I love my church, and my church loves to laugh. We are a congregation that laughs several times every sermon when our regular preachers are doing the preaching. This past Sunday though I found myself thinking when everyone else was laughing. I did come to and offer a chuckle, more to make sure that the preacher didn't misinterpret my lack of reaction as disapproval of his punch line.
It was my good friend Joel who was preaching. Joel preaches the gospel of grace passionately, fervently, and with conviction. As Joel preaches a sermon he doesn't just wear his heart on his sleeve, he cracks his heart to allow the his true feelings for the text he is preaching to run up to his face, you can see in his eyes how close the scriptures and the truth of grace are to his heart. His hands jump and explode, his fingers twiddling as his mind translates all this passion his soul is bursting with into words, laughter, and tears. Sometimes I detect a hint of desperation for the importance of this message to reach the hearers, because he knows it is the message that brings true freedom and salvation. He is a great preacher and if you live in Winnipeg and are reading this, I strongly encourage you to take time to come down to Dakota Community Church on any Sunday, although Joel only preaches several times a year, our regular pastor (Dan) is a sight to see as well. Come expecting grace.
Back to the story at hand. Joel was talking about law and grace. He used a story in his sermon about a pastor (who he left unamed out of respect) who was preaching about the beattitudes. This pastor was talking about Matthew 5:8 which says "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God". The pastor went on to say that on his block there is a woman who every few days washes her car in her driveway. He pointed out that she doesn't wear a whole lot, and she always tends to be washing the car when he is on his way to work. He talked about how this created temptation for him. So he would drive by her, not looking at her, because he wants to be pure in heart. He would repeat to himself "I want to see God, I want to see God" and avoid looking at her in his attempt to not give into lustful thoughts. He wants desperately to see God, and wishes to be pure of heart like it says in Matthew 5:8. Joel followed this story by saying "I must be a better sinner then him because I can lust even with my eyes shut!". The church went up in laughter, I didn't realize it immediately because I was processing the implications of what he had said, I snapped to and offered a chuckle.
I don't think it was inappropriate to laugh, and that is the reaction that Joel probably would have expected when he delivered the line. I know Joel very well, and that line was packed with so much more.
I should probably stop here, as this post is getting long. Consider this a cliff hanger and come back for the next post as I unpack the incredible significance of what Joel said in one simple line.