I must say, I'm feeling a little panicked at present. One of the best, sure-fire laugh lines of my show, "The Bible Cabaret" A Music & Comedy Revue Starring the Old & New Testaments" is in danger of no longer being funny.
I have long said one of the easiest ways of discerning the comedy in scripture is to take its archaic examples and replace with contemporary ones. You do this and suddenly, like a capsule of "Instant Safari" where you put a seemingly innocuous capsule in warm water and in seconds a large purple elephant pops out, there is some biblical something that's big and funny - and smart and often sharply indicting but who cars because it's smart and funny - to laugh about, laugh with.
One of the biggest laughs of my show - at least until now - has been garnered as I "update" Jesus rather well-known teaching on money, found both at Mark 10:25 and Matthew 19:25 that goes:
"It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God."
While we may smile faintly at this quirky, curious phrase because of the absurdity of an attempted camel-needle pass-through, it comes from a foreign culture and doesn't hit us with as much funny force as to elicit an actual chortle.
However, switching out the camel's most futile of quests for something familiar, contemporarily American, and equally ridiculously impossible creates a Jesus teaching that is downright hilarious and crystal clear. For example, and namely, putting things this way:
"It is easier for the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God."
Could a response of "bingo!" ever be more warranted? Could the humor of Christ ever be more obvious? And funny? Could we ever become more aware of what an anathema of money and stuff are to God, at least according to our Rabbi Jesus?
Yes, crowds erupt in a round of downright guffawing as they get to apply the woes of the most hapless of teams ever to those of a rich man seeking eternal life.
Ha ha ha ha ha!
Yes, I could always count on a great response when letting those ever-disappointing, frustrating, heartbreaking losers from Wrigleyville teach us about scripture. And give us great opportunity to heartily (if wistfully) laugh.
....things have changed. Maybe.
Dare I say it in case I jinx things, but those Cubbies this year, this postseason, might...just...okay I'm going to close my eyes and jump here....win it all. Okay I said it.
It's more than hard to believe, and harder to say, but the Cubs might just win the World Series this year!
Which of course is the greatest thing that could ever happen to a Cub fan.
And also completely kills my killer joke. Back to the drawing board.
That's what I'm doing now, just in case. Trying to come up with similar absurd impossibilities that I can compare to trying to enter Paradise when wealthy
It's not easy, but here are some stabs I am presently considering:
"It's easier for Fox News and MSNBC to like one another than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God."
"It's easier to stay away from Facebook when struggling with writers' block than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God."
"It's easier to spell 'Voigts' correctly than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God."
"It's easier to get gun control legislation passed in this country than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God."
The search continues.
Actually, it's fun and strangely therapeutic to think about what sorts of ridiculously (if unnecessarily) difficult things swarm around our lives and infest our dreams and name them. To also let them inform and remind us just how completely useless and wrong is our love of money and need for stuff. I invite you to give it a try.
And take solace in the follow-up observation Jesus provides in Matt. 19:26 and 10:27:
"With God, all things are possible."
Maybe, with God's unending powerful help, we can change! Things can change! We learn to let go of all the crap we inordinately cling to and truly find Eternal Life! Then, whenever "then" is, and even now!
Or at least, with God's unending and powerful help, I can find a good - and funny - replacement example for my Bible Cabaret script. If such change, dare I say it, becomes warranted.
That's my prayer for all absurdly impossible dreams.....