“BEHOLD, I COME” he shouted as he started his sermon. Then his mind went blank and he couldn’t remember what came next. So he started over.
“BEHOLD, I COME” he again proclaimed. And again his mind went blank. So he tried a third time.
“BEHOLD, I COME” as he frantically leaned too hard on the pulpit. With that, the pulpit gave way, and he went tumbling into the congregation, ending up on the lap of a little old lady in the front pew.
“I’m so terribly sorry,” he apologized to her as he extricated himself from the awkward position.
“Tweren’t your fault, Preacher,” she replied. “I shoulda got out of your way. After all you told me three times you was a comin.’”
“WHY IS IT THAT PREACHERS so often seem to be the butt of jokes? Does it mean there’s a lack of respect for the ministry and religion in general?” I asked myself. Those seemed to me to be reasonable questions, so I answered:
“No, I don’t think it does. Religion should be positive rather than negative. The “Thou shalts” are a heckuva lot more important than the “Thou shalt nots.” And kidding and having a sense of humor are a part of a happy and positive relationship.”
I’VE HEARD OTHER STORIES about local preachers, and again you must remember I cannot vouch for their authenticity.
Don Black was rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church of Rome, when they did some remodeling. Part of the upgrade was to add hot air dryers in the bathrooms. Two weeks later, Don removed every one of them. The parishioners could not figure why he would do such a thing. Until they discovered that someone had put a sign on each that read, “For sample of next Sunday’s sermon, press button.” And:
“I AM SORRY TO ANNOUNCE,” Floyd Roebuck once told a congregation, after having been their pastor for four years, “that this will be my last Sunday with you. The Lord Jesus has called me to another church.”
“Let’s all stand,” said the music director after Floyd sat down, “and sing ‘What a Friend We Have In Jesus.’”
OFTENTIMES PREACHERS DO A good job of retaliating. When Forrest Lanier was pastor of the First Baptist Church, Wright Bagby Sr. (father of the illustrious great statesman and former mayor Wright Bagby Jr.) introduced him when he spoke to the Lions Club. Wright was a master at “needling,” and his introduction was laced with clever disparaging remarks about Forrest.
“Now I know how the Philistines felt,” said Forrest beginning his speech, “when they were smitten by the jawbone of an ass.” Which reminded me that the Philistines weren’t the only ones who got smitten in biblical times. Humorist Dave Barry once wrote:
“The main thing I remember from Sunday School 25 years ago was that God was always smiting the Pharisees. It seemed that hardly a day went by when they didn’t get the tar smitten out of them, which is probably why you see so few of them around anymore.”
ANOTHER PREACHER RETALIATION I heard about also may not be true. Joel Snider had a conflict with the Board of Deacons at an earlier church and was fired. For his farewell sermon he preached on righteous living. He began by saying:
“Just because you’re a member of the church doesn’t mean you won’t go to hell if you don’t live right. And even though I’m a minister, if I don’t live right, I can also go to hell.
“And the Board of Deacons can go to hell too!”
I ALSO LIKE PREACHERS who aren’t afraid to kid the church’s tendency to pomposity. The late Garnet Wilder once told this story during a sermon:
“A preacher visited one of his flock in the hospital. While he was praying at the side of his bed, he noticed the patient begin gasping for breath. Not being able to speak, he grabbed a pen and pad and scribbled a note. Just as he finished, his life ebbed away. The preacher stuck the note in his pocket and in the trauma of the moment forgot to read it.
“While preaching at the man’s funeral a few days later, he suddenly remembered the note the patient had given him, and remembered he had not read it. Realizing he had in his suit pocket, he said, “Brother Smith wrote me what I know is an inspirational Christian message just before he passed away.” He reached in his pocket, brought out the note and read:
“Dammit, Preacher, you’re standing on my oxygen tube!”
Jack Runninger of Rome is a retired optometrist and state and national award-winning humor columnist. His most recent book, “Funny Female Foibles,” is available now. Readers may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.