Practical Jokes

 Sometimes I suspect I’m the sort of theologian that would have been burned at the stake during the Middle Ages.  The idea that God might have a sense of humor is not particularly controversial among theologians. Most would assume, given that human beings are supposed to have been created in the image of God, that it is not unreasonable to suspect that since most human beings have a sense of humor, then chances are good that the same can be said about their creator.

When I was in college, being a typical college student, practical jokes on classmates and others was something I enjoyed.  One of the principles that I abided by, and encouraged those who would engage in practical jokes with me to abide by, was a simple one: any practical joke must avoid causing actual property damage or actual physical harm to a human being or animal.

So, one time my roommate and I ran wires from the stereo in our room to the speakers of a stereo a couple of doors down from us.  We ran the wires out our window and in through the window of our “victim’s” room.  Then, about three in the morning, we cranked things up to maximum volume and played Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture (with cannons) for a few minutes.  We then cut the wires, thus making it impossible for our victim to trace things back to us.

Other pranks included picking up an excessively small car, an Isetta, that belonged to one of the popular professors.  It was the same sort of car driven by Steve Urkel in the long running TV sitcom Family Matters.  So, we picked it up one morning while he was teaching class and carried it carefully over to one of the empty classrooms not far from the parking lot that happened to have a large double door.  Several classes were conducted in that classroom before the professor discovered his car and drove it out.

And then there were the several hundred empty aluminum soda cans that we carefully stacked in front of one student’s dorm room door, so that when he walked out early in the morning, the cans all tumbled inside his room.

Friends of my wife and I got married and made the mistake of entrusting us with the keys to their apartment while they were away on their honeymoon. They asked us to take all their wedding presents there.  When they returned, they really should not have been so surprised to find that their bathroom was stuffed, floor to ceiling, with wadded up newspapers.  Many of their meals for the next week or so were a constant surprise, too, since we’d removed the labels from all the canned goods.

So, this week the thought occurred to me: Does God’s sense of humor includes practical jokes? Jesus and his disciples were a bunch of guys hanging around together for a few years. Did Jesus ever shortsheet Peter’s bed?  Did someone put Judas’ hand in a bowl of warm water while he slept?  If God has a sense of humor, could that, at least sometimes, be the explanation for things like flat tires and other annoyances of life that cause no damage but do inconvenience us?  That is, does God fiddle with things just because he wants a laugh? 

Among the disruptions I had this week: Wednesday, I had a sudden explosion of floaters in my right eye: turns out it was a vitreous detachment. Potentially, such things can cause retinal tearing. Retinal tearing can lead to retinal detachment, something that in fact did happen to my father.  Thankfully my eye doctor, after a thorough exam, determined that the detachment was clean and there was no ripping or tearing.  No harm, no foul.

Sunday morning, I discovered water drops in my kitchen cabinet when I went to get my morning cup of coffee.  A trip to my attic confirmed that I had a leak in my hot water line.  So I shut off the water (after my wife finished her shower) and relatively easily fixed it that afternoon after preaching a sermon on Ecclesiastes 8, which included these words:

For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,

though a person may be weighed down by misery.

Since no one knows the future,

who can tell someone else what is to come?

Monday afternoon, after using my restroom, the toilet backed up.  It was not just a clogged toilet; instead, my main sewer line was clogged, so I had to rent a plumber’s snake and snake out the line.  I’ve done that before; I suspect I’ll have to do it again. 

Some might suggest that trouble is just part of life, the clustering effect is real, and all that is certainly true and is the most likely explanation. As Ecclesiastes also says, “time and chance happen to all.”  But I can’t help but wonder: maybe God just needed a good laugh.  Which is why they would have burned me at the stake back in the Middle Ages.