Yesterday I got to sit down with my new District Superintendent (DS) for a one on one, get to know you meeting. I did not know what to expect, because 1) I did not know my DS before he became my DS, and 2) I have never had a DS do this before. For those outside the United Methodist denomination, a DS is an ordained Elder (clergy) in the church that has been called by the Bishop to oversee a particular geographic area of the Conference referred to as a district. Within a district are many churches and other appointed positions for clergy, so a DS oversees many clergy. This new DS wants to get to know all of us in one of the largest districts in Virginia. Wow. Good for him. Better for us. I believe people want to be known. We want to be understood as more than a number, a statistic, a name on a roster, or any other impersonal means of knowing of someone rather than knowing them. I want to be known, and I want to know others, so when this DS wanted to carve out an hour of his time, I immediately got on his calendar. During the course of our conversation, it became very clear that he is relational, as I am, and that he likes to have fun in his ministry. I smile just recalling that, because I too love to have fun, and I think we are meant to have fun. Now I know you can have fun while sinning, but why do we seem to operate as if we can’t possibly have fun while “sainting,” too?
No matter how old we get, we will always be children of God, and children should play and enjoy the blessings around them. So let’s play. Let’s have fun. Let’s enjoy this holy work of loving others, being kind, and reveling in the blessings of God Almighty. I reject the notion that I cannot smile, laugh, get silly, act goofy, and playfully engage the Scriptures. I refuse to be stiff-necked and a sore sport. I want to laugh until my sides ache, and fellowship until my cup runneth over with gratitude for the gift of others and the joy they bring. But I am not the only one. I am not even the only pastor. I often catch myself wondering how many people think Christian is synonymous with stick in the mud. I can see why. Historically we seem to squash the notion that we can have fun, as if humor is the highway to hell. Then I recall that Jesus hung out with sinners, and those people know how to have a good time. They laugh, tell jokes, and enjoy company. We can too; we can redeem those encounters by engaging, but not overindulging in the food and drink. We can embrace the opportunity to laugh and blow off steam without falling into an all out orgy of sin and decadence. And, we don’t have to feel guilty. God has given us the ability to laugh and create humor, so use it. God has presented us with the joy of being in community, so let’s bask in that blessing. Whether we are laity or clergy, we can all enjoy one another. We can smile and engage one another during worship. We can laugh and celebrate. We can become intimately acquainted, and deepen our community. We can discover that we are all human and that is not a bad thing, because then we can journey together to reflecting God more fully. In both creation accounts in Genesis, God created human beings and was happy to have done so. Yes, we sin and muck up the divine image in which we were created, but God is working in us to restore that. If we were hopeless, then God would just wipe the canvas clean and start again. There’s good here, so let’s rekindle it, recapture it, and relish it. If only I could drive by a church and see a sign: CAUTION CHURCH AT PLAY. I don’t think I could stop myself from pulling over and rushing to join the fun. I enjoy my faith. I want to enjoy my life, and I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. So please excuse me, there’s a pastor here dying to have some fun. CAUTION PASTOR AT PLAY, all are welcome to join in.