You’re not allowed to guffaw the way you would under other circumstances—say, if you were watching a movie with your wife or having coffee with an old friend—and the unseemliness or impropriety of disturbing a church’s solemnity or quiet reverence acts as a kind of thick-walled container.
The laughter and levity are the gases inside that container, and like other gases under enough pressure, they have a tendency to explode.
My youth minister in high school had an uncanny knack for Freudian slips and other verbal blunders. Once a quarter, he stand behind a podium in front of the entire congregation of around seven hundred people and pray something along the lines of, “Thank you, God. We are so breast to be here this morning.”
I’d begin to feel that itch of a laugh trying to escape. It feels similar to holding one’s breath underwater. “Breast” itself isn’t that funny, but the context! Laughter begs for camaraderie, so I’d crack an eyelid and take furtive glances around to see if anyone had heard the mistake. I would have had about as much luck on a deer hunt in the Smithsonian, and had no choice but to sit in the pew with itchy laughs crawling around inside my chest and causing a delicious pain.
God must have known that fill-in-the-blank sermons with four cozy take-home points all starting with the letter “C” would hold my attention only so long, so he gave me a love of reading and Bibles on the back of every pew. Song of Solomon, Judges, Leviticus, and Ezekiel 23:19-20 were weekly favorites.
In retrospect, I think this was all in keeping with the spirit behind the letter. After all, Jesus was a carpenter, a construction worker; I bet Jesus knew how to tell a joke. We put more emphasis on his status as rabbi, prophet, and savior, but even during his public ministry, he spent most of his waking hours with a ragtag band of fisherman, social outcasts, and rabble-rousers. Judging by what followed, they had more rough edges than polish and more audacity than etiquette. Men can’t spend that amount of time around campfires without the conversation taking a turn for the worse now and again. Besides, I’ve never met a man as smart, powerful, and perplexing as Jesus who didn’t have a little wit up his sleeve. He sure gave the Pharisees a run for their money.
I think he smiled at what happened one Sunday morning in December at church. Tim made an announcement about going over to Guy B. Love apartments. After confirming the time, he moved on to the subject of passing out hot cocoa and cider.
“Does anyone have big jugs?” he asked, making fists and raising his elbows.
Sweet Kim who recently gave birth to a healthy baby boy raised her hand, and without so much as blinking, replied, “I do.”
God bless our tiny gathering. I looked around and couldn’t find anybody who seemed to have noticed—not a single smirk, snort, or sidelong glance.
I was alone in my appreciation. Well, Jesus was there somewhere. The rest were busy nailing down the logistics for Ciderpalooza 2010.
If a tree falls in the forest, I bet there’s one nutty squirrel who thinks it’s hilarious.
Get it? Nutty?
What’s the best verbal blunder you’ve ever heard?