Send in the Clowns

by Andy Wood on November 7, 2009

in Insight, Life Currency, LV Alter-egos, Pleasers, Tense Truths

rodeo clown 3“It seems plausible that folly and fools, like religion and magic, meet some deeply rooted needs in human society.”  -Peter Berger, Redeeming Laughter

At a convention, filled with pastors and other very religious people, I was sitting on a shuttle bus going from the parking lot to the convention center.  The bus made a stop, and on hopped Dennis Swanberg – comedian, and then-pastor.  I recognized him, because we’d recently had him as a guest in our church.  Somebody else recognized him too.  A good ol’ boy hollered from the back of the bus, “Hey!  Aren’t you Dennis Swanberg?  Say sumpthin’ funny!”

Dennis smiled good-naturedly, but the look in his eye said it all:  Seriously?

I joked with him about the cluelessness of the request.  “Yeah,” he said.  “It’s sorta like saying to a doctor in public, ‘Cure something,’”

One Planet, Two Kingdoms

Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air.
Where are the clowns?

rodeo clown 6Two kingdoms live on one planet, and they seem to be circling one another in a dance of repulsion.  One kingdom is governed by the god of this world; the other by the God of Heaven.  One seems drawn to folly like a moth to the flame; the other claims to pursue wisdom.  But here’s the rub:  The God of Heaven has sent the citizens of His kingdom to dance with the citizens of this world in a dance of redemption. 

To us, it’s an act of love, kindness, obedience, and truth.

To the world?   We’re clowns.  We’re a joke – the buffoons, the fools.

Say sumpthin’ funny!

By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down and wept,
When we remembered Zion.
Upon the willows in the midst of it
We hung our harps.
For there our captors demanded of us songs,
And our tormentors mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”
How can we sing the Lord’s song
In a foreign land? (Psalm 137:1-4)

The Jester Prophet

Go with me to the middle ages, where kings in nearly every country had a version of the jester, or the fool.  The fool’s job was to entertain the king and his court.  But he was allowed to do something virtually nobody else in the court could do:  he could be honest with the king.

Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can’t move.
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.


The ones who couldn’t move?  They were the yes-men – the court approvers, whose sole task, it seemed, was to always approve of the Emperor’s New Clothes.  One word of disagreement or criticism could mean their heads.

rodeo clown 5The fool was different.  Through sarcasm, wit, wisdom and outright lunacy to his heart’s content, the jester could give the monarchs a different perspective while poking fun at royalty and nobility.  And get this:  The kings would often listen, even while the rest of the court scoffed and laughed at the comedian.

Believers often function in the same way.  By applying our talents and insights, we can gain a platform that, while it may roundly jeered by the approvers-that-be, may penetrate the defenses of the decision-makers.

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:18-21)

From the Outside Looking In

Don’t you love farce?
My fault I fear.
I thought that you’d want what I want.
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don’t bother, they’re here.

You share the same desires as every other human on the planet, regardless of the kingdom.  You want to be loved.  Heard.  Taken seriously.  Feel as though you had something of value to offer.  Somehow believe your life has meaning.

Unfortunately, in a world that organizes itself completely without God, believers are never the main attraction.

True story:  A family planning a $60 thousand dollar wedding asks the planner for a Justice of the Peace to do the ceremony.  She gives them a name; they come back for another one.  Seems this man wanted to use the Bible and mention God. They wanted neither – just someone to make it legal.  James Flamming adds:

A large percentage of Americans, rich and not-so-rich, are like that. To them we are like clowns: irrelevant, inconsequential, ridiculous.

Like the entertainers at the rodeo or the circus, we function as the side show – regardless of how seriously we want people to take us.  And let’s be honest:  it hurts.  We handle the holy things!  We’re carriers of a Life Transformer – an eternal Change Agent.  His grace has overwhelmed us, and His love has compelled us.  And while it may appear we’re just a stage act in search of an audience, the message we sing and proclaim has the power to revolutionize the world.

Say sumpthin’ funny! 

“We have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake” (1 Corinthians 4:9-10).

Do you know what it’s like to be the punch line of the world’s joke?  Or to be ignored – not just what you say, but who you are?  Or to feel like a resident alien in your own country, county, or town? My God, it aches.  Can’t we just go home?

A Different Perspective

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

rodeo clown 4Out in the rodeo arena, where men risk their lives and safety to test their endurance against a really angry bull, clowns do more than make the kids laugh.  They are known there as “bull fighters.”  Their main job is to distract the bull from the rider when he dismounts or is thrown down.  Waving and yelling to attract the bull’s attention, the clowns allow the rider to escape to safety.  And in situations where a rider becomes entangled and unable to free himself from the bull, the clowns put themselves at risk by rushing to the bull and placing themselves between the bull’s horns and the rider, while at the same time attempting to free the rider from the bull.

Nobody’s laughing then.  Especially the rider.

In a much larger arena – a dark and decaying world, that insults, persecutes, and falsely says all kinds of evil against followers of Christ – Jesus calls us salt and light (Matthew 5:11-16).  We’re the preservatives.  The city set on a hill.  The lighthouse that sounds the warning, whether the persecutors want to hear it or not. 

And when the people in that world are desperate or in danger, entangled or dying, a cry of love goes out from the Throne of Heaven:  Send in the clowns. 

And while you may feel useless and rejected, scorned or irrelevant, the need of your neighbor and the grace of your King cries out through your pain:  Rider down!  Will you be the clown?

And in a harvest that’s ripe, with laborers few, a brokenhearted Redeemer is moved with compassion for those (yes, those scorners) who are like sheep without a shepherd.  “Pray!” He says.  “Pray!”

How’s this for sumpthin’ funny…?

Dear God!  Send in the clowns.

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