Depending on the Perspective

 

Written by Daniel Kallauch – Theologian, Artist, Comedian

On April 1st, a new law came into effect Germany: the legalization of cannabis. Unfortunately not an April Fool’s joke. The very next Sunday, I sat in our church service and was warmly welcomed from the speaker. The guests, who were there for the first time, were invited to pick up a welcome gift at the end. This contains information about church life and a small surprise. An amused murmur went through the rows when it was said: “Feel free to pick up a bag there after the service.” [The German word for bag “Tüte” is also used as a synonym for a marijuana cigarette.]

Yes, we are a truly modern church. No. The double meaning of a word allows for different interpretations. This is exactly what humor plays with: depending on the context and perspective, normal things suddenly become funny.

 

Is God funny?

 

I believe so. Where else would we, as his creation, get our sense of humor? God is certainly not humorous in the sense that we know comedy today. It’s mostly about making fun of the oddities and quirks of our fellow human beings. However, I can imagine that God in heaven watches the bustle of people and sometimes can’t help but grin when one of his earthly citizens behaves clumsily. Perhaps because he is in love? However, I have to admit that this is a very human way of looking at things.

Exaggeration is part of humor. Everyone knows the clown with the shoes that are too big or the suit that is too small. We find this quite often in the Bible. Well, not the big shoes, but exaggerations. It may not make you feel like laughing straight away, but it makes the words more memorable and illustrates it more clearly.

Jesus liked to exaggerate in order to make his message clearer. When he talks about how difficult it is for a rich person to live in God’s new world and set the right priorities, he says: “It’s more like a camel going through the eye of a needle.

This is definitely meant to be funny! Some commentators believe that Jesus is alluding to a small city gate in Jerusalem that was supposedly called the eye of the needle. Whatever the case may be. Today he might have said: a car fits better in a matchbox or a cow through a mousehole.

When I imagine what it must have been like when the prophet Jonah returns home from Nineveh after his zigzagging trip, I can’t help but laugh. His friends must have been eagerly and gleefully waiting to finally hear about the destruction of Nineveh. Before Jonah can spoil this dream, he first has to tell the story of his spectacular diving trip. Goo instead of glamor. This was followed by a violent retching fit and then the first redemption mentioned, and it was on the beach. I can’t help but think that’s funny, isn’t it?

But when we always look with holy seriousness at all biblical stories with, my retelling of them may sound strange. But let’s imagine the following: We go to a zoo where the stables have not been cleaned for months, or perhaps they have been cleaned but all the manure has just been cleared to the side. It smells awful and we quickly flee, even though the animals are so impressive and cute polar bears have just been born.

It must have been similar in the ark back then. Rubber boots had not yet been invented, nor had manure removal technology with a hydraulic scraper and wide shovel. It all stayed indoors back then. Let’s get out of here! The Bible doesn’t say, what it was actually like and leaves it to our imagination. Wonderful.

Even as a child, I had wonderful and very vivid fantasies about such stories. I was irritated when I got angry looks when I shared my thoughts out loud. I think there is a lot to laugh about in our lives. It doesn’t stop for me when I talk about my faith and biblical stories come into play.

 

And how about Jesus?

 

We are told that Jesus wept, but not that he laughed. Did he only feel like weeping or have compassion? Probably not. You have to remember that the four Gospels with the stories of Jesus are not biographies in our modern sense. The Gospels have a purpose. They want to portray Jesus as the one who brings the message of God and lives it through his own life. They do not tell us everything that happened.

We can certainly assume that Jesus smiled and laughed. Jesus was true man and true God – or so we believe as Christians. With him, seriousness and joy, pain and smiles were not mutually exclusive. We can certainly assume that Jesus smiled and laughed. Gospel means “good news” and it is difficult to tell those with a grim face. The news of God’s coming age is hopeful and should trigger joy. It must also be joyful.

Jesus was happy, he ate and drank with people, he went to weddings. He took children in his arms and rejoiced with and at them. He looked at people with love and anyone who looks at someone with love does not look stern.

My one-and-a-half-year-old grandson has consciously noticed spring for the first time this year. He is enjoying the daisies and dandelions. The amazement is written all over his face. Jesus took pleasure in the blooming lilies in the fields and gave his people a promise in the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”

Christians are people with well-founded hope. We believe that one day God’s love and justice will prevail. This means that those who are oppressed now will come into their own. They will be amazed, their eyes will glaze over, they will hardly be able to believe it and shed tears of joy. I like this idea: an infectious laughter fills the whole sky and I can’t help but join in. This is our future perspective.

In the here and now, today and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, we as Christians can and should be the ambassadors of this coming newness. But then please do so cheerfully.

Ambassadors are sent out to represent and stand for their country, their values, their responsibility and their culture somewhere else. We pray “Thy kingdom come” and by this we mean: let what is already a reality in heaven become visible here with us – through us. It is already dawning. A dawn.

A German tradition is the so called Easter laughter. It has been around since the 14th century. This year, a video went viral in which Catholic Bishop Stefan Oster [who’s last name translated to English funnily enough means “Easter”] told a joke on the Feast of the Resurrection. Why not?

If we Christians can’t be full of joy, who can? It would laughable!

 

* * *

 

Daniel KallauchDaniel Kallauch is a theologian and artist. He has been performing children’s music and puppet shows in German-speaking countries for over 30 years. His songs are sung wherever laughter is allowed. In kindergartens, schools, cars, at bedtime and even in many churches.

www.daniekallauch.de

For some years now, the North German with the red shoes has discovered abstract painting for himself. He makes art for those who yearn. Pictures between heaven and earth. He expresses the tension between the “now and not yet” in a way that makes hearts beat faster and lifts them up.

www.danielkallauch-kunst.de

 

© Pictures Daniel Kallauch: Gabriel D. Kirchner

 

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