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For years on April Fools’ Day I have played the same practical joke on a staff member, usually the newest one. The joke is this. I leave a hard copy memo on her/his/their desk or send an email. The content of the email is about something that will enhance their particular ministry and a call they must make. For example, if Chris McManus is the mark, I might mention someone wants to give $1000 to fund a special cantata, and he needs to call that person immediately. This year the target would have been Beth Aiello, our director of support services. “Beth, a Mrs. Bair called. She says she has attended KA for several months and would like to volunteer as a greeter every Sunday at 11am, once in person services start up. You must call her by 1pm. Her number is 614-645-3550. She sounds nice. She says she sits in the middle balcony.” Beth will be hooked and eagerly call Mrs. Bair. She will be told that there is no Mrs. Bair at that number. Beth will insist that her pastor told her to call Mrs. Bair at that number. She will then be told that someone is playing a joke on her. She has just called the Columbus Zoo and asked to speak to Mrs. Bear. Get it? Pretty juvenile. You’d be surprised how often people fall for it. I bet one of you tries it next year.
This year I didn’t do it. It just didn’t feel right. April Fools’ Day came and went. No jokes. I don’t recall anyone even mentioning that it was April Fools’ Day. While I don’t expect Anthony Fauci or Deborah Birx to ask the president to call Mrs. Wolfe, it saddens me that humor is missing in action. We just are not sure what humor is appropriate anymore. We are told we are at war, is humor appropriate during war? I thought Bob Hope was funny in all his visits to the troops. It can be done. I think we know we need something to loosen up. How else to explain the popularity of “Tiger King”? We tried to watch it the other night. The demand was so great that we couldn’t access Netflix.
We might not need humor as much as we need test kits, masks, ventilators, physical distancing, and a vaccine, but we need it. We need a laugh. Humor breaks up the hard soil of our solemnity. It relieves the tension. Good humor is not at someone’s expense. It doesn’t belittle or demean. It reminds us of our common humanity and connects us. It points out our fallibility. It allows us to laugh at ourselves and take ourselves less seriously. Humor can save us. It helps us see life in a different way. It can show us the truth in a nanosecond. Humor creates space for vulnerability which creates space for God.
A termite walked into a bar and asked, “Is the bar tender here?”
A horse walked into a bar, and the bartender asked, “Why the long face?”
I should have played that joke on Beth.
Be sure to tell a joke this week. It will do you and others good.
Be safe and well.
John Keeny, Senior Pastor
As you know by now, we have suspended on-site events at King Avenue until further notice. I don’t know of anyone not experiencing stress, anxiety, fear, and frustration at the uncertainly of this time. We worry about investments, savings, jobs, child care, schools, family and ourselves contracting the virus, and the poor who are most effected. We are accustomed to life being fairly predictable and manageable. We even tend to think the future is in our control. The uncertainty of the last few days vividly reminds us of the precariousness of life and the seeming futility of our plans. It is hard to turn on the TV without hearing a mental health professional address anxiety and stress.
I too worry. I am concerned about my pension, canceling church events, loss of attendance, reduced giving, staff welfare, members’ and loved ones’ health, and the effect on the marginalized and at-risk persons. Our daughter offered to run errands for Susan and me since we are in the high risk age group!
With all that said, I also find this to be a time of opportunities that excite me. This is a time for people to stand in solidarity with each other. I find that egos are put aside for the greater good. The uncertainty of the virus has placed all of us on the same level of humanity. We are more mindful of the welfare of our neighbor and the stranger. It is a time of patience. I am amazed how understanding people are of the failings of themselves and others. With things changing so rapidly we don’t expect ourselves or our neighbors to be perfect. We are more tolerant. I think we laugh more at ourselves and are less angry. We are encouraged to avoid people and keep a social distance. Ironically that distancing is bringing us closer together.
It is a time of opportunity for our church. Because of the crisis we are moving into the world of online worship and the need for online community. We should have done that years ago. This makes it possible for our services to go beyond our walls to snow birds, home bound members, persons considering visiting, and others. In order to stay in contact with our members at this uncertain time I am starting these jottings (maybe a blog). I should have done that years ago. You are concerned about people you won’t be seeing for a while. This is a great opportunity to contact people and ask for their well-being. Let them know you miss them. I am certain the suspension is activity will show us new ways to do and be. Maybe we’ll find we need fewer meetings and more small groups. Maybe we learn the conference and zoom calls are sometimes appropriate.
In the email that was sent Thursday night, we referred to this as a time of Sabbath. All the cancellations leave us with un-busy calendars. We often complain of our busyness. Our calendars are as blank now as they have been in a long time. Our time is pretty free. Most of us will have more control of our time than ever. No sports are on TV! This is a sabbath opportunity to slow down. We can use it to delight in creation, experience solidarity with humanity, develop a hobby, read, do nothing, sleep, spend time with family, visit a neighbor, offer to help a frazzled parent, reflect on our creatureliness, and/or acknowledge our dependence on God. Observance of sabbath rest is an opportunity to realize our humanity.
I hope you’ll make the most of this sabbath opportunity and move from stress to aliveness. This is our chance to become who we have wanted to be.
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