It was a homiletical hot mess. I got a little too clever for my own good this past Sunday in my sermonizing.
If you were in traditional worship that morning, you already witnessed my brilliant idea of playing Hide-and-Seek in the middle of the sermon. I had six cards with words on them that as they were found, led us thematically through the sermon on being “Lost and Found.” Great idea, right? ……….. Well, maybe not. It went OK at 8:00 worship. I hid one or two cards a little too effectively, and had to cue people as to where to look, but it was all in good fun … no harm, no foul. The sermon worked.
Then 10:45 worship rolled around. The only piece of information you need to know ahead of time is that I made a strategic error in not replacing the cards in the pews immediately after the 8AM service. Sunday School called, a couple of conversations followed that, and lo and behold … I was scrambling to get the cards back in their place for the late service … and more importantly, I was working from memory, not the cheat sheet I used to place them for the 8AM service. (You know how this is gonna go already, don’t you?) Yuppers … one card completely disappeared never to be found or read … and the coup de grâce of the card debacle was that my closing card’s theme announcing the “Rejoicing” that God experiences when we are found, ended up being the “repent” card. Ugh!
BUT … but … but … God has a way of showing up when we least expect it. As this comedy of errors unfolded … and people lovingly laughed at my confusion … and I became completely discombobulated … and I found myself throwing into the air the remaining sermon note cards I was holding … God arrived and invited us to consider the possibility that in spite of my silly sermon cards being lost, God had found us in our laughter, and drew us together as the worshiping people of God, through that laughter … laughter that had now been transformed into holy laughter … holy joy … God’s Spirit at work among us … finding each of us and binding us together in that joy. Virtually every person in the sanctuary had the chance to laugh deeply and fully that morning. For a few moments we had respite from a world that, as often as not these days, stifles our laughter and joy. And even my personal guilt and embarrassment over not having the sermon unfold as planned was washed away by God’s gracious laughter among us. I will not soon forget this past Sunday. And I had any number of people come out and tell the same thing. God found us, and drew from us that joyous laughter that will erupt from us when each of us arrive at the gates of the Kingdom of God … where God will welcome us home to that last stop on the train where laughter is the norm and joy is the spirit that fuels it.