A reflection from Central Alum and Midrash & a Meal Co-Organizer Lee Jost on this week’s upcoming discussion of Dr. Olson’s Laughter in a Time of Turmoil: Humor as a Spiritual Practice
Winter in central Iowa is cold, and on this fateful day I was scampering down a shoveled path to my car headed to a meeting. I put my key in the door and had just started to turn the key when an explosion of cold shattered my concentration. I instantly knew I had been hit by a snowball and before I could duck, another volley hit me square in the chest. I ducked and quickly began to assess my surroundings. I raised my head and through the windows of my car saw my Senior Pastor, Don Jonker, standing there laughing. Don and I laughed about the ambush for days. It became the stuff of legend in meetings.
That was one of my favorite moments in ministry. Don was at times stoic, at times my boss yet he could also be a friend. Laughter would continue to play an important part our ministry together. We would become co-laborers in Christ over the next few years. Laughter continues to be a part of my ministry. I find many of my interactions are punctuated with laughter. Laughter has opened doors to heartfelt conversations in the hospital. Laughter has invited conversation with people who are not receptive to the faith. Laughter has even allowed a group of misfit adults to come together as a house group and form bonds of friendship. Laughter is “powerful medicine.”
Years ago, my mother-in-law called our pastor one evening. When Phil picked up the phone Becky asked if he would preach last Sunday’s sermon to her again over the phone. Curious, Phil asked why. She flatly told him “I am having trouble going to sleep and it worked before.” To which Phil replied, “Becky, if everyone who fell asleep during one of my sermons were laid end to end, they would be much more comfortable.” (True story!) They laughed about that story even today. Laughter is a spiritual gift!
“The vocation of the “pastor-theologian” is one that appeals deeply to my personal sense of calling. I have never felt particularly gifted as a “shepherd pastor,” or a “CEO pastor,” but have always had an abiding spiritual curiosity that has led me to seek God both intellectually and in community. Working on a Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree at Central gave me the valuable freedom to explore theology and biblical studies more deeply than I could have imagined. I not only learned how to conduct research in my field of New Testament studies, but I learned how to better form my own questions in search of answers. Central helped me to realize my own vision of making biblical scholarship accessible to the local parish, a vision that I hope to carry well into my future.”