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Stories from the back of the room

by davesandel on October 2nd, 2021

Saturday, October 2, 2021                              (today’s lectionary)

Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels

Stories from the back of the room

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

Our upstairs neighbor Andrew invited Margaret and I to a standup comedy show he organized for a nearby venue. Just as we do in Sunday school sometimes, he set up fewer chairs than their expected audience, so people would sit in front and appreciate the large crowd gathering behind them (about forty people, maybe, in a small section of an Austin local art shop).

We easily were twice everyone else’s age, and of course the comics found us quickly, even if we were very near the back. They were generous in their jokes about us, and after the show the most famous of the group (Deric Poston) said we were his favorites in the audience. I hugged him, even if his longest story made me think of Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs. He was glad I got the reference; I was glad I didn’t have to listen to any more. He kind of just ended it in the middle, and walked off the stage.

Fear not, my children, call out to God! He who brought this upon you will remember you.

Andrew’s roommate Kyle, who is also a standup comic, told stories about his family, four girls and a boy, and he was the middle child. They were all close to the same age, so his mom gave them all the “puberty talk” at once. She made few allowances for the fact that he was a boy, since there were four girls, and she was one too.

That scenario, of course, made for some good laugh lines. And I found myself laughing, a lot. He told me afterward that his mom didn’t much like that skit, and she pointed out to him that  she was a normal suburban Ohio mom and absolutely did not give all her kids the puberty talk at once.

The Lord listens to the poor, to the lowly ones, those who are in bonds and bondage, and those who love his name shall dwell in the land, inherit the earth and inhabit it.

This is our second Austin comedy show; our neighbors invite us, and we go. We’re out of place, I guess, although perhaps everyone feels a little out out of place. One comic called us a “cute” crowd. The laughter was rarely uproarious, often a bit awkward. The jokes, as usual, made fun out of sex, often the sexual whims and notions of the comic himself (or in one case, herself). When are you supposed to laugh? Is it right to laugh at someone making fun of themselves? Is it right when they make fun of someone else? I really don’t think so. Sometimes my face felt frozen in a fake smile.

Fear not, my people!

Still, we were both glad to be there, Friday night out at a comedy club in Austin. Sounds like fun, and it was. But it was also awkward and sometimes even embarrassing … which, I think, is part of the plan. There’s something humbling about being humiliated, which perhaps is why the comics sometimes turn their humor on themselves and why, when they turn it on us, it doesn’t usually feel cruel, but that some-kind-of-healthy exposure is happening inside my soul.

As your hearts have been disposed to stray, turn now ten times more to seek him, for he who has brought disaster upon you will bring you back enduring joy.

This is Guardian Angel Day, one of my favorites on the church calendar. Angels watchin’ over me, over Margaret, over all those folks on stage who aren’t sure what will come out of their mouths when they open them but have the courage to stand up there and see, over everyone in the “cute” audience … over all of us. When we give God the glory, we also attribute to God his eternal and omniscient grace-filled presence around every one of us.

Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. Their angels in heaven always look upon the face of God.

Is God offended by some of the jokes, especially about Him, about Her? I don’t know, but I don’t think so. God is sitting with us, inside us, all around us, filling us with love if we’ll just let him.

(Baruch 4, Psalm 69, Psalm 103, Matthew 18)

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