David Burchett Christian Blog and Commentary

If you're happy and you know it, tell your face

I can understand Sally's frustration in today's Peanuts strip. Life is hard. This was not in the brochure. Or at least that is what I once believed. In fact that very information is in the brochure. The Bible is very clear that life will be a journey of struggling to spread frozen butter and worse (that is a paraphrase). Much worse. I am going through one of those frozen butter times right now but I have come to understand that those times are part of the journey. God has given us a wonderful gift that we too often leave unwrapped. The gift of laughter. The following excerpt is from my sporadically selling book "Bring'em Back Alive - A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church." 

I believe a sense of humor is one of God's gifts to help get us to the finish line. One of the things I learned from writing When Bad Christians Happen to Good People is well stated by humorist Dave Barry. "No matter what happens," Barry writes, "somebody will find a way to take it too seriously." AMEN, Brother Barry! Some people take and took some of my observations way too seriously. One of my core principles is summarized by Mary Hirsch's observation that, "Humor is a rubber sword - it allows you to make a point without drawing blood."

An examination of the life of Jesus would indicate that He possessed a sense of humor. The writers of Scripture did not set out to author a joke book so you won't find the phrase "a Sadducee, a Pharisee and a Roman walk into a bar." Still, you find glimpses of humor and sarcasm in the words of Jesus. For example, I can see the humor in this exchange when the disciples came running up and asked Jesus the following question.

"Did you know how upset the Pharisees were when they heard what you said?" Matthew 15:12 (MsgB) 

I can see them looking at Jesus and waiting to hear Him say something like, "Really? I had better go get that straightened out. The Pharisees are some important guys." I expect the Lord's answer first stunned and then amused them.

"Forget them. They are blind men leading blind men. When a blind man leads a blind man, they both end up in the ditch." Matthew 15:14 (MsgB) 

You will also note that Jesus was an oft invited guest at weddings and banquets to the point where those appearances drew the ire of the Pharisees. Think about it. If Jesus was a holier than thou, uptight religious, suck the air out of the room sourpuss would you want Him at your wedding party? A deadly serious, stuffy theologian type would likely not be an "A" list party invitee either. Jesus must have been able to laugh and enjoy the common fellowship of others and he was obviously welcome and desired at the festivities. Let's join Luke at Levi's dinner party that included some unsavory people and see what happens.

Levi gave a large dinner at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner. The Pharisees and their religion scholars came to his disciples greatly offended. "What is he doing eating and drinking with crooks and 'sinners'?" Jesus heard about it and spoke up, "Who needs a doctor: the
healthy or the sick? I'm here inviting outsiders, not insiders-an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out." They asked him, "John's disciples are well-known for keeping fasts and saying prayers. Also the Pharisees. But you seem to spend most of your time at parties. Why?" Jesus said,
"When you're celebrating a wedding, you don't skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but this isn't the time. As long as the bride and groom are with you, you have a good time. Luke 5:29-34 (MsgB)  
I am not trying to be flippant (this time) but clearly Jesus knew how to party in the good sense of the word. He knew how to interact warmly with others and connect with those around Him. And He knew where to find those who needed the touch of forgiveness the most.
I also think about the eclectic group of followers that Jesus assembled. They were a fascinating blend of common laborers and professional types. Imagine today if Christ went to the local pier to recruit some fishermen, dropped by the IRS to pick up a follower, then over to the medical clinic and so on. This would be (at least initially) a fairly coarse group. I don't suspect that the earthy sense of humor possessed by such men was immediately dispatched when they dropped their nets to follow Jesus. Part of any healthy and dynamic group relationship is having fun together. I believe that there were times when Jesus and the twelve told jokes, fish stories and made fun of the Pharisees. I think that Jesus understood that the language and topics of those outside the faith may be a bit uncomfortable. John Wesley once walked through the London market with a young man who desired to join the ministry. The coarse language offended the young man and he clearly wanted to leave. But Wesley told him to, "Stay, and learn to preach."

So let's all join in that familiar Sunday School song...

If you're happy and you know it,
Tell your face,
If you're happy and you know it,
Tell your face.
If you're happy and you know it,
Then it seems your face should show it.
If you're happy and you know it,
Tell your face.

A lack of humor in the church apparently this has been a problem for a while now. Teresa of Avila prayed this simple prayer in 1582, "From somber, serious, sullen saints, save us Oh Lord."  Amen…and Amen.


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