Which really made me smile:
'Jesus made the lame walk'
'Stopping to think of that statement for a moment I realise that's not really news, after all London Transport do that on a daily basis!'
'Jesus only had male disciples'
'Reason: Jesus found it really tough to get women to go along with Him, after all, most men they meet think they're God's gift to the world!'
And then they made me think:
About the lack of ability to smile, laugh or otherwise enjoy themselves that some Christians have.
I once remarked, in a service, that I thought the swallowing camels and straining at gnats was one of the funniest things Jesus could say to the stiff, hard-line, Pharisaical types and after the service, the same people Jesus was talking about came up and gave me some stick:
'Jesus wasn't a comedian, he didn't tell jokes and make funny comments! . . . . There's nothing funny about being a Christian (well, not in your church, that's true!) . . . . There's no place for being 'funny' in church . . . . ' and on they went, confirming the very first impression I got when I entered.
They had joy, but it was buried so deep down under ritual and appearance and structure and . . well I'm sure you know what I mean (because you've either experienced it or are it!); and this is the problem for so many people outside the Church too. They come into contact with a bunch of joyless, lifeless and hopeless (aside from the that one eternal hope of course) people and don't come back.
Mind you, a few years back I mentioned that I liked to keep the baptism services light and free-moving. The response to this (from someone who surprised me with it) was, 'Oh, you're one of those 'Gameshow Host' clergy who are there to entertain rather than act as a Priest then are you?'
The words wounded, for I was not, and am not, one of them at all (but I now know some who are and so can understand his views!!). To write off everything that I was doing in the baptism so easily and so lightly started a journey that took just about every bit of respect I had for the man as I saw him sweep away the legs of some he was supposed to be mentoring time and time again. So I watched him and realised that when the internal pain was high, so too was the pain for others. His verbal scything of others was merely a reaction to his own pain and lack of progression and soon led me to a place of prayer and sadness for him.
The reality was that in being welcoming and making the 'domestics' light, telling families not to fight with their children during the service; that some noise was inevitable and all the other stuff was the right way - a draconian set of instructions and and an unwelcoming first impression would have set the scene for the rest of the service.
The fact that I explain that baptism is more than a wet witness and explain the place and purpose of oil, water, flame and the Jewish and Jesus links to it: This is right and fitting, for we probably engage with more unchurched and dechurched people in the baptism service that any other occasional office we have.
If we can't make church fun without losing the story, Jesus the man and people *the Church) in context then we have become extremely sad indeed. If there's no joy in our services and no laughter in our sermons, then the game is up and all we are doing is looking after buildings until such time they can be made into carpet warehouses and heritage centres.
If we don't have love and life in all it's fullness;
If we are not partying regularly and living as family;
Then we are doomed - because it's not just what we say but the way that we say it!
A final comment that made me smile (and can be adapted for any place or people group - also works well with Australia and France ;-) (Sorry Marty)
'Yorkshire - A county so beautiful that God filled it with Yorkshiremen to make people feel so much better about living somewhere else'
Happy Sunday - He is Risen!