Are the people in your Church having fun?
In this month when Lent begins, we think of serious things and the observance of a somber season. If we would understand Lent aright, however, it has to be seen in the context of joy – the preface to Easter, the most joyful of all feasts, an occasion of such deep-down rejoicing that it takes 50 days to begin to comprehend it. Which makes me think of how we do things around here, where joy seems to pervade so much of what we do. A constant characteristic of our life is making things fun.
This crops up all the time, in ways that range from the sublime to the ridiculous. You can hear it in how we talk to each other: ‘let’s try this or that good idea for outreach – and it will be so much fun’….. The first Matthew class we had could not meet in the Chapel, Marian decreed, because convening it in sacred space might force its members to settle down and be less boisterous. As if to confirm her analysis, the class’s first meeting (in the lounge) was interrupted by a message from the kindergarten class next door that the racket it was making was disturbing their ‘focus’. The only answer was to move adult education to some place where it wouldn’t distract more sober groups like the 5-year-olds. And what other parish do you know that would re-design its annual golf tournament as miniature golf, just so that more people could make fools of themselves in less time?
It seems to me that this sort of thing reveals something very wholesome and powerful in our life together. As we live our individual Christian lives and seek our parish’s vocation in the world, much of our attention is necessarily given to the demands on us for effort, even significant sacrifices, in the service of the Gospel. Our readings in Lent follow our Lord, week by week, as he draws closer and closer to the mystery of the Holy Cross for which we are named. There is nothing funny about death by torture, then or now. But as his death comes nearer, we find in Jesus no diminution of his wit, his ability to make people laugh at one preposterous story after another, his good cheer in the face of impending disaster that lasts right up until that disaster is upon him.
Surrounded as we are by disasters great and small, and facing the season of penitence and confrontation with evil within and without, should we not take a leaf from our Master’s book? Jesus’s refusal to let the powers of evil get him down is one of the strongest testimonies to his absolute trust in the God who refuses to let evil have the last word. It may hurt and destroy creation in many ways, but God is not mocked. The love that made the world will not forsake it in the end; and Easter is the ultimate joke on all the powers that would diminish humanity and disrupt our relationship to our Creator. The devil hates honest laughter; while one of Natural Church Development’s ‘ten questions for growing churches’ is: “Are people in your church having fun?”
This parish knows all about ‘love’s endeavor, love’s expense’; we give ourselves away, week by week, without batting an eye; we have all the pain, grief, difficulty, danger of any other set of 21st-century people. But part of the power of the Holy Cross is surely the fearlessness that comes from knowing that evil and death have no ultimate power over us, and the humility not to take ourselves as dreadfully seriously as do some Christians in our age, and the lightness of heart that comes from knowing ourselves beloved. People who are loved are people who can afford to rejoice in the great matters of life – and the little ones too. I’m so glad that we do. Carol +