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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