In a recent sermon, I paraphrased what St. Paul says in I Corinthians 14:23 as: “Don’t do anything in church that will cause a visitor to think: ‘These people are crazy.’ And I do try to live by those words. I try to present a worship service that is dignified and tasteful.
But I have another principle that I also live by when it comes to worship—and life! It’s a principle that, as far as I know, I invented myself. And the principle is: ‘You can never accomplish anything if you’re afraid to look foolish.’ So while trying to present dignified worship, I am not above doing things that are a tiny bit over the edge.
When I stand in the pulpit and put on my Cat-in-the-Hat headgear with the Luther Seal on it…I am living out my principle “You can never accomplish anything if you’re afraid to look foolish.”
When I do puppet shows with Menard Beausoleil of Erath, Louisiana, and his Cajun accent, I am living out my principle “You can never accomplish anything if you’re afraid to look foolish.”
When I don what I think of as a “Dallas Homicide Bureau 1963” Stetson and preach a sermon about the Kennedy assassination, I am living out my principle about looking foolish.
When I set the lyrics of “Good King Wenceslas” to the tune of The Beatles’ “Things We Said Today,” I am once again acting on the principle that one must be willing to look foolish.
When I was a kid in 1968, presidential candidate Richard Nixon appeared on Rowan and Martin’s “Laugh-In.” He spoke four words—one of the show’s tag lines: “Sock it to me.” He looked foolish. But he also won the presidential election!
People who are choking on food often rush away from the dinner table to the bathroom to try to clear the food from their windpipes. They are afraid to look foolish in front of the other people at the table. So they hurry out of sight. And very often that fear of looking stupid is fatal. They die in the bathroom alone. All because they had a terror of looking foolish in front of their friends.
It’s said that the most common fear is the fear of public speaking. But the fear of public speaking is just one manifestation of a greater fear—the fear of looking foolish. That is a crippling fear that often prevents people from contributing valuable things to society. “They all laughed when I sat down at the piano…but when I began to play…!” said an old advertisement. If the musician in question had allowed the possible laughter to deter him…then the music never would have happened!
The day I’m writing this saw a new product rollout from Samsung…a folding cell phone that opens up to become a tablet. I think the reaction to the new phone has been positive. But presenting a new invention is always a roll of the dice. Remember the Segway? The reaction to its rollout was: “Huh?” Introducing a new invention is always a risk. People may laugh. The inventors may look foolish. But if inventors are going to have any success at all, they have to be willing to take the risk.
In the Bible, we read of a Syrian general named Naaman. He was a leper, and he heard that the Prophet Elisha in Israel might be able to cure him. He went to Elisha—and Elisha told him to bathe seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman thought that was the stupidest thing he’d ever heard. He would feel like an idiot, bathing seven times in the Jordan River. But finally, he put aside his fear of looking foolish. And what happened when he took the sevenfold plunge? He was healed! (2 Kings 5:1-27)
Think of God. He is Lord of heaven and earth; He is the glorious King; He is the all-powerful all-knowing all-wise Master of the Universe. And what does He do? He becomes a little baby! A cooing, gurgling little baby! Obviously, He’s not worried about looking cool. He’s not worried about being thought foolish!
It gets even more radical. Not only does He become a little baby…He ultimately allows Himself to be crucified. Hung up for all to ridicule and poke fun at. He became “The Fool on the Hill,” to borrow something else from The Beatles. This notion of God on the cross was so ridiculous that an ancient Roman drew some graffiti that showed a man with a donkey’s head nailed to a cross. Only a donkey-headed God would allow Himself to be hung up on the cross to the ridicule of the crowds.
And yet…this “Fool on the Hill” saved the world. The God who was willing to be ridiculed took away our sins and brought us into His Kingdom.
So the crucified Christ is the ultimate example of my little principle: “You can’t accomplish anything if you’re afraid of looking foolish.” He placed Himself in a position of ridicule and won the greatest victory of all time—victory over sin, death and the Devil!
In All the King’s Men, the narrator, Jack Burden, says something like this: “You can’t do something you really love without looking foolish to other people.” And that’s very true. People who don’t share my passion for opera or hillbilly music probably think I’m a little odd to enthuse over those things. Someone who doesn’t share your passion for toy trains or knitting or “The Walking Dead” may look a little askance at you when you indulge that passion. But don’t let it stop you! The fear of looking foolish takes the joy out of life!
Often I hear church members say: “When I leave for church on Sunday, I seem to be the only person in my neighborhood who is going out of the house!” And how often do we hear on Sunday morning radio: “Traffic is all tied up with people going to church.” Those who attend church may sometimes feel a little lonely…and maybe even a little foolish. “My neighbors are doing the crossword puzzle and having a third cup of coffee and I’m leaving my warm comfortable house to sit on a wooden bench and sing a bunch of hymns.” But exult in such foolishness! We can’t accomplish anything in this life if we’re afraid to feel foolish! And when we come to church we are worshiping the God who embraced the foolishness of the cross to show His love to us and to save us!
God loves you and so do I!
Pastor imagine me with my Cat-in-the-Hat headgear or my Dallas Homicide 1963 hat on Anglin