For a pastor, especially one who is a former comedian with a current passion to help others find the comedy originally and intentionally contained in scripture, one of the biggest thrills and honors she can have is to be mentioned in a peer’s sermon as they wonder how she would best heighten the humor they have found in the particular scripture passage upon which they are preaching.
This was the case last Sunday. I attended Trinity United Methodist Church in my current hometown of Waverly; I hadn’t worshipped there in awhile, and it was a good Sunday for me to praise God with the fine folks of that congregation. My pal Wil Ranney happened to be guest-preaching and, much to my surprise (and total vocational delight), near the top of his sermon on the day’s Old Testament Lectionary Reading (Exodus 33:12-23), he lifted up my name, speculating what jokes I might lend to the fact that in this passage God invites Moses to feast his eyes on His, er, “backside.”
In the passage, Moses asks if he can see God’s face and the fullness of God’s glory that he so wants to witness. God says that’s not possible, but Moses can go to the crevice of a nearby rock and, as God passes by, he can view the Divine back.
The Hebrew term here for “back” is actually plural, lending many (including Michelangelo and the KJV) to understand God was inviting Moses gaze upon His “back parts” or, okay I’ll say, His “butt.” In fact, travel the information superhighway and you’ll find several interesting blogs on this passage entitled “God’s Butt.” Which is why Rev. Ranney, (who was both sheepish and excited that I happened to show up on the day I was going to be mentioned in his sermon) said, after introducing the topic, “I’m sure our friend Rev. Jane Voigts, who happens to be here today by the way, would have some really good jokes to share with us about God’s butt!”
“Butts” are of course a popular subject for joke-telling, and jokes about the Divine Behind can’t help but amuse; however, I had no wisecracks (pun intended) to share off the top of my head (pun rather intended), even if Wil had spontaneously cleared space in his excellent sermon for me to respond. All I could do in the moment was smile and wave to the congregation as they warmly laughed and nodded their heads (pun not intended at all, well, just a little).
Having had now a few days to think and brainstorm on this a bit bit (and how fun is that?!), I’ve come up with a few jests that I’d like to share here. In the spirit of theological appropriateness, I’m limiting the drolleries to 10. (That’s partly because I have a life to live and a world to tend to; can’t spend too much time thinking up jokes about “God’s Butt”; also, providing a list of 10 invites a drum roll to accompany you go!
So here, in no particular order, are, based on Exodus 33:12-23, my...
TOP 10 JOKES ABOUT GOD’S BUTT!
God said, “No, you can’t see my glory…but you can see me in my glory!”
Moses said, “Are you being funny?” And God said, “No, I’m being fanny!”
Moses said, “God, are you being cheeky?”
Moses said, “God, do you want me to view your heinie?” And God said, “I said nothing about viewing either knee!”
God said, “Stand in that crack, and I’ll show you mine.”
Moses said, “That’s some derriere!” And God said, “What makes you think you’re inhaling in Ireland?”
Moses said, “God, do you want me to behold your holy ass?” God said, “No, I’m saving that for Palm Sunday!”
Moses said, “Behold your gluteus maximus!” And God said, “Don’t you ever mistake me for a Roman!”
God said, “You shall not behold my sun; instead, you shall behold my moon.”
When Moses went out on a limb and asked to see God’s glory, God said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, but…"
And Moses interrupted, “I knew it, I’m going to get a big ‘but’!"
And God said, “It’s not such a big butt!”
And Moses said, “Of course it is, it’s your ‘but’!”
And God said, “I tell you one thing, it could be a bigger butt!”
And Moses said, “I suppose you’re going to say Baal has a bigger ‘but’!
And God said, “Baal isn’t real so his butt isn’t real!”
And Moses said, “And so we’re supposed to be grateful for your ‘but’?”
And God said, “You’re to be grateful for everything about Me!”
And Moses said, “Just like I hope you’re grateful for everything about me, even my ‘but’!
And God said, “Of course! I created your butt!”
And Moses said, “I thought my ‘but’ comes from free will!”
And God said, “Well, it can, at least in part!” So God created the Booty Belt...
... which for the longest time Moses assumed was something to help carry the all that silver the people absconded on their way out of Egypt.
(You can stop the drum roll now.)
I hope you have enjoyed my list! I encourage you to come up with Divine Behind Jokes of your own!
And after all the laughter and hilarity die down, there is still the issue of why God would offer to show his tush. There are many theories about that, including Wil's.
I, through the Comic Lens, will add to the mix my thoughts. It may have to do with the fact that God of scripture is always figuring out how to develop a closer, more authentic relationship with His people. He has shown his face to Jacob and to Moses when they’re in conversation (or wrestling!) with Him, but to just stand and behold a lot of God's glory is more than humans can handle.
But there’s an incredible intimacy that develops when we allow others to see parts of ourselves we normally hide in polite company. Not that there’s anything wrong with those covered parts; it’s just that's they're not for the world to know. Whether it’s a married couple or a couple of close friends or members of a family, these are the relationships where we see and experience one another in the most vulnerable of ways - “naked” both literally and figuratively.
I wonder if this is what God is seeking to engender with Moses, who, with his request, really just wants to get closer to His Maker and Friend?
How might God be seeking to get closer to you? (Even if it’s not in the way you’ve requested it?)
And don’t worry if your request leads to some goofy jokes. One of the best ways to break through to the vulnerable and to the real is through the laughter prompted by the…wisecrack!