“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy” Job 8:21 (NIV)
Muriel Byers was having supper with us when the conversation turned to a discussion about the turkey we were eating . . . Muriel said she didn’t like the Pope’s nose. “I’ve never heard it called that,” I said. “We call it the Parson’s nose. Maybe the name depends on whether you have a Catholic or Anglican heritage.” To which Muriel, looking straight at my proboscis (which I admit has generous proportions), replied with a twinkle in her eye, “Maybe we should call it the Pastor’s nose!” We all laughed . . .
Holiness and happiness should go hand in glove. But they rarely do. C.S. Lewis , the essayist and Christian apologist, observed, “There is a great deal of false reverence about. There is too much solemnity and intensity in dealing with sacred matters, too much speaking in holy tones.” Lewis makes a good point. When we go to sports or entertainment events we laugh and joke and have a good time. Why do we easily laugh about everyday things but rarely laugh about spiritual things? What happens to our sense of humour when we enter a church? Why do we become sober and quiet and behave like we’re attending a funeral? Why do we wear dark suits and speak in sombre tones? Shouldn’t worship be more grin than grim? Don’t we have something to be happy about?
I believe it’s time for holiness and happiness to embrace. Barack Obama won his ticket to the White House on the back of a message marketed as “Change we can believe in.” We’re in a new season; a season of change. The world needs to change and the church needs to change. People flocked to Obama’s inauguration. What will it take for people to flock to Christ? Change . . . People of faith need to lighten up. It’s time; time for us to become “the joy of all generations” (Isaiah 60:15).
To be “the joy of all generations” in the third millennium we’ll first have to skim the dross from the second millennium. We must call a stop to the super sanctimonious smog that’s been spread over church life. We must lovingly deal with the unnecessary gravity with which the church protects its dignity. And we must address and confess unnatural posturing, overbearing arrogance, and conceit.
Jesus was a man of joy (cf. Luke 10:21). Let’s imitate Him. May our lives be full of His joy. And may it be said of us now as it was said in time past: “The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52).