I got such a kick out of a joke Sheila Baker of Wheatley, Kentucky, shared the other day about a pastor who had what he thought was a great idea for a fundraiser.
“Whoever gives the most money gets to choose three hymns,” the pastor announced to his congregation.
A little old lady gave $1,000 and won the contest. She walked to the front of the church, turned around, surveyed the congregation, and said, “I’ll take him, and him, and him.”
I used that joke as a sermon illustration here while back at South Fork Baptist Church, and I found I had underestimated just how funny it is. As I said, I got a kick out of it when Sheila told me, but the folks at South Fork absolutely cackled. Perhaps we all can envision a feisty little old lady who might actually pull such a stunt in a bout of confusion.
I really appreciate a congregation that can laugh, a congregation whose members are happy in the Lord and who are able to rejoice in Him. It’s easy to fall into the old trap of being so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good. I remember the story from generations ago about the little Puritan boy who wasn’t allowed to do much of anything physical on the Lord’s Day. He couldn’t run, jump or play as little boys like to do. He couldn’t fish or catch crawdads. So he took a walk through the meadow where he encountered a long-faced mule with those sad mule eyes. The little boy said, “I see, Mr. Mule, that you’re a Christian, too.”
Serving God isn’t supposed to be onerous, as the Pharisees tried to make it in their day. If you remember, Jesus called them out for that, saying “they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne and lay them on men’s shoulders” (Matthew 23:4). Jesus made it clear that serving Him should not be burdensome. He said, “come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I’ll give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
As the Apostle Paul ministered to folks in the early church, folks who faced severe persecution, he continually called on them to lighten up. He’d say things like, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and, again, I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
The prophet Zephaniah offered some of the most encouraging words we can hear in the book that carries his name, in Chapter 3, verses 14-17: “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all thy heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord has taken away thy judgments. He has cast out thine enemy. The King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee.”
So, you see, the Bible makes clear that there should be rejoicing among God’s people.
That said, I can only hope the little old lady who won the church fundraiser rejoiced when she found out her $1,000 entitled to choose “hymns” instead of “hims.”