And what was the sacreligious portion that I deleted that I wasn't going to at first but finally decided to take my proofreader's recommendation and do it since it could be offensive to some?
Here it is:
Discipline is a tough sell today. It is decidedly unpopular. The need for it is a constant of life, however. Let us play with the notion as we consider the prophet Malachi. Did he have teenagers? How else can one explain his style of writing? The Book of Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament – a short work of just four chapters. The entire book is read in less time than a quarter of this chapter:
I love you, says the LORD; but you say, “How do you love us?”
And if I am a master, where is the fear due to me? So says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who disdain my name. But you ask, “How have we disdained your name?”
“‘By presenting polluted food on my altar.’ ‘And you say: “How have we polluted you?”’
By offering defiled food on my altar! You ask, “How have we defiled it?”
You have wearied the LORD with your words, yet you say, “How have we wearied him?”
Return to me, that I may return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, “Why should we return?”
Can anyone rob God? But you are robbing me! And you say, “How have we robbed you?”
Your words are too much for me, says the LORD. You ask, “What have we spoken against you?”
Enough already! Everything is challenged! Everything is hurled back in God’s face. Just for kicks, turn the page. Find yourself in the gospels and roll that attitude onto Mary, the mother of Jesus. If we were to do so, what might one read?
“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to… Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:26-28)
“In what way is he with me?” she shoots back.
Had she answered that way, it would not be Mary remembered as the mother of our Lord. It might be Olga or Tatiana.
.......That's it. I think it's funny. Others have agreed. But remember that Mary is the MOTHER OF GOD to some and just the HINT of something bad or disrespectful on her part is to wave a red flag before a bull. I won't go there.
The Haggai part is fine. But the Mary part..... You know, I am not going to ax it entirely. I will modify it so that the joke is suggested to those who don't mind going there but isn't actually made. It won't be quite the zinger I wanted but it will be servicable.