Green Pants Worship
Peggy Hester, June 2009 (Reflections on her visit on a Sunday morning)
It is a splendid habit to laugh inwardly at yourself. It is the best way to put oneself in a good temper and to find God again, without more ado. Abbe De Tourville
The church sanctuary was festooned with huge orange and red and yellow kites, tails stretched across windows and fluttering loose in the breezes. Leftovers from Pentecost Sunday, they serve as reminders of the Spirit’s movement in this congregation. On the front of the pulpit hung a pair of bright green pants. The summer sermon series is based on Dr. Seuss books, children’s stories that are also written for grown-ups. This church knows how to play and laugh. Bumps in the road happen in this congregation as it does in all churches but somehow they seem to maintain a sense of foolishness that rounds the sharp edges and smooths out the rough places.
People come to church for many reasons...children’s religious education, loneliness, mission action, search for meaning... but one of the reasons they choose to stay is the fun of it all. Doesn’t that sound trite and cheap? Abbe De Tourville was right, thou gh. To be able to laugh at yourself and with others is a splendid way to find God. The grace filled sound of laughter, the sight of faces wrinkled up in belly shaking can’t help myself bubbling over laughter, must be a pleasing sound and sight for our Creator, especially in church. Too often we who are church people have an exaggerated sense of our own importance in the grand scheme of things. We are called to change the world, be salt and light to a dark, tasteless world of the unsaved ignorant ones, and we go about our calling with a vengeance. Graceless and humorless, we browbeat those who believe differently, those who live in "sin", those masses of humanity who aren’t as good as we are.
I believe Jesus laughed a lot, told awful jokes, maybe even puns. He knew how starved we all are for the juicy soul feeding power of laughter. "Real life" can be so painful, so difficult, so draining. Reminders of the Source of our Joy that come wrapped in laughter are life affirming and life giving. The Jesus followers I remember with the most gratitude are the ones that can still bring a smile to my face just by remembering them... and their sense of humor, good humor with God and others.
So as I sat at Sunday dinner with children and grandchildren, I laughed at myself. A church lady wearing a big brimmed white hat, covered up with grandsons all talking at the same time, laughter and good humor abounding, birthday celebrating and family connecting, such good gifts as these are cause for hip hip hoorays and soul kite flying. I knew Monday morning I would be shoveling horse and donkey poop once again without the big white hat but just now, here I sat surrounded by love and laughter. That is what I need when I go to church... family, love and laughter... that will keep my nose above water as I go to live out my calling in a world full of scary green pants strangers, strangers who become friends as I live for Jesus in a world starved for laughter and meaning.
Saint Paul nailed it on the head when he wrote, "So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit..." Not just righteousness in the land where God dwells but also peace and joy. I need a heaping helping of that every day for the rest of my life. Thanks, Michael Usey, for your ability to help me laugh in church again. Keep up the good work. I can’t wait to see what you will come up with next. And thank you, God, for all the ways laughter sneaks up on me... friends who laugh at and with me... rubber turkeys that show up roosting in Christmas trees and sitting on toilets... children who laugh often and with abandon... giggles and snorts with my women friends... roosters who crow every morning at 6:07 exactly waking me up with a grin... I feel your presence in the laughing joy of life and I am so happy to be your child.