Mountains. A babbling brook. The sunset. (I’m not able to put sunrise on the list because I’m never up that early.) A humble person serving someone else.
These are all ways that people see God’s presence or God at work in the world. These are all on my list, too. But, as the Rethink Church experiment is asking us, where do you see God’s presence in the unexpected? In their words, “Where are you encountering Jesus in the unlikeliest of places?”
For me, it’s laughter. I encounter God in unexpected laughter.
I love to laugh. Don’t you? Who doesn’t like to laugh? Even Dr. Evil likes to laugh, though it’s usually about evil stuff. As someone who loves to laugh, I immensely enjoy comedies–movies and TV shows. If you’re a detective name Jake Peralta, hail from Portland, or are a local news anchor who’s hitting it big on cable, you’re probably going to make me giggle—convulse with laughter, even. This isn’t the kind of unexpected laughter I’m talking about. It’s in the unexpected laughter I get from working with people, sharing meals with teenagers, or when my daughters make me laugh unexpectedly. Case in point, at Christmas one of my adult cousins was teasing our five year old. He then changed topics and he asked her a straight-forward question. She didn’t know that he switched tones and, while laughing, she looked at him with suspicious eyes and said, “What’s your game, crazy man?”
You can’t tell me that a guy who roams the countryside with 12 other dudes over the course of three years didn’t ask someone to put His finger now and then.* Don’t you think they came up with some pretty funny impressions of Legion or the Sadducees? Jesus had a sense of humor, even if we don’t specifically see it in the Gospels like “Jesus wept.” I think He might even have a poop joke.**
I encounter Jesus in unexpected laughter because when we laugh with someone, we are fully present with them. Our agendas aren’t on schedule anymore. Shared laughter breaks down walls. After you laugh with someone, you’re more willing to listen to them.
How many times have you eaten your favorite food in an angry manner? Never. Knowing this, what if you sat down with an enemy in your favorite restaurant and tucked in together? My guess is that if you were open to sharing why you love that meal that you love there, you’d probably be able to focus on something different than what makes you enemies.
We often laugh at shared meals because that experience is spiritual in and of itself. When we pause and refuel, we give ourselves time to catch up with someone else. We find joy at the dinner table, as well as nourishment. And, I think laughter nourishes our souls.
The next time I’m caught off guard and react with lots of laughter, you’ll know I’m truly present. I’m with you there, in that moment.
Let’s encounter Jesus together sometime, friend.
*For the record, the “pull my finger” joke got old the second time I heard/smelled someone use it. But, if Jesus were to try that joke out on me, I’m 100% for certain that I would laugh until I died.
Which would be cool, because He could just resurrect me again.
**Remember, I’m a youth pastor by trade.
My friends and I are posting during Lent again. In the words of Bones, “I guess crazy sticks together.” Lent has forty days and we’ll be answering ten questions each week. See what the others have said: