In Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard writes of the comedy of church services, “Week after week we witness the same miracle: that God is so mighty he can stifle his own laughter.”
Like Annie, and like God, most of us have endured services full of bloopers, sitting reverently in our little pews while painfully holding back the laughter. Backstage after the show, the pastor and the worship team grimace together and with a sigh of relief thank God for his mercy toward their fumbles. We are all hypocrites, I guess, and God must be very merciful in it all.
But it is so much funnier when we think the service was perfect. “The worship was awesome! The message was so powerful, so anointed! God really showed up this morning!” This is true hypocrisy, when we actually think our efforts at worship were somehow worthy of the Designer of the microbes and the constellations! When we take ourselves so seriously, God proves himself all the mightier in his restraint.
God must laugh at us – but never in derision – it is the chuckle of a father at an earnest two year old assuming the gravity of an important grownup. We will always be his little ones, and in his compassion, he laughs even as he weeps at our pompous presumption.
Maybe we have reached the limits of his restraint in recent years. It seems our Father has allowed us to see the expression on his face in the “holy laughter” that has erupted in the church. The phenomenon has been soundly criticized for bringing disorder and confusion when the preacher is making a profound point and someone breaks loose with a belly laugh. It looks like they are making fun of God, but I think it is actually God that is making fun of us.
I can hear him saying “In all your seriousness, you pretend to know me so well, but you have often missed my heart by a light year. You are abusing my little lambs with your systematic theology and biblical pedantry. Loosen up! Become my little children again and receive my tenderness and affection. Laugh with me!”
Our most sincere attempts at staging reverent worship will always fall far short of the one we worship. Dare we step out of ourselves for a bit, take our Father’s big hand, look back at our own silliness, and laugh along with him?