"This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
My wife - Rev Rebekah Maul - can be hilarious in the pulpit. The best of it is, she doesn't do it on purpose.
- She doesn't tell jokes
- She never says, "Hey, Derek, this one's going to crack them up..."
- She hasn't taken classes to cultivate comic timing
- She never scans old editions of Readers Digest for funny stories
- She's not a subscriber to Sermons-to-make-your-people-smile.com (don't try to find it on line - I made that up!)
She simply searches the scriptures, asks God to guide her, puts in hours of research, lets what's on her heart spill out, shares stories that help to illustrate the meaning of her message, and passes on what God has graciously taught her during the process of preparation.
But - almost without fail - you're not going to attend church at First Presbyterian in Brandon without running into some level of hilarity, and that includes the 20 minutes or so when Rebekah preaches.
(It doesn't hurt that Rebekah and Tim - our other pastor - have developed a natural love-and-respect-based Sunday-morning banter that couldn't begin to be rehearsed, but that's another post!)
I honestly believe that most of the laughter has everything to do with joy, and probably honesty too... and I believe humility has a role to play now that I come to think about it.
JOY: We've all heard of "Holy Laughter". Some "charismatic" churches encourage a corporate laughter that's advertised as a "gift of the Spirit", not unlike tongues, and it's often associated with healing. I think there's some truth to that, but I don't believe the experience needs to be rote or affected or manipulative. "Charismatic" means "Grace Gifted". First Brandon is very much a grace-gifted body of believers, we're most certainly Spirit-filled, and laughter at our church has always been associated with healing.
Story: When we first arrived - in 1996 - several people told us that the experience of coming to First Presbyterian in Brandon felt like attending a funeral. There had been several years of grief and heartache. People didn't smile in church, let alone laugh. Well, a couple of weeks after Rebekah's installation there was a vote to install a new slate of elders.
"It's unanimous," Rebekah said, "one hundred percent." Then, she quipped (because she can't help herself), "I understand it definitely wasn't unanimous when you called me...!"
There was a long, uneasy, silence...
... Until Ralph, sitting on the front row and gradually turning red as a beet as he tried - unsuccessfully - to hold it all in, suddenly let out a loud guffaw and started to laugh! Seconds later the sanctuary erupted into an extended cacophony of hilarity. The uproar lasted a staggering three minutes.
What Rebekah said wasn't that funny. But the laughter was due to three years of grief and pain finally beginning to be dealt with. It was people split open, ready for healing, and receiving the salve of the Holy Spirit. Holy laughter.
We've been laughing ever since.
I guess I didn't get around to discussing the honesty and the humility part of this topic. I'll pick up the discussion next time.
Full with JOY - DEREK