Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Laughter, the Heart's Best Medicine

This week I've been teaching music at my parish VBS program. It always feels good to break out the old, tried-and-true Scripture songs I learned as a girl. (Some of them I have to tweak just a bit, theologically speaking.) "How Did Moses Cross the Red Sea?" and "Climb, Climb Up Sunshine Mountain" really get those soulish juices flowing, you know?

In His great Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 18:1-5), Jesus responded to His disciple's bickering over who was greatest by calling a child to Him and saying,

"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me ..."
Truth be told, most of us are far more at home in the grown-up world; we have a tendency to lose our joy and our sense of wonder in the heat of the battle. We forget how to laugh at ourselves, and have an unfortunate tendency to lash out at anyone who cracks a joke at our expense. Even (and perhaps especially) when there is some perceived incongruity to laugh about.

Judging from His tendency to hang out with publicans and sinners, I'm guessing Jesus used a different approach. He knew how to laugh at Himself, and must have had a good joke or two up His sleeve. After all, this is the same God who created pufferfish and gangly newborn colts. His first earthly miracle was creating wine at a wedding feast (and, unlike my Baptist friends' contention, it was certainly not an alcohol-free variety!).

If Jesus had a mournful countenance and combative presence, and doled out joy by the thimbleful, He certainly wouldn't have been such a welcome addition to those A-list dinner parties.

How do you think Jesus would have responded, for example, if one of His relatives teased Him about settling down and finding a nice Jewish girl? Would He have smiled along ... or smote them all with lightening or incontinence? No doubt He had a serious side -- and yet, just as often He captivated the crowds with His stories and His miracles. He was a Groom in search of His Bride, and knew instinctively what it would take to woo her.

What good is it if in our efforts to "defend" the Church and the faith we hold dear, we alienate the very people Jesus came to save? If we cannot respond to the negative reactions of a secular society in a way that invites them to take a second, closer look ... are we fulfilling the Gospel mandate? If the Church is something we feel we must angrily defend against sinners' advances ... at some point do we lay down our weapons in order to make it the "hospital" Christ intended it to be? Or in our zeal, are we unwittingly adding to the list of spiritual casualties?

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1). The next time you are drawn into an angry debate, think: What Would Jesus Say?


Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle said...


I really like your post about laughter and taking ourselves too seriously. I wholeheartedly agree with you that we need to lighten up and let the LOVE come through. I avoid debates about the faith that may turn into arguments. What are we going to prove anyway? Love is always the answer.

God bless,

Allegra Venetia said...

I like your blog very much. I add it to my own. Thankyou.


Veritas said...

I leave the debates to the theologians - the best of whom will readily admit that what they know is but a drop in the ocean. The outermost garment must be love.

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur said...

Hi Heidi,

Very interesting post. I tend to try to avoid theological arguments at all costs (except with my husband, of course!) Something about simply being in Jesus' presence, however, made sinners want to repent and change their ways. Most of us do not have that charisma.

Best wishes,