". . . he did not speak to them without a parable" Jesus Mark 4:34 RS.V.
— a monthly resource letter for pastors/teachers/speakers
Volume 7, Number 3 May / 1987
SACRIFICE The Anacostia section of Washington, D.C. sits on a bluff overlooking the capital city. Just across the river from the imposing Capital itself, Anacostia — a ghetto of hunger, war, crime, drugs, and hopelessness — might as well be a continent away. None of Washington's celebrities and power brokers, nor the reporters who track them, cross that natural divide.
However, one balmy June morning in 1981 proved the exception. Black limousines and television camera trucks lined the curb in front of the old red brick Assumption Catholic Church in the heart of Anacostia.
Soon after the cameras and reporters were in place, a small group of nuns and priests arrived, clustered about a wisp of a woman in a white muslin sari. The Tiny figure moved with unusual grace up the steps of the church, waving at a cluster of children nearby and brushing past the reporters crowding the doorway.
This celebrity who somehow managed to understate her own arrival, an attitude unheard of in a city that thrives on pomp and protocol, was a seventy-year-old Albanian nun named Teresa Bojaxhiu — better known as Mother Theresa. As 1979 Nobel Prize winner and world-famous figure she could have commanded an airport welcome by a host of government bigwigs, addressed a joint session of Congress, or attracted thousands at one of the city's great cathedrals. Instead she went inconspicuously as possible to a troubled and neglected corner of the city to establish an outpost for nine of her Sisters of Charity.
Since Mother Theresa wouldn't come to them, the power brokers had come to her. The mayor and city officials trailed the press into the stark church hall with its chipped and cracked plaster walls. The press, which cultivates its irreverence for politicians, were more restrained with this little woman from the streets of Calcutta. Still, she had to dodge the boom mikes coming at her like spears.
"What do you hope to accomplish here?" someone shouted.
"The joy of loving and being loved," she smiled, her eyes sparkling in the face of the camera lights.
"That takes a lot of money, doesn't it?" another reporter threw out the obvious question. Everything in Washington costs money; and the more it costs, the more important it is.
Mother Theresa shook her head, "No, it takes a lot of sacrifice."
From Loving God by Charles Colson p. 126. Submitted by Bruce Goettsche, Union Church, LaHarpe, IL.
PURPOSE When Abraham Lincoln was keeping store in Salem, Illinois, he had a beautiful gun prominently displayed so all would see it. The little sign under it seemed to imply that it was a quality product. The gun was said to be made from the finest Swedish steel, the stock from the best black walnut wood, and a world famous gunsmith had made the gun. It was a beauty! The price was reasonable — too reasonable. On the next rack were several old long barrel Kentucky squirrel rifles made from ordinary good gun steel. The stocks were just ordinary wooden stocks. The gunsmith's inscription was recognized as one who was competent but by no means famous. The price was much higher.
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A customer in the market for new rifle looked the wares over and was impressed by the nice shiny gun. He asked Abe, "Why is the good gun so cheap and the other guns so high?"
Abe replied. "That gun won't shoot. The others will."
Then the young clerk picked up a squirrel rifle, and in demonstration, he sighted at a squirrel-sized object a hundred yards away. He hit it dead center. The pioneers desired the Kentucky squirrel rifles.
But soon enough a rich farmer was decorating a room in his new country mansion. He needed a gun for decoration over the fireplace mantle just under the mounted heads of three big game trophies. This gun was perfect for the purpose. A little plaque describing the gun told of its stock of the very finest walnut, its metal parts of the very finest Swedish steel, and its make a very famous gunsmith. The fact that it would not shoot had become unimportant. The purpose of the gun had changed.
The criteria for choosing and shaping a church has changed for some since Jesus died to save the lost. The fact that it comfortably decorates their lives has become more important to some than whether it is a soul-winning, well armed army of God.
From College Park Christian, submitted by Galen Skinner, La Mirada Christian
Church, La Mirada, CA.
NOTABLE EXCUSES AP ran a story recently about some excuses that were sent into Leesville High School, in Louisiana. They were compiled by the Assistant Principal, Richard Carter. Some were probably made up by the students, others might well have been written by the parents in this rural northwest Louisiana parish. When they were printed the students were given the anonymous names of Mary or Fred.
"My son is under the doctor's care and should not take P.E. today," one parent wrote. "Please execute him."
"Please excuse Mary for being absent. She was sick and I had her shot."
"Mary was absent from school yesterday as she was having a gangover," wrote one parent, who apparently expected the school to be tolerant of social follies.
"Mary could not come to school today because she was bothered by very close veins."
"Fred has an acre in his side."
And lastly, the most generic excuse of all:
"Please excuse Fred for being. It was his father's fault."
A SURE-FIRE TEST FOR LYING Earl Long, former eccentric governor of Louisiana, once said of another politician: "You know how you can tell that fella's lying? Watch his lips. If they're movin', he's lying."
Submitted by William Moyer, Hillandale Baptist Church, Adelphi, Maryland.
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ALMOST HOME It was during the Easter holiday break in Texas that our family took a short trip to the Lakeview Methodist Assembly camping facility near Palestine, Texas, which was like a second home to us. We headed out from home right after the last Easter service and we arrived just before the evening meal. Our four kids were anxious to take the two-mile hike around the lake but because of the late hour and the skies, which were threatening, we decided to put it off until morning. During the evening, as we sat in our cabin, we could see the beautiful lighted cross on an island in the lake. It had been a wonderful Easter Sunday for us.
The next morning we were all up early for the hike around the lake. We made our way around one end of the lake as we crossed "thunder bridge," then we passed by the wooden tabernacle used for assembly time when camping groups are at the site. We finally made our way to the earthen dam that had created the man-made lake. From there I taught the children how to take a flat rock and skip it across the water. Then we went up a hill and the children began to show some weariness. But the two older ones had run ahead. The youngest was soon up in my arms; he was about three. Our six-year old walked with us. We were at a point where trees and underbrush obscured the view of the lake. The boys started asking, "When are we going to get to the cabin?" Suddenly there was a break in the growth and we could see the water. At this point the six-year-old said, "Oh, look, I'm almost home, I can see the cross." He remembered that the cross we had seen last evening was near our cabin and that meant we were near our journey's end.
I shall never forget the spine tingling that I felt as I heard the word of a child's wisdom that said so much in just a few words. For I felt that I would not be near this child all of his years. But I could trust that God would give him a vision of the cross all of his days so that if the tempting ways of evil would catch at his life he would always have that view of the cross of his Savior before him. And God would some day help him to say from the very depths of his adult faith, as he had said by that lake, "I'm almost home. I can see the cross."
Joseph Jones, United Methodist Church, Cypress, Texas.
YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE A COMMUNITY OF FAITH BEHIND YOU! Michael, my nine-year-old third grader was nearly through his first season of basketball. He hadn't made a freethrow all season long. Finally, at practice one night, as he was ready to shoot a freethrow, he stopped and asked the rest of the team, "Does anybody have faith in me? If you do, raise your hand."
The coach, and all but one of the players raised their hand. He shot, and you know what? It went in! For the first time it went in. In fact, he made two additional ones during that same practice. It really helps when others believe in you!
Submitted by Bill Byrd, Jamestown United Methodist Church, Jamestown, IN.
TOO MUCH TRANSFERENCE Kirk Douglas explained how John Wayne actually got angry at him when he abandoned his tough-guy image to play the tormented artist Vincent van Gogh in "Lust For Life." Douglas recalls, "I remember we were at a party, and Wayne motioned for me to come out on the back porch. 'Why are you playing a weak, sniffling guy?' he said. He was really furious at me. It was like I was not being true to my people. I said, "Duke, we're actors. We just create the illusion of these big macho guys. You know, John, you really didn't win all those wars." But we obviously didn't see eye-to-eye. He actually thought he was John Wayne.
From an interview with Tom Seligson in Parade, May 25, 1986. Submitted by
William Moyer, Hillandale Baptist Church, Adelphi, MD.
CHILDREN AT A PARTY? Children are rarely in the position to lend one a truly interesting sum of money. There are, however, exceptions, and such children are an excellent addition to any party. Fran Lebowitz
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THE COMPETITIVE SPIRIT There's an ancient Greek legend that illustrates beautifully the plight of combative competition. In one of the important races, a certain athlete ran well, but he still placed second. The crowd applauded the winner noisily, and after a time a statue was erected in his honor. But the one who had placed second came to think of himself as a loser. Corrosive envy ate away at him physically and emotionally, filling his body with stress. He could think of nothing else but his defeat and his lust to be number one, and he decided he had to destroy the stature that was a daily reminder of his lost glory.
A plan took shape in his mind, which he began cautiously to implement. Late each night, when everyone was sleeping, he went to the statue and chiseled at the base hoping so to weaken the foundation that eventually it would topple. One night, as he was chiseling away the sculpture in violent and envious anger, he went too far. The heavy marble statue teetered on its fragile base and crashed down on the disgruntled athlete. He died beneath the crushing weight of the marble replica of the one he had grown to hate. But in reality he had been dying long before, inch by inch, chisel blow by chisel blow. He was the victim of his own stressful, competitive envy.
Lloyd Ogilvie, Making Stress Work For You, pages 101, 102. Submitted by Dave
Sell, Northern California Bible College, San Jose, CA.
COMMUNICATION; BE SPECIFIC Our choir director shared this ad from a recent church music publication. You can't say this musician doesn't know what he/she wants:
POSITION WANTED: Organist-Choirmaster, lifelong, militantly loyal, dyed-in-the-wool traditional RC, seeks fulltime position in pre-Vatican II urban parish (will consider Tridentine) blessed with large church building designed by P. C. Keely, 19th-century American pipe organ of three or four manuals, and, most importantly, using or willing to implement the BACS hymnal (Hymns, Psalms & Spiritual Canticles). All-male or professional mixed choir a must (no volunteers!) as is freedom from outside interference by liturgy committees, religious educators or other so-called vested interests. Prefer Massachusetts (except Fall River diocese); will consider other areas in Northeast. Write...
The thing that I wonder about is just what's wrong with Fall River diocese?
GOD'S HAND Two teenage sisters moved to a new community. Not having any friends there, they eagerly accepted an invitation to a Christian Youth gathering. After attending several times, the older sister accepted Christ as her Savior and encouraged her younger sister to do so as well. The younger sister was still very skeptical about the whole matter. Finally, as a result of the older sister's persistance, the younger sister knelt by the bedside and prayed silently this prayer: "If there really is a God, then put your hand on my head so I can know it." At that very moment the older sister was impressed by the Spirit to place her hand on her sister's head as she was kneeling and silently praying. Immediately the younger sister believed and when she got up from her bedside she asked her sister, "Did you put your hand on my head?" The older sister said, "Yes." The other asked, "Why did you do that?" and she simply replied, "God told me to."
Submitted by George Cecil, Wesleyan Church, Burnips, MI
LEARNING FROM THE PAST A man's wife had died and they were on the way to the cemetary when the front pall bearer tripped over a rock. This shook the casket and revived the lady. She lived another seven years and died again. They were on the way to the cemetary again and approaching the same spot. The husband, recognizing the spot, shouted out to the pall bearers, "Watch out for that rock!" Dean Head, Rock Spring, GA.
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SMALL CROWD One time a guest preacher came to a little rural church, and as it turned out, that morning, due to a mixup, the only person there was one 10-year-old boy. Naturally, the young boy assumed that the service would be called off and both of them go home. But no, the red-bearded preacher went through the entire service. He went through the hymns, the responses to the liturgy, the offering of one thin dime, the offering dedicated to the Lord, the sermon and finally the visiting preacher placing his hand upon the head of the child in a moment of closing blessing. The little boy went home, but somehow he never quite forgot that red-bearded preacher, and that service for one. His name was Cecil B. DeMille, and it was he who gave the world some of the greatest religious pictures ever filmed."
Sumbitted by Gene Sikkink, Glendorado and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church,
Princeton, MN., source unknown.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? There was a concert in Philadelphia. One of the movements featured a flute solo that was to be played as if coming from a distance. The conductor had instructed the flutist to stand off stage where he was to count the measures precisely in order to come in at the exact time, since there could be no visual contact between the conductor and the soloist. On the performance night when the time came for the flute solo, the flutist began exactly. The fine, lilting notes floated out beautifully. Suddenly, there was a pinching sour note and the soloist was silent. The conductor was outraged and at the end of the piece he rushed off stage to find the poor flutist. The player was prepared. He said, "Maestro, before you say anything let me tell you what happened, but really, you're not going to believe it. You know I came in accurately, and everything was going beautifully, when suddenly — this enormous stage hand ran up, grabbed away my flute, and pushed me back, saying, "Shut up, you idiot! Don't you know there's a concert going on out there?"
Dynamic Preaching, February, 1987, Vol. II, No. 2, page 3 (Christian
Communication Laboratory, Knoxville, TN).
HOW SO STORIES, UPDATED You all remember How The Elephant Got Its Trunk and that genre of stories: Here's an update, of sorts.
Traveling west by covered wagon, a group got caught in a blizzard in the mountains. One man told his best friend, "I ain't gonna make it, Joe."
"Sure you are, Al."
"No, Joe, I ain't. So I want you to promise me something."
"Promise me that when you and little Joe get there you'll name a town after me."
At this he turned to Little Joe and he said, "Little Joe, will you remind your pa to name a town after me?"
And Little Joe replied, "I promise, Mr. Buquerque."
Tommy La Sorda, as quoted in Me and DiMaggio by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt (Simon & Schuster).
PROGRESS A woman had ordered a book from a large publishing company. Several weeks later she received the following letter: "Many thanks for your recent order. We wish we could fill it at once, but improvements in our procedures will mean a delay in shipping."
Bits & Pieces
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PERSPECTIVE An economist was asked to talk to a group of business people about the recession. She tacked up a big sheet of white paper. Then she made a black spot on the paper with her pencil and asked a man in the front row what he saw. The man replied promptly, "A black spot." The speaker asked every person the same question, and each replied, "A black spot."
With calm and deliberate emphasis the speaker said: "Yes, there is a little black spot, but none of you mentioned the big sheet of white paper. And that's my speech." Bits & Pieces
IT'S A MIRACLE! A man was returning home in his pickup truck after attending a revival service. He was still pondering the sermon on Jesus' miracle of changing water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana when the local sheriff ordered him to "Pull over!" Acting on a tip than an illegal still was being operated in the area, the sheriff looked in the man's truck and saw twelve jugs filled to the brim with liquid. He asked, "What's in those jugs?" He said, "Oh, that' just fresh spring water. My wife and I drink nothing but fresh spring water."
The sheriff said, "I don't mean to doubt your word, but I'll have to taste it." Whereupon he took a drink and felt the liquid burning his tongue and throat. "That's not spring water, that's whiskey!" he bellowed. To which the man in the truck replied, "Praise the Lord, He's done it again!"
Sunday Sermons, July 10, 1983, submitted by Charles Krieg, St. Joseph's
Seminary, Princeton, NJ.
COMMUNICATION AT SUNDAY SCHOOL A five-year-old came home from Sunday School very excited. His teacher, he reported to his parents, had told the class the story of Adam and Eve and how Eve was created from Adam's rib.
A few days later he told his mother: "My side hurts. I think I'm having a wife."
THE NEW BABY A young mother held her almost four-year-old son on her lap and told him he was going to have a new baby brother soon. She explained that he could hold the baby's bottle, bring a clean diaper when needed and push the baby carriage.
He finally got off her lap, stood in front of her and said, very seriously, "And what are YOU going to be doing while I do all the work?"
COMMUNICATION In the comic strip "For Better Or For Worse," the wife is talking to her husband, who is a dentist: "John, I wish you wouldn't refer to your staff as 'your girls.'" The husband replies, "Well, aren't they?" He continues: "I took Jean out for lunch today, Elly . . . and we had a long talk. She's been a little depressed lately, so I thought I'd find out why. We discussed her childhood, her family, her feelings about her job with me at the clinic. She told me about her marriage, her worries, how she feels about herself." There is a silent moment — the husband says, "What's the matter?" The wife replies simply, "Nothing." The husband continues: Don't you think its good that I have these in-depth, personal talks with the people I work with?" And Elly, the wife, says very simply: "Yes ... I just wish you'd have discussions like that with me!"
Submitted by Charles Krieg, St. Joseph's Seminary, Princeton, NJ.
THE DEVIL'S STRATEGY Tell the people that God is real. Tell them that they should have faith in Him. Tell them that the Gospel is true, that Jesus Christ died to save them from their sins. But tell them that there is no hurry. [Sr. devil giving advice to Jr. devil in Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis] Gene Sikkink, Princeton, MN.
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BUILDERS When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, "See, This our Fathers did for us."
John Ruskin, submitted by Tim McLemore, First U. M. Church, Bells, Texas.
FORGIVENESS This prayer was found in a church bombed in World War II. It would help if we could let it sink into our spirit:
The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class, Father forgive.
The covetous desires of men and nations to possess what is not their own, Father forgive.
The greed which exploits the labors of men, and lays waste the earth, Father forgive. Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others, Father forgive. Our indifference to the plight of the homeless, Father forgive.
The lust which uses for ignoble ends the bodies of men and women, Father forgive. The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves, and not in God, Father forgive. The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves, and not in God, Father forgive. Father forgive. All have sinned and come short of the Glory of God. Dean Head, Rock Spring, GA.
ALWAYS AND ALL FOR GOD
No time for trifling in this life of mine;
Not this the path the blessed Master trod, But strenuous toil; each hour and power employed
Always and all for God.
Time swiftly flies; eternity is near,
And soon my dust lies beneath my sod; How dare I waste my life, or cease to be
Always and all for God?
I see the heathen perishing around
While heaven asks, "Where is thy brother's blood?"
How dare I meet my Lord, if I am not Always and all for God?
Full soon will come to us the harvest time,
The reaping of the seed that here we strewed; Oh, then we'll not regret we spent earth's spring
Always and all for God. A. B. Simpson
Submitted by Bruce Goettsche, Union Church, LaHarpe, IL.
MORE LIGHT BULBS How many people does it take to screw in a lightbulb in the basement of the White House? Answer: None, they prefer to work in the dark.
How many Harvard MBA's does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Answer: Only one. He stands still and holds onto the bulb and the world revolves around him. [You may substitute Princeton M.Div's, or whatever group you want to persecute that particular day.]
SUFFERING IN SILENCE Most people don't mind suffering in silence as long as everyone else knows about it.
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There He Is . . . Just when we are safest, there's a sunset touch, a flower bell, someone's death, and lo, He stands before us, blocking our path so that we cannot go on until we have dealt with Him.
Robert Browning, submitted by Gene Sikkink, Princeton, MN.
The Truth About You . . . There are only two people who can tell you the truth about yourself — an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly.
Antisthenes, Cynic Philosopher, submitted by Rick Hoffarth, First Presbyterian
Church, Duquoin, IL.
Fired . . . Did you hear the one about the fellow who was fired from his job in the massage parlor because he rubbed people the wrong way? I didn't think so! John Bristol, Presbyterian Church, Milpitas, CA.
Longevity and Venerability ... If you live long enough, the venerability factor creeps in; first, you get accused of things you never did, and later, credited for virtues you never had.
I. F. Stone, quoted in Reader's Digest.
The Inevitable ... No matter what you do, someone always knew you would. Bits & Pieces
Stay Young . . . You can stay young indefinitely if you eat wisely, get plenty of sleep, work hard, have a positive mental outlook — and lie about your age. Submitted by Jack Lee, Arcadia, CA
Bottom Line ... It seems to me that to put oneself in second place is the whole significance of life.
Turgenev, submitted by Gene Sikkink, Princeton, MN.