Smile

April 26, 2017

I take important things seriously. And I can cry at sappy commercials and movies with the best of them.

 

But I really prefer to see the lighter side of things and laugh.

 

It's important to take our faith seriously, otherwise why would anyone believe us when we dare to share our faith story?

 

But shouldn't we be able to smile and laugh and enjoy things about our faith, and maybe even poke a little fun at the human traditions we've built into our faith practices?

 

There is a scene in the movie Amistad, where a group of 1830s Connecticut religious people approach a prison which is housing Africans who mutinied a slave ship. Two of the Africans talk as they watch the group approach.

 

"Who are they, do you think?"

(the group kneels in front of the prison gate)

"Looks like they're going to be sick."

(the group starts to sing Amazing Grace)

"They're entertainers ... but why do they look so miserable?"

 

Sometimes I think people look too miserable about being in church. I know my kids looked miserable because they didn't want to be there. But presumably on Sunday morning, most of us are at church because we want to be there. So why do we sometimes look so miserable?

 

I always enjoyed Garrison Keillor's stories about Lake Wobegon. Those were MY church traditions he was talking about. He never denigrated faith in his stories, but it was OK to laugh about some of the human traditions that we have. (Think lutefisk, or having all the girls be Santa Lucia so no one gets left out.)

 

There was an editorial cartoon in the local newspaper on the Saturday before Easter. It was a version of the well-known DaVinci painting of the Last Supper. Jesus is holding a menu, talking to a waiter and saying "Separate checks." I chuckled at it. Others did not. There was a week of irate letters to the editor. The cartoon was called anti-Christian, mocking, distasteful, offensive, trivializing, disrespectful, irreverent, tacky, insulting, and stupid. One writer, however, said "Thank you for the timely and theologically correct and helpful cartoon. Jesus shows the way. We are individually responsible for following Him." (Thank you Leonard Beck for seeing the humor.)

 

I can't help but think that people too often take things too seriously. If you are strong in your Christian faith, does that cartoon really challenge your faith? If you have no Christian faith, does this really make you think less of those who do? No, it plays on the purely human and modern problems we encounter when a large number of people gather at a restaurant and it uses a well-known painting to illustrate it.

 

I am thankful we are able to laugh at St. Stephen's: spilled wine, communion bread pieces that are too big (or too small), errant notes popping up from the organ, the missed speaking cue, even the occasional cell phone ringing. Those are all human things. They don't challenge our faith. Hopefully, the laughter enriches our worship experience, and helps enrich and enliven us as we leave church on Sunday mornings, prepared once again to be in the world, sharing and living our faith.

 

- Ann Warner

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