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Monday, October 14, 2013

Keeping the Good in the Good News

Doug and I have always enjoyed being involved in Children's ministry at our churches.  We had a long tradition of doing the skits and leading the music at Vacation Bible School events in our churches back in the US.  We have continued this tradition, in various formats, throughout our 15 years of ministry in Sweden.  Adults and children alike enjoy the music with motions, the crazy skits with a purpose, and watching their pastors act silly while seeking to encourage people to love Jesus.  
Doug and I have always felt that humor and laughter should be part of a church's identity.  There's no doubt in my mind that Jesus enjoyed a good laugh.  And he often modeled how important it was to go where the people are, seek to do things that will attract outsiders, not just appeal to insiders.
We've both been blessed with a zany sense of humor and it's been great fun through the years to put it to use through children's ministry.
This past Saturday, we enjoyed a day retreat with our church.  We gathered from 10.30-16.00 for music, skits, stunts, games, and learning.  While the kids rotated from Bible study, craft and game time, the adults watched a video from a series entitled "Ed's Story" which chronicles the moving journey of a pastor who was diagnosed with ALS.  The conversations were deep and meaningful and it was wonderful to see how the participants engaged one another.  Lunch was catered by a Pakistani family from our church, a delicious highlight to an already full day!
I suppose the highlight of the afternoon was the final skit.  We'd been weaving a story throughout these gatherings about Dusty Dan, the meanest, orneriest man the sleepy town of Dirt Clod had ever seen.  The good news was that there was a new sheriff in town, and he was a she...that is, a lady sheriff, Sheriff Molly McClean, who would surely ride in and save the town while helping Dusty Dan get a new lease on life by realizing how much Jesus and the others loved him.
We had gotten ahold of this hilarious bull-riding costume and Saturday was the day to finally use it!  When I came riding out on the bucking bull to the theme song of Bonanza, loads of laughter erupted!  I concocted a plan to leave a bucket of wet cement at the pass so Dusty Dan would get his foot stuck and we'd finally be able to catch him.  It all worked perfectly and in the end, Dusty Dan realized that Jesus loves him unconditionally and was able to turn his life around!  The sleepy town of Dirt Clod was restored to peace and happiness!
It's all a little campy and of course, a bit melodramatic, but it's also quite effective.  It's good for people to laugh.  It's good for us to act silly.  These times remind us that the gospel, while serious, is also whimsical, that Jesus intends for us to celebrate his love for us and to enjoy life.  Too much of what the church is about is dour and not very uplifting.  We speak of the love of Jesus as being good news...we need to remind ourselves to make sure it really is good for others!
I have often said, the more a community laughs together, the easier it is for us to cry together.  The Sunday service that followed the hilarity of Saturday was very moving.  A man shared his testimony about surviving a plane crash, Doug spoke of his sister's passing 2.5 years ago, the music took us to an entirely different place and I pretty much sat and cried throughout the entire last half of the service.  And it felt good and safe and wonderful.  I was so blessed to consider that on Saturday I helped our congregation to laugh a little harder and hopefully on Sunday, we also opened the door to cry a little harder when necessary as well.  
We have a great church.  I remain the most blessed of all, I think.