Tag Archives: humor

Recognizing Our Foolishness

As Resurrection Lutheran nears the end of the Old Testament portion of the Narrative Lectionary, I look forward to Christmas and the birth of Jesus. Though I have enjoyed our survey of the Old Testament, I now long for the familiar story of promise held in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The stage is being set for Jesus entrance into God’s drama. Two more Sundays of Advent remain.

This Sunday we will embrace one of the last written books of Old Testament: Daniel. The stories and visions of Daniel are from the time of the Exile when the leaders and skilled labor of Jerusalem were taken to Babylon as captives. The Babylonians wanted to re-indoctrinate the Jews to forget their Jewish heritage and God so as to become productive participants in the empire. Daniel and others resisted such practices.

Daniel chapter three is familiar to many from their childhood. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are to be thrown into the fiery furnace but God delivers them. But our childhood version often misses the humor or farcical nature of the story. As you read the text, consider how the repetition and exaggeration  demonstrate how crazy King Nebuchadnezzar is.

King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue whose height was sixty cubits and whose width was six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent for the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to assemble and come to the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. When they were standing before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.” (Daniel 3:1-6)

Is it not comical to read that a human being could “set up” a god? Yet that is how ridiculous King Nebuchadnezzar has become with his power. But are we not as ridiculous when we “set up” something as having ultimate importance? Whether it be our sports teams (think how “over-the-top” the Super Bowl has become), or our careers, or our expectations for Christmas celebrations or our greed. Such humor can disarm our defensiveness and open us to God’s healing. We need to laugh at ourselves when we try to “set up” our mini-gods and see our foolishness.

Lord Jesus, come quickly and deliver me from my foolishness.

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A Thanksgiving Story

Thanksgiving seems like an odd holiday to me. After all shouldn’t we be thankful every day? Why give this virtue a special holiday? We don’t set aside a holiday for patience, joy, peace, kindness or hope. (We might consider Valentine’s Day as the special “love” day, but that is a blog unto itself). Still a thanksgiving story seems appropriate.

In the 1930s, George Strester remembers his father who tried farming in Nebraska in 1873. Thanksgiving was approaching and the family had a tough harvest due to the dry and dusty summer. They wanted to give thanks, but the pantry was nearly bare, so George’s father decided to butcher the cow. It had become nice and fat from eating a variety of vegetables, including some rotten onions, but had gone dry and was not giving any milk.

The children all shed a few tears when Old Broach the cow was killed, for she was a family pet, but the family needed to have something to eat. The cow was butchered the day before Thanksgiving and the next day George’s mother planned a real Thanksgiving feast. — a large roast of meat with potatoes and carrots lay around it. Something the family had not had for years.

However a peculiar odor filled the house as the meal was cooking. Mother said it might have been something on the stove, which now was causing the terrible odor. The table was set and the roast was brought out and how delicious it looked. George’s father first gave a prayer of deep thanks for the many blessing that the family had enjoyed and then he carved the roast, placing a liberal helping of meat, carrots and spuds on each plate. George’s mother took a bite and looked at her husband; he took a taste and looked at the kids.

George took a mouthful and his stomach heaved, – horror of horrors, the taste of rotten onions had permeated every piece of beef. Their cow had not simply fattened up on vegetables, but on rotten onions. Their entire dinner was spoiled and all they had to eat were johnnycakes with nothing to put on them.

Still George observed that though his father was greatly tempted, he did not say any cuss words, but decided on that day, to quit farming and reaffirm his vocation as a Methodist minister.

The Strester family took a moment that could be called a family disaster and turned it into a memory of laughter and joy. It was also turning point in their lives. Their father rediscovered his calling and the family was able to adapt to the changes.

God takes our crisis points, small or large, and turns them into his moments of joy and thanksgiving.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your gifts of grace, love and joy.  Create within me a thankful everyday.

Mountain Man Moses

I am convinced Moses must have been a trained mountain runner. Though raised on the plains of Egypt, he was constantly moving up and down mountains as if they had escalators. First he had to approach the burning bush on Mt. Sinai where he was commanded to take off his sandals because it was holy ground. God never commanded him to put them back on, so he was probably the first barefoot trail runner as well.

Then at the age of 80, he was commanded to clean his clothes and then to climb Mt. Sinai. (Exodus 19:18-20). Of course Moses’ clean clothes were immediately covered in soot and smoke from the mountain’s eruption, but I am sure Moses brought a dry-cleaning receipt in case God asked. As soon as he reached the top, even before he caught his breath or posed for pictures, the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people not to break through and sneek a peak at ME.” As if the volcanic eruptions, smoke and lightening were not a sufficient barrier.  Moses, between deep panting breaths, reminded God, “God, you already told them that before I started up here.” God responded, “Yes, but you forgot to bring Aaron and remind the people not to try and peek under the curtain.” Somehow, when Moses reached the bottom he forgot about Aaron or even a chisel, since God had to write on two tablets of stone with his own finger when Moses climbed back up (Exodus 31:18).  Maybe Aaron carried the family chisel.

Meanwhile the Israelites got bored (like middle schoolers in worship) and built a golden calf to worship. A golden calf was so much more manageable than a ferocious storm cloud hovering over your head. God sent Moses down to break up the party (Exodus 32:7).  Moses, hot and tired, broke the tablets; repeated change of altitude can do strange things to a person. Afterwards, Moses climbed back up to apologize (not sure if he had time to clean clothes before this climb).

Finally Moses biggest mountaineering challenge arrived. He was commanded to cut two tablets of stone and to bring them up to the top of Mt. Sinai. There is no mention of a North Face rucksack or REI backpack. This time Moses had to write on the tablets; he must have remembered his chisel (Exodus 34: 1, 28).

The stories of the Bible are filled with such strange, wonderful examples of exaggerated humor and insight. Sometime in our serious study, we miss the humor that also challenges us. Moses was the mediator, negotiating the God’s covenant with the people, a very difficult task yet that covenant is still in effect. I rejoice that Moses could climb the mountain and make it back down.

What stories in the Bible challenge your sense of humor as well as your life?

Lord Jesus, teach me to laugh as well as to learn.