“Bad Jokes and Good Quotes” June 7, 2020
Notes from the pastor ~
“’Understanding’ art is like having a sense of humour- if you don’t have one, no amount of
explanation is going to make you laugh.” ~ Michael Craig-Martin
Jokes and quotes – I have to admit, I’m a sucker for both of them. Now, I’ll leave it to the experts to analyze why that is so, but let’s just say that these two things tickle my fancy; always have, always will. If you don’t count “dirty” and “clean,” then we could say that jokes come in two categories – good jokes and bad jokes. Good humor is clever, it’s original, and it always speaks to real life. Bad jokes, on the other hand, are punny, they are nonsensical, they are silly, and sometimes they are just what we need. To say that we live in a stressful time is an understatement. We are being challenged as a society, as a nation, and as a denomination. Sometimes we need some relief; something that simply takes our minds off things for a brief moment. Sometimes we have to hear, once more, why the chicken crossed the road. That’s the beauty of it; if conditions are right, even the bad jokes are good. Think “Dad jokes.” Bottom line: if it makes you chuckle, even if you’re rolling your eyes at the time, that’s good stuff.
Quotes, on the other hand, are works of art. We all have flashes of brilliance in the course of our lives, but only a select few are able to have their words immortalized for all time. Statesmen, authors, philosophers, even preachers from time to time will share the perfect combination of words that causes the world to stand up and pay attention. Unfortunately, if you asked my kids what great words of wisdom I may have imparted on their young minds, they might reply with something like, “Fair is just a thing that comes to town once a year.” Oh well, not all of us are destined for greatness.
My point is, in an effort to understand what is going on in the world today and to understand what causes people to do what they do, I found myself searching for what others have had to say about – understanding. The first quote I came up with was one we have heard before from Robert McCloskey: “I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
That was no help at all – or was it? I am trying desperately to understand what is going on in the world today. I feel compelled to figure out the core cause of this swirly mess that humanity has placed on this earth. I’m trying my darndest to understand how the wrongful death of a man in Minnesota could cause a massive protest as far away as London, England. And I was getting nowhere. The problem was that in an effort to understand, I was drawing on my understanding and my rather limited experience of what it means to be oppressed. In truth, I don’t know.
I don’t understand. I don’t know what it feels like to have people cross to the other side of the street to avoid me.
I don’t know what it’s like to be turned down for housing, for bank loans, for a seat at the front of the bus. “But you’re a smart guy,” I said to myself, “You can figure this out.” Enter quote # 2 –
“I was trying to find out what it was that everybody else understood without giving up my stubborn and hard-won lack of understanding.” (David Antin)
Truth is, how we treat each other is not something that we can “figure out.” If our hearts are not in the right place to feel the pain of the oppressed, then they will continue to be oppressed and we will continue to be numb to the fact. Enter quote # 3 –
“We are usually undone by our lack of understanding of ourselves.” (Julian Fellowes)
The question came up in a clergy session last week, “How do you teach empathy?” There was some discussion – but not much. I think everyone knew the answer already: you don’t teach empathy. You don’t teach others to care; you don’t teach compassion. No, you have to live it. And by living it, you will teach it.
Welcome to Trinity Sunday. Let us offer ourselves in worship through the love of God, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.