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Clothed in joy: Jesus was noted as a partier and one who partied with outcasts and sinners.

Where's Mom, Dad?" Chelsea ad just poked her head into e 4x4 pickup that served as my summer office. She had a look of puzzled concern on her face.

"I don't know," I said, looking up briefly from the laptop computer that was plugged into the cigar lighter of the truck. "Man, it sure is peaceful today. It's just what I needed for all this writing I have got to get done."

"Dad! Mom's missing and you talk like you are enjoying the peace as a result of it. Really Dad!"

"Mom's missing?" I said. "How can that be? I think I saw her when I served toast in bed this morning. Yes, I distinctly remember a hand coming out from under the sleeping bag and snatching the toast and coffee that I trolled by its entrance."

"Yeah, well she went for her morning constitutional after you left the trailer and I haven't seen her since," said Chelsea. "Don't you think we should go look for her, Dad?"

"It depends on how long it's been since she went for her cra ... I mean ... her walk," I said, rubbing my chin.

"It was over an hour ago," said Chelsea.

Just then I could hear laughter coming down the trail from the outhouse. Linda rounded the bend in the trail with an even bigger than usual smile behind her eyes. "Hi guys," she chuckled.

"Had a good time at the outhouse, did we?" I said. "What took you so long? Chelsea was about ready to call out the pooper police."

Linda continued to giggle. "Thirty-five years of using Thomas Crapper's contraption and I never had that happen to me before. You know how the outside latch on the outhouse is loose? Well, I went in this morning with a little more enthusiasm than usual and as the door slammed closed, the latch spun and locked. I was locked in tight. I did my business and then tried to jimmy the lock. That didn't work, so I sat and thought for a bit. Then I started drumming on the walls with my hands and that attracted a pair of crows who were no help at all. I let go my best cattle drive whistle and no one seemed interested, so I sat down to think some more. Eventually I heard a woman walking down the gravel road past the outhouse. I called out to her. I could see her through a knothole looking all around, like it was God or someone who had spoken to her. I told her I wasn't God, just a lady locked in the outhouse. She scampered up the trail and rescued me. We both started laughing so hard I almost wet my pants right in the outhouse. The last time I saw her she was going her merry way down the road, staggering, she was laughing so hard. Ain't life a blast? If nothing else I brought some laughter and celebration into someone's life this morning."

We all had a good laugh with Linda about her experience and I went back to work whacking away at the computer. The girls disappeared into the trailer. As usual, I was working on something quite serious, but every so often I stopped and chuckled to myself about the morning's incident. I couldn't help myself.

Linda is one of the few people I know who would find joy in getting locked in an outhouse. She is noted for her contagious laughter, me not so much. When people first get to know Linda they think her infectious laughter is a nervous condition. It isn't, it is an extension of her faith. As a Christian, she is a laugher. I am a brooder. She makes people laugh; I suspect I make people brood. I think she is closer to Christ and His Kingdom than I am.

Whenever I think of Christ, I tend to create him in my own image. I think of him as a brooder, a stern preacher, a man with righteous anger. But a serious read through the Gospels reveals a man much broader than that, certainly a man of laughter and celebration. Jesus' first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding party and you can be sure he wasn't there brooding. In Jesus' day, if you wanted serious brooding, you had to look no further than the Pharisees. To them, Jesus was not nearly serious enough. Jesus was noted as a partier, and worst of all, one who partied with outcasts and sinners. Over and over again we see Jesus in situations that were celebratory, situations of laughter and happiness. And in these situations he seems to be concerned with bringing celebration and laughter and happiness into lives that were often too short of them.

More than that, when Jesus talked about his Kingdom he often compared it to a party, to a place of laughter and celebration. The Kingdom Parables are virtually teeming with festivity and merriment. The parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost or prodigal son all have the element of celebration and joy central to them. The parable of the children of the bride chamber challenges us: How is it possible not to celebrate as long as Messiah is come? The parable of the wedding feast compares the Kingdom to a celebration where those who refuse to celebrate and make merry will be replaced with those who will.

I could go on, but my point is that in the Bible, Christ and His Kingdom are full of laughter and celebration. And a central discipleship theme in the Bible is bringing these wonderful human dimensions into people's lives that are void of them. As a Christian, not only is it Christ-like to be a joyous and festive person, but it is a Kingdom orientation to conspire with Christ to bring these elements to bear in people's lives where brokenness, hurt and grief rule the day. "O Lord, be my helper! You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy." (Psalm 30:10-11)

Rev. David Webber is a contributing editor to the Record. He is a minister of the Cariboo, B.C. house church ministry. His most recent book is Like a Winter's Aspen: Embracing the Creator's Fire.
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Title Annotation:for the journey: CONTEMPORARY SPIRITUALITY
Author:Webber, David
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Words:1055
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