I was in temple a few years ago, and I brought my friend Jon Dugan. He's a real character, but he wanted to understand what Jewish people did on Saturdays compared with what he did on Sundays in church.
The powers that be bestowed upon me the honor of closing the Ark and gave Jon the honor of putting the cover back on the Torah as well as replacing the jewels and crown that adorn the Torah.
While Jon was administering his duties on the Bima, he took the crown and looked at me as what to do with it. So I mouthed to him to "put it on."
Whereupon Jon put the crown on his own head. Not only did I lose it, so did half the congregation. And I guess that's where the term Oy Gevalt comes from.
An acquaintance of mine attends a Catholic church where lay persons administer the bread and wine at Communion. She usually gave out the wine but one day was asked to give out the bread. She was so used to saying, "Blood of Christ," that she had difficulty getting used to the new phrase ("Body of Christ"). "Bloody of Christ," she said to the first communicant, then realized her error. "I mean, his Buddy." Now completely red-faced, she stammered, "Look, take it or leave it!" The perplexed communicant responded, "Amen!"
Sometimes it's dangerous just to read the bulliten in church! During one Lenten season, my father, who was the pastor of a large California church, was preaching a sermon series on the Last Words of Christ. One week, the bulletin announced: "Next Sunday we will recognize all those who have belonged to the church for 20 years or longer. Sermon: My God, Why?"
When I was in seminary, we used to make up alternate names for hymns. I know fractured hymn titles are classic. Of course, there is the well-known "Gladly the Cross-eyed Bear" ("Gladly the Cross I'd Bear"), and "Fire Insurance, Jesus Is Mine ("Blessed Assurance"); and the little boy who thought "Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me" was "Jesus, Save Your Pie for Me." There was also a little boy who worried about "Can a Little Child Like Me..." because he'd often seen his mother canning tomatoes and peaches. I made the mistake of telling some friends in my congregation in Stillwater, Oklahoma, about a few of these titles, including "Lead on O King Eternal" (or "Lead On, O Kinky Turtle"), and sure enough the next Sunday it was one of the hymns chosen. As I stood up before the congregation to announce the hymn, my friends looked up at me expectantly to see what I would do. My tongue got tied as I tried to keep from laughing, and what came out sounded more like mush than anything!
--Rev. Barb Sherer
AND IN THE HEBREW TRANSLATION...
My friend Scott and I occasionally went to each other's worship services. I remember joining him at one especially beautiful service at the Marble Collegiate Church in New York, where we heard the great Norman Vincent Peale give one of his last public addresses.
In return, Scott joined me one Friday night at B'nai Jeshurun, on Manhattan's Upper West Side. It was Scott's first experience at a Jewish Shabbat service, and I found myself whispering a play-by-play of some of the rituals and Hebrew words as the service went on.
It was a very wet and stormy night, and the congregation was much smaller than usual. At one point, the rabbi decided to try to inject a little more warmth into the bedraggled room: He began an especially spirited version of the next prayer. At one point, he pounded the lectern in front of him and shouted "Ole!" Scott turned to me excitedly and said, "What does that mean?"
Well, the rabbi is from Argentina. I raised my right hand over my head and snapped my fingers. "Ole!" I said. "It means, you know, 'Ole!'" He got it and started cracking up. So did everyone in the next three pews.
As far as Scott is concerned, "ole" is now a Jewish term meaning, well, "Ole!"
THUS SAYETH CHARLTON...
As we approached the Great Vigil of Easter, I started a discussion with my third grade students on the relationship between Easter and Passover. "Can anyone tell us who Moses was?" I queried. Little faces were blank. Suddenly, I saw the light dawn on one boy. "I know, I know!" he cried. "He starred in 'Planet of the Apes'!"
One of my absolute fondest memories of church while growing up was hysterically laughing with my mother one day during the service. My mom is a wonderful person, who has a slightly less than wonderful voice. This has never deterred her from singing--I mean belting it out in service. One day, standing next to her, I just lost it, I was bent over laughing and she started to laugh too, and soon we were hysterical, just laughing and feeling naughty. It was during my teenage years when I didn't recognize quite how cool my parents are, and it stands out in my mind as an important bonding moment.
--Rev. Paul Raushenbush
A JEWISH HOME BEGINS
This didn't happen in a worship service, but for some reason I could not control my laughter in a Hebrew school classroom. A very nice woman from our synagogue had been invited to our class to speak with a small group of high-school-age students about keeping a Jewish home. She had interesting things to say and presented her ideas very clearly. But for some bizarre reason, I began to laugh uncontrollably, and I couldn't stop. Tears were rolling down my cheeks, and I was shaking.
I was terribly embarrassed, because I really liked the woman who was giving the presentation, and I didn't want her to feel uncomfortable. To make matters worse, her son was in my class. Unfortunately, he started laughing, too. I couldn't look at him without absolutely losing it. Yet the thought of getting up and leaving the room seemed very impolite. The presentation lasted for only about 30 minutes (which seemed like an eternity). But the laughing went on for months. Every time I would run into her son, I would start laughing and crying all over again.
Epilogue: Exactly one year ago (about twenty years after the laughter-inducing Hebrew school presentation), he and I got married! The ceremony was, for the most part, giggle-free!
My friend Cyndi anticipated a long-delayed visit to her out-of-state family. That Sunday, they all went to church--albeit a different Christian denomination than the one they usually attended. Afterward, her young son Scott questioned his grandfather.
"Why did you have to walk in that long line to the front?"
"Well, Scott, I went to the priest to receive Communion. Don't you take Communion when you go to church?"
"Yes." Scott thought a long minute then pompously invited, "But next time, Grandpa, I think you should come with us. At our church, they deliver!"
JUST LIKE US
Whenever my brother and I were lounging around the TV room, utterly indifferent to the amount of yard and housework to be done, my mother would commonly march in and upbraid us as "a couple of big loafs."
One Sunday when we were around 12 or 13, my brother and I were sitting in church when my brother called my attention to the monthly missalette. There where he was pointing was a commentary about the mysteries of Christ's presence in the Eucharist that read, "Are we not all part of this one loaf?" The implication that Christ was a big loaf like us produced that compressed laughter that only occurs in church, in which the interminable snorts and giggles are trying to escape out your ears.
NOAH AND THE NUTS
The Sunday school lesson for the day was about Noah's Ark, so the preschool teacher in our Kentucky church decided to get her small pupils involved by playing a game in which they identified animals.
"I'm going to describe something to you. Let's see if you can guess what it is. First: I'm furry with a bushy tail, and I like to climb trees."
The children looked at her blankly.
"I also like to eat nuts, especially acorns." No response. This wasn't going well at all!
"I'm usually brown or gray, but sometimes I can be black or red."
Desperate, the teacher turned to a perky 4-year-old who was usually good about coming up with the answers. "Michelle, what do you think?"
Michelle looked hesitantly at her classmates and replied, "Well, I know the answer has to be Jesus--but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me!"