I have been called many things in my life, but this past month I was called a clown. To be more precise, I was called to be a clown as part of our Vacation Bible School. Through skit and song, crafts and games, I was blessed to share a journey with forty youth and almost as many adults into deeper friendship with God and one another.
I find that relationships are most easily formed through joyful encounters and positive attitudes, and it isn’t much different for our relationship with Christ and his church. Our happy fellowship, laughter, and even a caring smile can serve as a witness to our faith and help sustain others, but I believe it also serves to encourage us in our work and shape our own futures.
What kind of joy is this? I am talking about much more than a positive attitude (although that helps). In fact, it ultimately isn’t about us at all. Trusting that no matter what happens we will always be cared for by Christ frees us to smile, to laugh, to risk relationship and love no matter the cost. We can be rejected, and yet our healthy self-esteem can continue unharmed because we are loved by God. We can seem to fail in our efforts and yet not worry; we share in Christ’s victory. Even as we struggle with sin or illness or tears, or anything else one can think of, we can trust with Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” God will use whatever happens for our good.
“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times,” declared Martin Luther. Yes, faith is God’s punch line to our world’s fallen reality. Faith surprises and empowers us. Even amidst difficulties or tears, it manifests itself through the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It keeps us going in the face of great obstacles, and in answer to death, it births an abundant life.
Long ago, Francis of Assisi and his followers encountered Christ’s love in their midst through active fellowship, service and worship together. This radical communal lifestyle raised the eyebrows of many who called them “Fools for Christ,” yet that way of life brought Francis, his friends and those they served an abundance of joy – not sour, pious faces, rigorous religiosity, or burdensome obligations. Perhaps, they had the last laugh by adopting the name meant to deride them.
That is the kind of clown I hope I can be…that I believe Christ intends us to be together as church. Please help us together discover the gift of such joy this fall as we celebrate 45 years of ministry at Messiah. No kidding, it might just change the world.
May Christ’s peace and joy always reign in your life,
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.
© 2013 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.