Jester minute

I sometimes wonder if I am too frivolous. Not just with the bloggerel that I churn out, although I do feel somewhat lightweight compared to other more worthy and theologically profound blogs, but generally.

I can often see something from a slightly different perspective that is at least humorous, if not funny. I like that. It helps me keep perspective on things and also helps me not to take myself too seriously. Heaven forbid that I do that (literally, please!).

My wife does not wake up grumpy in the mornings. She lets me sleep. (badum tsch!) One of the warning signs that I need to heed is that I am probably overtired / stressed if I am permanently grumpy and can’t see the funny side of things any longer. I am not good first thing in the morning (which is why early morning prayer meetings are difficult for me), but I am not talking about body-clock regulated grumpiness, but a general ‘grrrr’ feeling. I think that is one reason why I find writing bloggages helpful. It forces me to stop, to slow down, to reflect, and gives me an opportunity to flex my funny muscles and God an opportunity to turn my grumps into grins.

When I worked for the Baptist Union of Great Britain (other Baptist Unions are available) I used to take part in monthly ‘Management Team’ meetings, where we considered significant and difficult issues around the life of the BUGB family. I often found myself in those meetings sensing humorous moments and sometimes articulated them. I had annual appraisals and on one occasion I asked my appraiser whether I was too flippant in the meetings. After all, we were discussing significant and difficult issues. His comment to me was refreshingly honest – that these humorous interludes helped the meeting from getting too heavy or overly serious.

jesterI did not see that as a licence to be flippant, but it did remind me of the role of the court jester in ye dayes of olde. Their role was not simply to be a stand-up comic, but to point out absurdities and introduce moments of levity in the royal day. Don’t expect me to wear brightly coloured quadrant tunics and breeches, nor indeed a silly hat with bells on it, but I think there is some wisdom in that approach.

God has created us with the capacity to see humour. That enables us to see things differently, to approach things from a different perspective, to relax and laugh. And in the laughter we sometimes find profound moments. Jesus’ friends laughing at camels being forced through the eye of a needle suddenly had to readdress their preconceived ideas about who was most acceptable to God. The audience laughing at a slapstick image of exploding wineskins realised that Jesus was not patching up the old religious way of life but was offering them something new – a living relationship with God. It’s one reason why I tell jokes in my sermons – it helps people relax so that God can speak.

I suspect that Jesus finds it easier to work with us when we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Perhaps in the apparently frivolous lie nuggets of truth to be discovered. Perhaps in the light-hearted moments his Spirit has opportunities to refresh us. Maybe in the moments when we are most intense and serious God is laughing at us… after all, how many meetings does it take to decide whether we should have curtains or blinds and what colour they should be?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

It’s interesting that quite a few humour-related words start with ‘F’: fun, funny, frivolous, frivolity, flippant… I heard a story (and because of my source I am fairly sure it is true) of a youth worker who was saying a prayer at a youth camp. It went something like this:

“Lord, thank you for fun, friendship, family, fellowship, food and anything else beginning with ‘F’. Amen.”

Cue much juvenile sniggering.

funny feeling or feeling funny?

How do you do?

Thanks for dropping by.

The Naked Jape - Jimmy Carr ; Lucy GreevesI have been re-reading a wonderful book: The Naked Jape by Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greeves. (link to buy the book) It’s all about the origins of jokes and humour and different aspects of jokes and joking. I love it, not just because of the analysis but also because of the collection of jokes that adorn each page. There are some that may offend, you have been warned, but I find that the book gives me an appreciation of the craft of the jokewriter and teller as well as enhancing my awareness of humorour situations and circumstances.

One of the things that distinguishes humans from all other created sentient beings is our ability to sense and create humour. I believe that this is part of what it means to be created in the image of God. I firmly believe that God has a sense of humour and that he has shared that ability with us. And I am very glad he has.

In my degree dissertation A Theology of Humour – a serious look at the lighter side of God I explored whether God has a sense of humour and if so what it is like. In my research I came to the conclusion that our experience of God’s sense of humour is often educative. He is trying to show us what we look like in a comic mirror so we can appreciate more of who he is and what our relationship with him should be like.

Since then I have modified my theory. I reckon that God also simply enjoys and finds things amusing for the craic. Just because it is amusing. That’s often why we tell jokes. Laughing is good.

So sit back and enjoy a couple of the jokes from the book that made me LOL. (I confess here that the first few times I encountered that on texts and Facebook I thought it meant ‘lots of love’ and was really touched by how friendly people were being to me!)

“When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised the Lord doesn’t work that way, so I stole one and asked him to forgive me.” Emo Philips

“Oh, that reminds me, I must buy a stamp.” Jimmy Tarbuck at the Royal Variety Performance

A man goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, my brother’s crazy, he thinks he’s a chicken.’
The doctor says, ‘Why don’t you turn him in?’
The guy says, ‘We would, but we need the eggs.’

Thank you, you’ve been a wonderful audience. Good night! (leaves stage to standing ovation)