What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.
What a day yesterday was. We had what very well could be our best Hockey Jersey Sunday Ever. The church was full and everyone seemed to have a great experience of church. What began a few years ago as a lark has indeed become a powerful way to witness to the culture around us how we can be a reflection of God’s love and God’s joy.
I believe with every fibre of my being that the church in many, many ways takes itself FAR too seriously. In fact, I know that there are those who look down on what we do here at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake as “selling out” to the culture and making light of sacred religious ritual and practice. Not so – I say. I would love to have any of those persons present yesterday. A critic would find it hard to argue with the sense of the divine and the holy in how we worshiped yesterday. The only significant difference in our celebration yesterday was a little fun as a prelude, we all wore Hockey regalia, and we were absolutely full of joy and excitement to be at church. The liturgy itself was not different than the week before and was not different than it will be next week. It was a very basic celebration of Holy Eucharist. In fact, there was real sense of reverence for what is real and what is important, love for God and love for neighbour. The church has often lost that sense of love and compassion and replaced it with reverence for the ritual itself and has become terribly inward focused as a result.
We were able to speak to the Road to Emmaus story by reminding folks that when we promise in baptism to "seek and serve Christ in all persons loving our neighbour as ourselves," that we can do that even when we are at play. We can do that even when we are at the hockey arena. Oddly, over the years the church has taken itself so seriously that it spent much of its time condemning everything that was not church. Christendom was alive and well and God lived in church… at least HIS primary residence was church. In that time there were forms of music and theatre that were bad. There were books that were forbidden. People were urged to focus heir attention on the pure and holy things. Everything is was of the devil. Oddly (tongue in cheek) people got tired of the church. Oddly, the reaction after a time to such closeting of God and all that is holy, was to walk away from the church. The result being Christendom came to an end. Sadly there are still those who are living as though it has never ended. We are still subject to portions of the church that tell us what to read and what to watch. Those who subscribe to that idea cannot accept something like Hockey Jersey Sunday as a valid way to engage people in community or in worship.
But the end of Christendom has really given us a freedom as church to seek to find ways to purge ourselves of the failings of our past. We have a wonderful opportunity as church in this era to seek to find news ways to be communities of love, healing, hope and forgiveness. We have the ability to take off the yoke of judgement that we have carried around for so long as a institution. So many people, for so long, have been excluded by the church and left outside on the fringe. In keeping those we like to judge to the outside our circle, I fear that we have pushed God to the fringe as well, and that is not the church (people of God) that Jesus of Nazareth called us to be.
My experience is that the church really does take itself too seriously and I am pleased that at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake we have gotten past that. I am not sure how I would manage if we could not laugh at ourselves. G. K. Chesterton wrote that, ““It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.” Gladly, at St. Mark’s we have learned to laugh at ourselves and we have learned to joke about the church. There was so much Joy yesterday – there is no doubt in my mind that God smiled with us.
I have a good friend who loves to use a smiley face in his salutations and has told me more than once to “keep smiling.” It always leaves me with a reminder of te importnace of keeping all things in perspective. It makes perfect sense to me really. I love to laugh and I love to enjoy the world around me. I encourage us all, in the spirit of the joy that I witnessed in so many on Sunday, to pray that we might all keep a sense of humour a perspective about the church, about our role in it, and about life. One of the greatest lines of Alan Alda was “When people are laughing, they’re generally not killing each other.” True!
To quote The Digital Genie –
PS – I have produced a video that should be on the parish web page by Tuesday afternoon. Be sure and check www.stmarkschurch.net and see the great video and audio clips of the day, as well as more photos.