Some of you who read my posted sermons from the past couple of months may wonder why I start each one with a joke of some kind. For some people, jokes seem out of place in church or as part of a serious presentation of a message from God.
Several months ago I read an article about US President Abraham Lincoln that noted that he himself was one who appreciated humor. He followed the practice of opening his cabinet meetings with a joke, often poking fun at himself in the process. Cabinet members, particularly Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase, disliked Lincoln’s joking at such meetings; but others enjoyed it as offering something of a lighter atmosphere before they had to get down to more serious matters of state, particularly during the war years.
Having read that, and having felt – without any particular feedback from parishioners – that my sermons tended to be somewhat dry and unrelievedly serious, I decided I would try to follow Lincoln’s lead and to search for jokes that might actually set up the theme of the sermon in some way. So, if the sermon refers to Noah, or Peter, or the Transfiguration, I google those keywords along with the word “joke,” and then I search through the results that come up. Sometimes it works; sometimes not. But occasionally the joke actually helps me make the point I’m seeking to drive home in a way that catches people by surprise.
All of this is to say that I believe God can work through our joking as well as our serious discussion; and I hope that my writing might always edify the minds and hearts of those who read it and glorify God in the process.