Thursday, January 14, 2010

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

February 14th, 2010



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


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.)


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!”

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

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, or click on the following address which takes you directly to the “Lectionary Story Bible.”
Or, if you live in Canada or the US, simply pick up the phone and dial 1 800 663 2775.


Rumors – 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.


Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor


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 (change the “at to the symbol and remove the spaces.)

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


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.”


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!”


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.
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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