprons,” said Eve figuratively.
* “What are you doing with the razor?” Samson asked baldly.
* “But Jacob has stolen my blessing,” wailed Esau plaintively.

And a few odds and ends:
* “Someone took my needle!” she said pointedly.
* “Oh no! I dropped my toothpaste!” he said crestfallen.
* “I got this cold after Mildred died,” the pastor croaked.
* “We buried her yesterday,” he added gravely.

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Bottom of the Barrel – This from Bruce Frederickson.
Two small town pastors were discussing how they enjoyed an occasional drink, but because their churches avoided alcohol they did so only occasinally and then only on the sly. Finally one said to the other "Joe, I'll buy you the finest bottle of Scotch, if you'll just thank me for it in your Sunday bulletin."
Several weeks later Joe called his friend. "Bill, bring over that bottle of Scotch."
"But Joe," Bill replied. "How could you thank me for a bottle of Scotch in your church bulletin, when most of the members of your church are dead against alcohol?"
"That's simple," replied Joe. "I put it right here in the Sunday bulletin. "Rev Jones wishes to thank Rev Smith for the gift, and the spirit in which it was given!"

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Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Luke 13:31-35
(NOTE: feel free to re-write this opening dialogue so that it more accurately fits the experience of the two readers.)
Reader 1: Did you ever live on a farm?
Reader 2: No, did you?
1: No, but I had an uncle who lived not far away, and I went to his farm quite often.
2: Why are you asking?
1: I wanted to know if you’d get the point – the image of the hen and the baby chicks. If you’ve never seen that you might not get the point of this passage.
2: Well, no, I’ve never seen a hen and baby chicks. I think I’ve seen some pictures.
1: When you get near the end of the day and it starts to get a bit dark, the hen will make clucking noises. She’ll sit down on the ground and the chicks will scurry under her wings and body feathers. She will sit there, looking a little fat, but protecting those chicks until the morning.
2: So that’s what Jesus was referring to. He wanted to love and protect the people of Jerusalem like a mother hen loves and protects her baby chicks, but they wouldn’t respond. They wouldn’t come and be protected by her warmth – by Jesus’ warmth and caring.
1: So. Let’s read the passage. It’s from Luke’s gospel.
SLGHT PAUSE
2: Some Pharisees came and spoke to Jesus.
1: "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you."
2: "Go and tell that fox for me, 'Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.'
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

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Information and Stuff – (Read this section only if you want to know about subscribing, unsubscribing or quoting stuff from Rumors.) It would be nice if you could give Rumors a plug in your bulletin or newsletter. Please invite your friends (and even your enemies) to subscribe. There's no charge: RUMORS is free and it comes to your e-mail box every Sunday morning. Just send your friends the instructions to subscribe [below], and include an invitation to join the list ... perhaps something like this: “There’s a lively and fun newsletter called RUMORS which is available at no cost on the net. It’s for ‘Christians with a sense of humor’.” Please add the instructions to subscribe [below]. If you have a friend you think would enjoy Rumors, and you’d rather not give them the subscribing instructions below, send me an e-mail at ralphmilton at shaw.ca. (change the “at” to the “at” sign – you know the “a” with the circle around it. I’m trying to slow down the spammers.) Then give me the e-mail address of your friend. If you are using something from Rumors in your sermon, give credit only as appropriate, without stopping the sermon dead in its tracks. I am delighted when Rumors is useful in the life and work of the church. As long as it is within your congregation or parish, you don’t need permission. You are welcome to use the stuff in church bulletins or newsletters. Please say where it came from, and please invite people to subscribe to RUMORS. An appropriate credit line would be; “From Ralph Milton's RUMORS, a free Internet ‘e-zine’ for Christians with a sense of humor." ... and please be sure to include these instructions to subscribe to RUMORS: To Subscribe:* Send an e-mail to: rumors-subscribe@joinhands.com
* Don't put anything else in that e-mail
To Unsubscribe:
* Send an e-mail to: rumors-unsubscribe@joinhands.com
* Don’t put anything else in that e-mail* If you are changing e-mail addresses, and your old address will no longer be in service, you do not need to unsubscribe. The sending computer will try a few times, and then give up..~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*Please Write – If you respond, react, think about, freak-out, or otherwise have things happen in your head as a result of reading the above, please send a note to: ralphmilton at shaw.ca.
Who knows, I might quote you in a future issue of RUMORS.All material is copyright © Ralph Milton.~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Preaching Materials for February 21st, 2010

R U M O R S # 589
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor
2010-02-14

February 14th, 2010

THE SEDUCTION OF POWER

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

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The Story – the greatest temptation
Rumors – no grading system
Soft Edges –
Bloopers – concrete pies
Mirabile Dictu! – up to my class
Bottom of the Barrel – who creates the chaos?
Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Luke 4:1-13
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)

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Rib Tickler – A monastery had a beautiful garden which the bees enjoyed year after year. However the young new monks had no time for gardening – they were too busy with more important things and one day the chief gardener came out and surveyed his once beautiful garden with sorrow.
A passing bee saw how sad he was and asked him what was the matter. “Well,” said the monk, “there are no more flowers for you to enjoy and I regret to tell you that the Rabbi’s garden down the road has bigger and sweeter-smelling flowers for your enjoyment.”
“Oh thank you,” said the bee. “I’ll check it out tomorrow and I’ll come back and let you know how I find it.”
The next evening, as the monk was sitting on his favorite bench, in buzzed the bee – with a yarmulke on his head!
“What!” exclaimed the monk. “Have you converted?”
“Oh no” said the bee. “But I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to think I was a WASP!”
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Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, February 21st, which is the first Sunday in Lent, Year C.
* Deuteronomy 26:1-11
* Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
* Romans 10:8b-13
* Luke 4:1-13

The Story (from the Revised Common Lectionary) – Luke 4:1-13

Ralph says –
There’s nothing as seductive as success. There’s nothing as dangerous as success.
It wouldn’t be hard to make a long list of successful people who came tumbling down off their pedestals because they didn’t know what to do with success. You could start with King David and end with Tiger Woods and list any number of women and men in between.
It’s not always been sex as in the case of the aforementioned men who couldn’t keep their pants zipped up. Alcohol, drugs, depression, arrogance, shopping – there are any number of ways in which humans stumble over their own success. Perhaps the greatest danger is hubris – because we disguise it so well. We fool ourselves most effectively. And here, reflecting on a lifetime in the ministry of Christian communication, I need to step forward as exhibit one.
Spiritual success is probably the greatest temptation. C.S. Lewis in “The Screwtape Letters,” has a scene where the Senior Devil is instructing the Junior Devil about how to tempt a young Christian. He tells him to bring it to the young man’s attention that he is becoming very spiritual, and that is a very good thing. Make him proud of that, he instructs.
We could compose a sad litany about the men and women who entered Christian ministry, and who did very well at it. But somewhere along the way they lost track of the gospel of love and slowly, imperceptibly, began to work toward a gospel of self-promotion, well disguised as God’s love. Most of them don’t even know it themselves.
Jesus knew the power he had. Jesus knew the skills he had. And after forty days in the desert he found himself wrestling with the demon in himself. This was nothing external. This demon was a part of who he was. And the struggle he faced every day of his life was a battle for his very soul.
He won that first round, there in the desert. But his demon lurked inside him – and fought with him continually – until the very last gasp of life on the cross.

Deuteronomy 26:1-11– In the ongoing battle against temptation that every one of us fights every day of our lives, this passage offers one useful antidote. The first fruits. The practice of giving the first of everything – the first harvest, the first part of the paycheck, the first expression of thanks – giving the first fruits to God’s work is one useful way to help us keep a focus on our call.
Just one of many. But it’s a good one.

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
March is a season for wet and cold.
9 Let your faith be your umbrella;
Live your life under God's protection.
10 No rain clouds will ruin your picnic;
nor will thunderstorms drown your fondest desires.
11 The spirit of God will surround you like a shimmering bubble.
It will deflect the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune;
12 It will smooth your passage over speed-bumps and potholes.
13 Neither wind nor sleet nor hail nor snow--
nor stress nor illness nor peer pressures--
shall keep you from growing closer and closer to God.
14 For God says: "Because you trusted me,
I will give you more cause to trust;
Because you knew me enough to ask for help,
I will help you.
15 When you call, I will answer you.
When you fall down, I will pick you up.
16 I will accompany you through a long life;
I will never leave you lonely and afraid."
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Publications.
For details, go to www.woodlakebooks.com

Romans 10:8b-13 – Simple. All you have to do is say “Jesus is Lord,” and you’ve got it made. In Paul’s day that meant a whole lot more than it means today. In the Roman empire, it was treason and punishable by death.
Now it can be too easy and flip. A throw-away line. And so it is very dangerous to read Paul’s passage and apply it literally today. It can lead to a self-righteous superficiality and therefore the very opposite of what Paul intended.

A children’s story based on the Deuteronomy passage can be found in “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year C,” page 85, followed by a story about Jesus’ temptation based on the Luke passage called “Jesus Gets Ready.”
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.”
http://tinyurl.com/2lonod
Or, if you live in Canada or the US, simply pick up the phone and dial 1 800 663 2775.

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Rumors – When you’ve seen one baptism, you’ve seen 'em all.
Well, not quite. The passage from Romans specified in the lectionary brings back the memory of the time Bev (my wife) was minister at the Westbank Church.
It was a baptism of two young children in a family, one about three and the other about five. Bev explained that not only had she met with the parents to explain the meaning of baptism, she had met with the two children separately. And all four of them were going to make a personal statement of faith.
First the parents. Their statements obviously reflected the words and phrases they had heard and read. That was OK. They seemed eager to learn and grow.
Then the eldest of the two children said, “I like Jesus because he’s nice.” And the youngest child held up a picture he had colored. We weren’t sure what it was, but Bev made it quite clear that she appreciated all four statements and valued them equally.
The four members of that family, in effect, responded to Jesus’ question: “Who do you say that I am?” And in the sermon Bev, in effect, offered her response to Jesus’ question.
I arranged those five statements in my head in terms of relative merit beginning with the colored picture, all the way through up to Bev’s sermon. And I'd no sooner done that, than I recognized the error.
There are no adequate responses to that question. But by the same token, there are no inadequate responses either.
Another memory. The baptism of Andrew, a young man with Down’s Syndrome. His normal vocabulary was three or four words. As he knelt for the baptism, and the water touched his forehead, his face burst into the widest, sparkling smile you have ever seen, and very loudly, Andrew shouted the one word. “Jesus!”
There’s no grading system – no prize for the “right” answer. Andrew’s “Jesus,” or the three-year-old’s picture, differed only in sophistication, but not in correctness or authenticity from Bev’s sermon.

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Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor


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Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – from the file
* Announcement requesting baking donations for the annual bazaar: “And I don’t want abstract promises. I want concrete pies!”
* Announcing a covenanting service for the new minister, the bulletin had it as a “coveting” service.
* As soon as the weather clears up, the men will have a goof outing.

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.)
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Wish I’d Said That! – also from the file
It is necessary to stand for things that will not come to pass until long after we are gone. Bertrand Russell

It is not true that suffering ennobles the character; happiness does that sometimes, but suffering, for the most part, makes people petty and vindictive.
W. Somerset Maugham

Oh what a tangled web do parents weave,
When first they practice to conceive.
Ogden Nash

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Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “up to my class!”)
A Sunday school teacher I know
Goes south when the winter winds blow.
“I’d rather be here,”
She says with a cheer,
“Than up to my class in the snow.”

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Bottom of the Barrel – There were three bi-vocational clergy having lunch one day. One was an obstetrician, one was a farmer and the third was a lawyer. The topic came around to which of their secular occupations was the best integrated into their vocations.
“Well,” said the obstetrician-priest, “healing is a ministry practiced by Christ himself.” And the two others agreed that yes, indeed, the doctor/minister combination worked very well. “And besides, in Eden, Adam would certainly have assisted at the birth of his children.”
“Of course,” smiled the farmer-clergy, “you remember that God specifically put Adam into the garden to keep it. Tilling the earth is therefore the primary labor of humanity commanded by God.”
“My beloved friends,” said the lawyer. “I think your professions are excellent ‘tent-making ministries.’ But you must agree that my profession, as a lawyer, is most dear to the heart of God. Before Jesus healed – before Eve delivered – before there was a Garden of Eden, God created the world out of chaos. And who creates the chaos. Well, lawyers, of course!”

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Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Luke 4:1-13
Reader 1: Today we’re going to read the story of how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. I’ve seen that scene in couple of movies, and I’m a bit confused.
Reader 2: The problem is that movies and television are so literal. They have to show you something, and often the thing they show is false.
1: How can the thing they show be false?
2: Because the battle that Jesus fought in the wilderness was a battle that happened inside him.
1:How do you know that?
2: Well I don’t KNOW that. But I think it’s a reasonable guess. It says Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness and that battle was going on the whole time. In the movies it only took a few minutes.
1: So the devil Jesus was wrestling with was inside himself?
2: That’s the way I read the story.
1: Boy, it’s a good thing we don’t have to go through all that.
2: But you do. All of us are wrestling with temptation, every day. Some of us know we are doing it. The rest of us just go along happily not having any idea what is going on.
1: Now you’re making me feel guilty. Uncomfortable. Can we just go on to read the scripture?
2: So there you are, giving into the temptation to avoid dealing with the issue.
1: Could we just read the scripture? Please!!!
2: Sure. It’s from Luke’s gospel.
SLIGHT PAUSE
1: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. And this is what the devil said to him.
2: "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread."
1: "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.'"
2: Here, see, I am showing you all the kingdoms of the world. To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours."
1: "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'"
2: Here, see, I am taking you to Jerusalem and placing you on the pinnacle of the temple. "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you.' 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'"
1: "It is said, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
2: Ha! You pass this test. But I will come back to you at another opportune time.

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Information and Stuff – (Read this section only if you want to know about subscribing, unsubscribing or quoting stuff from Rumors.) It would be nice if you could give Rumors a plug in your bulletin or newsletter. Please invite your friends (and even your enemies) to subscribe. There's no charge: RUMORS is free and it comes to your e-mail box every Sunday morning. Just send your friends the instructions to subscribe [below], and include an invitation to join the list ... perhaps something like this: “There’s a lively and fun newsletter called RUMORS which is available at no cost on the net. It’s for ‘Christians with a sense of humor’.” Please add the instructions to subscribe [below]. If you have a friend you think would enjoy Rumors, and you’d rather not give them the subscribing instructions below, send me an e-mail at ralphmilton at shaw.ca. (change the “at” to the “at” sign – you know the “a” with the circle around it. I’m trying to slow down the spammers.) Then give me the e-mail address of your friend. If you are using something from Rumors in your sermon, give credit only as appropriate, without stopping the sermon dead in its tracks. I am delighted when Rumors is useful in the life and work of the church. As long as it is within your congregation or parish, you don’t need permission. You are welcome to use the stuff in church bulletins or newsletters. Please say where it came from, and please invite people to subscribe to RUMORS. An appropriate credit line would be; “From Ralph Milton's RUMORS, a free Internet ‘e-zine’ for Christians with a sense of humor." ... and please be sure to include these instructions to subscribe to RUMORS: To Subscribe:* Send an e-mail to: rumors-subscribe@joinhands.com
* Don't put anything else in that e-mail
To Unsubscribe:
* Send an e-mail to: rumors-unsubscribe@joinhands.com
* Don’t put anything else in that e-mail* If you are changing e-mail addresses, and your old address will no longer be in service, you do not need to unsubscribe. The sending computer will try a few times, and then give up..~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*Please Write – If you respond, react, think about, freak-out, or otherwise have things happen in your head as a result of reading the above, please send a note to: ralphmilton at shaw.ca.
Who knows, I might quote you in a future issue of RUMORS.All material is copyright © Ralph Milton.~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Peaching Materials for February 7th, 2010

R U M O R S # 587
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor
2010-01-31

January 31, 2010

A PREACHING LESSON

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

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

This is still one of those issues that’s written ahead so Bev and I can bask in the sunshine for a bit. That means there’s not much in the way of readers’ contributions. But that doesn’t mean you should stop sending them. I’ll collect them all together so that the first few issues after we get home should be a gas.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The Story – the worst or the best sermon
Rumors – the fisherfolk club
Soft Edges –
Bloopers – the king’s bras
Mirabile Dictu! – the sale of cabbage
Bottom of the Barrel – paving stones
Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Luke 5:1-11
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Rib Tickler – A single guy decides life would be more fun if he had a pet. So he went to the pet store looking for something a bit unusual. He finally settled on a talking centipede, the kind that really does have a hundred legs.
The next day being Sunday, he decides to take the centipede to church. He goes up to the little centipede box and says, "Would you like to go to church with me today?”
There’s no answer.
A few minutes later he tried again. "How about going to church with me?
Again, no answer.
He waits a few minutes more, then realizes they’ll be late if they don’t get going soon. This time he yells, "Hey, you in there! Would you like to go to church with me? I mean, it’s Palm Sunday y’know!"
A tiny, bug-like voice comes out of the box. "I heard you the first time! I'm putting on my shoes."
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, February 7th, which is the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C.
* Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13)
* Psalm 138
* 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
* Luke 5:1-11

The Story (from the Revised Common Lectionary) – Luke 5:1-11

Ralph says –
First of all, Gennesaret is just another name for the Lake of Galilee. It’s a fair bit below sea level and hence has an almost tropical climate. It’s a lovely lake to swim in.
In this story, Simon (aka Peter) wins the lottery. He’s been out there all night working his butt off, and catches almost nothing. Then Jesus tells him to try again and they fill up the boat.
Peter’s a bit like a guy who wins the lottery, but then never goes to cash in the winning ticket. Peter doesn’t take that haul of fish to the market to sell so he doesn’t benefit from the bonanza. He and his partners, James and John, just leave everything there and follow Jesus. Which makes no economic sense.
It doesn’t make economic sense for a smart person with good people skills to go into the ministry, either. There’s way more money to be made selling something.
Nor does it make economic sense for dedicated laypeople to spend all that time studying their faith and working in the outreach ministry of the church.
These three men go stumbling over their nets and boats and follow Jesus, and the crowd that saw all this witnessed a sermon in action that was more powerful than the one Jesus preached. Luke doesn’t tell us a thing that Jesus said in that sermon. Nor does he say whether Simon and his buds were paying attention. He tells us what they did.
And we’re still talking about it.

Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13) – Unlike Jeremiah’s call to prophecy which we looked at last week, Isaiah’s call would have brought out CNN and Fox and more photographers than the Vancouver Olympics. Jeremiah’s call could have been very private. Isaiah’s was full of lights and noise and smoke.
Unless, of course, it all happened in his imagination which may be more likely. So call off the media.
What this does illustrate is that calls to prophecy, to ministry, to service, to faith, can take many forms. Many forms.
And one is not more valid than the other.

Psalm 138 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
In biblical times, worshipers prostrated themselves on the ground before the Holy of Holies, while reciting Psalm 138. For us, it's a strange position from which to express gratitude.
1 This is your turf, your home, your territory.
I am so glad to be here, God, that I kiss the earth you walk on.
2 I fling myself into the dust, the floor of your dwelling.
I extend my arms to embrace your earth.
But you lift me up from my humble position.
You take me in as your guest.
You have made me one of your family;
you have even given me your name!
3 You have taken me under your wing.
When I cry out, you cover me;
I benefit from your strength.
4 Foxes may lord it over the chicken coop, and squirrels over the sparrow's nest,
But no creatures challenge the eagle's rule;
They cower before the eagle's eye and ruthless claws.
5 As the eagle soars above the field mice,
so do you, Lord, rise above us mortals.
6 Daily duties keep us scurrying close to the earth.
But you watch over us from on high;
you can see danger long before it draws near.
7 Troubles grow around us like tall grass
But in the shadow of your outspread pinions, predators scatter
Like leaves before an autumn wind.
8 There is a place for me in your plans.
You will never abandon me.
You will work out your purpose for me, no matter how long it takes.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Publications.
For details, go to www.woodlakebooks.com

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 – In this passage Paul talks about his call to ministry which was also pretty dramatic. And it involved a 180 degree turn from being a persecutor to being a promoter.
Paul calls himself the “least of the apostles,” but his humility loses a bit of its shine when he goes on to claim that he worked harder than all of them, though of course, it wasn’t him it was the grace of God. I imagine a bit of a nervous laugh here, which of course isn’t recorded.

In the story, “Isaiah Becomes a Prophet,” I have his friend Rebekah talk to Isaiah about becoming a prophet. It’s in “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year C,” page 59. Then there’s a story called “Simon Gets a New Job” on page 62 based on the Luke passage.
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.”
http://tinyurl.com/2lonod
Or, if you live in Canada or the US, simply pick up the phone and dial 1 800 663 2775.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Rumors – There are many versions of this story. But basically it goes something like this.
There was a group that called themselves The Fisherfolk Club. They started out as a gathering of people who earned their living fishing in the ocean. At first, only real fisherfolk could join. But not wanting to be selfish, and because they had nice facilities that needed to be paid for, they invited others to come in too.
In the club headquarters there were fish symbols galore, hooks, nets, and floats and rods. All the members of the club, even those who were not fishers, wore old hats with lures stuck in them and tall wading boots which got quite uncomfortable on warm days. But they were proud to be fishers and so never took them off.
They had a well-stocked library of books about fishing. And several times a year they ran seminars to which world-renounced fishers were invited to come and deliver learned lectures. All the talk and all the activities of the club centered around fishing, but as the years went by, fewer and fewer of the members actually went out fishing.
Then one day, the club had a new member. They had not had a new member for some time, so this was an interesting experience. And the new member asked an interesting question. “When do you go fishing?”
Well, it turned out that members of The Fisherfolk Club had never caught a fish. In fact, they had never actually seen a live fish. And the idea that they should go out there in a boat or wade into the water came as quite a shock to them.
They had long meetings on the subject and finally came to the conclusion that the new member would have to leave. The new member obviously knew very little about what it really meant to be a member of The Fisherfolk Club.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – From the file
* The King's Bras will present a concert at our church this evening at 6:00 pm.
* A songfest was hell at the Methodist Church Wednesday.’
* After receiving the communion elements, the altar is open for prayer and medication.
* Amazing Grace: “I once was found, but now I’m lost ...”

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! – from the file
I can only please one person per day. This is not your day.
source unknown

Accept that some days you are the pigeon and some days you are the statue.
source unknown

The things that count most in life are the things that can't be counted.
source unknown

If you are not treated as you deserve, be thankful.
source unknown

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “sale of cabbage!”) Here’s how long it takes to say things:
* Pythagorean theorem: 24 words.
* The Lord’s Prayer: 66 words.
* Archimedes’ Principle: 67 words.
* The 10 Commandments: 179 words.
* The Gettysburg address: 286 words.
* The Declaration of Independence: 1,300 words.
* Government regulations on the sale of cabbage: 26,911 words.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Bottom of the Barrel – There once was a rich man who was dying. While on his death bed, he tried to negotiate with God to be allowed to bring his earthly treasures with him to heaven. “God, please, I have worked so hard to accumulate all these riches. Can’t I bring them along?”
“This is very unusual” said God, “but since you have been such a faithful steward, I will allow you to bring along one suitcase.”
The man immediately had a servant fill a large suitcase with gold bricks. Shortly thereafter he died.
When the man arrived at the Pearly Gates, he was stopped by St. Peter. “I’m sorry sir, but you know the rules. You can’t take it with you. You may enter, but the suitcase has to stay outside.”
“But God told me I could bring one suitcase,” the man protested.
“Well, if God says it’s OK then I guess it’s OK, but I still need to examine the contents before you can enter.”
St. Peter takes the suitcase from the man, opens it, and looks very puzzled. “You brought paving stones?”


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Luke 5:1-11
Reader 1: I got a real shock when I read this passage.
Reader 2: Why? It seemed OK to me.
1: Well, it’s not OK. It tells about Jesus preaching and teaching and nobody pays any attention and we’re not told a word about what he said.
2: What are you talking about? Jesus was a very good preacher. It says that several times in the Bible, that the people heard him gladly.
1: Not this time. Jesus borrows a boat so he can speak to the people on the shore a bit more easily. Then when he’s finished, he asks Peter who owned the boat, how the fishing had been. Peter said it was the pits. They worked all night and caught nothing. So Jesus tells them to try again and this time they almost sink the boat. Then Jesus tells them to come and follow him and they do that, leaving their boats and the whole mess of fish sitting right there. And nobody says anything about what Jesus was preaching.
2: You know, you’re right. The sermon they were watching was more interesting than the sermon that Jesus had just preached.
1: What I want to know is, what happened to all those fish? Did they just sit there in the boat and rot?
2: Maybe each person in the crowd got to take home a fish for lunch. A kind of slippery door prize.
1: I just thought of something. It says that Peter and James and John were washing their nets while Jesus was preaching. Maybe they were listening to the sermon as they worked. Maybe that’s why they just up and followed Jesus.
2: Enough of this. Let’s hear the scripture. It’s from Luke’s gospel.
SLIGHT PAUSE
1: Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.
2: Jesus got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he spoke to Simon.
1: "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch."
2: "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets."
1: When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.
2: But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees.
1: "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!"
2: Simon and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken. And so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.
1: Then Jesus spoke to Simon.
2: "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people."
1: When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Information and Stuff – (Read this section only if you want to know about subscribing, unsubscribing or quoting stuff from Rumors.)
It would be nice if you could give Rumors a plug in your bulletin or newsletter. Please invite your friends (and even your enemies) to subscribe. There's no charge: RUMORS is free and it comes to your e-mail box every Sunday morning. Just send your friends the instructions to subscribe [below], and include an invitation to join the list ... perhaps something like this:
“There’s a lively and fun newsletter called RUMORS which is available at no cost on the net. It’s for ‘Christians with a sense of humor’.” Please add the instructions to subscribe [below].

If you have a friend you think would enjoy Rumors, and you’d rather not give them the subscribing instructions below, send me an e-mail at ralphmilton at shaw.ca. (change the “at” to the “at” sign – you know the “a” with the circle around it. I’m trying to slow down the spammers.) Then give me the e-mail address of your friend.

If you are using something from Rumors in your sermon, give credit only as appropriate, without stopping the sermon dead in its tracks.

I am delighted when Rumors is useful in the life and work of the church. As long as it is within your congregation or parish, you don’t need permission.

You are welcome to use the stuff in church bulletins or newsletters. Please say where it came from, and please invite people to subscribe to RUMORS. An appropriate credit line would be; “From Ralph Milton's RUMORS, a free Internet ‘e-zine’ for Christians with a sense of humor."
... and please be sure to include these instructions to subscribe to RUMORS:

To Subscribe:
* Send an e-mail to: rumors-subscribe@joinhands.com
* Don't put anything else in that e-mail
To Unsubscribe:
* Send an e-mail to: rumors-unsubscribe@joinhands.com
* Don’t put anything else in that e-mail
* If you are changing e-mail addresses, and your old address will no longer be in service, you do not need to unsubscribe. The sending computer will try a few times, and then give up.
.~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Please Write –
If you respond, react, think about, freak-out, or otherwise have things happen in your head as a result of reading the above, please send a note to: ralphmilton at shaw.ca.

Who knows, I might quote you in a future issue of RUMORS.

All material is copyright © Ralph Milton.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Preaching Materials for February 7th, 2010

R U M O R S # 587
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor
2010-01-31

January 31, 2010

A PREACHING LESSON

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

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

This is still one of those issues that’s written ahead so Bev and I can bask in the sunshine for a bit. That means there’s not much in the way of readers’ contributions. But that doesn’t mean you should stop sending them. I’ll collect them all together so that the first few issues after we get home should be a gas.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The Story – the worst or the best sermon
Rumors – the fisherfolk club
Soft Edges –
Bloopers – the king’s bras
Mirabile Dictu! – the sale of cabbage
Bottom of the Barrel – paving stones
Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Luke 5:1-11
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Rib Tickler – A single guy decides life would be more fun if he had a pet. So he went to the pet store looking for something a bit unusual. He finally settled on a talking centipede, the kind that really does have a hundred legs.
The next day being Sunday, he decides to take the centipede to church. He goes up to the little centipede box and says, "Would you like to go to church with me today?”
There’s no answer.
A few minutes later he tried again. "How about going to church with me?
Again, no answer.
He waits a few minutes more, then realizes they’ll be late if they don’t get going soon. This time he yells, "Hey, you in there! Would you like to go to church with me? I mean, it’s Palm Sunday y’know!"
A tiny, bug-like voice comes out of the box. "I heard you the first time! I'm putting on my shoes."
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, February 7th, which is the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C.
* Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13)
* Psalm 138
* 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
* Luke 5:1-11

The Story (from the Revised Common Lectionary) – Luke 5:1-11

Ralph says –
First of all, Gennesaret is just another name for the Lake of Galilee. It’s a fair bit below sea level and hence has an almost tropical climate. It’s a lovely lake to swim in.
In this story, Simon (aka Peter) wins the lottery. He’s been out there all night working his butt off, and catches almost nothing. Then Jesus tells him to try again and they fill up the boat.
Peter’s a bit like a guy who wins the lottery, but then never goes to cash in the winning ticket. Peter doesn’t take that haul of fish to the market to sell so he doesn’t benefit from the bonanza. He and his partners, James and John, just leave everything there and follow Jesus. Which makes no economic sense.
It doesn’t make economic sense for a smart person with good people skills to go into the ministry, either. There’s way more money to be made selling something.
Nor does it make economic sense for dedicated laypeople to spend all that time studying their faith and working in the outreach ministry of the church.
These three men go stumbling over their nets and boats and follow Jesus, and the crowd that saw all this witnessed a sermon in action that was more powerful than the one Jesus preached. Luke doesn’t tell us a thing that Jesus said in that sermon. Nor does he say whether Simon and his buds were paying attention. He tells us what they did.
And we’re still talking about it.

Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13) – Unlike Jeremiah’s call to prophecy which we looked at last week, Isaiah’s call would have brought out CNN and Fox and more photographers than the Vancouver Olympics. Jeremiah’s call could have been very private. Isaiah’s was full of lights and noise and smoke.
Unless, of course, it all happened in his imagination which may be more likely. So call off the media.
What this does illustrate is that calls to prophecy, to ministry, to service, to faith, can take many forms. Many forms.
And one is not more valid than the other.

Psalm 138 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
In biblical times, worshipers prostrated themselves on the ground before the Holy of Holies, while reciting Psalm 138. For us, it's a strange position from which to express gratitude.
1 This is your turf, your home, your territory.
I am so glad to be here, God, that I kiss the earth you walk on.
2 I fling myself into the dust, the floor of your dwelling.
I extend my arms to embrace your earth.
But you lift me up from my humble position.
You take me in as your guest.
You have made me one of your family;
you have even given me your name!
3 You have taken me under your wing.
When I cry out, you cover me;
I benefit from your strength.
4 Foxes may lord it over the chicken coop, and squirrels over the sparrow's nest,
But no creatures challenge the eagle's rule;
They cower before the eagle's eye and ruthless claws.
5 As the eagle soars above the field mice,
so do you, Lord, rise above us mortals.
6 Daily duties keep us scurrying close to the earth.
But you watch over us from on high;
you can see danger long before it draws near.
7 Troubles grow around us like tall grass
But in the shadow of your outspread pinions, predators scatter
Like leaves before an autumn wind.
8 There is a place for me in your plans.
You will never abandon me.
You will work out your purpose for me, no matter how long it takes.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Publications.
For details, go to www.woodlakebooks.com

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 – In this passage Paul talks about his call to ministry which was also pretty dramatic. And it involved a 180 degree turn from being a persecutor to being a promoter.
Paul calls himself the “least of the apostles,” but his humility loses a bit of its shine when he goes on to claim that he worked harder than all of them, though of course, it wasn’t him it was the grace of God. I imagine a bit of a nervous laugh here, which of course isn’t recorded.

In the story, “Isaiah Becomes a Prophet,” I have his friend Rebekah talk to Isaiah about becoming a prophet. It’s in “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year C,” page 59. Then there’s a story called “Simon Gets a New Job” on page 62 based on the Luke passage.
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.”
http://tinyurl.com/2lonod
Or, if you live in Canada or the US, simply pick up the phone and dial 1 800 663 2775.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Rumors – There are many versions of this story. But basically it goes something like this.
There was a group that called themselves The Fisherfolk Club. They started out as a gathering of people who earned their living fishing in the ocean. At first, only real fisherfolk could join. But not wanting to be selfish, and because they had nice facilities that needed to be paid for, they invited others to come in too.
In the club headquarters there were fish symbols galore, hooks, nets, and floats and rods. All the members of the club, even those who were not fishers, wore old hats with lures stuck in them and tall wading boots which got quite uncomfortable on warm days. But they were proud to be fishers and so never took them off.
They had a well-stocked library of books about fishing. And several times a year they ran seminars to which world-renounced fishers were invited to come and deliver learned lectures. All the talk and all the activities of the club centered around fishing, but as the years went by, fewer and fewer of the members actually went out fishing.
Then one day, the club had a new member. They had not had a new member for some time, so this was an interesting experience. And the new member asked an interesting question. “When do you go fishing?”
Well, it turned out that members of The Fisherfolk Club had never caught a fish. In fact, they had never actually seen a live fish. And the idea that they should go out there in a boat or wade into the water came as quite a shock to them.
They had long meetings on the subject and finally came to the conclusion that the new member would have to leave. The new member obviously knew very little about what it really meant to be a member of The Fisherfolk Club.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – From the file
* The King's Bras will present a concert at our church this evening at 6:00 pm.
* A songfest was hell at the Methodist Church Wednesday.’
* After receiving the communion elements, the altar is open for prayer and medication.
* Amazing Grace: “I once was found, but now I’m lost ...”

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! – from the file
I can only please one person per day. This is not your day.
source unknown

Accept that some days you are the pigeon and some days you are the statue.
source unknown

The things that count most in life are the things that can't be counted.
source unknown

If you are not treated as you deserve, be thankful.
source unknown

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “sale of cabbage!”)
Here’s how long it takes to say things:
* Pythagorean theorem: 24 words.* The Lord’s Prayer: 66 words.* Archimedes’ Principle: 67 words.* The 10 Commandments: 179 words.* The Gettysburg address: 286 words.* The Declaration of Independence: 1,300 words.* Government regulations on the sale of cabbage: 26,911 words.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Bottom of the Barrel – There once was a rich man who was dying. While on his death bed, he tried to negotiate with God to be allowed to bring his earthly treasures with him to heaven. “God, please, I have worked so hard to accumulate all these riches. Can’t I bring them along?”
“This is very unusual” said God, “but since you have been such a faithful steward, I will allow you to bring along one suitcase.”
The man immediately had a servant fill a large suitcase with gold bricks. Shortly thereafter he died.
When the man arrived at the Pearly Gates, he was stopped by St. Peter. “I’m sorry sir, but you know the rules. You can’t take it with you. You may enter, but the suitcase has to stay outside.”
“But God told me I could bring one suitcase,” the man protested.
“Well, if God says it’s OK then I guess it’s OK, but I still need to examine the contents before you can enter.”
St. Peter takes the suitcase from the man, opens it, and looks very puzzled. “You brought paving stones?”

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Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Luke 5:1-11
Reader 1: I got a real shock when I read this passage.
Reader 2: Why? It seemed OK to me.
1: Well, it’s not OK. It tells about Jesus preaching and teaching and nobody pays any attention and we’re not told a word about what he said.
2: What are you talking about? Jesus was a very good preacher. It says that several times in the Bible, that the people heard him gladly.
1: Not this time. Jesus borrows a boat so he can speak to the people on the shore a bit more easily. Then when he’s finished, he asks Peter who owned the boat, how the fishing had been. Peter said it was the pits. They worked all night and caught nothing. So Jesus tells them to try again and this time they almost sink the boat. Then Jesus tells them to come and follow him and they do that, leaving their boats and the whole mess of fish sitting right there. And nobody says anything about what Jesus was preaching.
2: You know, you’re right. The sermon they were watching was more interesting than the sermon that Jesus had just preached.
1: What I want to know is, what happened to all those fish? Did they just sit there in the boat and rot?
2: Maybe each person in the crowd got to take home a fish for lunch. A kind of slippery door prize.
1: I just thought of something. It says that Peter and James and John were washing their nets while Jesus was preaching. Maybe they were listening to the sermon as they worked. Maybe that’s why they just up and followed Jesus.
2: Enough of this. Let’s hear the scripture. It’s from Luke’s gospel.SLIGHT PAUSE
1: Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.2: Jesus got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he spoke to Simon.
1: "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch."2: "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets."1: When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.
2: But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees.
1: "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!"2: Simon and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken. And so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.
1: Then Jesus spoke to Simon.
2: "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people."1: When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

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Information and Stuff – (Read this section only if you want to know about subscribing, unsubscribing or quoting stuff from Rumors.) It would be nice if you could give Rumors a plug in your bulletin or newsletter. Please invite your friends (and even your enemies) to subscribe. There's no charge: RUMORS is free and it comes to your e-mail box every Sunday morning. Just send your friends the instructions to subscribe [below], and include an invitation to join the list ... perhaps something like this: “There’s a lively and fun newsletter called RUMORS which is available at no cost on the net. It’s for ‘Christians with a sense of humor’.” Please add the instructions to subscribe [below]. If you have a friend you think would enjoy Rumors, and you’d rather not give them the subscribing instructions below, send me an e-mail at ralphmilton at shaw.ca. (change the “at” to the “at” sign – you know the “a” with the circle around it. I’m trying to slow down the spammers.) Then give me the e-mail address of your friend. If you are using something from Rumors in your sermon, give credit only as appropriate, without stopping the sermon dead in its tracks. I am delighted when Rumors is useful in the life and work of the church. As long as it is within your congregation or parish, you don’t need permission. You are welcome to use the stuff in church bulletins or newsletters. Please say where it came from, and please invite people to subscribe to RUMORS. An appropriate credit line would be; “From Ralph Milton's RUMORS, a free Internet ‘e-zine’ for Christians with a sense of humor." ... and please be sure to include these instructions to subscribe to RUMORS: To Subscribe:* Send an e-mail to: rumors-subscribe@joinhands.com
* Don't put anything else in that e-mail
To Unsubscribe:
* Send an e-mail to: rumors-unsubscribe@joinhands.com
* Don’t put anything else in that e-mail* If you are changing e-mail addresses, and your old address will no longer be in service, you do not need to unsubscribe. The sending computer will try a few times, and then give up..~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*Please Write – If you respond, react, think about, freak-out, or otherwise have things happen in your head as a result of reading the above, please send a note to: ralphmilton at shaw.ca.
Who knows, I might quote you in a future issue of RUMORS.All material is copyright © Ralph Milton.~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Preaching Materials for January 31st, 2010

R U M O R S # 586
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor
2010-01-24

January 24, 2010

A WILD AND WONDERFUL PROPHET
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Motto:
"A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones." (Proverbs 17:22 KJV)
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Note: Usually Rumors relies on your letters to provide much of the content in Rumors. In this, and the next several issues, you’ll notice that most of the stuff comes from my barrel. That’s because Bev and I are soaking up a bit of sunshine and these issues have been written in advance. Hope you don’t mind too much.

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The Story – passionate and powerful
Rumors – a fire in the belly
Soft Edges –
Bloopers – three every hour
Mirabile Dictu! – reincarnation
Bottom of the Barrel – white man
Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Jeremiah 1:4-10
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)

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Rib Tickler – At the Baptist Women’s Missionary gathering in the Maritimes, one of the leaders had brought an inflatable globe to show where the various countries of the world are located.
But when she was ready to use it, her “world” had sprung a leak, and the globe had shrunk. She used the problem to make a point. “It’s marvelous! When you get rid of a lot of the hot air, how small this world is.”
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Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, January 31st, which is the 4th Sunday after the Epiphany.
* Jeremiah 1:4-10
* Psalm 71:1-6
* 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
* Luke 4:21-30 (Note: We tacked this on to last week’s reading to make it a complete story.)

The Story (from the Revised Common Lectionary) – Jeremiah 1:4-10

Ralph says –
I’ve always liked Jeremiah. He was just slightly nuts which is what a prophet needs to be to have the chutzpah to carry it off. He also used audio visuals and objects lessons to good effect – throwing around jars, walking around naked – that sort of thing.
Jeremiah was passionate and powerful and that shows in his call. There’s no sense that God might have been looking for a prophet one day and Jeremiah happened to walk by. Jeremiah was chosen by a God who knew him intimately from the moment of conception – possibly close to a virgin birth story because the word “knew” here was almost always used to indicate sexual intimacy.
And Jeremiah’s just a kid. The commentators say about 14 or 15, and there is God telling him to go and prophecy to the nations. That must have been interesting – a beardless boy prophesying to rulers of nations.
I’ve always liked Jeremiah because he’s wild and crazy and not all that good at what he does. But he does it with such passion and flair you can’t help but believe that God is inside this man goading him on.

Psalm 71:1-6 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
The psalm is entitled an old man's prayer, but it could equally well be a young child. Both are vulnerable and dependent on others. I chose to paraphrase from the child's viewpoint. Every one of us has been a child; only a few of us have been old – yet.
1 Don't let them make fun of me.
Let me hide myself behind your skirts.
2 Comfort me and protect me;
listen to my fears, and enfold me in your arms.
3 When I am in trouble, I run to you.
I have no one but you to rely on.
4 The bigger kids won't leave me alone;
their greedy hands keep grabbing at me.
Rescue me from their clutches.
5 From the time I was tiny, you have been my refuge.
I have always been able to trust you.
6 Before I was born, I felt safe in your womb.
As an infant, I rested on your breast.
You are all I have, and all I ever had.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Publications.
For details, go to www.woodlakebooks.com

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 – This may be the best-known passage in the whole Bible. Certainly it’s the one that’s heard at weddings and funerals. But I wouldn’t read it to the congregation unless I was going to talk about it, because within its profound truth there is a lie. So much popular psychology and music and poetry and rhetoric talks about love. But by itself this love is sentimental mush. Love, as simply a felt emotion, is as sincere and as real as the drunk careening down the street proclaiming, “I love everybody.”
Love and justice are two sides of the same coin. Paul says as much in this poem, but it’s very easy to miss.

There’s a children’s version of Jeremiah’s call in “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year B,” page 55. It’s called, “Jeremiah Becomes a Prophet.” And there’s a children’s version of the famous 1 Corinthians 13 on page 57 titled, “Paul’s Song About Love.”
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.”
http://tinyurl.com/2lonod
Or, if you live in Canada or the US, simply pick up the phone and dial 1 800 663 2775.

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Rumors – Jeremiah
"...a fire in my belly that had to get out!"
From “Is This Your Idea of a Good Time, God?” by Ralph Milton, Wood Lake Books, 1995.

Jeremiah Confronts God
Look, Lord. I know I shouldn't talk to you this way. But we've had a pretty good relationship, you and me.
Besides I can't help it. I think I've been had. I think you, yes you God, pulled a fast one on me.
I know you're busy taking care of the whole world, but try to remember, if it's not too much trouble.
I was just a kid, remember. Pink cheeks. No beard. And you grabbed me by the insides one day and told me to be a prophet.
Me. A prophet. I didn't even know what a prophet did. And I told you so, but oh, no. You wouldn't let me go. "I'll put the words right in your mouth," you told me. Do you remember that? I don't think you do.
I don't think you remember a bit of it because if those are your words, why doesn't anybody pay attention? Ha? Why do they all laugh at me, spit on me, call me names?
I use your words God. Your words, not mine. "Violence and destruction," I tell them, "violence and destruction unless you repent and do what God is asking of you."
I do everything I can think of to get their attention. I throw pots around, put a yoke around my neck. Once I even walked around naked. Stark naked, God. That got them talking but not about my prophecy. They just wanted to send me to the funny farm.
Even my own family. They think I've flipped. They think I'm a nut case. It's not so bad when they yell at me, it's when they try to be kind and patronizing. "Now, just try not to get too upset, Jeremiah. You just need a little rest, that's all." Damn!
So for awhile, I didn't say a thing. Nothing. Quiet as a mouse. My mother loved it. You know what I got out of it. A sore stomach. A big old-fashioned gut ache. A fire in my belly that just had to get out. I couldn't keep quiet about the things I saw, I just couldn't.
And you're sitting up there laughing at that, aren't you God. You knew I couldn't keep it in.
Damn! I wish I'd never been born. I wish my mother and father had never been born. I wish I'd died while my mother was still pregnant.
Damn!
So what do I do? You are God, and I'm just a poor underpaid prophet and I have no choice but to go with it. And it wouldn't be so bad if I didn't really believe those words you give me to say. I do, you know. You've taken over all right God. You've taken over my head, and yes, even my heart. The plain unvarnished truth is that I really love you God and really do want people to hear what you have to say.
But I'm still mad at you, God.
Really mad.
And I'm going to stay mad just as long as I can, because being a prophet is no piece of cake. It's no walk in the rose garden.
Do you hear that God? Are you listening?

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Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor


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Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – from the file
* We are always happy to have you sue our facility.
* Hymn: I Need Three Every Hour.
* All children are requested to bring fresh followers to decorate the cross for Easter Sunday.

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.)
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Wish I’d Said That! –
Joy is the feeling of grinning inside.
Dr. Melba Colgrove
When the church service is over, it is time for your service to begin.
source unknown
Religious differences are not nearly so disastrous as religious indifferences.
source unknown

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Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “reincarnation!”)
Signs you're the reincarnation of someone famous:
* During a thunderstorm, you build a giant boat and start stealing your neighbor’s pets.
* When the boss criticizes your work, you hack off your right ear and mail it to her.
* Not only do you consider Yoko an artistic genius, you think she's beautiful and has a lovely singing voice.
* While working under the sink, you get this insatiable urge to paint a church ceiling.
* Out of luck winos are bringing you jugs of water.
* You're found writing down rules of the office on giant stone tablets.

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Bottom of the Barrel – The Lone Ranger and Tonto are surrounded by Indians. LR says, "Tonto, there are Indians on the north of us, on the south of us, on the east of us and on the west of us. We are surrounded! What are we going to do?" Tonto gives the LR a long stare. "What do you mean 'we,' white man?"

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Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Jeremiah 1:4-10
Reader 1: I really like the prophet Jeremiah. You know why?
Reader 2: No, why?
1: Because he was a little bit nuts. A little out of touch with reality. He smashed clay pots. Once he even walked around naked.
2: Some guys’ll do anything to get attention.
1: No, it wasn’t primarily to get attention. Jeremiah was making a point. The nation Israel was going to get smashed like that pot. It would be stripped of everything it had and would be naked.
2: The reading today is about Jeremiah’s call. God telling Jeremiah he was going to be a prophet.
1: And Jeremiah protests. “Hey, God, I’m just a kid. I don’t know how to preach.” But God tells Jeremiah he was picked out to be a prophet even before he was conceived in his mother’s womb.
2: I sort of imagine all this happening in a big temple, with smoke and fire and lots of pyrotechnics.
1: The passage doesn’t say anything like that. This could have been Jeremiah, all alone somewhere, having his conversation with God.
2: So let’s read it. This is from the book of Jeremiah.
SLIGHT PAUSE
1: Now the word of the LORD came. And this is what I was told.
2: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you. I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
1: "But, Lord GOD! Really, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy."
2: "Do not say, 'I am only a boy'; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.”
1: Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth.
2: "Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."

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Information and Stuff – (Read this section only if you want to know about subscribing, unsubscribing or quoting stuff from Rumors.) It would be nice if you could give Rumors a plug in your bulletin or newsletter. Please invite your friends (and even your enemies) to subscribe. There's no charge: RUMORS is free and it comes to your e-mail box every Sunday morning. Just send your friends the instructions to subscribe [below], and include an invitation to join the list ... perhaps something like this: “There’s a lively and fun newsletter called RUMORS which is available at no cost on the net. It’s for ‘Christians with a sense of humor’.” Please add the instructions to subscribe [below]. If you have a friend you think would enjoy Rumors, and you’d rather not give them the subscribing instructions below, send me an e-mail at ralphmilton at shaw.ca. (change the “at” to the “at” sign – you know the “a” with the circle around it. I’m trying to slow down the spammers.) Then give me the e-mail address of your friend. If you are using something from Rumors in your sermon, give credit only as appropriate, without stopping the sermon dead in its tracks. I am delighted when Rumors is useful in the life and work of the church. As long as it is within your congregation or parish, you don’t need permission. You are welcome to use the stuff in church bulletins or newsletters. Please say where it came from, and please invite people to subscribe to RUMORS. An appropriate credit line would be; “From Ralph Milton's RUMORS, a free Internet ‘e-zine’ for Christians with a sense of humor." ... and please be sure to include these instructions to subscribe to RUMORS: To Subscribe:* Send an e-mail to: rumors-subscribe@joinhands.com
* Don't put anything else in that e-mail
To Unsubscribe:
* Send an e-mail to: rumors-unsubscribe@joinhands.com
* Don’t put anything else in that e-mail* If you are changing e-mail addresses, and your old address will no longer be in service, you do not need to unsubscribe. The sending computer will try a few times, and then give up..~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*Please Write – If you respond, react, think about, freak-out, or otherwise have things happen in your head as a result of reading the above, please send a note to: ralphmilton at shaw.ca.
Who knows, I might quote you in a future issue of RUMORS.All material is copyright © Ralph Milton.~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Preaching Materials for January 24th 2010

R U M O R S #585
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor
2010-01-17

January 17, 2010

THE HOMETOWN BOY

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Motto:
"A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones." (Proverbs 17:22 KJV)
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Please put this “blog” address on your “favorites” list. http://ralphmiltonsrumors.blogspot.com/
I post each issue of Rumors on that blog so that you can access it any time. And if an issue of Rumors goes missing, you can go and find it there. And if you need back issues, that’s where to find ‘em.
Thanks.

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The Story – getting into trouble
Rumors – it takes work
Soft Edges – pioneer with words
Bloopers – bile study
Mirabile Dictu! – pieces of broccoli
Bottom of the Barrel – pedestrians and Catholics
Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Luke 4:14-21 (extended to vs. 30)
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)

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Rib Tickler – This story, which if it isn’t true at least is recognizable to most clergy. It’s about the preacher who walked into a church school class while it was in progress.
“Let me ask you a question,” said the preacher. “Who broke down the walls of Jericho?”
A red-haired, freckle-faced boy shot his hand up. “I didn’t do it, honest reverend!”
The teacher came to the boy’s defense. “This lad is honest and I believe him. I really don’t think he did it.”
The minister left the room feeling not too well. In the hall was the chair of the worship committee. The minister told the whole story. “The teacher was right,” said the chairperson. “I’ve known both the teacher and the boy for years and neither of them would do such a thing.”
Now the minister felt really unwell.
That night at the board meeting, the whole sad story got told. “Don’t get upset, reverend,” said the chair of the board. “No sense in making a fuss about it. We’ll just pay for the damage to the wall and charge it to maintenance.”
The minister went home and threw up.
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Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, January 24th, which is the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C.
* Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
* Psalm 19
* 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
* Luke 4:14-21 (extended to vs. 30)

The Story (from the Revised Common Lectionary) – Luke 4:14-21 (extended to vs. 30). We’ve extended this to verse 30 to get the whole story which the lectionary has divided into two parts. This frees us up to focus on the call of Jeremiah next week.

Jim says –
It’s fitting, I suppose, that a lectionary reading should contain a lectionary reading. Scholars have told me that Jewish synagogues had their own lectionary. Apparently they can date this reading’s place in the cycle – but not the year, unfortunately -- when Jesus picked up the scroll to read from Isaiah.
But he only read part of it.
Why stop part way through, and start ad-libbing?
I’m guessing that Jesus was open to inspiration. As he read, he heard Isaiah articulating his own raison d’etre, his own mission statement.
Some 700 years earlier, Isaiah had put into words the convictions that Jesus himself had come to, out there in the desert, after the uplifting experience of his baptism by John, in the Jordan.
Isaiah never learned to sugar coat his message, to avoid offending people with power. Neither did Jesus. It was not a politically astute move to insult his fan club.
Just when they were basking in the borrowed glory of a “native son”
making good, Jesus tells them, “Leggo my coat-tails! What makes you think I was talking about you? I’m not your poster-child...”
So they turned on him.

Ralph says –
Jesus had a peculiar knack of getting himself into trouble. He read that passage from Isaiah, and could have said something innocuous, like, “I’ve got some thoughts arising from this passage that I’d like to share with you.”
No, he says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words, “I’m the guy Isaiah was talking about.” Even that is acceptable until he goes on to tell the folks that it’s foreign widows and lepers that will receive God’s gifts, not the good and proper folks there in the synagogue.
Think of a similar scenario. A young person in your church – a young person with assorted hardware in his or her face, is the lector that Sunday, and reads one of the passages about the return of the Messiah. Then this young person looks out at the congregation and with a perfectly straight face says, “I’m it, folks. I’m the Messiah these guys were talking about. And you know something else? God cares more about the HIV positive drunk lying on the street and the malaria infected African pauper, than about you.”
In our congregation at least, people would mutter about getting a shirt with very long sleeves and a well-padded cell in which this young person could proclaim the rest of her/his message. But we wouldn’t do that, of course. We’d just freeze the kid out. In Jesus’ time, they were not as sophisticated and tried to toss him off a cliff.
So let’s not get too hard on the Synagogue leaders in Nazareth. Their response was perfectly understandable, and probably the same as yours and mine would be. And it’s also possible Jesus was a little na├»ve to expect the leaders of the Nazareth Synagogue to welcome him with open arms.

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 – So often with the Lectionary it’s feast or famine. But it’s easy to see why the Lectionary folks chose this passage to pair with the Luke passage. In both cases we have a proclamation that says, “From here on, everything is going to be different.”
But the passages are not really parallel. It’s the gathered people who told Ezra to read from the scroll. Not only that, but Ezra was a scribe. He had status. And so the response was, to say the least, a little different.
In situations like this it depends more on who is doing the saying, and to whom, than on what is said.

Psalm 19 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
(Note: The Lectionary calls for the entire psalm but Jim has chosen to paraphrase verses 7-14.)
A good compass has only one virtue – it always points north. A compass that could point in many directions, depending on how it was read, a compass that had to be re-interpreted in each new context, would be useless.
So too with human laws and legal systems.
7 Good laws reduce tensions; like a compass, they give direction to the confused.
Consider God's laws – their clarity cuts through petty legalism.
8 God's principles are straightforward--they have no fine print clauses;
God's instructions are never tainted by conflict of interest;
you cannot find a flaw in them.
9 They do not depend on partial understanding of the truth;
they are always true, always consistent, always dependable.
By sticking to them, our consciences stay clean;
we never feel soiled by circumstances.
10 Clear directions are preferable to wealth or power;
they are as exhilarating as a spring morning.
11 They point us along the proper path;
they guide us towards our goal.
12 For we cannot be objective about ourselves;
But God's standards are not swayed by fads or fashions;
like a lens, they let us see ourselves as we are.
13 Save me from thinking myself self-sufficient.
Keep me from sinking into the quicksand of egotism.
Only then can I consider myself clean;
Then I can stand straight, slipping off the stresses of success.
14 I don't want to live in isolation.
I dedicate the work of my hands, the words of my mouth,
the thoughts of my mind, to you.
You give me my strength and my hope.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Publications.
For details, go to www.woodlakebooks.com

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a – This passage has been preached to death, but one point is almost never made. The “unseemly” (KJV) parts of the body are given special honor. Perhaps that’s why certain persons who might be delicately described as “the unseemly parts” of our community get chosen for the most significant offices in the church.

As I said above, there’s a batch of good stuff for this Sunday, and that’s evident in “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year C.” It has stories based on three of the lections. “Going Home,” based on Nehemiah is on page 48, “Each Person Is Important,” based on 1 Corinthians is on page 51, and “Jesus Learns About His Job,” on page 54.
If you’ve not yet acquired this useful resource, 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.”
http://tinyurl.com/2lonod
Or, if you live in Canada or the US, simply pick up the phone and dial 1 800 663 2775.

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Rumors – My family must think of me as a bookish person, because books are what I almost always get at Christmas.
I’d prefer something utterly frivolous, like a Porsche, but it’s books I get. My kids obviously think the back porch is more in my old man’s league. And books are cheaper, I suppose, although the gap is closing.
Among the books this Christmas was Diarmaid MacCulloch’s massive “A History of Christianity.” I’ve not yet worked up the courage to start it but Bev says the Introduction is quite readable, which is good news because the thing runs to 1160 pages. Do I really want to know that much Christian history?
I’m currently working on another book I received – Karen Armstrong’s “The Case for God.” She’s usually quite readable, thought provoking and well-researched. And in her introduction, there is a paragraph that deserves quoting in full.
“Religion is a practical discipline that teaches us to discover new capacities of mind and heart. It is no use magisterially weighing up the teachings of religion to judge their truth or falsehood before embarking on a religious way of life. You will discover their truth – or lack of it – only if you translate those doctrines into ritual or ethical action. Like any skill, religion requires perseverance, hard work, and discipline. Some people will be better at it than others, some appallingly inept, and some will miss the point entirely. But those who do not apply themselves will get nowhere at all. Religious people find it hard to explain how their rituals and practices work, just as a skater may not be fully conscious of the physical laws that enable her to glide over the ice on a thin blade.”
A couple of paragraphs later, Armstrong says: “People who acquired this “knack” [of living their religion] discovered a transcendent dimension of life that was not simply an external reality ‘out there’ but was identical with the deepest level of their being.”
Armstrong, for those who may not be familiar with her work, is a former Roman Catholic nun who has developed into a student and journalist of religion, and is probably the best in her field, at least in the English language. Among other things, she has been honored by the Islamic community for her sensitive, accurate and balanced writing about that faith community.
For her to tell us that it really isn’t a matter of how much you know about your faith – of how hard you study and what learned papers you have written – it’s how hard you work at living your faith – for Karen Armstrong to say that is highly significant.
The faith we hold only becomes real when we work hard at living it. Dilettantes – no matter how informed and well-connected they may be – will simply never really get the hang of it.
We work hard at removing the small and large barriers that discourage people from coming to church. I wonder if that’s the right approach. Maybe we should make it really tough. “You want to be part of our community? Then you’d better mean it because you are going to have to work at it.”
No, that’s not where I would plunk down. But it’s worth thinking about.

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Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
Pioneer With Words
I must have been dozing, last October. I missed hearing that Fred Kaan had died.
Fred who, you’re wondering?
Fred Kaan. A small man, with a leprechaun beard, twinkling eyes, and an impish sense of humour. Also perhaps the greatest hymn writer of our time.
As pastor of a local Congregational church in Britain, in the 1960s, he gagged at some of the words in traditional hymns. The hymns didn’t express his theology. Nor, he believed, the theology of his parishioners. But they had nothing else.
So Fred started writing his own words, to go with the old tunes. After a while, the parish put Fred’s new words together in a little book called Pilgrim Praise. And the little book began circulating. First in his own denomination. Then internationally.
Some of those booklets reached North America. Where Fred’s words captured a young musician named Ron Klusmeier. Ron was starting to write church music that used modern harmonies and rhythms.
And a revolution began.
I got to know Fred, at first, through Ron’s enthusiasm for him. Later, I had the privilege of spending several hours in a private interview with Fred.
Fred’s genius was his ability to put into words what people hadn’t yet realized they were thinking.
It’s not the first time the music has been the core of a revolution. Probably the most prolific hymn writers in the Protestant tradition were John and Charles Wesley and Isaac Watts. Watts alone wrote more than 750 hymns, many still sung today.
Gerald Hobbs, former professor of music at Vancouver School of Theology, paints their change with broad strokes. Until then, he says, it was the institutional church that had a relationship with God. The evangelical revival gave ordinary people a personal relationship with God.
Today, we take that notion for granted. Back then, it was radical.
Fred Kaan did the same for our time. Says Hobbs, “No contemporary hymn writer has participated as centrally as Fred Kaan in the events shaping Christian churches in the last four decades....”
Carlton Young, editor of the United Methodist Hymnal, wrote, “Fred's hymns invariably have social justice at their centre. They are cries, laments, and prophecies born in the Church's struggle to be faithful to the gospel....”
Fred Kaan’s hymns didn’t sing of a distant and judgemental God out there somewhere, who expects to be praised with fancy titles. His God is present with us, part of us, within us and surrounding us like the air we breathe.
Others picked up the torch. In Canada, Walter Farquharson, Linnea Good, Sylvia Dunstan, Herbert O’Driscoll, Ian MacDonald and Gordon Light; in the U.S., James Manley, Brian Wren, Ruth Duck, and Jim Strathdee; in New Zealand, Shirley Erena Murray – all drew inspiration from Fred Kaan.
Someone said, “If you want to know what people believe, don’t listen to what they say. Listen to what they sing.”
Lectures and sermons are all very well. But what people hear coming from someone else’s mouth won’t shape their beliefs as much as the words they hear coming from their own mouths.
That’s why it matters what we sing.
Farewell, Fred. Long may your spirit sing.

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Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – from the file
* The Honeymooners are now having bile studies each Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m.
* The visiting monster today is Rev. Jack Baines.
* Boars of Trustees meet after church today.

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.)
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Wish I’d Said That! – Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation – even so does inaction sap the vigour of the mind.
Leonardo da Vinci via Velia Watts

People will love and remember you, not for what you do but for how you make them feel about themselves
source unknown via Margaret Wood

Biscuits and sermons are improved by shortening
source unknown

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Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “pieces of broccoli!”)
* Laws Pertaining to Dessert
For we judge between the plate that is unclean and the plate that is clean, saying first, if the plate is clean, then you shall have dessert.
But of the unclean plate, the laws are these: If you have eaten most of your meat, and two bites of your peas with each bite consisting of not less than three peas each, or in total six peas, eaten where I can see, and you have also eaten enough of your potatoes to fill two forks, both forkfuls eaten where I can see, then you shall have dessert. But if you eat a lesser number of peas, and yet you eat the potatoes, still you shall not have dessert; and if you eat the peas, yet leave the potatoes uneaten, you shall not have dessert, no, not even a small portion thereof.
And if you try to deceive by moving the potatoes or peas around with a fork, that it may appear you have eaten what you have not, you will fall into iniquity. And I will know, and you shall have no dessert.

* Laws When at Table
And if you are seated in your high chair, or in a chair such as a greater person might use, keep your legs and feet below you as they were. Neither raise up your knees, nor place your feet upon the table, for that is an abomination to me. Yes, even when you have an interesting bandage to show, your feet upon the table are an abomination, and worthy of rebuke.
Drink your milk as it is given you, neither use on it any utensils, nor fork, nor knife, nor spoon, for that is not what they are for; if you will dip your blocks in the milk, and lick it off, you will be sent away.
When you have drunk, let the empty cup then remain upon the table, and do not bite it upon its edge and by your teeth hold it to your face in order to make noises in it sounding like a duck: for you will be sent away.
When you chew your food, keep your mouth closed until you have swallowed, and do not open it to show your brother or your sister what is within; I say to you, do not so, even if your brother or your sister has done the same to you.
Eat your food only; do not eat that which is not food; neither seize the table between your jaws, nor use the raiment of the table to wipe your lips. I say again to you, do not touch it, but leave it as it is.
And though your stick of carrot does indeed resemble a marker, draw not with it upon the table, even in pretend, for we do not do that, that is why. And though the pieces of broccoli are very like small trees, do not stand them upright to make a forest, because we do not do that, that is why.
The list goes on an on, but you get the idea. Write your own.

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Bottom of the Barrel – George was in New York, and had just been to mass at the biggest church he’d ever seen. He was patiently waiting and watching the traffic cop on a busy street crossing.
The cop stopped the flow of traffic and shouted, “Okay, pedestrians!” Then he’d signal the cars to proceed. The policeman had done this several times, and George still stood on the sidewalk. After the cop had shouted “pedestrians!” for the tenth time, George went over to him and said, “Isn’t it about time you let us Catholics across?”

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Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Luke 4:14-21 (extended to vs. 30)Reader 1: Today we have the story of Jesus standing up in the Synagogue in Nazareth, and getting himself into a pile of trouble.
Reader 2: Things seem to be going well for him at first. The folks kind of nodded and said, “Well, this is Joseph’s boy. We knew him well. He speaks nicely.” But then everything turns sour.
1: Well, Jesus didn’t go to business school to learn how to say nice things that nobody can get mad at. He seemed to have a knack for sticking his foot in his own mouth.
2: That’s true, but I’m still not sure what it was that got the folks in the Nazareth Synagogue riled up enough to want to kill him.
1: It’s because Jesus told them, we are Jews, and we think we are God’s chosen people. But guess what. God chooses others sometimes too. And he gives a couple of examples. That’s when they tried to toss him off the edge of a cliff.
2: So let’s read this story. It’s from Luke’s gospel.
SLIGHT PAUSE
1: Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.2: He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.1: When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:2: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."1: Then Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.2: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
1: All the people in the synagogue spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, "Is not this Joseph's son?"
2: "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Doctor, cure yourself!' And you will say, 'Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.' Truly I tell you, prophets are not accepted in their own hometowns. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land. Yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."
1: When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

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Information and Stuff – (Read this section only if you want to know about subscribing, unsubscribing or quoting stuff from Rumors.) It would be nice if you could give Rumors a plug in your bulletin or newsletter. Please invite your friends (and even your enemies) to subscribe. There's no charge: RUMORS is free and it comes to your e-mail box every Sunday morning. Just send your friends the instructions to subscribe [below], and include an invitation to join the list ... perhaps something like this: “There’s a lively and fun newsletter called RUMORS which is available at no cost on the net. It’s for ‘Christians with a sense of humor’.” Please add the instructions to subscribe [below]. If you have a friend you think would enjoy Rumors, and you’d rather not give them the subscribing instructions below, send me an e-mail at ralphmilton at shaw.ca. (change the “at” to the “at” sign – you know the “a” with the circle around it. I’m trying to slow down the spammers.) Then give me the e-mail address of your friend. If you are using something from Rumors in your sermon, give credit only as appropriate, without stopping the sermon dead in its tracks. I am delighted when Rumors is useful in the life and work of the church. As long as it is within your congregation or parish, you don’t need permission. You are welcome to use the stuff in church bulletins or newsletters. Please say where it came from, and please invite people to subscribe to RUMORS. An appropriate credit line would be; “From Ralph Milton's RUMORS, a free Internet ‘e-zine’ for Christians with a sense of humor." ... and please be sure to include these instructions to subscribe to RUMORS: To Subscribe:* Send an e-mail to: rumors-subscribe@joinhands.com
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