A few years ago the musician Frank Zappa asked the question ‘does humour belong in music?’ – actually it was the title of one of his albums. The only reason I mention this is because one could equally ask the question ‘does humour belong in faith?’. I hope that most people would answer ‘yes’ without having to think about it – but unfortunately a lot of people I meet seem to think that the Christian Church is a pretty humourless organisation. Sadly, Christians have a reputation for being serious and sombre most, if not all, of the time. I remember as a teenager someone saying that Christians were people with ‘black suits, black books and black looks’ – not really a very good advert for the Church at all.
But Christian Faith certainly isn’t one that is meant to be overly-serious. We do take very seriously the problems and difficulties of the world. Most Christians have a concern for justice and a hope for peace which occupies a lot of our time and energy. We recognize the very real effect of evil in the world and the pain and sadness that sin and death bring about in our creation.
Yet amongst all of those very real, very important situations we also have a faith that is filled with ‘joy and peace in believing’ as Saint Paul writes in the Letter to the Romans Chapter 15. Jesus himself said in John’s Gospel ‘I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly’ (John Chapter 10 v 10). We continue to worship God in our Churches, our homes and our lives because of the great joy that fills our life as a result of God’s love for each one of us.
The Christian Faith is not about rules and regulations, about being serious and sonorous, it is (as I wrote last month) a celebration of God’s love and new life. It’s not about pretending that everything is wonderful in the world, but about saying that amongst all of the worst that life can throw at us the one thing that we can depend on is God’s grace, love and mercy. Nor is being a Christian about saying everything will be alright in the end when we die and go to heaven, but about trying to bring God’s life into what is a broken and fallen world.
If we look at the stories of Jesus in the Bible we see a man who shows us what God is like. This Jesus is full of all the feelings that we have – passion, sadness, hope, faith, weakness and joy. He tells stories and says things which are meant to make us smile as well as make us think – we have no pictures of Jesus in the Bible or descriptions of what he looked like, but it does seem to me that he must have spent a fair amount of time smiling when he was speaking to people. He was someone who took God’s demands on his life seriously, but he speaks about faith in a joyful and passionate way. May we all feel that too! To quote St Paul in full
‘Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ‘ Romans 15 verse 13