Thursday, July 05, 2007

Folly

One of the marks of the Episcopal Church we all love so much has been its ability to look at its life with a certain sense of humor. With all the rhetoric of division flooding the Anglican Communion, we at The Episcopal Majority believe that this is a good time to celebrate this part of our glorious tradition. We hope, in the weeks to come, to expand this offering in order to inform the church of a resurgence of the ancient observance of the Feast of Fools (with thanks to Harvey Cox) which played such a necessary part in the life of Eastern European Christianity in medieval times.

None of the following is copyrighted, so use and abuse these as best suits you, remembering that jokes and humor are always best when the speaker is the butt of the joke.

Berniece

Summer always seems to be time for small carnivals to make the circuit of small towns around our country. A friend told me about attending one of these carnivals over in Espanola, New Mexico. Apparently the big attraction on the midway was a strong-man. My friend saw the guy take a steel bar and, standing over a glass tumbler, begin to twist the bar tighter and tighter until several drops of liquid fell into the glass tumbler. When the oohs and the aahs died down, he challenged those present to come close to his feat of strength. After a two-minute pause, a sweet little old lady in a gingham dress made her way next to the strong man. She took the steel bar, twisted the bar almost effortlessly until the liquid squeezed out of it filled the glass tumbler. The strong man, utterly amazed, asked, “Who are you? And where do you come from?” “Oh,” she said, “I’m Berniece Johnson, and I am the Stewardship Chairman over at St. Bede's.”

The Authority of Scripture

Last month, while I was walking around downtown, I saw a guy who looked terrible. His clothes were starting to fray, he was unshaven, and he was walking with what must have been for him an uncharacteristic stoop. In my best pastoral tone I asked him if he was OK. He said he was not. He told me that he had lost his job without another on the horizon. His health insurance had run out and, because he couldn’t afford clothes for his kids, they were staying away from school. “We are eating beans out of a can and my wife is ready to leave me, it’s so bad.”

I offered my assistance, meager as it was. I told him that whenever I get in trouble, I always go to the Bible. He said he was desperate enough to try anything. I asked him if he had a Bible at home. He said that was about the only thing he had left. So I gave him the following directions: “When you get home, take out your Bible. Close your eyes and thumb through your Bible until the Holy Spirit tells you to stop. Then, with your eyes still closed, bring your index finger down on the page – and there will be God’s answer.” The fellow said he didn’t think it would work, but because of my kind pastoral concern, he would try it.

Two days ago I saw the same guy downtown – and did he look terrific! He had on clean clothes, he was clean-shaven, and there was a bounce to his step. When he saw me he came running over and gave me the biggest hug I’ve ever had. “It worked!” he cried. “It worked – and I am the happiest man alive.” I asked, “So you went home and took out your Bible?” He said, “I went home and took out my Bible.” I asked again, “And then you closed your eyes?” “I closed my eyes and began thumbing through the pages of the Bible." “And then, when you felt the Holy Spirit tell you to stop?” He said, “I stopped. I put my finger down on the page where the Holy Spirit told me to put it.” And I asked, breathlessly, “And when you lifted up your finger?” He said, almost reverentially, “And when I lifted up my finger, there it was: God’s Answer!” “My God,” I thought to myself, “what could that be?” so I asked him: “And what did it say?” He said, “When I lifted up my finger, there it was, plain for all to see: God’s Answer.” “What did it say?” I asked. He looked at me with such grateful eyes and said, “Chapter 13.”

Feedback

Before the service last week, several people in the congregation commented on the bandage on my chin. I told them that while I was shaving, I was thinking about the sermon and I cut myself. Following the service, the counters told me we had received seven separate notes in the collection plate saying, in effect, “Next Sunday why don’t you think about your shaving and cut the sermon!”


About the Author: The Rev. Thomas B. Woodward is the fool-in-residence of the Episcopal Church Institute, whose members are still waiting for a website.

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