A supposedly funny thing . . .

“Certainty is overrated” — Brian McClarien

When our son Matt was 5, he overheard me tell a joke from the stage at a storytelling concert. “A three-legged dog walked into a bar shouting, ‘I’ve come to find the man who shot my paw!’” The audience was laughing and I noticed Matt looking at it all a little confused and then finally joining in the laughter.

A few days later, I overheard him with some friends from school and he retold the joke, “A dog with three legs walked into a bar and yells, ‘I’ve come to find the guy that shot my dad!’” And the kids are all laughing hysterically!

None of it makes sense and it’s hilarious to him. And yet, he doesn’t seem to need the resolution or clarity or logic to enjoy the moment.

As kids, certainty and logic don’t seem as critical for navigating life as they do when we are adults. By adulthood, we develop fine-tuned neural patterns of thinking and behaving that insist upon certainty and familiarity and logic. So, it’s easy for people to become increasingly “small-minded” in the sense that they gravitate toward the familiar and easy answers as opposed to seeking out bigger perspectives, bigger questions, and new ways of challenging beliefs or assumptions about other people, about life, about themselves or even about God. We all do this, really, in different areas of our lives.

So perhaps jokes evolved as a way to both encourage us to laugh our tendencies to assume wrongly or even “small-mindedly” as well as to disorient us enough to encourage us to rethink those assumptions.

The bible is full of examples of this need to remind ourselves we are more than likely missing the big picture. God is always choosing the least likely of individuals to lead the people and transform the community. Jesus is always upsetting his listeners with stories that contradict or disorient familiar ways of understanding life, God, and relationships.

For example, he often began his teaching with words like, “You have heard it said . . . but I say to you,” equating the kingdom of God with a mustard seed, a woman and her lost coin, a wedding feast for the outsiders and outliers, or telling his listeners that in order to find themselves they have to lose themselves.

And it all seemed aimed at this idea of reorienting how we see things — seeing life with more compassion, more justice, more acceptance . . . of having a bigger mind (and a bigger heart).

A familiar joke at eleven:eleven, Downtown:

A business traveler walks into a bar in a small Mid-Western town. So he decides to make some friends and yells, “Every last Democrat is a horse’s rear end.” Suddenly he’s upended from his stool by a handful of people, punched around, and thrown out into the street. He stands up, shakes it off and thinks, “I guess I know who I’m dealing with now.”

So the next day, he goes into the same bar and this time says, “Every last Republican is a horse’s rear end”’ And to his total surprise, he’s upended from his stool, punched around, and thrown out into the street. As the patrons go back into the bar, one guy remains outside and the visitor gets up from the street, confused, and asks, “Who are these people?” And the young guy answers, “Don’t you get it, Mister? This is horse country!”  

Jesus’ parables, like so many jokes, remind us to take ourselves less seriously enough to see the much larger potential for love and connection and God in what we don’t understand than in what we assume we do.

This Sunday, I continue our new series, “This is HOW: ‘Big Mind’ help for Small Minded Times.” We’ll look at Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant and the Beatitudes . . . and jokes . . . we’ll tell jokes to help navigate this crazy train of life we’re on right now toward having a Big Mind. We’ll be joined by actor and FUMCFW member, Jakie Cabe and we’ll have some really interesting, fun music this Sunday.

Sunday, September 16
“a supposedly funny thing happened”
Rev. Tom McDermott
And featuring Actor Jakie Cabe
with special music from Ozzy Osbourne, Susan Warner and Lenny Kravits!

I hope to see you Sunday!


Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven

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