Serving God with Laughter

endangered_species_by_lawrence_op.jpgAlthough released almost fifty years ago, Leslie Flynn’s book Serve Him with Mirth is a classic on humor and Christian spirituality. I just stumbled on this today and I’m glad I did. We can all use a little more humor in our lives, especially these days.

Luckily, IEDay ministries has made a free ebook of this work available. Scroll to the bottom of this page to download the ebook in a variety of formats.

From IEDay’s site:

Despite the changes of the last half-century, I am not sure that the church as a whole understands the biblical context, indeed mandate, to use humor. And many find it very hard to perceive the extent to which humor and whimsy is embedded into the vast majority of the books of the Bible. The cultural and linguistic gap between us and the books of the Old and New Testaments can prevent us understanding the frequent use of irony, whimsy, word-play and puns. We expect no humor, so we see none.

Here are a few choice quotations from the book:

How prone people are to associate the sunny, smiling face with the shallow, superficial disposition, and to link up the sad countenance with deep piety! Joy is considered a satanic instrument and melancholy a divine characteristic.

A lady said to the preacher at the door, “Everything you said in your sermon was wonderful and fitted someone or other I know.”

A man used to go forward at every consecration meeting. He always prayed the same way, “Take the cobwebs out of my life.” The preacher, a little tired of hearing him pray the same petition, knelt down beside him at the altar one night and prayed, “Lord, kill the spider!”

Nowadays, humor is commonplace in the Church and in the Christian life, but it wasn’t always so. This little anecdote really shows how grave people were:

In the late eighteenth century, John Newton, rector of St. Mary Woolnoth in England, better known as author of many well-known hymns, among them “Amazing Grace” and “Safely Through Another Week”, asked a friend, “What would you think of seeing a dray-horse jump over St. Paul’s Cathedral?” Then he added, “This would be no more than a flea does, in proportion to its size, when it jumps”.

When this remark was circulated it resulted in no small stir among Newton’s friends. A witticism from him was a matter of concern to others. Because it almost made one laugh, it was a suspicious approximation to a sin. At a ministers’ meeting at that time this saying became a topic of consideration. The verdict was that his words were a near-witticism, just shaving the edge of a precipice. He was excused on the grounds that the comment came from his genius rather than his levity.

The photo of the snowmen is from Flickr user Lawrence OP.

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