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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Flat (01/03/13)

TITLE: The Quip - and the Dead!
By Noel Mitaxa


Jesus had a great sense of humour, despite often being called the Man of Sorrows.

His frequent use of irony and hyperbole – a big word that theologians like to use when ordinary folks would just say exaggeration - is usually lost on those who equate long frowns with deep spirituality.

James and John were two of Jesus’ closest friends, but he still gently dubbed them Sons of Thunder for asking (in Luke 9:54) about calling down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village that refused to welcome them.

At least they asked for his permission, but I also recall an “expert’s” serious claim that their sobriquet arose because their father Zebedee had a bad temper! (Chapter and verse, please, mister expert?)

More irony shows in Matthew 23, when he called the scribes and Pharisees “blind guides” and “whitewashed sepulchres:” clear oxymorons; since guides must be able to see, and Pharisees only wore black, with dark blue fringes.

And his exaggeration (sorry) hyperbole?

It’s hard not to chuckle at the absurdity of trying to remove a small splinter from your brother’s eye while there’s a plank poking out from your own, as he warns in Matthew 7:3.

Imagine his Matthew 19:24 word-picture of a camel – fully-laden or otherwise – invading an embroidery session, looking to insert itself inside the eye of any needle present! Needle-ss to say, some “scholars” have since invented a small door within the city gate that an unladen camel just might squeeze through to get inside!

I envisage that camel having less trouble with his task than any teachers who have to keep a straight face while proposing such an explanation. Why not just accept that God can achieve what is humanly impossible, and then to take a second option of getting a life? I wonder if in Matthew 23:24 that Jesus wasn’t rubbing it in just a little more when talking about those legalists who strained out tiny gnats from a cup, only to gulp down a camel they hadn’t noticed…

But without trying to reduce Jesus’
teachings to material for stand-up comedians, his use of humour allows some room for us to include it in our sermons. Yet I make no claim to infallibility - as the following episode may indicate.

On Sunday morning, February 5th 1984,
while preaching from Matthew 5’s Beatitudes, I mentioned that modern translators use “happy” in place of the older “blessed.” From there I urged my little flock to join in others’ happiness instead of piously waiting for obvious spiritual – and doctrinally-pure reasons to smile.

“As a matter of fact,” I continued, “our family is happy because yesterday - February 4th - we got together to celebrate our parents’ golden wedding. How about that? Fifty years married!”

Their happy response was a collective “Aaaaaaaaaahhhh!” that swept the chapel. While waiting for their approval to subside, I suddenly recalled that my grandfather had been born in 1884! And heard myself saying: “And this year, we celebrate my grandfather’s one-hundredth birthday!”

An extended “Oooooooooohhhhhh!” and a burst of applause greeted this news. But all the while my heart was racing, as I feverishly asked myself: “How do I get out of this?”

By the time order was restored, I’d found an escape from my deep verbal crevasse…

“Unfortunately, he won’t be with us to celebrate. He died in 1960!”

Laughter erupted, far outstripping the “Aah” and the “Ooh,” both in length and in volume. One lady actually left the chapel, hurrying to reach the toilets before (as she later explained) she had a bladder

The rest of the sermon was devoid of any further self-imposed tangents and heart pulpit-ations.

That same Sunday I had a second service about twenty minutes’ drive away. During the drive, aglow with my unplanned success, I decided to rerun this new preaching feature, with exactly the same timing and delivery.

This time however, an older congregation’s stony faces greeted my oratory incursion.

Years later, I still wonder whatever happened, that my quip died so quickly – or at least fell so flat...

Did it this time flatten itself against the back wall, at the same speed as it left the pulpit, unhindered by any connection with auditory nerves along the way?

Or did it collapse at my feet, spreading itself into the carpet’s flatness and whimpering softly in the terminal agony of being totally ignored?

All I know is that there are pockets of humour lurking in many sermons.

Sometimes I find them.

Sometimes they find me.

Author's note: True story.

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This article has been read 546 times
Member Comments
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Danielle King 01/10/13
HaHaHaHa! Here's another lady who quite often has a bladder malfunction when reading your words. This one began with the camel invading the embroidery session and from there all hope of containment was gone.

This is so packed full of funnies and I love the way you portray Jesus' sense of humour. I've long suspected he has one.

There's nothing more off putting than a po-faced preacher. I don't imagine you'll ever become one of those!
Fiona Stevenson01/10/13
Times and seasons, Brother, times and seasons! Why do they call it a 'learning curve' when you fall flat? And why is it so difficult to bounce back from a prostrate position? At least you didn't follow your ouch with a grouch. God bless you.
Beth LaBuff 01/10/13
I, too, am happy to think of the Lord having a sense of humor, and I especially enjoyed the verses you mention. What a contrast between congregations and their reactions to the same story. Your title (and pun) are perfect! :) ...and I must remember this phrase, "those who equate long frowns with deep spirituality. " You are truly a writer, blessed (happy) after God's own heart.
Lillian Rhoades 01/10/13
Funny, funny, funny..clever, clever, clever...You have such a way with "non-words." Pulpit-ations, indeed! :-)
Lynda Lee Schab 01/11/13
Love this! And what makes it better is that it's true. Thanks for sharing...and for the laugh. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to run to the restroom. :-)
Ellen Carr 01/12/13
A great tale and true too! Humor is an absolutely essential ingredient in a preacher's toolkit. And God created us to enjoy humor, as Jesus obviously did. And some enjoy it more than others, as in your story. Definitely better to be the quip appreciaters than the 'dead'!
Leola Ogle 01/12/13
I've got to share this with my son-in-law who is a pastor. He'll love it like I did. Good job! God bless!
Sarah Elisabeth 01/12/13
Gotta love it when an accidently joke works great on one audience and falls totally flat on another, lol
lynn gipson 01/12/13
Is humor in the heart of the beholder? haha...maybe some of the older generation loses their ability to see humor as time goes on. Not me, mind you, but some. Anyway, this a a humorous, light story, and brightened my spirit. Excellent writing, and I thought the joke was funny. I loved the way you explained Jesus' sense of humor.
Bea Edwards 01/14/13
I know that I know that I know our Creator has a sense of humor simply by experiencing all the oxymorons of daily life. I liked your clever demonstration of Jesus' numerous examples of His humor in scripture. Great job.
C D Swanson 01/14/13
This was ingenious! I loved it so much...great job. I have always said Jesus has a sense of humor...he has to, look around!

WOnderful piece of writing. Simply brilliant.

God bless~
Linda Goergen01/15/13
Oh, that silent sound of a joke falling flat is misery to the teller anyway, but to have it come after the same joke erupted people (and bladders) with laughter elsewhere, would indeed be perplexing. But don’t feel bad; as you so masterfully told; many people can’t even appreciate Jesus’ humor. Laughter is good for the soul. Proverbs 17:22 says, "A merry heart does good like a medicine." But even the JOY of the Lord, erupting and expressed in laughter or dancing, is nearly enough to give some a heart attack! Whatever silenced that elderly crowd that day may forever go unanswered, but one thing for sure, they gave you a great story, that covered the topic well, gave a powerful message and was a very enjoyable read!