Thursday, June 11, 2009

Preaching Materials for June 21st, 2009

R U M O R S # 556
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor

June 14th, 2009


"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 – four kinds of men
Rumors – little Davey beats big 99
Soft Edges – prayer wheels and computers
Good Stuff – God texts the Ten Commandments
Bloopers – peach be still
We Get Letters – therapeutic humor
Mirabile Dictu! – tilt your head to smile
Bottom of the Barrel – five Jewish men
Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49, 57, 18:5, 18:10-16
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)


Rib Tickler – This from Evelyn McLachlan.
After the birth of their child, a clergy person, wearing his clerical collar, visited his wife in the hospital. He greeted her with a hug and a kiss, and gave her another hug and kiss when he left.
Later, the wife's roommate commented, "Your pastor is sure friendlier than mine."


Next Week’s Readings – Below are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, June 21st, which is also Fathers’ Day.
Jens Hanson of Windsor, Ontario writes: “We must count differently. Isn't June 14 the second Sunday after Pentecost?”
Jens, that count isn’t given in the official RCL publication, and I keep getting it mixed up. So to avoid confusion, I’m not going to do that “Sunday after” thing during the current season. Instead, I’ll give the Proper numbers – which I also don’t understand but they’re printed nice and clearly in the book. It’s Proper 7 [12] and the Revised Common Lectionary gives us a bunch of options. For the first two readings, you have a choice among three.

1) 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49 and Psalm 9:9-20 2) 1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 18:10-16 and Psalm 1333) Job 38:1-11 and Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32

plus the Christian scripture readings:2 Corinthians 6:1-13Mark 4:35-41

The Story (from the Revised Common Lectionary) – Guess what? Our choice for the story is none of the above. Or at least not in those combinations. We’re going for both the 1st Samuel readings so that a good hunk of the David saga gets told.
That gets to be a pretty long reading, so in the Reader’s Theatre thing below, I’ve done some pruning.

Ralph says –
This is a great reading for Father’s Day. It’s a great time to use the David saga to speak to issues of masculinity and fathering. It’s a story of four very different men, David, Goliath, Saul and Jonathan.
For starters, there’s a huge difference in the way we use the words “fathering” and “mothering.” For instance, when we say, “he fathered a child,” we mean he inseminated a female. When we say, “she mothered a child,” we mean she offered tenderness and caring.
There was an active “men’s lib” movement in response to the feminist movement. But it seems to have died off. We made a lot of progress in a lot of ways, but we’re still a long way from where we need to be.
Way back in 1993 I wrote a book titled, “Man to Man,” which was subtitled, “Recovering the best of the male tradition.” It used the life of David as a template for discussing issues of masculinity. (Most of those books were sold to women who gave them to the men in their lives. Not many of those guys read it.)
There are at least two significant issues raised in this part of the David saga – the masculine mythology of power and male to male relationships.
The description of the two armies lined up for battle sounds a lot like the Super Bowl or some other huge sport event. In fact, much of 1st and 2nd Samuel sounds like the sports page – who beat whom and by how much.
Most of the story of the deep friendship between David and Jonathan did not make it into the lectionary. So many men have never learned how to have a deep and caring friendship with another man, which is why this story is so important. Some claim this was a homosexual relationship. That point can be argued either way. Whatever your conclusion, it is at least the story of a deep friendship between two men – something that many men are not able to manage.
In fact, men generally find it hard to have a friendship with a person of either sex without the relationship having a sexual component. That may be why so many men are so very lonely.

Jim says –
One minute the boy David is getting the king’s blessing; the next he has to duck the king’s spear. One minute he’s a kid mouthing off; the next he’s in charge of a thousand soldiers. One minute he’s being ridiculed; the next he’s loved by all of Israel and Judah.
I know why this story is in the Bible – it’s supposed to show that if God is with you, nothing’s impossible. But I catch myself wondering about Saul. Because, says 18:12, slightly paraphrased, “the Lord used to be with Saul, but had departed from him.”
And I suspect that more of us have had Saul’s experience than David’s. We have not gone out slaying giants or commanding armies; rather, we have a sense at times that the Lord has left us. And we wonder why. What did we do to cause God’s face to be turned away from us?
There are no easy answers for why we sense the absence of God in times of pain and sorrow – or, for that matter, in times of success and prosperity. We just have that sense of being left alone in the night, to cry into our pillows. Which is better, I suppose, than throwing spears and tantrums.
And we wait, yearning for a resurrection...

Psalm 9:9-20 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
What would we do without God?
When things go wrong,
when the milk of human kindness sours,
when fingernails screech on each day's blackboard,
we can still trust in God.
God does not abandon us.
The Lord lives; praise God!
God's presence surrounds the earth;
God's actions affect everyone!
From this universal vantage point,
the Lord keeps an eye on everyone.
God settles disputes;
God watches out for those who suffer.
And I, Lord, I am one of those who suffer;
Be kind to me too.
Can't you see what those who hate me are doing to me?
I feel like dying.
Save me, so that I can sing your praises,
so that I can stand tall again,
and tell everyone how you saved me.
Let those who think they can save themselves sink into their own pit;
Let them get tangled up in their own snares.
It is part of the Lord's plan;
Their downfall is inevitable.
The wicked will destroy themselves by their own deceit.
They forget about God – let them go to hell!
But those who are really in need will not be forgotten;
The poor will not die without hope.
Show yourself, Lord!
Don't let the self-confident ones seem to be right.
Judge those who parade pompously before you;
Put the fear of God into them;
Let them see that they are mere mortals,
and only you are God.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Publications.
For details, go to

2 Corinthians 6:1-13 – I have mixed feelings about the tone of this passage. My self-effacing Protestant tradition says it sounds like boasting. But last Sunday, preaching a stewardship sermon in Kamloops, I found myself telling the folks what Bev and I did. It wasn’t comfortable, but I think it was necessary. People need to know that we practice what we preach. And that’s what Paul is doing here.
Mark 4:35-41 – A symbol often used in the church is that of a ship under the cross on a storm-tossed sea. Not a bad symbol, but the reality is that we often find ourselves traumatized by the storms around us. Fear blinds us to alternatives that are available to us. When the waves are sloshing all over the decks and everyone is sea-sick, it’s hard to trust God’s assurances.
The theme of trust is also there in the David story. When you face a well-armed giant of a man, it’s hard to trust a kid with a slingshot.

Of course the David and Goliath story from 1 Samuel is in the “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year B.” Page 143, but with much less focus on the gore than is normal in the retelling of this legend.
You’ll also find the story of David and Jonathan (p. 145) even though most of it is not in the lectionary, because it is one of the few stories about a close friendship between two men.
The gospel story, “Jesus Stops the Storm,” is on page 147.
If you don’t own the three volume set of the “Lectionary Story Bible,” click the main Wood Lake Publications website at, or click on the following address which takes you directly to the “Lectionary Story Bible.”


Rumors – Little Davey Beats Big 99
a story based on the biblical legend of David and Goliath

Davey could see his dad coming toward him, over the hill.
"What does the old geezer want this time?" David wondered. Two weeks ago he'd asked David to look after the sheep. "Asked," was the wrong word. "Told," was more like it.
David hated sheep. Dumbest animals in the world. Good for only two things – to get clipped and to get eaten. "Just like those older brothers of mine," Davey thought. "They're fat and stupid, but they get to have all the fun."
David kept looking for the day he could get out of Bethlehem and play in the big leagues. "All I need is just one good chance. One big break."
In the meantime, Davey lived with his fantasies and did pushups and sit ups and worked on his hand-eye coordination. He'd pump up his Reeboks and zip a rock through the hole of a bagel at 50 paces. Davey was good, and he knew it.
And he didn't mind telling his older brothers. His brothers? Well, it's better I don't tell you what his brothers said about Davey.
"Davey," said his Dad.
"What now," Davey groaned.
"None of your lip, punk." Davey and his dad had a good, normal, father-son relationship.
"Get your lazy backside in gear and take this lunch over to your brothers. Then come right back, y'hear, and tell me what the score is."
"Allright!" yelled David. He'd been itching to get into that war against the Philistines. The Israelites were down 3-0 in the best of seven, but Davey was absolutely sure they'd win if they'd let him play. So what if he was underage. Maybe this was his chance.
It was a fair hike to the valley where they were having the war. But when he got there, nothing was happening. No fighting, nothing. All the guys were sitting around looking like they'd just swallowed rotten eggs.
"Hey, what's happening?" David asked. "What's the score?"
"Score? It's Philistines zip, Israelites zip. It's all tied up. We've had two sudden death overtime periods, now we're into the one-on-one shootout. If we blow that, we blow the series."
"So what's the problem?"
"Problem? Take a look at that Philistine over there. The big guy wearing number 99. His name's Goliath. Would you go one-on-one with him?
"Jeez," said David. "What a jock! Look at them triceps. But hey, I could ring his bell!"
"Smart ass! You're half his size. Go back to the bush leagues and grow up."
David was a cocky little character. Off he went to talk to the coach Saul. "Coach, look, I know I'm small, and I'm from the bush league, but I've got some moves that big old 99 out there doesn't know. He's big, but all those steroids make him slow. I'm smaller, but I'm smart and I'm fast."
Well, coach Saul didn't have a lot of options. All the guys on the front of his bench were freaked out by this Goliath. "Here," said Saul. "Put on my pads and my helmet."
David tried them on, but took them off again. "Too big and too heavy, coach," said David. "I gotta be free to be me."
So David went out one-on-one against big Goliath. Goliath almost split a gut laughing when he saw the kid coming up against him. Little Davey deaked Goliath right out of his socks, put a move on him he'd never seen before, and WHACK! Game over.
Israelites 1. Philistines 0. Final score.
Davey became an instant superstar. Everybody's hero. The media fought for interviews. Saul offered him a fat contract. Advertisers lined up offering endorsements. Women lined up for his autograph, among other things.
David's Dad sent a message. "Hey, come home Davey. You've got sheep to look after here."
Guess what Davey told his Dad to do with the sheep?


Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
Prayer Wheels and Computers
If you travel to Nepal, or Bhutan, Tibet, or other Buddhist regions of the Himalayas, you’re sure to see prayer wheels.
Prayer wheels are colorful cylinders, each containing a written prayer. Every time the cylinder spins, the prayer is supposedly sent out.
Everyone passing a prayer wheel is expected to give it a spin.
A few enterprising persons dispense with the passers-by – they set up prayer wheels kept spinning constantly by the wind, or by a tumbling stream.
From our scientific western mindset, the whole idea of prayer wheels seems primitive, even superstitious. But the prayer wheel concept has reached our world too.
A company called Information Age Prayer offers to have their computer say a daily prayer for you. For just $3.95 a month.
That’s only for the Lord’s Prayer, of course. If you add prayers for peace, morning prayers, prayers for financial help, or up to five Get Well prayers, it will cost you more.
But as a Protestant, you can get the entire bundle for just $19.95 a month.
That’s a bargain. The Jewish package – a Shema twice a day, five Get Well Prayers and a Prayer for Peace – goes for $25.95 a month. A cholim for the sick, or a kaddish for mourning, costs extra.
And the Catholic package, with the complete Rosary cycle of Hail Mary’s and creeds, costs $49.95 a month. “Show God you are serious!” trumpets the advertising blurb for the “Full Rosary Package.”
“The computer doesn't need any beads to keep track of Hail Mary's while saying this prayer,” the blurb gushes; “it will be voiced precisely the correct way each time for you without taking any breaks.”
To be fair to the company involved, it does not advocate abandoning your own prayers. “Our service should be used ... to extend and strengthen a subscriber's connection with God. Traditional prayer is an integral part of this connection and should never be foregone,” they caution.
But they also say that their service will “give you the satisfaction of knowing that your prayers will always be said even if you wake up late, or forget.”
This is the part that gets me: “We use state-of-the-art text-to-speech synthesizers to voice each prayer at a volume and speed equivalent to typical person praying. Each prayer is voiced individually, with the name of the subscriber displayed on screen.”
Why limit prayers to the speed of human speech? Computers can process digital messages at light speed – is God less capable than a computer?
If I programmed a computer to send prayers constantly, 24 hours a day, shouldn’t that earn me some serious Air-Miles points with God?
Sorry – I’m being sarcastic. On this issue, I’m with Colin Johnstone. When he was a chaplain with the Canadian Cancer Society, he told people, “You can’t help a person get well by doing their physical exercises for them, and you can’t help someone heal their spirit by trying to do their spiritual exercises for them.”
Not by using a prayer wheel, or a computer.


Good Stuff – This from Fran Ota who got it from David Shearman who no doubt found it somewhere on the net. My spell checker suffered a hackers hernia trying to deal with this.
God Texts* the Ten Commandments
By Jamie Quatro
1. no1 b4 me. srsly.
2. dnt wrshp pix/idols
3. no omg's
4. no wrk on w/end (sat 4 now; sun l8r)
5. pos ok - ur m&d r cool
6. dnt kill ppl
7. :-X only w/ m8
8. dnt steal
9. dnt lie re: bf
10. dnt ogle ur bf's m8. or ox. or dnkey. myob.
M, pls rite on tabs & giv 2 ppl.
ttyl, JHWH.
ps. wwjd?

* Special note to my daughter Kari, Jim, and others who care about such things: “Text” has become a verb.


Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – Jody Felton of Kuna, Idaho “spotted a license plate that said ‘JC SR.’ “I wonder,” she writes. Wouldn't that be God? And I didn’t even know that God drove a large white pickup!”

Mark Brantley-Gearhart of Snyder, Texas found his secretary laughing at her own typo. “She had typed in the text of Mark 4:35-41. "He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Peach! Be still!'"
Finally now I understand, Mark. Not that long ago, our bulletin listed “The passing of the peach.”

First of all, non-Canadians need to know that our $1.00 coin has a picture of a loon on it and is affectionately known as a “loonie.” By extension, the $2.00 coin is a “twoonie.” Suzanne Poirier of Ottawa, Ontario says her church has “its fair share of eccentrics,” which may be why the cost of an event was listed as "one loonie person." It should have been "one loonie per person."

Judith Johnson-Siebold of Schenectady, New York saw a newsletter note that said,
"Recently Pastor Neil was blessed with an electric chair...". Judith adds, “I'm not sure that's a blessing. I hope he doesn't plan to use it!”

Noel Koestline of Southold, (Long Island) New York says the Long Island Council of Churches, organizes a free Thanksgiving Dinner each November in a local High School cafeteria. Their newsletter reported, “We served a record 75 sinners at the High School."
Noel, that may be a bit more candid than usual, but perfectly correct.

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


Wish I’d Said That! – Live as if you were living a second time, and as though you had acted wrongly the first time.
Viktor Frankl via Evelyn McLachlan

I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that God didn't trust me so much." Mother Teresa via Dave Towers

Most of the greatest evils that [humans have inflicted on each other] have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false.
Bertrand Russell via Jim Taylor


We Get Letters – Fred Brailey of Orangeville, Ontario sends a note that’s relevant to the Father’s Day discussion above.
“Perhaps we should learn the benefits of ‘therapeutic humor.’
“In his autobiography ‘Human Options,’, Norman Cousins, author of ‘Anatomy of an Illness’ thinks so. ‘Illness is not a laughing matter. Perhaps it ought to be.
Laughter is a form of internal jogging. It moves your internal organs around. It enhances respiration. It is an igniter of great expectations.’ [this part he doesn't explain!]
Cousins allowed himself a laugh at male weakness, saying ‘Most men think they are immortal – until they [catch] a cold, when they think they are going to die within the hour.’ Indeed, many of us might seem at times like puling infants, while our harried caregivers search for instant remedies.”


Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “Tilt your head to smile!”)
This from Margaret Wood.
You know you are living in 2009 when –
1. You accidentally enter your PIN on the microwave.
2. You haven't played solitaire with real cards in years.
3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of three.
4. You e-mail the person who works at the desk next to you.
5. Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that they don't have e-mail addresses.
6. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help you carry in the groceries.
7. Every commercial on television has a web site at the bottom of the screen.
8 Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn't even have the first 20 or 30 (or 60) years of your life, is now a cause for panic and you turn around to go and get it.
10. You get up in the morning and go online before getting your coffee.
11. You start tilting your head sideways to smile. : )
12 You're reading this and nodding and laughing.
13. Even worse, you know exactly to whom you are going to forward this message.
14. You are too busy to notice there was no #9 on this list.
15. You actually scrolled back up to check that there wasn't a #9 on this list.


Bottom of the Barrel – This from Evelyn McLachlan
Five Jewish men influenced the history of Western civilization.
* Moses said the law is everything.
* Jesus said love is everything.
* Marx said capital is everything.
* Freud said sex is everything.
* Einstein said everything is relative.


Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49, 57, 18:5, 18:10-16
(Important note: It is important for the readers to rehearse this material. This is theatre and needs to be presented with vitality and power. Pay particular heed to the pauses between speakers. Except occasionally for dramatic effect, there should never be any pause between speakers. They should almost overlap.
If microphones are needed, each speaker should have one. Handing a mike back and forth slows things down dreadfully.)

Reader I: This is great. I’ve been waiting for this story. The little twerp beats the big baboon. I love it.
Reader II: It seems everybody likes that kind of story. The legend of the underdog beating the champion is there in one form or another in the legends of every culture in the world.
I: This is the kind of story the guys would tell each other over a few beers in the pub.
II: That’s right. And the story would get just a little bit better each time it was told.
I: You mean, Goliath would get bigger and David would get smaller.
II: I don’t know about David, but at a time when the average adult male stood very little over five feet tall, it’s hard to imagine someone who is nine and a half feet tall as it says in this story. So it could be that Goliath grew an inch or two with each telling.
I: What I can’t figure out is, why is this story in the Bible? The Bible is supposed to be about, you know, religious things. Spiritual things. Chopping off the big guys head doesn’t sound very spiritual to me.
II: Originally, the Hebrews told this story to show that their God was more powerful than the Philistine god. That’s how it got into the Bible. We can still learn from this story because it is a good study of masculinity – of the use and abuse of power. David was both the best and the worst of men. We can learn a lot by reflecting on his life.
I: So let’s read it.
II: The story of David, condensed somewhat, from the 17th and 18th chapter of the book of First Samuel.
Reader I: Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; and there came out from their camp a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was nine and a half feet.
Reader II: He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; that weighed 200 pounds. Goliath had bronze leggings and an iron spear that weighed 25 pounds. And Goliath shouted to the army of Israel:
I: "Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us. I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together."
II: When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
I: Young David, on instructions from Jesse, his father, rose early in the morning. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. He arrived just in time to hear Goliath challenge the army of Israel. And so David spoke to King Saul.
II: "Let no one's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine."
I: "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth."
II: "Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God. God, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine."
I: So King Saul gave David his blessing. He clothed David with his armor. He put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul's sword over the armor.
II:"I can’t walk with these! I am not used to them!"
I: So David removed them. David took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from a dry creek bed, and put them in his shepherd's bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. When Goliath saw young David, he yelled his insults. "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks? I’ll feed your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field."
II: "You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the God of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day God will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that God does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is God’s, and God will give you into our hand."
I: When Goliath drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. Then David took Goliath’s own sword, and cut off his head, which he brought to King Saul. And Saul asked him, “Whose son are you, young man?”
II: "I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem."
I: And so King Saul insisted that David come and live with him. David became close friends with Jonathan, King Saul’s son.
I: The soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Jonathan made a covenant with David. He gave David the robe he was wearing and even his sword and his bow and his belt.
II: David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved.
I: But an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, "I will pin David to the wall." But David eluded him twice.
II: Saul was afraid of David, because God was with him. But God had departed from Saul.
I: Saul removed David from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army. David had success in all his undertakings; because God was with him.
II: When Saul saw how successful David was, he became afraid.
I: But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.

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