Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
When Jeralean Talley was asked on her 116th birthday last May what the secret to long life is, she claimed none. Rather, she said, “There is nothing I can do about it.”
Her 21 year-old-godson, who fishes with her said, “Her No. 1 rule is to treat people how you want to be treated.” While I am sure that is true, I couldn’t help but wonder if there might be another correlation with fishing as well.
I would suggest there was an element of humor in her response, and while I am a bit reluctant to put words into the mouth of a woman who is older than a lot of trees, a good sense of humor seems important.
The last time I wrote for this column, I discussed the “Myth of Perfection” as one of several confusing ideas among people of faith. I would like to quickly examine the presumption that to be a really faithful Christ follower, when talking about the things of God, you must have an expression on your face that looks like you’re wearing shoes two sizes too small. Or as I had been fond of saying, “It looked like they were baptized in lemon juice.”
I understand there are times when we need to be serious, but I also know there are times to lighten up and allow what you have inside to come out. Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia in what we call chapter five of his letter to them. He first described what he called the acts of sinful nature.
But he also listed attitudes and behaviors that grow out of the opposite approach. It would be as natural and as effortless as a tree producing fruit, in fact, he listed them and called them the Fruit of Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
I am not convinced Paul put those in random order. Did you notice that joy is the second thing on the list? When Nehemiah directed the rebuilding of the walls at Jerusalem that had been destroyed and torn down, he said in part, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
I am well aware of the shortest verse — “Jesus wept” — in John 11:35 NIV. But I also know that the psalmist was convinced that God has a sense of humor. “But you, O Lord, laugh at them; you scoff at all those nations.” Ps 59:8 NIV.
Someone has said the platypus demonstrates that God has a sense of humor. I would suggest I have seen things much closer to home that has confirmed the idea. As my old pastor was fond of life: “You might as well enjoy it. You are not getting out of here alive anyway.”
Upton has retired as pastor of Tooele’s First Assembly of God after 27 years of service. He is now chaplain of Rocky Mountain Hospice and the Tooele City Police Department.