Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lightening it up for a change

Krister Stendahl was quite a man. He was at one time the Bishop of Stockholm. Earlier on in his life, he taught New Testament Studies at Harvard Divinity School. He was the school's dean from 1968-1979, quite a tumultuous yet exciting time in American politics and theology. The Divinity School's obituary wrote about him in this way:

"During his tenure as Dean, from 1968 to 1979, Stendahl presided over the continuing transformation of the School, whose student body, faculty, and curriculum grew and became much more diverse, especially in regard to women and African Americans and to studies in religion specifically linked to those groups. Throughout this time—one of the most tumultuous political eras of American history, on college campuses and elsewhere—Stendahl successfully guided HDS with an astute, sometimes blunt decisiveness that was tempered by his wry humor and his enormous gift for listening, which were part of a complete, and consistent, pastorly presence." (Harvard Divinity School, nd, para. 7)

There's an urban legend that Stendahl was preaching at an important gathering of the divinity's school's community. He stood in the pulpit and looked out at an earnest congregation. Students, staff, and faculty members were intently prepared to hear his resonant, scholarly voice. He took a breath, paused and then said "Lighten Up." Thereafter, he left the pulpit and returned to his chair and sat down without saying anything more. I'm not sure this story is true, but it could be. It's more likely that this statement from his Convocation Address in 1984 is more accurate. Stendahl said:

Perhaps sometimes we must perceive the twinkle in Jesus' eye as we listen to his words. We have to find the right nature of this word so that we do not overuse it in our desire for knowing and believing more and more. Jesus' speech is far less pompous and far more humorous than we think. In those days if any shepherd left the 99 in the wilderness and went after one, that shepherd would be fired if he was found out. And what farmer was ever so dumb as to spread the seed equally on his patch, regardless of paths and roads and all? So let us lighten it up. It may well be that he said much of his words with a smile. Joy is closer to God than seriousness. Why? Because when I am serious I tend to be self-centered, but when I am joyful I tend to forget myself. (Stendahl, 1984, para. 16)

I am persuaded by Stendahl's words this morning. I more often than not take myself too seriously on my blog. Consequently, I want to "lighten it up" this morning given that Opening Day baseball fans in Cincinnati are in a for a chilly ballgame. The Yankees will be lucky to get their game in at all. April Fools Day will probably bring snow to the Big Apple. Ha, Ha :(no kidding:).

Elsewhere, in Church News, there's more doom and gloom. Denominations are dying. Religious faithfulness may even lead to obesity. I know that's true! 'Just do a week long retreat at Order of the Holy Cross monastery in West Park, NY and see how much weight you put on. OMG, the food there is just way, way too delicious!

Anyway, in light of all of these "truths," I offer you these two cartoons:
"Field of Dreams" by Drew Litton

We all need the hope of Springtime Baseball don't we?

And ....:

Whoever you are, wherever you may be .... Lighten up at some point today, right now might be a good time to begin. Anybody got a good baseball or Episcopal Church joke?

Blessings and Laughs Along The Way.

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