Mark 7: 1-23

Illustrated New Resources

  • The Difference One Degree Makes

    by Jim Chern
    Back in 1979, 257 people left New Zealand for a sightseeing flight to Antarctica. Unknown to the pilots, there was a 2-degree error in the flight coordinates. Most people hearing that would think that’s “close enough”- but that 2-degree error in fact it placed the aircraft 28 miles to the east of what was the planned route. As the pilots approached what they thought was their intended destination, to give the sightseers a better look of the beautiful landscapes they descended to a lower altitude. Although the pilots had years of experience, they had never made this particular flight before. So they had no way of knowing that the incorrect coordinates had placed them directly in the path of Mount Erebus, an active volcano that rises from the frozen landscape to a height of more than 12,000 feet. Sadly, the plane crashed into the side of the volcano, killing everyone on board. It is hard to imagine how this tragedy of epic proportions was brought on by a minor error—a matter of only a few degrees...
  • Distractions

    by D. Rebecca Dinovo
    Author Anthony DeMello tells a story about an ashram cat. He writes, “When the guru sat down to worship each evening, the ashram cat would get in the way and distract the worshipers. So he ordered that the cat be tied during evening worship. After the guru died the cat continued to be tied during evening worship. And when the cat died, another cat was brought to the ashram so that it could be duly tied during evening worship. Centuries later learned treatises were written by the guru’s disciples on the religious and liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed.” Most Christians, and certainly Episcopalians, have their own ashram cats...
  • Sermon Starters (Proper 17B)(2021)

    by Chelsey Harmon
    I remember this one Sunday at church when a young child talked quite loudly through the entire worship service. Afterwards, I met an irate, long-standing member in the church office. A leader in the church at the time, the man revealed with his angry words how many people probably view that sacred Sunday hour: he was angry that his “nice time with his friends” was interrupted; he yelled about how he came to church to be with his friends and how this kid ruined it. He wasn’t mad because he thought God had been disrespected, he was mad because he didn’t get to feel the way worship usually makes him feel. That’s what a human tradition and ritual is all about, isn’t it, making us feel a certain way about ourselves? In the case of the Pharisees and scribes, it made them feel set apart from non-Jewish people. But in the course of setting up a way to get that feeling, separating from others became central to the task—and that willingness and acting to separate reveals an interior immorality, a broken heart in need of Christ’s mending.
  • Looking in the Mirror

    by Anne Le Bas
    If you watched the news of the shootings in Plymouth a week or so ago, you may have seen the video which the killer, Jake Davison, made in the run up to the killings. It was terribly sad. He looked straight into the camera – another sort of mirror really – and he spoke about how much he hated himself and how hopeless he felt about his life. He was convinced that no one loved him and that no one ever would love him, and that seemed to have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s hard to love people who don’t love themselves. He was convinced too that there was nothing he could do to change the situation. Eventually that feeling hardened into the bitterness which fuelled his slaughter of six innocent people. If only he’d known, really known, deep down, that you don’t have to have the face of a film star or the body of an athlete to be loveable and loved, maybe the outcome would have been very different, for him and for those whom he killed...
  • Proper 17B (2021)

    by Beth Schlegel
    It is safe to say that no one is happy about this pandemic. No one wants to wear masks, sanitize everything, get jabbed in the arm, or worry about infection. No one. And it would be simple to navigate this challenge if my decisions only impacted me. But they do not. My decisions also affect you, and your decisions affect me; and these decisions affect the countless others we encounter in stores, cars, trains, buses, airplanes, hallways, offices, and parks. In calling us to pay attention to the thoughts of our hearts, and the words that come from those thoughts, Jesus asks us to give God first place as the source of wisdom and to act to care for our neighbor’s wellbeing. In an article found on The FULL QUOTE by Luther on BUBONIC PLAGUE – CORONAVIRUS | Pentecostal Theology.com we can see how Martin Luther wrestled with some of these things. I quote from that website: THE BUBONIC PLAGUE struck Wittenberg, Germany, in August of 1527. This disease was horrific: in a single day, an infected person could show signs of delirium, fever, speech disorders, and loss of consciousness. Soon after, [the person] would break out in large boils that infected the bloodstream and rapidly led to death. The mortality rate was extremely high. Martin Luther and his wife Katharina, who was pregnant at the time, were urged to flee the city. However, they chose to stay in order to minister to the sick and dying. When asked by Christians in another city for advice, Luther wrote a pamphlet titled “Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague”. It combines faith and realism in a way that is powerfully relevant to our present coronavirus crisis. Luther wisely counseled his readers to utilize medicine and intelligence “to guard and to take good care of the body so that we can live in good health.” He declared, “I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it.” He also practiced what we today call “social distancing”: “I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.” But he added this important caveat: “If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely.”...

Other New Resources

Recommended Resources

{Based on requests from several members (although I am reluctant to do so since my favorites may not be those of others), I am listing here some of my own favorite resources. FWIW!!]
  • Ethical Hermeneutics and Hermeneutical Ethics

    by D. Mark Davis
    includes lots of Greek exegesis!
  • *Act on the Word

    by Jerry Fuller, OMI
    ("Dr. Laura tells of a call from a young woman who was living with her fiancé. The young woman's future mother-in-law was insisting that the woman and her son move closer to her home. What was the problem with that? The young woman claimed to be an Orthodox Jew..." and other illustrations)
  • And They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love

    by Sil Galvan
    "According to a legend once upon a time, a king had no son. The king sent out his couriers to post notices in all the towns of his realm that every young man should apply for an interview with the king so that he could be considered as a possible successor to the throne. However, all candidates had to meet two qualifications: they had to love God and love their neighbor..."
  • Christ in Stranger's Guise

    by Sil Galvan
    As we approached another crowded corner, we passed a cardboard shelter with a sign that read, 'Homeless and have AIDS'. A hooded figure sat motionless in the box with a blanket draped from his head down his shoulders. He never looked up. As we walked past him toward the traffic light, Amanda began to cry. I reminded her that I was out of cash and shoved my hands in my pockets in frustration. I felt the crunch of paper in my right pocket...
  • The Gospel of Superman?

    by Terrance Klein
    ("Jerry Siegel was born in 1914, into a large, poor family, living in gritty Jewish neighborhood of Cleveland. He would remain a runt, the object of his classmates' taunts. As he recalled decades later, 'I got a taste of how it feels to be victimized.' Recess for him was an unrelenting retreat from bullies. Girls ignored him. When it came time for the class to exchange them, Jerry had to worry whether he'd receive even one Valentine card...")
  • Proper 17B

    by Bill Loader
    (always good insights!)
  • Whose Bible Is it Anyway?

    by Richard Spalding
    (recommended reading)
  • Exegetical Notes (Mark 7.1-8,14-15,21-23)

    by Brian Stoffregen
    (excellent exegesis)

Illustrated Resources from 2018 to 2020

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  • It's the Relationships, Not the Rules

    by Delmer Chilton
    There used to be a 1918 Dodge Touring Car on display in the Car Collectors Museum in Nashville, Tenn. Its little placard told an interesting story. “In 1918, the father of Albert Hillyard bought this car for $785. In 1921, Albert and his brother got into an argument over who got to drive the car into town on Saturday night. Their father drove the car into the garage and shut the door. There the car remained until found 38 years later, covered with dirt and chicken manure, with only 1800 miles on the odometer.” I’ve thought about Mr. Hillyard and his Dodge Touring Car many times over the years. Dad attempted to heal the breach between his children by making a rule. “OK, neither one of you gets to drive it!” I’m willing to bet that the boys just went on to argue about something else, and then about something else, and then about something else. The car wasn’t the problem. The problem was the jealousy and strife that lived in that family and in those brother’s hearts. They didn’t need rules and judgment— they needed reconciliation. So it is with all of us. Because our problem lies within our hearts, our healing must start there as well. Jesus calls us to understand that it’s not about the rules; it’s about the relationships...
  • Slow to Anger, Slow to Speak, Quick to Listen!

    by Beth Johnston
    Last week a friend of mine recommended the movie, Downsizing. This movie’s main character, Paul Safranek, and his wife decide to be downsized and move to one of the small communities designed for them. However at the last minute his wife opts out but he does know this until it’s too late. One day he meets his eccentric neighbour’s maid, a famous Vietnamese dissident, whose Christian faith is a driving force in her life. Her boss allows her to take his expired medication and the leftover food from his frequent parties. Paul discovers that she is spending all her spare time taking these items to a slum where many people are in need of food and basic medical care. At one point Safrenak is contemplating another irreversible change, but she is not willing to undergo it with him; there are people who need her!...
  • 37 Miles Away from the Nearest Sin

    by Jim McCrea
    In the movie Get Smart, secret agent Maxwell Smart is given a Rorschach Test. That is, he’s shown a series of random inkblots and asked what comes to mind when he sees them. The idea is to get some sort of idea about the inner workings of his mind set. Because the ink blots are essentially unusually-shaped silhouette blotches, any answer can be seen as a potential peek into the thoughts of the test subject being projected onto the ink smears. When Maxwell Smart is shown the first inkblot, he tells the research that he sees a “naked woman.” In fact, Max gives the same answer to every single inkblot he’s shown. At the end of the test, the doctor suggests to Max that he might have an obsession with sex. Indignantly, Max replies, “Me? You’re the one with all the dirty pictures!”
  • Cleanliness or Godliness?

    by David Russell
    As a seminary student, I spent a year at Virginia Tech doing a campus ministry internship. While I was there the campus ministers group had Will Campbell come to campus to speak. I had the chance to have dinner with Will Campbell along with a few other people. He lived near Nashville and he was telling us about being on a radio program in Nashville a couple weeks before. It seemed that the singer Charlie Daniels had been on the same program in the previous segment. Campbell was interviewed for a bit and then they opened the phone lines. A woman called in to say how terrible it was that Charlie Daniels had used such obscene language on the air, and what did the minister have to say about that? Well, Campbell said it was hard to comment without knowing what Mr. Daniels had said. He asked the woman if she could tell him so that he could offer an opinion about it. Of course, the woman said that she couldn’t repeat that kind of language. And so Will Campbell told the woman, “Tell you what: I will say the most obscene words that I know, and you can tell me if Mr. Daniels used these words.” Well, the caller about went into convulsions, but these are the words that Will Campbell said: Hunger Bigotry Racism War Greed Abuse Hatred Exploitation Did Mr. Daniels use any of those words? The woman said, “Well, no.” And Will Campbell said, “Well, those are the most obscene words I can think of, so if Mr. Daniels didn’t use any of those words, then I guess I’m not too worried.”...
  • Form and Function

    by David Sellery
    In his classic short story “The Picture of Dorian Grey” Oscar Wilde effectively illustrates Christ’s final point in this gospel: There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. Dorian Grey was a golden boy: Physically healthy, stunningly handsome, socially polished… but he was also spiritually diseased: a slave to vanity, an accomplished seducer… a practitioner of every vice. His appearance was perfection. His essence was evil.
  • Acting from the Inside Out

    by Alex Thomas
    The Dalai Lama once said: According to my experience, the principal characteristic of genuine happiness is peace: inner peace. By this I do not mean some kind of feeling of being ‘spaced out’. Nor am I speaking of an absence of feeling. On the contrary, the peace I am describing is rooted in concern for others and involves a high degree of sensitivity and feeling, although I cannot claim personally to have succeeded very far in this. Rather, I attribute my sense of peace to the effort to develop concern for others...
  • Preaching Helps (Proper 17B)(2018)

    by Leonard Vander Zee
    Paul Schrader’s recent film “First Reformed” goes deeper. in part it’s a study in hypocrisy. Rev. Toller is set up by the local megachurch as pastor of the historic church in town, but is really just the curator of a museum. Abundant Life church seems to be a thriving congregation, but it’s largely funded by the wealthy owner of a factory that spews our pollution. Everything is fine as long as the real issues are not addressed. Rev. Toller begins to see more and more the hypocrisy that lurks under the surface of his public piety. The strength of the film is that it’s not a cheap shot at ecclesiastical hypocrisy, but a sympathetic, insiders view of the danger that always lurks when Christians confuse the outward aspects of faith with true inward transformation.

Illustrated Resources from 2015 to 2017

  • A Lesson from Hell's Kitchen

    by Jim Chern
    ("For those of you who have not seen Hell's Kitchen, there are two teams - a Red Team and a Blue Team. They work under the very critical eye of expert, world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsay. In any event, the two teams compete to prepare dishes in a restaurant for the hungry customers. Before any of the meals go out, they need to be scrutinized by Chef Ramsay. For some reason, as someone who can't really cook at all, I find the whole thing hysterical. ")
  • Inside and Out

    by Kyle Childress
    ("Just behind me, close enough that I could overhear their conversation, was the long-time pastor of the leading Baptist church in town and walking alongside him was the moderator of our local ministerial alliance, who happened to be the pastor of the local Unity congregation, fifteen members strong. The Unity pastor was inviting the tall steeple Baptist pastor to the alliance meetings, 'We'd love to have you join us the second Tuesday of each month at noon.' The Baptist said, 'Well, we have staff meetings on Tuesdays and I'm usually tied up'...")
  • "A Little Dirt Won't Hurt You?!"

    by Tom Cox
    ("The tradition part of this gospel reminds me of the story of a guru who would have meditation services every evening and his cat would always run in the middle of the meditators. So every evening before the service, the guru would tie the cat to the tree outside. Then the guru died and the new guru also had the cat tied to the tree every evening in the same way. When the cat died, the new guru had an assistant immediately go out and buy a new cat to tie to the tree in the same way...")
  • The Realignment of Desire

    by Charles Hoffacker
    Throughout history, human beings have apparently been searching for an object to love, serve, and adore wholeheartedly. Despite numerous disappointments, the search continues. The entire history of humanity is a record of this search for some beckoning object. Influential figures have understood this search in different ways. Sigmund Freud thought it was connected somehow with sexual release. Another psychologist, Alfred Adler, thought it was connected with a drive for power. Karl Marx related it to economic issues. An answer that includes and surpasses all of these is that our desire is toward being and its increase. We seek to flourish. We want an abundant existence...
  • On Hand Washing, Shells, and Our Oh-So-Human Traditions

    by Janet Hunt
    ("I think of this, of a very human tradition which somehow became 'sacred' in a place I once served. I was walking on a beach in Florida where I was on a quick getaway before the start of Lent. As I walked I started picking up seashells -- those little clam shells which are so common. I was thinking about the children of my congregation and I was thinking about baptisms. I was remembering that the shell is an ancient symbol of baptism...")
  • True or Counterfeit Religion?

    by Nicholas Lang
    ("In her podcast, Looking in the Mirror, Episcopal Priest Martha Sterne, shares her beauty parlor experience and how her stylist Grady always screamed 'Emergency, emergency!' when she walked in the door. One day she was in no mood for his humor after a very hard week at her ministry in an Atlanta public housing neighborhood, seeing more than middle-class people want to see or know of the grind and of poverty. She says, 'Grady, I either need a totally new haircut or a totally new me and right now I don't care which.'...")
  • Inside and Out (Mark)

    Art and Faith by Lynn Miller
  • Words to Live By

    by Larry Patten
    ("My mother saved me. I was a geek in high school, a guy with black-rimmed glasses more comfortable reading books than relating to people. Shy. Introverted. But occasionally, because of expectations or longing or both, I attempted to escape my geekishness. Take, for example, my high school's Senior Ball. The 'big dance' was a formal affair. I'd have to buy a corsage for a date. I'd have to . . . wait! Worse! First, I had to ask someone to the Ball in order to have a date..." if for nothing else, just a funny read!!)
  • Theology at the Theatre: Fiddler on the Roof

    by Beth Quick
    As enjoyable as Fiddler is as a musical, as lighthearted as it is at times, the questions asked are serious ones, important ones. How far should you change traditions to meet the demands of an ever-changing world? How far is too far to bend? When do the traditions hold us to what is good and important, and when do they keep us from moving forward, from growing and changing in healthy ways? What traditions are based on simple habits that have extended over generations, and when to they represent the unchanging truth?...
  • What Difiles, What Defines?

    by Nancy Rockwell
    "Two decades of unrelenting scandals exposing the defilement of the church has left Americans skeptical that there can be such a thing as holy faith. Dr. Brantly, the AME community, and Jimmy Carter remind us that Christian faith is not about pietistic living, but is about a trust in God that will allow us to walk into the presence of painful life and horrific death, filled with the grace of the Spirit and able to honor it in everyone..."
  • Following Jesus: According to the Letter or the Spirit?

    by Ron Rolheiser, OMI
    ("It was Henri Nouwen who first commented with sadness that many of the really angry, bitter, and ideologically-driven people he knew he had met inside of church circles and places of ministry. Within church circles, it sometimes seems, everyone is angry about something. Moreover, within church circles, it is all too easy to rationalize our anger in the name of prophecy, as a healthy passion for truth and morals....")
  • Form and Function

    by David Sellery
    ("In his classic short story The Portrait of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde grotesquely illustrates Christ's final point in this gospel: There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. Dorian Gray was a golden boy. Stunningly handsome, polished… an accomplished, secretive seducer… a practitioner of every vice. Physically he was perfection. Spiritually he was a hideous portrait of evil...")
  • She Looked Great, But...

    Sermon Starter by Leonard Sweet
    ("There is an intriguing legend known as 'The White Witch of Rosehall'. It is a tale of a beautiful woman named Annie Palmer who used her unparalleled beauty to lure wealthy men to marry her. Nothing unusual about that. However, each time Annie married someone, she found a way to convince him to add her to his will and then she would poison him. She continued to poison him even as she pretended to be nursing him back to health...")

Illustrated Resources from 2009 to 2014

  • Tradition!

    by Mickey Anders
    ("One of my favorite Dr. Seuss books is entitled The Butter Battle Book. Published in 1984, it is really a satire about the arms race. But the book begins with these words: 'On the last day of summer, ten hours before fall... my grandfather took me out to the Wall. For a while he stood silent. Then finally he said, with a very bad shake of his very old head, "As you know, on this side of the Wall we are Yooks. On the far other side of this Wall live the Zooks."'..." and Fiddler)
  • Was Jesus a Christian?

    by Christopher Burkett
    ("In one of the great novels of Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, a story makes the point well: a stingy old woman who finds herself after she had died in the misery of hell seeks to be raised to the comforts and joys of heaven. 'I wasn't all that bad!' she shouts at a passing angel. 'What about that time when a poor beggar came to my door and I gave him an onion?'...")
  • Proper 17B (2012)

    by Delmer Chilton
    "A man bought a box of very expensive cigars. He protected his investment by taking out an insurance policy on the cigars. He insured them against; 'decay, spoilage, theft and fire'. In the next few weeks he proceeded to smoke all of the cigars in the box. then he filed a claim with his insurance company, stating that the cigars were lost in a series of small . . . .fires..."
  • Proper 17B (2009)

    by Scott Hoezee
    ("While I was a seminary intern, I experienced for the first time what it is like as a pastor to walk with someone through cancer, the rigors of chemotherapy, and the final succumbing to the disease. Especially as the end drew near, what worried this dear Christian man more than anything was what was going to happen on judgment day...")
  • Washing of Hearts

    by Beth Johnston
    "Florence Nightingale, known as the founder of modern nursing, began the work for which she has become best known, in Turkey in the mid 1850's, during the Crimean War. When she was asked why she did not write something and she replied that thoughts put on paper were easily wasted but thoughts should be distilled into actions, especially those actions which bring results..."
  • Proper 17B (2009)

    by Steve Kelsey
    In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov, there is a story of a stingy old woman who sought, from the misery of hell, the lake of fire where she found herself after she had died, to be raised to the comforts and joys of heaven. “I wasn’t all THAT bad!” she asserts to an angel passing by. “What about the time when the poor beggar came to my door and I gave him an onion?” The angel swoops down and hovers just above the old woman, as together they look back upon that scene from her life. The woman had resentfully come to the back door of her grand mansion to try to shoo the beggar away, complaining loudly about the filthiness of his hands and face. “You don’t even wash before you come to beg?” Nonetheless, the woman had reached down into the bottom of her larder and produced a rotting onion that she handed over to the beggar. “Well,” said the angel, “that should be enough to open the doors of heaven for you.” The angel lowers to her a rope with that very onion tied to its end. The woman grabs on, but as the rope is lifted, others in the lake of fire climb on, hoping to be pulled out as well. The old woman, alarmed by this, cries out, “Let go! Let go! It’s not you who are being pulled out! It’s me! It’s not your onion! It’s mine.” And just when she says, “It’s mine,” the onion snaps in two, falls out of the rope, and she falls back into the lake of fire. The angel weeps, as she flies away. If only the old woman had had it in her heart to say, “The onion is ours,” surely the onion would have been strong enough to have pulled all of them out together...
  • *Like Us but Unlike Us

    by Charles Love
    ("In his book Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, the philosopher Rene Girard talks about the significant and constructive role served by 'imperative memesis' - imitation, of each other, and rituals that define community and safeguard its uniqueness. Special hand shakes or hand washing rituals reinforce collegiality..." and another illustration)
  • Sing Happy Birthday Twice

    by Larry Patten
    ("Shortly after starting work at hospice this year, a fellow employee demonstrated the proper way to wash hands: lather with soap, use plenty of water and vigorously rub your hands together for as long as it takes to sing back-to-back versions of 'Happy Birthday to You'. As a bonus for those of you unsure of the words for one of America's favorite songs, I've included Marilyn Monroe's memorable salute to President Kennedy on his forty-fifth birthday...")
  • *Tradition: Guide or Jailer?

    by Paul Rooney
    ("Fiddler on the Roof is set in 1905 in Russia. It's about a good Jewish man named Tevye, his wife and five daughters, and their interaction with Jewish tradition. Tevye is a poor milkman, so he was unable to provide a good dowry. Instead he had to rely upon the local match-maker to find husbands for his girls. That caused some problems. The oldest daughter wanted to marry the tailor...")
  • Cleanliness or Godliness

    by Reggie Weaver
    ("My father, Aunt Briddie, and their brothers and sisters lived through a time when Jim Crow and segregation ruled the South. My grandparents were sharecroppers. And in that system, about the only way to make any money was to have children; the children would work and help the parents pay off the debt they owed to the landowner. And to that end, my grandparents had fifteen children...")
  • Living from the Interior

    by David Zersen
    "A house next door to us is for sale, but the interior is a disaster. If you approach it from the street, it looks decent. The lawn gets mowed by the realtor, the painted exterior is attractive and the fenced-in yard awaits a friendly dog. However, two consecutive rental parties left the interior in shambles. The carpeting, although shampooed for the sale, has to be ripped out...."
  • Using Religion to Escape Religion

    by Timothy Zingale
    ("Remember the story of Gulliver's travels. He came to a land of tiny people, Lilliput and do you remember the legality those tiny people were going to war over. It was whether one should crack the big end of an egg or the little end. The two sides became known as the big enders vs. the little enders...")

Illustrated Resources (and Other Resources of Merit) from the Archives

  • The Heart Strangely Warmed

    by Robert Allred
    ("he story is still told of Queen Victoria who gave a ball in honor of an African Chief. At the end of the meal, finger bowls were served. The chief was not familiar with the British custom of rinsing fingers in water after a meal so he took the finger bowl in his two hands, lifted it to his mouth, and drank it all...")
  • Clean Hands, Clean Heart

    by Mickey Anders
    ("A young rabbi went to serve his first synagogue, and he noticed that on the first Sabbath, when he said the prayers, the congregation on the left side of the synagogue stood at the beginning of the prayers, and the congregation on the right side remained seated....")
  • Caregiving Economy: The Word at Work in the World

    by John Auer
    Our family saw the movie “Little Miss Sunshine” last night. The heroine is Olive, an 8 year-old contestant in a beauty pageant. She is daughter to a father obsessed with selling “winning” as a whole way of life. Olive naturally interprets that to mean her father hates all “losers” in life. As the moment of her performance arrives, her well-meaning family wants to spare her the humiliation and begs her not to go on. Olive studies herself in the dressing-room mirrors – looking herself up and down and deeply into her eyes. She realizes she cannot possibly win in the terms of these “pageants” of life that pit all our images of ourselves in desperate competition for each other’s approval and approbation. Olive’s only hope – like our only hope -- lies in being herself with such passion and power -- such faithfulness to her own identity as so plainly revealed in the mirror -- that her performance will expose and explode the very myth and illusion that life can be “won” as some pageant – or even as some war! Olive offers what can only be called a freak-loving dance (to the tune of Rick James’ music!) of earth-shaking resurrection. As other contestants’ families and the pageant’s producers react with revulsion to this undermining of their whole “way of life,” one by one Olive’s family of “losers” finds grace and courage to join in her dance!...
  • Dirtiness Is Next to Godliness

    by J. C. Austin
    ("Do you remember Pigpen, the kid in the Peanuts cartoon that always had a cloud of dust and dirt swirling around him wherever he went? Well, we had a Pigpen at the summer camp I attended as a kid. He was a mess: his bunk was a wreck, his clothes had so many stains that he looked like some kind of walking abstract art exhibit...")
  • Wholly Holy

    by J. C. Austin
    ("Without question, it was the rock music subject that was the real problem. Even teenagers had to admit that there's a strong case for abstaining from drugs and sex. But music was something different. First of all, music was like air and water to us in our adolescent lifestyle, just like it is today and like it has been ever since teenagers really developed a group identity...")
  • Facing One's Own Sins

    by Phil Bloom
    ("A few decades back Kris Kristoferson had a corny song with the words Everybody Needs Somebody to Look Down On. After listing possible candidates, he said, 'And, brother, if you don't find somebody to look down on...well, help yourself to me.'...")
  • Why Are You Afraid?

    by Amy Butler
    ("We lived in the same house from the time I was about 7 years old until I was 15. One of the house's appealing features was that it backed up onto a large and wild jungle, filled with all kinds of wild tropical plants, animals and opportunities to explore...")
  • Proper 17B (2006)

    from the Center for Excellence in Preaching
    ("We are a funny society. On the one hand people from all walks of life have embraced some form or another of moral relativism. If you read philosophers and sociologists, you will find a lot of talk about how religion and morality are little more than social constructs. 'Truth' is culture-specific...")
  • *Religion or Faith?

    by John Christianson
    ("My wife and I have gone to a number of marriage workshops over the years. I remember a good point that was made at one of them. The presenter said that you should never stop affirming. Every day you should tell your partner, 'Honey, I’m very fond of you and I appreciate all the little things you do.'....")
  • No Outcasts Cast Out

    by Dan Clendenin
    ("'No outcasts', writes Garry Wills in What Jesus Meant, 'were cast out far enough in Jesus' world to make him shun them—not Roman collaborators, not lepers, not prostitutes, not the crazed, not the possessed...")
  • *Living in a Full Colour World

    by Tom Cox
    ("Looking through Granny's old photographs, after her death, one child gazing upon a beautiful black & white image of her Gran as a young woman, asked her mother; 'was everything in the world black and white back then?'...")
  • From Avoidance to Involvement

    by Ernest Munachi Ezeogu, CSSP
    ("Two monks, Brother Francis and an elder monk, are walking down a muddy road on a rainy day. They came upon a lovely young girl dressed in fine silk, who was afraid to cross because of the flood and the mud. "Come on, girl," said Brother Francis...")
  • Back to the Basics

    by Richard Fairchild
    Some years back a new self help organization was formed in the United States -- a kind of religious group really. It was called Fundamentalists Anonymous. The goals of Fundamentalists Anonymous are to help people who have withdrawn from Fundamentalist churches deal with the guilt, depression, sexual problems, fear, and loneliness that has been created in their lives due to their exposure to what can only be described as a sick religion. It is amazing really that such an organization not only exists, but thrives in our midst...
  • From Within and Without

    by Richard Fairchild
    "Suze Orman, financial planner and author of The Courage to be Rich, tells of her successful career that went through a period when it was unsuccessful. During that time she struggled to save face, to maintain an image of success. She continued to entertain her friends at fine restaurants and to drive her luxury car to keep up the image of a successful professional..."
  • Ordinary 22B (2006)

    by Andrew Greeley
    ("Once upon a time a very, very conservative Catholic came to complain to his pastor. The new Pope has let us down, he protested. He’s a great disappointment. Ah, said the pastor who professed to be a liberal Catholic though in fact he was a closet moderate...")
  • Ordinary 22B (2000)

    by Andrew Greeley
    ("Once upon a time, not so very long ago, the friends and relatives of a young couple gathered in a bride-to -be’s parish church. After the wedding party processed up the aisle and before the ceremony began, the celebrant made an announcement...")
  • Moving Beyond Reality TV

    by Peter Haynes
    ("It's a shame they didn't have television back in the days when Jesus walked with his disciples on earth. Imagine the possibilities! Think about how reality programming might have covered that eventful extended weekend when our Lord and his followers were really put to the test...")
  • Changing Hearts

    by Charles Hoffacker
    ("Perhaps you have heard this statement with the blank filled in by one thing or another: Anybody who __________ is not a Christian. This blank can be filled in by any of a number of phrases..." and another short illustration)
  • The Overflowing Tea Cup

    by Charles Hoffacker
    On considering today's Gospel, I have gained a deeper sense of its message through a Zen Buddhist story told about Nan-in, a teacher who was active a hundred years ago in Japan. It seems that one day, Nan-in received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he could no longer restrain himself. "It is overflowing! No more will go in!" "Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"...
  • Tradition and Traditionalism

    by Charles Hoffacker
    ("St. Isaac the Syrian speaks in a passage that has become popular in our time, thirteen centuries after he wrote it: 'When someone with such a heart as this thinks of the creatures and looks at them, his eyes are filled with tears because of the overwhelming compassion that presses on his heart...")
  • Proper 17B (2006)

    by Timothy Hoyer
    ("In the United States there are what is called 'trivia murders', murders in which a person is killed over some really little, what we would think unimportant matter. A person is killed because 'he used my hand soap'. Another is killed because 'he looked at me funny'...")
  • Have a Heart (for God)

    by John Jewell
    ("Just before sitting down to Sunday dinner after church, mom asked her two children to wash their hands before eating. Her son startled her with his response: 'Jesus said it's okay to eat without washing your hands!' 'Where did you hear such a thing?' the lad's mother asked...")
  • Actions Speak Louder Than Words

    by Beth Johnston
    "There was a very talented minister who was very proud of his accomplishments. It was his church that had built a new building that was the envy of many others in town. His Church was growing a great Sunday School program..."
  • The Commandments

    by Tommy Lane
    ("On February 3rd 1959, at 35,000ft. above the Atlantic, Captain Lynch took a last look at the flight panel of the Boeing 707. The co-pilot was studying a map. Captain Lynch decided to stretch his legs, thinking that the worst was over. Shortly after leaving Paris they had run into a very strong headwind. But by now they had climbed above the storm...")
  • The Mirror of Love

    by Anne Le Bas
    "There’s a story told of the people of the remote island of St Kilda, in the Outer Hebrides. The last permanent residents were evacuated at their own request in 1930. But for many centuries a small community lived there, isolated from the mainland, living mostly on a diet of seabirds and their eggs..."
  • Give True Service, Not Lip Service

    by Ben Manning
    ("Do you remember the Milli Vanilli band? They were a popular singing duo which won a Grammy award in 1989. Their songs included hits like Blame It on the Rain and All or Nothing. In 1990 the band had its Grammy award taken away...")
  • Tradition: Fiddler on the Roof

    by Edward Markquart
    ("One of the most enjoyable movies that I have ever seen was the movie Fiddler on the Roof. Many of you perhaps have seen Fiddler and if you did, you haven’t forgotten it. It was two hours of sheer theatrical pleasure...")
  • Pure Spirituality

    by David Martyn
    ("Mary Pipher, in her book The Shelter of Each Other, tells of a family that spent a year in a rain forest in Brazil. They lived in a Stone Age village of eighty people on the banks of a muddy river. The children quickly adapted to the culture. At home they were just like other kids¬easily bored, acquisitive and reluctant to work...")
  • *True Worship and Service of God

    by Luke O'Donnell
    ("An old Rabbi was put in a Roman Prison and received a regular ration of food and water. As time passed, he was observed to be losing his strength. Baffled, if not concerned, the prison officials called a doctor. The doctor diagnosed the patient as suffering from dehydration. The prison officials could not understand how this came about..." and another short illustration)
  • Proper 17B (2006)

    by Mary Ogus
    ("The story is told of a family and friends gathered for a special dinner that called for the best china and everyone's favorite recipes. All were seated at the table, waiting hungrily for the turkey to be served so dinner could begin. The proud cook strode through the doorway, the weight of the platter straining her grip, and she tripped on the carpet's edge...")
  • Tradition Is a Two-Edged Sword

    by William Oldland
    ("Many years ago there lived a man in Charleston by the name of Elijah. He loved to fish and he loved to hunt. He also loved spicy hot food. His barbecued chicken would set off the alarms at the fire department if you drove by the doors. He was also very talented mechanically. He could take anything apart and put it back together...")
  • Pharisees Are Us

    by John Ortberg
    ("James Dunn notes that in the first century a disproportionate amount of rabbinic attention was devoted to three areas of the law: dietary rules, Sabbath-keeping and circumcision. This was in spite of the fact that rabbis would not have claimed these as the central aspects of God's will for humanity..." and other quotes)
  • The Potter and the Clay

    by Ray Osborne
    ("This past week I began reading A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Café. In chapter one, he makes reference to the potter and the clay metaphorically. In that chapter there is a quote from Al Qoyawayma, one of the world's finest potters. Let me share that quote with you...")
  • Keeping the Life in the Law

    by John Pavelko
    ("While strolling through the grocery store during my weekly trip to stock up on lunches and snacks, I noticed a warning label on one of the products that I was about to purchase. The thought struck me that warning labels have become the 'ceremonial' laws of our consumer conscious society...")
  • Diversionary Tactics

    by Gerry Pierse, CSsR
    ("here is a great story of male childishness and female rootlessness in the first book of Kings. Ahab the king covets the vineyard of Naboth and offers to buy it or give another in exchange for it. But Naboth answered Ahab, 'The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.'...")
  • Being and Doing

    by Beth Quick
    ("A young man once came to a great rabbi and asked to be made a rabbi. The rabbi stood at the window looking out upon the yard while the rabbinical candidate was droning into his ears a glowing account of his piety and learning. The young man said, 'You see, Rabbi, I always go dressed in spotless white like the sages of old. I never drink any alcoholic beverages...")
  • Within, Without

    by Beth Quick
    ("In the opening scene of the famous musical Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye, the lead character, asks a question that is something like: 'How do we retain this fragile balance in life?' His answer of course, he says he can tell you in just one word: Tradition!...")
  • Just Do It!

    by Jim Standiford
    ("A middle-aged woman was telling her girlfriends of her experience looking for a new dentist. She said as she waited for him to come in she noticed his credentials on the wall. Looking at them carefully she said his full name was the same as a very handsome, athletic, young man she had known in high school...")
  • Table Manners

    by Barbara Brown Taylor
    So if I were putting together a sinners table at the Huddle House, it might include an abortion doctor, a child molester, an arms dealer, a garbage collector, a young man with AIDS, a Laotian chicken plucker, a teenage crack addict, and an unmarried woman on welfare with five children by three different fathers. Did I miss anyone?
  • An Inside Job

    by Alex Thomas
    ("The book I referred to at the beginning of this sermon has an interesting title Heartwood. It refers to a type of tree that add layers of new wood under the bark each year thus becoming stronger and stronger from the inside until they almost become like iron. Old Timers used to say that they would bust their axes on it....")
  • The Inside Story

    by Alex Thomas
    ("In recent years there has been a great many books and articles on the inside story of certain sports. For example there are books on the inner game of golf, and the inner game of tennis. I've even seen something written on inner skiing...")
  • *Ordinary 22B (2006)

    by Ronald Tocci
    ("There's a story of six soldiers who had received all-night passes to leave their base camp and go into the town. When morning came, none of the six were present at roll call. An hour later, the first soldier straggled back into camp and was immediately taken to his Sargeant and he apologized: "I'm sorry I’m late, sir, but I had a date, lost track of time and missed the last bus.'...")
  • But It's Tradition!

    by Keith Wagner
    ("My very first church was a small, country parish. Things hadn’t changed much there in a hundred years. They also weren’t growing and there were very few young families. One Sunday I had an opportunity to baptize a child who was born to a friend of mine. It had been years since a baby was baptized...")
  • Illustrations (Proper 17B)(2003)

    Compiled by Tim Zingale
  • Am I a Religious or a Christian Person?

    by Tim Zingale
    ("A downtown business man liked to have his shoes shined every day. He always had the same little boy do it. The shoe shine boy always did a good job. One day the man asked him, 'How come you are son conscientious about your work?'...")

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