Chapter 11. If You Can’t Laugh at Your Religion, Go Home
The life of a man steeped in religious tradition and routine is not without its humor. Life just seems to enjoy taunting our sacred moments, ever reminding us never to take ourselves too seriously. The following three “true stories” (some details have been changed – to protect the guilty!) offer a glimpse into an irreverent playfulness that is common in life around the pulpit.
Long ago and far away, I was the young associate pastor of a large church. In that same town, there were several other young associate pastors, and we found that meeting for lunch, every month or so, was good for support and laughter. One of the stories, reportedly true, was about an associate pastor who was preaching before the large, traditional congregation he was serving. For his sermon text, he had chosen a passage from Matthew 16, about the apostle Peter.
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." - Matthew 16:13-18
The passage identifies, among other things, the moment when “Simon” becomes “Peter.” The name, here, is a reference to a Greek word which means ‘rock.’ Many a sermon has drawn the parallel between the strong and unwavering faith of Peter, the rock, and the lack of such faith in today’s church.
The young pastor, the story goes, had a tendency to grow passionate and enthusiastic during his sermons and as he expanded his message to its central theme, he was heard to proclaim, “What the church today needs is more people like Peter! We need more firm Peters!” As someone in the choir gasped, the well-meaning orator sensed that his proclamation was impacting his congregants, and so he repeated this call for “firm Peters” not once but twice more before finishing the sermon. Go ahead: laugh....
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