Humor, God, and the One-Minute Worship Service

At first, I wasn’t sure whether to put this under preaching, or maybe worship, since that’s the ostensible subject matter, or humor. But of course it is about humor, both 1) the effective use of humor to make fun of ourselves and our world and invite us thereby to imagine different possibilities and 2) what can go happen when the joke goes awry.

Sometimes humor fails because it’s not done well – a poorly told joke or ill-timed punch line. Sometimes it fails because the hearer doesn’t have enough context to make sense of it – the “you had to be there” humorous stories usually fall into this category. And sometimes it fails because the hearer doesn’t really have much of a sense of humor, or such different sensibilities about what is, or even can be, considered funny, that things go awry.

I think the following clip demonstrates those last two conditions. For what it is – a homemade movie put up on YouTube — it’s put together just fine. But as this video – of a pastor who decided to cut the worship service to 60 seconds in order to catch the football game last Sunday between the Forty-niners and the Panthers – went viral, most of the reactions fell into one of those last two categories.

Certainly plenty of people got it. That is, they got that it really was a joke, where Pastor Christensen, of Gold Hill Lutheran Church in Butte Montana, was poking fun at his near fanatical (kin to the word “fan,” after all) devotion to the Forty-niners was worth making fun of. And so after his video-taped joke (about himself) was over, the good folks at Golden Valley Luther and their creative pastor did indeed have the regular church service.

But many, many thought Pastor Tim was serious. Some found it really funny, even though they didn’t have the full context. That is, they thought that the pastor really did have a one-minute church service. And they found this funny, particularly folks that maybe don’t go to church all that often and were glad to see that even the religious from time to time find other things more engaging than Sunday worship.

And some thought Pastor Tim was serious and found it decidedly not funny, particularly those who take religion so seriously they simply couldn’t imagine anything about religion and worship being something you can poke at in good conscious.

Unfortunately for Pastor Tim and his flock, the internet collects the insights and opinions of those who get it, those who don’t but think it’s funny, those who don’t and don’t think it’s funny, and those who don’t and don’t think it’s funny and are willing to write pretty vile things about it on the web.

After thinking about this a bit – the first link was sent to me by a good friend who went to school with Pastor Tim – it struck me that yet one more way to think about this is to ask, where do we find God? Or, maybe: where do we expect God to be? Is not God also at football games? Or the movie theater, or where our kids go to school, or friends work, or other friends look for work, and with the men and woman serving their country, and with those they face off against, and…. Well, you get the idea. When did we decide we could possibly limit God’s presence to our 60 minutes or so of worship? And what would happen if we used those 60 minutes to help people see God in their lives and in the world more clearly and truly the other 10020 minutes available to us each week?

Okay, so now even I’m taking this all a bit too seriously. But maybe that’s the mark of a really good joke. To make you laugh…and to make you think, at least some of the time.

I’ll put below some of the various places Pastor Tim’s video popped up and also a link to one of the more helpful blog posts on it and where Pastor Tim responded, very graciously I thought, to some of the stuff (euphemism alert!) that’s been said about this very funny video.

From the Today show:

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And from Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night:

Here is one of the early articles (though not the first) that a) took it seriously and b) helped kick it into the viral zone. And one of the more helpful blog posts with Pastor Tim’s reply.

Finally one more thought: Since Pastor Tim in fact held the worship service, that meant that he pretty much missed the first half – when the Panthers dominated – and watched (and maybe even prayed, who knows, he’s pretty committed 🙂 ) while the Niner’s went on to win. I’m not saying anything by this, but – Forty-niners, if you’re listening – you might just want Pastor Tim at the game rooting for your team!

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