Holy humor and church chuckles

by Royce Eckhardt

It was at a retirement center’s weekly chapel service, in which one of the residents was selected to read the appointed scripture lesson of the day prior to the sermon. The passage selected for that day was the Beatitudes. The senior lady was doing well with the reading until she uttered, “Blessed are the pacemakers…” Her misspeak was received with appreciation by the elderly audience members. Might have even been an “Amen” or two.

The family came forward to the front of the sanctuary with their older children to present them for the sacrament of baptism. Eight-year old Melissa stood reverently as the pastor took water from the font and placed it on the young girl’s head. Four-year old Emma was next but not in the mood for this ceremony. As the pastor approached her, Emma turned away and disappeared behind her father. With some coaxing, she slowly came within reach of the pastor. Her resisting and squirming made it hard for the pastor to proceed (he appeared to be considering a headlock on the reluctant candidate). The water was finally applied to this moving target, after which the frazzled pastor grabbed the child, held her high overhead and said, “Like it or not, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and received into the care and nurture of the Church!”

One of the faithful attenders at an Anglican service where I was guest organist was an elderly man who brought his little Maltese dog with him to church every Sunday. A Christian dog, no doubt (I suspect that the animal went through confirmation). This dog reverently and quietly lied on his master’s lap throughout the Anglican liturgy, and when it was time to go forward to the rail to receive the bread and the cup, the dog went with its master, looking over the man’s shoulder as he knelt at the rail. (The dog did not partake). Some in the congregation told me that it was difficult to concentrate on Christ’s sacrifice with the dog’s black eyes peering at them.

The best part of the story is at the end of the Gloria, which is sung as part of the Eucharistic liturgy, the otherwise silent, pious pooch lets out with a sharp “woof,” a sort of canine “amen” – Every Sunday! That’s authentic dogma! God is described in Francis Thompson’s poem as “the hound of heaven.”

This little Maltese feels right at home with that.

The new pastor was prepared for his first Sunday worship service at his new church, but experienced some nervousness and apprehension as he sat in the chancel chair, wondering how this first service would be received. The beginning of service went smoothly: the hymn, the prayer, a scripture lesson.

The Gospel lesson that day was from Luke, chapter 7, where two disciples raised this question to Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Then came the choir anthem. The title: “Turn back, O man, forswear thy foolish ways.” What a warm, auspicious beginning for the new pastor!

The women of the church were away on a weekend retreat, the pastor said during the morning announcements before worship began. He mentioned the large number of women who were attending the retreat and concluded by saying, “We are so grateful for their time away.”

The wedding took place in a small rural town where the local newspaper published the social events of the town in great detail. Wedding articles, in particular, informed the reader of the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses, the wedding cake, who sang the solo selections, and who poured coffee. But one wedding article carried this out a bit too far with the line, “the Rev. McIntyre presided over the consummation of the marriage.”

Greeting the bride and groom at the end of a wedding ceremony: “Congratulations on a beautiful wedding! I hope that you have many more!”