Thursday, October 22, 2009

Preaching Materials for November 1, 2009

R U M O R S #573
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor

October 25, 2009


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

NOTE: From time to time we get letters asking if I could get Rumors out a little earlier for those who need to plan ahead. When Jim and I looked at this as realistically as possible, the best we could do is point you to the blog. You’ll find Rumors posted there anytime during the last half of the week. Occasionally as late as Saturday night, more often as early as Wednesday afternoon. This one is going in on Thursday night. Please put this “blog” address on your “favorites” list…
…and check there if you need it earlier.
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.


The Story – the central verb
Rumors – being right
Soft Edges – giving up our roads
Bloopers – the untied cruch
We Get Letters – shampoo in a bird bath
Mirabile Dictu! – thumpitty thump thump
Bottom of the Barrel – the thousand dollar offering
Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Mark 12:28-34
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)


Rib Tickler – Little Jessica knew all about angels and halos.
“The halos are little circles over their heads, and angels have to walk carefully and they have to walk slowly, so the halos don’t get crooked.”
“What do the angels do if the halo falls off?” asked Jessica’s mom.
“They go to Wal-Mart and they buy another one.”

Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, November 1st, which is Proper 26 [31]

* Ruth 1:1-18 or Deuteronomy 6:1-9
* Psalm 146 or Psalm 119:1-8
* Hebrews 9:11-14
* Mark 12:28-34

If you are observing All Saints Day on November 1st, these are the readings:
* Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9
* Psalm 24
* Revelation 21:1-6a
* John 11:32-44

Ruth 1:1-18 – This is episode one of the Ruth and Naomi saga – a story of power and drama that deserves more attention than we’ve given it. We’re suggesting that it be given major attention next week. That way we can tell the whole story in one piece.
But we might excerpt that beautiful poem that Ruth says to Naomi. Bev and I, like so many couples, had that read at our wedding 51 years ago, even though the minister objected that it was between two women. That didn’t matter to us then and it matters even less now when we know that the love between two women can be everything that the love between a man and a woman can be.
It’s as much sentimentality as anything that has me liking the King James version, but the new Inclusive Bible comes close.
Where you go, I will go;
Where you lodge, I will lodge.
Your people will be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I’ll die there too,
And I will be buried there beside you.
I swear, may YHWH be my witness and my judge –
That not even death will keep us apart.

Psalm 146 – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
1 Who can you trust these days?
Only God. Forever and ever.
2 You can put your faith in God as long as you live.
God will never let you down.
3 Do not put your trust in any government.
You cannot count on them.
4 Human life is short, but governments are shorter.
With each election, their policies change;
their promises dry up faster than morning dew.
5 Put your trust in God;
for eternal confidence,
count on the one who knows eternity.
6 What human agency can claim to have created the earth?
What human agency can claim to care for it?
7 Look and see those whom God chooses to help:
To feed the hungry; to set free the prisoners;
8 To give sight to the blind; to let the lame walk;
to grant liberty to the oppressed;
9 Those who always take care of their own concerns
are brought down by their own ambitions.
God cares for the strangers, the widows, the orphans–
God watches over those who cannot watch out for themselves.
10 Can any human authority make that claim?
That is why God rules over all creation.
Trust in God forever!
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Publications.
For details, go to

Hebrews 9:11-14 – I don’t pretend to understand the Hebrew sacrificial system. The whole culture seems to have been living with a huge sense of guilt. Maybe we could do with a bit of that – a sense that we do carry the blame for what is happening in the world especially the suffering from several diseases and starvation n Africa.
And I’m quite sure, if we really wanted to, we could find a better solution than killing an animal or a human, even if the human was Jesus of Nazareth.

The Story (from the Revised Common Lectionary) – Mark 12:28-34
Jim sends his regrets. For several good reasons, he’s not able to provide us with his “blurb” this week.

Ralph says –
There’s a cultural difference that pops out at me reading this passage. In first century Jewish culture (and many others) religious discussion was a bit like a tennis match. In this particular passage, Jesus aces the scribes and the game is over. No one dared to challenge Jesus to another match. Jesus wins and gloats. The others lose and slink away into the shadows feeling humiliated and defeated.
Thinking of it that way bothers many of us. We’d argue that such discussions should not be about verbal jousting – not about winning and losing – but about discovering the truth.
And the truth Jesus articulates here is fundamental – foundational – and any concern about who was winning and who was losing would only distract us.
The verb in both of Jesus’ declarations is “love.” And the opportunity here is not to define “love” at great length but to tell stories of love in real life. Especially stories of the love of neighbor – miserable, cranky, hard-to-love neighbors – which can be really tough at times.
In the best-selling novel, “The Shack” by Paul Young, the grieving angry father whose young daughter had been abducted, raped and murdered, has to learn how to love his own father who abused him, God, who allowed it all to happen, and finally, the man who killed his daughter. The love does not imply liking, or accepting, but is the essence of forgiveness that makes it possible for the man to live again.

The story of Ruth and Naomi, “Two Brave Women” is found in “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year B,” page 220. You might use this on either November 1 or 8, because that’s the two Sundays on which the story occurs in the lectionary. We are suggesting the full story on the 8th.
A story based on the gospel reading, “The Most Important Rules” is found on page 223.
If you don’t yet own this set of three children’s Bible story books, 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 – Among the life-changing experiences that I’ve known was six weeks of study in Israel some years ago. For myself, I brought back only one memento – aside from a head full of new ideas and insights.
I brought for myself a mezuzah. That’s the little container which practicing Jews nail to their doorpost. It contains a little slip of paper on which is printed, in Hebrew, the Shema. “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is one, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind.”
I found myself filled with a deep emotion as I nailed it to the inside door of my home here in Kelowna. I know I will take it with me wherever I move.
Perhaps it has to do with connections. Connections to that vast and holy tradition that was seared by the desert sun into a faith that provides the essence of life, if only we would take it, apply it, believe it, live it, be it.
Or maybe it had to do with answers. Here is one good, solid answer I can stick on my door post, and touch it each time I go out into the world, to remind me that I “know.”
In this week’s Gospel reading, the Sadducee baits Jesus. Jesus gives a traditional response with some elaborations. The Sadducee says, “Hey! You got it right!” Then Jesus pats the Sadducee on the head saying, “And you’re getting warm.”
Are they playing the traditional men’s game of “being right”?
I’ve heard it called the “men’s disease” – the need to have an “answer” for every question even if we have to make one up on the spot. I’d like to claim I don’t suffer from that particular affliction, but several women in my life read this essay. They might even argue that writers and editors give vocational expression to that syndrome.
Jim Taylor once had a bumper sticker which read, “Editors have the last word.”
Another colleague, which shall remain nameless, insists that research has been done which proves that a man’s penis actually shrinks when he says, “I don’t know.” Be that as it may, it is true that most men have a strong personal need to “know” and to be “right.”
Is that why I tacked that mezuzah to my door? Like that Sadducee, I have the right answer. I know!
As long as I don’t open that mezuzah and read the Shema – as long as I don’t remember that the operative word is “love,” I can live with that fantasy.
Like the Sadducee, I live with the painful, hopeful sadness. I am “not far from the Kingdom.”


Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
Giving Up Our Roads
Somewhere along the way, we made a terrible mistake.
That realization came to me the other night, as I was walking the dog down the centre of a deserted road. You would think, to look at the blacktop rolled out so authoritatively, that the road had been here forever. But when you see that it wiggles to avoid trees that have stood in that place longer than the road has existed, when you see how it detours around rock outcrops, you realize that the road is a relative latecomer.
In fact, most of our roads were foot trails long before they were roads. That’s particularly evident in old cities – like, say, London, England – where any resemblance to a grid system is laughable.
The evolution of roads is most visible in unplanned communities like Bonavista, in Newfoundland. The first houses were built by fishermen, along the beach. Then merchants and tradespeople built houses on the marshland behind the beach. Wherever they could find lumps of higher ground, naturally. Paths evolved to connect the houses.
Today, those wandering footpaths have become streets. A map of Bonavista resembles a child’s random scribbles.
Because the roads were never planned as roads.
Neither were most of ours. People walked those trails first. Later came horses and carts, but human feet still had the right of way.
And then, somehow, we ceded our rights to the car. Now we have to get out of their way.
Instead, we build special roadways for pedestrians. We call them sidewalks – places where people can walk without fear of being run down by a four-wheeled, gas-guzzling tin can that weighs two tons.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a child of the 150s – I love cars. But I worry that we have granted them a godlike status they don’t deserve.
The situation reminds me of the biblical story of Jacob and Esau. Esau, you may remember, was the older brother. By law and tradition, he would inherit his father’s lands.
But Jacob felt jealous. So one day when Esau came home from hunting, ravenous, Jacob tempted him with a simmering pot of savoury stew. “If you want this,” Jacob bargained, “give me your birthright.”
Esau thought it was a joke. “Sure,” he said, knowing that mere words could not alter the fact that he was his father’s firstborn.
Except that, in the end, he did lose his birthright.
So did we.
We gave up our right to own the roads. We allowed gimlet-eyed drivers, right foot firmly planted on the gas pedal, obsessed with getting to their destination a few seconds sooner – a tribe to which I often belong – to usurp our rightful place.
Not only is the car a primary user of carbon-based fuel, it has become a parasite that has invaded our body politic. Life without the car has become unimaginable.
The dog and I squeeze over onto the shoulder as a car roars by. I think I know how Esau might have felt.


Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – Susan Heydt reports that a church in her community last Sunday the choir was slated to sing "Sin Ye, Joyfully."
Susan, is that anything like Luther’s injunction to “sin boldly” that’s so often quoted out of context?

Lois Carey of North Bay, Ontario, saw an announcement about a “goad to support this fund in 2009.”
Well Lois, many congregations need a fair bit of goading.

Elisabeth Jones of Montreal says she did this herself some years ago when she was a church secretary in Calgary. She advertised a Lenten Bible Study which would “explore
Jesus' journey to the cross via the Road to Calgary."
On another occasion, Elisabeth typed a note about an event called, "The Future of the Untied Church"
Elisabeth, one of the things that unites all those churches that have “United” in their names is that it has been typed as “untied” many times. I’ve gone one step further myself and found myself writing about the “untied cruch.”
Do you suppose the Spirit is trying to tell us something?

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! – It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living.
source unknown via Margaret Wood

Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.
Henry David Thoreau via Mary of Bahrain
Long ago when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today, it's called golf.
Mark Twain via Mary of Bahrain

We Get Letters – This section of Rumors serves as a place to put stuff that doesn’t really fit anywhere else. Such as this note from Cliff Boldt of Courtnay, BC. He says, “Churchill got around calling people liars when he coined the phrase ‘terminological inexactitude.’”

Velia Watts of Edmonton, Alberta writes: “A church acquaintance tells a story about her four-year-old granddaughter. She was questioning a younger cousin as to whether he had been baptized.”
“He didn't know what that meant so she explained it all to him: ‘It's when this guy picks you up and gives you a shampoo in a bird bath.’”


Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “thumpitty thump thump!”)
This piece called “Martin the German” by Chris P. Matthy comes from April Dailey and somebody named N. Martin. April says it’s for “10/25 Reformation Sunday for us Lutheran Types.”
Because my weird mind always makes the most inappropriate connections, the last verse of this recalls the student who declared in a term paper that Luther “nailed his feces to the church door.” Never mind. Just sing it and don’t think of such things.

(to the tune of “Frosty the Snowman”)

Martin the German was a sorry, mixed up soul,
‘Cause he thought it odd that a loving God
Would condemn him straight to hell.

Martin the German even took a sacred vow
When a lightning strike nearly took his life
But St. Anne stepped in somehow.

It must have seemed like magic when
Old Habakkuk he found,
‘Cause when he read God saves by faith
He began to dance around.

O, Martin the German felt reborn again that day,
And he spread the word from old Wittenberg
All the way to Rome, they say.

Thumpitty thump thump, thumpitty thump thump,
Nail them to the door;
Thumpitty thump thump, thumpitty thump thump,
Hear those Theses roar!


Bottom of the Barrel – Fred Brailey of Orangeville, Ontario sends this probably apocryphal item, and wonders whether the church can accept such ill-gotten gains. Fred, in the church where I worship, we’ve not had a lot of trouble with people putting thousand dollar offerings on the plate.
One Sunday, in counting the money in the weekly offering, the pastor found a pink envelope containing $1,000. It happened again the next week. The following Sunday, he watched as the offering was collected and saw a little old lady put the distinctive pink envelope in the plate. This went on for weeks until the pastor, overcome by curiosity, approached her. "Ma'am,” he said. “I couldn't help but notice that you put $1,000 a week in the collection plate." "Why yes," she replied, "every week my son sends me money, and I give some of it to the church." "That's wonderful, how much does he send you?" "$10,000 a week." "Your son is very successful! What does he do for a living?" "He is a veterinarian," "That is an honorable profession," the pastor said. "Where does he practice?" "In Nevada,” the little old lady said proudly. “He has two cat houses in Las Vegas and one in Reno "


Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Mark 12:28-34
Reader 1: It sounds like a tennis match.
Reader 2: What sounds like a tennis match?
1: The scripture we’re supposed to read today.
2: Where do you get that? It’s Jesus talking to a bunch of Sadducees.
1: Sure, but it’s the traditional men’s game. Let’s prove that I am smarter than you. The clue is in the first verse. “Seeing that he answered them well.” And then in the last verse. Jesus serves an ace and it’s game over. It says it right there. “After that no one dared to ask him any question.”
2: Well, maybe. But you are missing the point of the passage. It’s not about who beats who in a debating game. Or at least, that shouldn’t matter to us now. It’s that Jesus gets down to the bare bones fundamental. The basic idea that is the foundation of the Christian faith. Love of God and love of neighbor. You don’t get more foundational than that.
1: In other words, if we don’t get today’s passage memorized and plugged into our psyche, we’re going to fry in hell?
2: You’re being ridiculous and you know it. Read the passage.
1: OK, OK.
SLIGHT PAUSE1: One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another. Seeing that Jesus answered them well, the scribe asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?"2: "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."1: "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that 'he is one, and besides him there is no other'; and 'to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,' and 'to love one's neighbor as oneself,' – this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."2: "You are not far from the kingdom of God."
1: After that no one dared to ask him any question.

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 (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:
* Don't put anything else in that e-mail
To Unsubscribe:
* Send an e-mail to:
* 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
Who knows, I might quote you in a future issue of RUMORS.All material is copyright © Ralph Milton.~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

No comments: