Ordinary 32 C – November 10, 2019

Luke 20:27-38

After a long illness, a woman died and arrived at the Gates of Heaven. While she was waiting for Saint Peter to greet her, she peeked through the Gates. She saw that it was so beautiful.

Saint Peter came by; the woman said to him “This is such a wonderful place! How do I get in?”

“You have to spell a word”, Saint Peter told her.

“Which word?” the woman asked.

“Love.”

The woman correctly spelled “Love” and Saint Peter welcomed her into Heaven.

About six months later, Saint Peter came to the woman and asked her to watch the Gates of Heaven for him that day. While the woman was guarding the Gates of Heaven, her husband arrived.

“I’m surprised to see you,” the woman said. “How have you been?” “Oh, I’ve been doing pretty well since you died,” her husband told her. “I married the beautiful young nurse who took care of you while you were ill. And then I won the lottery. I sold the little house you and I lived in and bought a big mansion. And my wife and I traveled all around the world. We were on vacation and I went water skiing today. I fell, the ski hit my head, and here I am. How do I get in?”

“You have to spell a word”, the woman told him.

“Which word?” her husband asked.

“Czechoslovakia.”

Very late entry this week and only a joke to offer. Life intervenes! Hoping that you day is blessed. – Laurin

Ordinary 30 C – October 27, 2019

Luke 18:9-14

One day God was looking down at earth and saw all of the rascally behavior that was going on. So he called one of his angels to go to earth for a time. When he returned, he told God, “Yes, it is bad on Earth; 95% are misbehaving and only 5% are not.”

God thought for a moment and said, “Maybe I had better send down another angel to get a second opinion.”

So God called another angel and sent him to earth for a time, too.

When the angel returned he went to God and said, “Yes, it’s true. The earth is in decline; 95% are misbehaving, but 5% are being good.”

God was not pleased. So he decided to email the 5% who were good, because He wanted to encourage them, give them a little something to help them
keep going.

Do you know what the email said?

No?

Okay, just wondering. I didn’t get one either.

Our text today contains the seven most useful words in the Bible. The Bible is full of sevens: seven days, seven seals. In fact, there are over 850 references to the number seven. And then there are Jesus’ last words, seven of them: My God, why hast thou forsaken me? But today we find the seven most useful words.  They are, in fact, the only seven words that you really need.

God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Have a great week! Laurin

Ordinary 29 C – October 20, 2019

Luke 18:1-8

Sorry, one of those golf/wife jokes:

A golf fanatic had always dreamed of playing at St. Andrews, and finally got the chance. Going with his wife, they teed off and he proceeded to play the best game of his life. After 9 holes, he was 2 strokes over par, and was on cloud nine. On the back nine, he started playing even better, getting back to even by the 16th hole.

He was so excited that he ended up slicing the shot on the 17th tee, and as he walked up to it, saw that his ball was behind a small shack for the groundskeepers.

Now he started to worry that his score would go up, but his caddy came up to him and said “Sir, this may sound like a tough shot, but if you put it through that window, the ball should go through the window on the other side, and if you’re lucky, the ball will roll onto the green. The way you’ve played today, I think you can make it.”

So the guy takes a look and sees that it’s a tough shot, but possible, so he tries it. But his shot just misses the window, hits the window frame, and strikes his wife right in the head, killing her instantly.

Years go by and the man can’t forget that horrible day. People he tells the story to all sympathize with him, but he just has no will to live. But then he realizes what he must do – Face his nightmare!

He travels back to Scotland and plays another round at St. Andrews, and miraculously, he is playing another stellar game. He starts to feel better about himself as the round goes on, but when he approaches the 17th hole, he gets so nervous that he slices his shot to the same spot.

As at his ball lying there behind the shack, his caddy says “Sir, the way you’ve been playing, why not try a trick shot. Some of the other caddies say if you can get it through that window, it will follow through the one opposite it and roll onto the green.”

The guy says “Are you out of your mind? The last time I tried that I got an 8!

Perhaps, a Tom Long story would help:

There’s a famous story about a young boy named Frank who was walking along the bank of the Mississippi River and he noticed in the river another boy about his age wrestling with a homemade raft. He said to him, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m going to take this raft out to that island in the middle of the river. I dare you to go with me!” Well, Frank couldn’t resist the dare so he scrambled down the bank and got on the raft. The two boys headed out to the middle of the river but the current was swift and strong. As they approached the island, the raft broke up and sank and they had to swim to the island. And there they were, abandoned on an island, late in the afternoon. Nobody knew where they were. What would they do?

Right at that moment, one of those paddle-wheel steamers started coming down the river and Frank ran to the edge of the island and began screaming and waving his hands, “Help! Help!” The other boy said, “Don’t waste your breath. They can’t hear you and even if they could they wouldn’t pay any attention to boys like us.” But just at that moment the paddlewheel steamer turned toward the island. The boy said to Frank, “How did you do that?” And Frank said, “Well, there’s something you don’t know. The captain of that boat is my father!”

Well, the captain of the universe is our father and how much more will one who has formed us in the womb respond to our every cry. So pray always and don’t lose heart. Tom Long

I suspect that our difficulty with the parable is that we feel this need to make God the judge. It is useful to remember that the “they” here are the Pharisees, and perhaps the parable is about getting justice in an unjust world.

Have a great week – Laurin

Ordinary 27 C – October 6, 2019

Luke 17:5-10, Psalm 137

If you had faith the size of a mustard seed…It begins so nicely, we smile and begin to imagine a great sermon that just rolls off our fingers to the screen in front of us. If we could just stop right there.

So what reassuring word do we find in our Psalm? Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!

Here is a new word to describe this week in lectionary. The word is paraprosdokian

  • War does not determine who is right — only who is left.
  • Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  • You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  • I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.

Life is often paradrosdokian. I got some really good, really late, advice recently. If you have some things that you really need to get done, do them when you have time: before your retire!

And something longer, if you need it:

Moshe was nearing death. He was extremely old, and he had seen much suffering during his days. Golda, his wife, sat on the edge of his bed and wiped his forehead. They had been married for more than 70 years. Moshe looked at his wife and said, “Golda, do you remember the horrible pogrom/the devastation in our village in 1905?” She replied, “Of course I do. I was right there with you.” “Do you remember when the Communists beat me up in 1918? Were you with me then?” Golda answered, “Certainly I was with you.” “Were you with me in the Lemberg ghetto?” “Yes, dear, I have always been with you.” Moshe lay silently for a few moments and then looked at his wife and said, “Boy, Golda, you’ve been bad luck for me.”

Have a great week, sincerely, no punch line! – Laurin

Ordinary 26 C – September 29, 2019

Luke 16:19-31

There were 2 business partners, who were a little shady. They died and went to hell…. The one was miserable, with feet in boiling water and flames about his head. But he knew that it would be even worse for his partner. But when he looked out,  there was his partner, and being served tea by a butler in tails. So when Satan was making his rounds, he pointed at them and asked why.
And Satan responded, Who are you to judge the butler’s punishment?

Ok. I changed the joke. Rather than the butler in tails, the original joke was a beautiful woman in a red dress sitting on the shady business man’s lap. It seems too offensive. Perhaps, you would prefer a politician, a lawyer, a stock broker. It does not matter, except that however we tell it, it probably should not be a person who represents the least of these. And, it just won’t do to tell the story so that it strikes too close to home. You may actually have a politician, lawyer, or broker sitting in the pew who will be offended. You may actually rely on these to pay for the budget, your budget. And the parable will already have many on edge. So, to misquote a line from the Matrix: if you like the woman in the red dress, I can help.

Chapter 16 is about money. Indeed, much of Luke-Acts is about money. BUT, both the ministry of Jesus and the burgeoning church are reliant on the generosity of people with possessions. There is a message here that needs to be heard, but I do not think that in the kingdom to come, the Lazaruses of the world will be waited upon hand and foot by the those who have possessions in the present age. As the great divide between us becomes set, the intolerant mindset pervades both sides.

Respected baseball umpire Bill Klem weighed more than 300 pounds. He was also flamboyant.  He invented the chest protector. Whenever he was behind the plate, he maintained control. Few dared challenge his calls.  But in one game things got out of hand. At the bottom of the ninth, the score was tied, with two outs and a runner on third. The pitcher hung a curve ball over the plate. The batter hit a shallow single just over the third baseman’s head. The left-fielder raced toward the ball, scooped it up, and made a one-bounce throw to home plate. The runner and the catcher collided at home plate in a cloud of dust. The players poured out of the dugouts screaming, “He’s safe!” and others yelling “He’s out!” Amid the confusion, Bill threw off his mask, held up his two massive arms, and shouted, “He ain’t nothin’ ’til I say he’s something!”

Have a great week – Laurin

Ordinary 25 C – September 22, 2019

Luke 16:1-13

Chester and Lester opened a butcher shop and prospered. Then an evangelist came to town, and Chester’s wife persuaded him to go, and he was saved. He tried to persuade his partner to accept salvation also, but to no avail. “Why won’t you, Lester?” asked the born-again fellow.

“Listen, Chester,” the other butcher said. “If I get religion, too, who’s going to weigh the meat?”

This is a hard one! The passage seems to praise dishonesty, and worse. If you do your own translation, Jesus seems to praise dishonesty. Or did you translate o kurios as his master?

And how do you connect the change at the end, and where does the change begin?

I have played with this as an example of Jesus making a joke of the situation. Yes, sarcasm. I change my voice in verse 8. This may not work for you, and I am not sure that it worked for my congregation, but it begins to make sense.

A rancher asked a veterinarian for some free advice. “I have a horse,” he said, “that walks normally sometimes and limps sometimes. What shall I do?” The veterinarian replied, “The next time he walks normally, sell him.”

Have a great week – Laurin

Ordinary 24 C – September 15, 2019

Luke 15:1-10

The boss of a big company needed to call one of his employees about an urgent problem with one of the main computers.  He dialed the employee’s home phone number and was greeted with a child’s whisper, “Hello?”

Feeling a bit put out at the inconvenience of having to talk to a youngster, the boss asked, “Is your daddy home?”

“Yes,” whispered the small voice.

 “May I talk with him?” the man asked.

 To the surprise of the boss, the small voice whispered, “No.”

 Wanting to talk with an adult, the boss asked, “Is your mommy there?”

 “Yes,” came the answer.

 “May I talk with her?”

 Again the small voice whispered, “No.”

 Knowing that it was not likely that a young child would be left home alone, the boss decided he would just leave a message with the person who should be there watching over the child.

 “Is there any one there besides you?” the boss asked the child.

 “Yes,” whispered the child, “a policeman.”

 Wondering what a cop would be doing at his employee’s home, the boss asked, “May I speak with the policeman?”

 “No, he is busy,” whispered the child.

 “Busy doing what?” asked the boss.

 “Talking to daddy and mommy and the fireman,” came the whispered answer.

 Growing concerned and even worried as he heard what sounded like ahelicopter through the ear piece on the phone the boss asked,  What is that noise?”

 “A hello-copper,” answered the whispering voice.

 “What is going on there?” asked the boss, now alarmed.

 In an awed whispering voice the child answered, “The search team just landed the hello-copper!”

 Alarmed, concerned and more than just a little frustrated the bossasked, “The search team?! Why are they there?”

 Still whispering, the young voice replied along with a muffled giggle, “They are looking for me!”

Every museum and school has one. The nursery school down the hall in the church I served had one.  It is a “lost and found box.” The child doesn’t know something is lost until the next time it rains.

At our house, we have something different, a sock basket.

The odd thing about the sock basket is that it does not represent socks that are lost, but rather socks who are incomplete without their mates.

I always liked the readings for this week: two short parables that precede the parable about the man who had two lost sons. To my mind that serve as a powerful corrective against making a big deal over the returnung son’s repentance. Or we can define repentance as “going home,” which I like.

I end with a “mother-in-law” j0ke. Feel free to change the roles, if you want to use it.

Husband and wife had a tiff. Wife called up her mom and said, “He fought with me again, I am coming to live with you.”
Mom said, “No darling, he must pay for his mistake. I am coming to live with you!!

Have a great week. – Laurin