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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Could You Use a Little Laughter?

Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)
22 A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

I took every course on preaching that my seminary offered. I'm not sure it helped.

I don't blame the professors. They tried. I just didn't get what a lot of people get. The professors tried to encourage me with good grades in preaching. I knew better. I know what a good sermon is. I rarely give one.

I made a joke while preaching in one of these seminary preaching classes. I said, "I am tired of telling how good seminary is. I lost the house I owned when I came to seminary. I lost the income I had. I have to spend time reading lots of books I couldn't care less about. And then, I have to listen to all of these seminary students come in here and tell me what a blessing seminary has been. I'm so tired of it. I saw a student with a big goofy smile coming down the hall the other day, so I slapped him! I thought I would just bring him back to reality!"

Everyone laughed. Or at least I thought everyone laughed. I meant it as hyperbole. I meant it as a joke. But one student remarked after the sermon: "You should never make people laugh. The pulpit is God's desk and you have been placed with a great responsibility."

I listened but the professor said that he enjoyed it and was glad that I engaged the class with a joke. My whole sermon wasn't intended to be a joke. I hope I made some important points.

I don't believe that laughter is all that a preacher should produce but it certainly is appropriate at times. I don't want to take myself too seriously. I don't even want to take all the things that happen to me too seriously.

Yesterday, I drove my youngest daughter to Washington Dulles airport. At Sterling, VA a state trooper pulled me over. I was driving my wife's vehicle and had not noticed that the registration was two months past due and the inspection was one month overdue. I got two tickets plus court fees. I'll admit that I was pretty miffed.

But at who? Am I supposed to be upset with the trooper who gave me the tickets? Isn't he just doing his job? Am I supposed to be upset with my wife? She had surgery for breast cancer two months ago and probably didn't notice they had expired. Should I be upset with my daughter for needing to be taken to the airport? No, I was upset with myself for not pulling over and letting the patrolman pass me so that he wouldn't have time to notice they had expired!

I told my daughter that she needed to leave the tickets where I could easily find them so that when I was stopped on the way back I could say, "I already have two of those. Do you want them back?" She laughed. I laughed too.

You know what? Laughing made the whole thing a lot easier to swallow.

Sometimes life throws a curve. You can either sit in your spilled milk and cry about it or you can just laugh. Too often, I take little things so seriously. Taking little things seriously dries up my bones. I just need to laugh at them and go on. I just need to laugh out loud.

Even fake laughter prods me toward real laughter. And like a medicine, it makes me feel so much better.

So, go ahead. Laugh!

(If you know a state trooper in Sterling, VA please send him my blog. I think he could use a laugh too!)


Craig Godfrey said...


Have run across the 'serious sermon' scenario lots of times. Comedy doesn't come naturally to me anyway. Normlly if I try to add humour, it backfires on me. But I do enjoy a good joke from the pulpit (not mine, obviously!).

Sometimes we Christians need to stop acting like we have been baptised in lemon juice.


Prentis McGoldrick said...

Baptized in lemon juice? I'm going to use that!

Craig Godfrey said...

Not mine unfortunately! That was a joke from a visiting Irish evangelist a few years ago.
Never laughed so much in church!

It was a good sermon too!