Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Preaching Materials for July 26, 2009

R U M O R S # 561
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor

July 19, 2009


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

The Story – David in mid-life crises
Rumors – David’s power play
Soft Edges – making life easier
Bloopers – good lookin’ folks stand
We Get Letters – dare to be a spaniel
Mirabile Dictu! – a decanter of deans
Bottom of the Barrel – scared the daylights
Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – 2 Samuel 11:1-15 & 2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13a
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)


Last week I demonstrated my kindness, generosity and genuine goodness of heart by finding you lay-abouts something to do during the long-warm summer days of July. I suggested that you find a few unsuspecting, naïve types who might be conned into subscribing to Rumors for the sole purpose of pushing the subscription numbers over 8,000 and thereby feeding my poor, faltering ego.
Some of you responded, tried valiantly, but failed. Others succeeded. If she were still alive, my mother would thank you. The number now is 7,919.
But there are some malingerers out there who gave it not a second thought.
Tut! Tut! Also, for shame!
But I am a most forgiving soul. Here’s your second chance to come out of the shadows and into the warmth of the sun (don’t forget the sun-block). Go locate that sniveling half-life cowering there in the dank cellar, and subscribe him/her/it to Rumors.
Those of you living on the other side of the equator may disregard this notice.


Rib Tickler – This from Margaret Wood: While driving in Pennsylvania , a family caught up to an Amish carriage.
The owner of the carriage obviously had a sense of humor, because attached to the back of the carriage was a hand printed sign. "Energy efficient vehicle: Runs on oats and grass. Caution: Do not step in exhaust."

Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, July 26th, which is Proper 12 [16].

2 Samuel 11:1-15, 11-26-12:13a
We’ve included next week’s reading with this one. The lectionary divides this story into two parts, and in the process takes the punch out of both. If folks hear only the first part, they’ll think David got away with it. If they hear only the second part, they’ll wonder what he did that was so awful.
Our suggestion is that we do the more complete Bathsheba/David/Nathan story this week because it connects so directly to the experience of middle-aged men.
Next week we can do the feeding of the 5,000 and include the gospel reading for that Sunday as well (John 6:24-35) because it is a reflection on the meaning of the food metaphor.
That way we get the best of both.
Jim says –
The two parts of the David story are so inextricably linked it’s like asking the front half of a horse to run without the back half. Because Nathan’s parable in 2 Samuel 11:26—12:13a puts David’s taking of Bathsheba into its cultural context.
As Nathan makes clear, David’s sin was not adultery or even rape. It was trespass. Theft. He took someone else’s property. And David knew that was wrong, so he launched a cover-up, which made matters worse.
Does a lamb have rights? Clearly, the lamb represents Bathsheba. The rich man, who had lots of lambs, takes the lamb of a poor man. No one asks how the lamb felt about being roasted – it’s taken for granted that the owner had a right to do with it as he chose.
In the same way, Bathsheba was Uriah’s property. In the cultural values of that time, he owned her. By those same cultural values, David did not violate Bathsheba when he impregnated her; he violated the rights of her owner, his rights to create descendants by her.
Like Richard Nixon and Watergate, the cover-up became a bigger issue than the original crime. David conspired in Uriah’s murder.
As you read further, you find that from this point on, David’s career heads downhill. He did himself damage from which he never recovered.

Ralph says –
An older man chasing a young woman is like a dog chasing a car. What would he do if he caught it?
The story of David and Bathsheba is about lust and adultery, but it’s much more about male self-image and the abuse of power. And every human male has those issues, whether he recognizes it or not.
The story tells us that David didn’t go out with the guys to fight the wars. He was getting older and couldn’t handle the rigors of war, so he stayed home. And he hated it.
It wasn’t that he was deprived of sex. He had several wives and who knows how many concubines. When he saw Bathsheba doing her required post menstrual roof-top ablutions, he wanted her precisely because he shouldn’t have her. When David sent for her, she had no choice. He was the king. To take David off the hook by claiming that Bathsheba enticed him is a cop-out. And when his elaborate cover-up failed, he resorted to murder.
Nobody knows for sure how much the adult male is victim of his own testosterone. It certainly varies with the individual. But I doubt very much that any man is immune. And we express that primitive urge in appropriate or destructive ways.
The first thing we males need to do is name that urge to power – to recognize it in ourselves and to channel it in ways that build life rather than destroy it. This story can certainly help us do this.

Psalm 14 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
As a philosopher once argued, if you gamble there is no God, and there is, you will have lost everything. If you gamble there is a God, and there isn't, you will have lost nothing. If you gamble there is a God, and there is, you will win everything.
1 Only fools say, "There is no God."
They delude themselves.
Their actions reveal their foolishness;
whatever they do turns out badly.
2 But there is a God, who sees what they are doing.
God loves those who seek justice, show mercy, and walk humbly with their maker.
3 But those who turn their backs on God will lose their way;
they stumble in the darkness of their own shadows.
4 Can't they see what fools they're making of themselves?
They crunch down people's dreams like popcorn;
they grow fat on others' famine.
They deny the reality of God.
5 When they discover their error, they will subside into putrid puddles of sweat,
For they have challenged God;
they cannot win.
6 But we who have nothing must depend on God.
7 God, save us from those who prey upon us.
Topple the proud from their pedestals, and restore us to our rightful place.
Then all your people will be glad.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Publications.
For details, go to

Ephesians 3:14-21 – A few years ago I was told by a friend that he had received a small amount of money from the will of a mutual acquaintance. “I was the only beneficiary,” said my friend. “But I didn’t really know him that well. I went to see him in the nursing home a couple of times because I knew he didn’t have any family.”
What a terrible, aching thing it must be to have nobody else in your life. Here the writer of Ephesians reaches out to such empty souls – urging them to become part of God’s family through the community we call the church.
And thereby also calling us churchy folks to become a more inclusive community.

John 6:1-21 – (as explained above, we’ll do this next week)

Check “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year B,” page 163 for a children’s version of the story from 2nd Samuel. It’s particularly important for children to hear the whole story. Otherwise they might think David and Bathsheba live happily ever after.
If you don’t already own a copy of this three-volume set, click the main Wood Lake Publications website at, or click on the following address which takes you directly to the “Lectionary Story Bible.”


Rumors – David’s Power Play
From “Man to Man, Recovering the Best of the Male Tradition”
Wood Lake Books, 1993

David had everything any man could want.
But there he was, pacing around on the roof of his palace uptight and restless. He tried lying down for a nap. That didn't work. Those unnamed feelings, unfelt fears, unspoken questions seemed to gnaw at his stomach. His prayer life was the pits. He still prayed, but it felt as if he was talking to the wall. He kept thinking of the visit he'd just had from Joab, his second-in-command. David was seething at how damned diplomatic Joab had been, as he tried to get David to stay home from the wars this spring.
Joab hadn't pushed – just hinted that since David had worked so hard, he might need a bit of extra rest. It was true, but David wanted nothing more than to deny it. That old sword he took from Goliath years ago seemed to get heavier and heavier with every fight. "Just can't get the damn thing up anymore," he said, then laughed bitterly at his unintentional double meaning.
David was having a mid-life crisis.
That's when he spotted her. She was there on a nearby roof having a bath. It was her purifying bath following her menstrual period.
Nothing so unusual about that. People often had baths on their rooftops. What was unusual was that David felt his male energies stirring in a way he hadn't felt for a while. None of his wives, none of his concubines made him feel that way any longer. "They're all too old for me," David told himself, knowing it wasn't true. Some of the new concubines were in their teens.
David clapped his hands and a servant came running. "Who is that woman over there on that roof?" he demanded.
"That is Bathsheba. She is the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite."
"Go and bring her here."
"But she belongs to…to…" the servant stammered.
"Never mind who she belongs to," yelled David. "Go get her."
Bathsheba's eyes pleaded "no" when she was brought trembling to David. But David's anger at his impotence inflamed his lust for her. He raped her a few times and sent her home.
David didn't think a whole lot about it. He knew the servant wouldn't squeal and nobody would believe Bathsheba. Then, a couple of weeks later, the note came: "I'm pregnant." David knew he was in trouble. There were rules even a king couldn't break.
Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, was off fighting the war with Joab. "Send for Uriah the Hittite," said King David.

"Hey! How's it going?" David was all smiles and handshakes when Uriah came into the palace. "Tell me about the war. Going well, is it?"
"Oh fine, fine," said Uriah, not quite knowing what to make of it all.
"Look, Uriah. You've been working hard. Take a day off. Go home to your good wife. She's gotta be lonely."
"Thank you very much," said Uriah. "That's very kind, sir." But Uriah didn't go home. He slept in the gatehouse, refusing to go to Bathsheba.
"Why didn't you go home and enjoy that beautiful wife of yours, Uriah?" David wanted to know the next morning.
"But sir," said Uriah. "There is a custom in Israel. And even though I am not a Hebrew, I honor it. We do not go down to our homes when our comrades are on the field of battle and sleeping in tents. It's not fair."
"You're a good man," said David, seething inside and worried. "You're a better Hebrew than most Hebrews. So! Let's do lunch. Better yet, let's have dinner tonight. You're the kind of man I'd like to get to know."
It's hard having dinner with the king. When the king says, "Have another glass of wine, Uriah," it's hard to refuse. And the king said that over and over, and Uriah left the palace stinking drunk. But he slept it off in the gatehouse, and didn't go anywhere near Bathsheba.
"Damn!" muttered David. In a fury, he sat down and wrote a note to General Joab. "Joab: I want Uriah up at the front of the hardest fighting. Then pull back so he's fighting all by himself. I want this man dead. That's an order."
David sealed the note, and sent Uriah with his own execution order in his hand, back to the battle front.
When word came back that Uriah was dead, David waited until the appropriate mourning period was over, then brought Bathsheba to the palace. He quickly married her, and sent her off to stay with all his other wives and concubines. In due time, she had a baby boy.
Bathsheba felt confused and violated. Once she even tried to tell King David about her feelings, but he brushed her off. She was just a woman. David had work to do. Case closed.
Except the case refused to stay closed. David found himself visiting Bathsheba more than any of his other wives. Not just for the perfunctory sex that was usual on those visits, but David found himself actually talking with Bathsheba, actually seeking her advice, actually holding and enjoying the baby they had birthed. Not something he ever told his buddies in the army.
Maybe that's why David was hit so hard when Nathan, the prophet, came for a visit. David and Nathan always got along, Nathan often helping David see God's hand in the events around them, sometimes helping David focus on issues of justice in the administration of the nation.
Nathan hadn't been around for awhile, so David was glad to see him. But the prophet looked strained and tired.
"Your majesty," said the prophet. "I've got a situation I'd like to discuss with you."
"Sure," said the king. "Lay it on me."
"Well, it's about these two guys living next to each other. One of them is a CEO in his company – ten-bedroom mega-house, everything. The other guy rents an old house next door. He's out of a job – on welfare most of the time. He owns a lamb, a pet actually. It's really the only thing he owns. He and his family play with it, they sleep with it. The lamb, in fact, is part of the family.
"One day the rich man next door has some unexpected visitors. He's too cheap to cook his own food, so he sends one of his servants next door to snitch the lamb. And he cooks that for his guests. What do you think should happen?"
"Happen?" David was really angry. "Take that rich guy and string him up by the thumbs! What a rotten thing to do! Can you imagine anyone being so…so…"
"It's you," said Nathan very quietly.
"It's you, your majesty. You have a palace full of women and yet you stole Bathsheba from Uriah, then had him killed. Theft. Rape. Murder."
Anger, then shame, then guilt, then remorse flowed across the king's face in succession. Nathan knew the king had the power to kill him for making such an accusation. The silence in the room was long and deafening.
Finally, the king spoke.
"I have sinned against God," David whispered.


Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
Making Life Easier
I spent an afternoon in court recently. Not on my own behalf, I hasten to add. I was there to provide moral support for a friend.
I’m astonished, sometimes, at how informal the lower courts can be. The judge, the prosecutor, the clerk casually discussed how to move the various cases through most fairly.
Half a dozen persons failed to appear. “I suppose we have to issue warrants,” the judge sighed.
There was no ruthless cross examination, a la Perry Mason; no legal wrangling, as in Law & Order; no technical evidence, like the various CIS clones. It felt more like Night Court, without the laugh track.

Chronic victim
One young man elected to stand trial immediately, rather than wait for a later date. He chose to defend himself. The judge carefully explained the procedures. Aside from two minutes while he took the stand himself, mostly to complain that he had been unfairly treated, he spent the trial slouched in his chair, looking for all the world like Zonker in the Doonesbury cartoon strip.
The judge asked if he was ready for sentencing.
“It don’t matter,” the man mumbled without rising. “I don’t got no money to pay no fine anyways, and I don’t got no job.”
“How long would you need to raise the money?” the judge asked. “Six months? Eight months? I can specify whatever would work for you.”
The defendant just shrugged.
It must be depressing to have a constant parade of mildly paranoid, incompetent, or utterly bewildered people passing through a court.

Adversarial outcomes
A classmate of mine went into family law, fairly late in life. He told me over dinner that all family court lawyers watch for the “four R’s – Revenge, Recrimination, Retribution, and Retaliation.
“The four R’s predominate in many separations and divorces,” my friend said, “despite the fact that, these days, they are not legally pertinent except where they may damage the children.”
Even in relatively amicable negotiated separations, the four R’s almost always show up eventually. Some lawyers literally tick them off as they occur.
As one who lives with words, I wondered why some other “R” words don’t occur – words like Remorse, Reconciliation, and Renewal. I didn’t risk Resurrection.
“Not likely,” said my friend. “By the time you get to court, you’re into an adversarial system. For one party to win, the other has to lose.”
I’d go further – in any adversarial system, I suspect both parties lose. In a contested divorce, everyone loses something – especially the children. No one wins a war; one side simply loses less than the other side.
Nevertheless, I was impressed at how much the professional members of that court tried to minimize the limitations of an adversarial system and make it more humane for all concerned.
Oh, by the way – the friend I was supporting? The prosecutor did some gentle plea bargaining with the plaintiff and defendant. No one won. But no one lost a lot, either.
Perhaps that’s the best one can hope for.


Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – Larry Smith of Toledo, Ohio says a friend gave him a wedding bulletin that showed the “spell checker must have had a problem with ‘homily.’ The bulletin read "Homely (Please Sit)."
Does that mean, Larry, that us good lookin’ folks had to stand through the whole thing?

Douglas Fox, Kingston, Ontario says his “favorite kid’s blooper in the Lord’s Prayer is, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it isn't heaven’."

Jim Taylor writes: “I may have been dozing, but I'm sure I heard the scripture reader on Sunday say that he was reading from the New Revised Standby Version.”

Suzanne Morio who is a “church secretary in Illinois,” admits to typing ‘peopee’ instead of ‘people’ in our call to worship.
So exactly who did that refer to, Suzanne? Maybe the incontinent old men in the back pews?

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! – Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food-groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat.
Alex Levine via Pat Magdamo

I tried to get in touch with reality this week, but it was a bad connection.
from a Frank & Ernest cartoon via Evelyn McLachlan

The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight, because by then your body and your fat have gotten to be really good friends. source unknown via Mary of Oman


We Get Letters – John McCullough of Daleville, Alabama writes: “As I think about the ‘fiends on earth and friends above,’ blooper, [in last week’s Rumors] there seems to be just a bit of truth there. I suspect when we all get ‘up above,’ by God's grace we will find that some of those we considered fiends have become true friends.

Douglas Fox of Kingston, Ontario has an alternate to the children’s hymn, “Dare To Be a Daniel.” It’s to give biblically illiterate kids something they can identify with.
Dare to be a spaniel,
Dare to stand alone,
Dare to have a purple spine,
And dare to make it known.
Douglas, I’m probably the only one who doesn’t know this, but what’s the significance of the “purple spine?”

Margaret Clipperton of Walford, Ontario sends a long a story “my mother used to use to illustrate to us kids that we could find creative language to express ourselves without having to resort to vulgarities.
“It would have been about 1920. The Methodist minister had been counseling a troubled young man and was pleased with the progress. But one Saturday evening he spotted his protégé staggering up the street in a very inebriated condition. "It was enough to make a preacher swear" reported the disgusted minister. He accosted the young man and declared, "May your mother run out from under the verandah and bite you on the leg, when you get home."

Harold Boyke points to an interesting blooper in last week’s Rumors. I wrote: “At one point we realized we had spent several house there, and neither of us had looked at either book or magazine.”
The thing is, Harold, it’s not easy to spend a house. You can spend a lifetime, or spend all your wealth, or even your reputation. But it takes skill to spend a house.”

Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “a decanter of deans!”)
Rachel Prichard of Sudbury, Ontario wrote a report for a meeting of the Provincial Synod which included some more delightful collective nouns.
* a bench of Bishops
* a flap or superfluity of nuns
* an abomination of monks
* a cluster of clerics
* a prudence of vicars
* an unction of undertakers
* an observance of hermits
* a decanter of deans
* a shot of canons
* a converting of preachers
* a veneration of archdeacons

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

Bottom of the Barrel – Clayton McWhirter sends along a story that sounds a bit like an “urban legend.” It’s been around before, but it’s funny enough to warrant a repeat.
“A passenger in a taxi leaned over to ask the driver a question and tapped him on the shoulder. The driver screamed, lost control of the cab, nearly hit a bus, drove up over the curb, and stopped just inches from a large plate glass window.
“For a few moments everything was silent in the cab, and then the still shaking driver said, 'I'm sorry, but you scared the daylights out of me.'
“The frightened passenger apologized but the driver replied, 'No, no, I'm sorry, it's entirely my fault. Today is my first day driving a cab. I've been driving a hearse for the last 25 years.'”


Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – 2 Samuel 11:1-15 & 2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13aNote: It seems necessary to have three readers for this somewhat extended piece – the narrator, David and Nathan. Bathsheba, as is typical in biblical stories, has no recorded dialogue. Just three words in a note.

Reader 1: Do you know that in some places the Bible reads just like the sports page in the newspaper.
Reader 2: C’mon. What are you talking about?
Reader 1: Sure it does. Those parts where it talks about King David and all his wars. It says who beat whom and by how much. The sports pages.
Reader 3: Doin’ the testosterone tango. It’s the same thing in football and hockey and almost every sport just as it is in warfare. It’s the guys trying to prove who is the smartest or the strongest or the toughest.
1: The story we find in the Bible this morning is one that happens every day, especially in the big, high finance companies. It’s about a guy having a mid-life crises, and who winds up letting his gonads lead him into all kind of trouble. It’s about the biggest and best king the nation of Israel ever had. King David.
3: So we’re reading the story from the second book of Samuel.
1: In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab his top military general, with his officers and all Israel with him. They beat the Ammonites, and the city of Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
3: (shaking his/her head) David remained in Jerusalem.
1: It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) The woman was very beautiful. So David sent someone to inquire about the woman.
3: "This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite."
1: So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David.
2: "I am pregnant."
1: So David sent word to Joab.
3; "Send me Uriah the Hittite."
1: So Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going.
3: "Go down to your house, and wash your feet, Uriah. Take it easy."
1: Uriah went out of the king's house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. But word came back to David.
2: "Uriah did not go down to his house."
1: So David spoke to Uriah again.
3: "You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?"
2: The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing."
3: Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back."
1: So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk. And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. This is what the letter said.
3: "Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die."
1: When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. When the period of mourning was over, David sent and brought Bathsheba to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased God. So God sent Nathan to David.
2: "David, please tell me what to do about this problem. There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him."
3: What? By God, the man who has done this deserves to die; He shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity."
2: You are the man! Thus says the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; I gave you your master's house, and your master's wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. Why have you despised the word of the God, to do what is evil in God’s sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. This is what God is saying to you, David. I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun."
3: (almost whispering) "I have sinned against God."
2: What did you say David? Say it louder so God can hear you!
3: (Shouting) I have sinned against God!

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