Archives For Humor

r-S93UWAI’ve never pressed the flesh with Todd Littleton but he’s my biggest fan and claims to have a man-crush on me (he apparently has a photo of me in his study). Neither of those may be truth but there’s no doubt I’m grateful for the way God brings friends like Todd into my life, even friends through this un-incarnational means called the internet. As friends should do, I know better what I think and write because Todd tells me what I think and write.

Todd came into my life at the same time cancer intruded into it so it seemed especially appropriate that as my book, Cancer is Funny: Keeping Faith in Stage-Serious Chemo, releases soon he would be the first person I talked with about it.

Coming up, I’ll be on the Lectiocast with JR Daniel Kirk to talk about the book and in January Tripp Fuller of Home-Brewed Christianity will interview me as part of HBC’s Theology Beer Camp.

On Friday, 12/2 here in DC two friends in my church have organized a Friar’s Club Roast of yours truly to kick-off the book. Clearly, I’m an easy target so it promises to be a great event. And, it’s off Methodist premises so there’ll be libations available too.

social-media-buytickets

As part of the night, Dr. Tony Jones, author of Did God Kill Jesus? and the one who first encouraged me to start this blog, to launch our podcast, and to write the book, will be here from the Twin Cities to be a featured roaster.

Also on tap, Dr. Jeffrey Pugh, author of Religionless Christianity: Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Troubled Times and Professor of Religion at Elon University, will be another guest roast master. As will my friend and mentor Dr. Dennis Perry and a host of others. The Roast Master for the night will be my dear friend Brad Todd, a frequent guest on Meet the Press who runs OnMessage Inc and is one of the architects of Trumpocalypse. If you didn’t vote for the Donald this is your chance to roast Brad too!

So, if you’re on my blog list and live in the DC area come on out for a laugh with us. If you’re in my congregation, definitely come. I freaking dedicated the book to you all; it’s the least you can do! 

Details:

Date – Friday, December 2, 2016 at 7:00 PM

Location – Mt. Vernon Country Club

Get your tickets by clicking here

Okay, here’s the interview with Todd. If you’re getting this by email, the link to the audio is here.

 

When I Hate My Job

Jason Micheli —  September 26, 2016 — 5 Comments

rp_lightstock_70038_small_user_2741517-1024x683111111.jpgI’d made it as far the Jersey line, headed to Princeton for a week-long con ed course on philanthropy. Just shy of the bridge, ordering coffee at Peets, I received a text about a 12 year old in my son’s school dying (actively so) of the same two syllable word that my son still worries is going to kill me.

His is in the brain.

They don’t say dopio at Peets.

I changed my order to a double expresso and turned around south down Interstate 95. Just yesterday Facebook timeline reminded me it’s been 24 months since I wore my clergy collar and tossed slow straight fastballs to the lineup on my son’s coach-pitch baseball team before I dusted myself off in the 5th inning to lead a prayer vigil at my church for Hannah Graham.

A neighborhood girl.

They found her body a few days after the game.

15 years I’ve pastored and in those years… just as many funerals where the casket measured about 48 inches.

Or less.

I f@#$%^&* hate my job sometimes.

A truer, holier sentence I cannot write, for I take the suffering of children to be profane in the truest sense of the word. It’s a stain on any notion of God’s sovereign goodness and to hate my vocation from such a God, to hate it with the perfect hatred of a prophet like Amos, often seems to me the most righteous of priestly postures.

Sometimes I hate my job.

As often (or, more specifically: on those occasions) I feel just as pissed off at God. I don’t believe God is the reason behind everything. But I DO believe, as the Cause of everything, God is at the very least responsible. Morally, if not directly, responsibly.

If there was such a thing as a believer’s thesaurus, then “Pediatric Oncology” would be a synonym for atheism. Especially when the name of the hospice nurse is written on the dry erase board. J’s bed was decorated with 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of printer paper scrawled with sharpie- written Jesus speak:

“Thy will done.”

“God doesn’t make mistakes.”

“In my Father’s House are many rooms”

“Let the little children come…”

J wrote them before his hands palsied, because of the brain tumor, and he couldn’t write anymore. His mother told me he stopped being able to speak on Wednesday. Yesterday he lost control of his eyes. Today his breathing grew as shallow as the eyes of his family gathered around his bedside.

I wrote a book called Cancer is Funny that’s due out in a handful of weeks. But I didn’t laugh today. Part of me, initially at least, wanted to take back my 70K plus words about cancer as I held J’s mother’s hand, after wiping the spittle from his mouth and helping to bath him, and traced the cross on his forehead with my other hand. This shit isn’t funny at all, I thought, while consoling and counseling and praying.

Maybe, I wondered, the premise of my book was all wrong.

Or, maybe my premise was my perspective alone. And, of course, it is only my perspective.

Except…

The comedian George Carlin in some long ago album argues that anything can be funny provided that in the story there is something that is grossly out of proportion.

Anything can be funny, Carlin asserts, so long as the narrative incident has something in it that is ridiculous and exaggerated.

J’s bedside today wasn’t ha-ha funny but something seemed out of proportion: God.

Our faith in Him.

Holding J’s mother’s hand in one hand and holding his dying body in my other arm, taking my cues from the Sharpie-scriped faith pictures around me, I prayed about God’s Kingdom and God’s Power and God’s Will-Be-Done, and I thought how our collective faith seemed pathetically disproportionate to the reality before us. Our faith, I thought, seemed at best like a mustard seed against a mountain.

My nose ran onto his blanket as I prayed.

Or, possibly the malproportioned sizing went the opposite direction. Our claims about God’s loving goodness sweep too broad, offensively so, considering the concrete reality of J’s small, shallow breaths.

Maybe, irrespective of my book, that’s what makes cancer funny- not because it causes us to laugh but because it makes us a cause for laughter.

Derisive laughter.

Maybe George Carlin is right.

Maybe all you need for (black) comedy is a giant effing gap between what is and what, in God’s good world, ought to be. Maybe that’s the gross, out of of proportion exaggeration of which Carlin speaks. Maybe this world, where children die and mothers mourn them, as measured against the naive eyes, lofty claims, and stained glass language of our God-speech is the exaggeration that should leave us red-faced and laughed at in this world.

The joke is on us who so often suppose that God is in control, that everything happens for a reason, or that God wills our suffering for some mystery that will be yielded to us in the fullness of time. Believers deserve to be the object of laughter, such laughter it seems to me is the most thoroughly Christian reaction to the lie that Death is anything but the Enemy.

People of faith deserve to be scorned with laughter and ridicule, righteously so. Unless, all the world’s bitter laughter and the pain which it occasions really is born by a God emptied of all power and pretense and poured out in suffering. As Paul all but says in 1 Corinthians 15, the joke is on us if the joke we tell is not true: that in taking on our humanity, Christ suffers in himself the exaggeration, the malproportioned gap, between what is and what ought to be and in dying defeats Death.

zipperSimul iustus et peccator fatue

Reformation Day is upon us that so-called ‘holiday’ when some Christians celebrate the fact that some other Christians split Christ’s Body in half. Martin Luther, founding padre of the Protestant Reformation, insisted that God’s grace is a declaration announced to us. From outside us.

     God’s grace is a promise to which we can only respond with trust.

     There is no discernible interior change in us.

     We essentially remain the same d*&^%$-bags we were before.

     Only now, we know in faith, when God regards us, he graciously chooses to see Jesus instead of the a#$-clowns most of us are most of the time.

Says Luther: Even after we’ve responded to the promise of grace, we never cease to be sinners. The new life faith makes possible always remains, in Luther’s view, nascent. Sin remains our determinative attribute even after justification.

     This is Luther’s doctrine ‘Simul iustus et peccator.’ 

     It translates to ‘at once justified and a sinner.’

Or as the contemporary paraphrase edition puts it: ‘Being loved by God doesn’t stop us from being a Frodo D*&^%$- Baggins.’

     Case in point: the other Sunday morning.

Contemporary worship service.

Unlike most Sunday mornings when I roll out of bed straight into my car with last night’s toothpaste slobber still crusted on the side of my mouth and then conceal most of the evidence from having pressed snooze 33 times behind my Luther-like alb, this Sunday I actually put on a tie.

And a blazer.

And combed my hair.

After first having showered.

Truth be told, this humble man of the cloth thought he looked pretty damn good.

Definitely more Palmer Joss this Sunday than rugged Rev Maclean.

Palmer

1276-3

That I thought I looked pretty damn good was reflected in my gosh-aren’t-I-hilarious banter during the announcements. An ecclesial Ryan Gosling, to be sure, I stood in front of several hundred worshippers and welcomed them in the name of Christ.

In between opening praise songs, I seamlessly slipped onstage to offer an opening prayer, gelling the words of the songs with the upcoming message. To chuckles, including my own, I gave the announcements for the day (if you see him, please tell Rev Perry the Gov’t Shutdown doesn’t apply to him and he should return to work…HAH!)

I then celebrated the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, pouring water over little Charlotte while a baker’s dozen of her cousins snapped pictures. Later in the service I stood front and center up by the altar to lead the pastoral and the Lord’s Prayer. And then we closed the service with ‘Forever Reign.’ A praise # from Hillsong United, the Walmart of contemporary Christian music.

Imagining my voice to sound as good as I looked, I sang:

You are good, You are good

When there’s nothing good in me

You are love, You are love

On display for all to see

     On display.

Damn.

Some synapse fired in me, triggering an almost primordial, survivalist self-awareness.

Holding the manilla worship bulletin in my left hand, I lowered my right hand down.

Slowly, as to be imperceptible to the band and singers standing 5 feet straight in front of me.

All the while still singing:

You are peace, You are peace

When my fear is crippling

My hand did a too-subtle-to-be-noticed reconnaissance.

Fly down.

Thinking myself cooler than 007, I’d instead been X,Y,Z during the entire service.

And while some worshippers in that moment had their eyes closed in enthused praise and worship, I closed mine, mentally weighing my options:

Do I suck it up and just zip it up right now?

What if the band sees me or the worshippers to my left or right?

What if it gets stuck and I look like I’m playing with myself while the band plays their last number?

What if Karli or one of the other singers sees me and snorts into the mic?

Should I just leave it, offer the benediction and hope no one sees?

Definitely the last, I decided, all the while singing:

The riches of Your love

Will always be enough

Nothing compares to Your embrace

Song ended, an ‘In the name of the Father, Son and Spirit’ served up, I sheepishly waited for everyone to ‘go forth in the name of the Lord.’

Coast clear.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

And then… a youth grinned at me knowingly (because of what I didn’t know).

“Hey man, did you know your fly was down through, like, the entire service?”

    Simul iustus et peccator fatue

     ‘At once justified and an idiot’ God’s grace always remains outside of us, apart from us, Luther says. It’s a promise announced to us not an attribute original in us.

We are always at once graced by God and the same a#$-clown we were before.

When you think about it, it must be so.

Lest we ever forget that God’s grace is exactly what it is: an undeserved gift.

You are good, You are good

When there’s nothing good in me

You are love, You are love

On display for all to see

grouchoThe sermon for the ordination service 2 years ago included a recurring jeremiad against cynical pastors who mock the church with a capital C.

In my hubris, my first thought was ‘Shit. Is he talking about me?’

My next thought was of Woody Allen.

Woody has a famous joke from Annie Hall about how he’d ‘never want to belong to any organization that would have him as a member.’ I think it’s originally a Groucho joke (wag of the cigar, wag of the eyebrows).

A variant on that line of reasoning is my own struggles with being a pastor; namely, I don’t want to belong to any guild that would have YOU as a member.

Sounds harsh, I know, but what it comes down to in reality is just how incredibly, to-the-bone, reverently unfunny are most pastors.

I remember my first area clergy meeting when I pastored my first church part-time. All the pastors were making obvious churchy jokes, most of which had to do with church potlucks (do churches still do those?) and were no more sophisticated than knock-knock jokes. I mean, what I wouldn’t have done for just one fart joke.

I remember making a sarcastic remark (How in the hell did it take the Israelites so long to get to Canaan from Egypt?) and having everyone stare at me like I’d just expressed impolite concern for the casualties in Palestine.

And then I remember thinking to myself: ‘What am I doing here? I don’t belong here.’

By and large, pastors are hysterically unfunny.

Genuine humor requires openness, surprise, authenticity and a lack of fear over your listener’s reaction.

All of which are qualities required by faith but none of which are qualities encouraged by ministry.

Instead pastors tend to gravitate toward the telegraphed, not-going-to-upset-anyone variety. In addition, most pastors are sinfully over-serious, advocating for social justice or eternal salvation.

Sadly, pastors are just extreme versions of most Christians.

We’re NOT funny, and color me guilty on that score too.

Not funny as Christians.

(And you’re tempted now to cite Jeff Foxworthy or some lame ‘Christian comedian you should just stop reading).

I know plenty of church people who are piss-your-pants funny outside of church but inside church they’re completely different people; or rather, they somehow believe we expect them to be different people.

I don’t say this just to be cheeky. It’s a profound theological problem. After all, we know the end of the Story, of history.

No matter how things look now in the world or in our lives, God wins in the End. Things work out. There’s another version of reality other than the one given to us by the world.

Jesus is King of the whole Earth now- that’s the Gospel.

How could that NOT make us snarky, irreverent and cynical over all the parties, people and powers who think they’re in charge?

Christians are people who know that every King, President, CEO has no (eschatological) clothes.

If that doesn’t lend itself to irony, sarcasm, ridicule, satire and plain old joy I don’t know what does.

Maybe our lack of funny corresponds to having lost sight of our core story. Maybe we’ve substituted good news for legalism- which, by definition, can never be funny.

Maybe this is why Jews and gay people are almost always funnier- they know there’s more going on in the world than meets the eye.

Maybe our lack of funny reveals a lack of faith in that fact.

All of this is prompted by an article in the Huffington Post, Irreverence Is the New Reverent

Here’s the money quote:

It is this fear of irreverence that I believe deprives the Christian community from learning what it really means to be faithful. Irreverence shows the world how to be real, prophetic and passionate.

Irreverence says it like it is. It’s the child who calls out the emperor has no clothes. It’s the uncouth teenager who wears his boredom on the outside. It’s the hippie activist who won’t shower until world peace reigns. Irreverence gives the Church permission to engage in full-blown lament amidst the hardships of life.

Download My New eBook

Jason Micheli —  November 1, 2013 — 2 Comments

DESIGNJust imagine how awesome the conversation, text messaging or email exchange could go:

You: Say, I just downloaded this pastor’s new ebook. It’s really great. You should check it out.

Friend: Really? What’s it called?

You: 100 Foreskins

Friend: Come again.

You: No pun intended, right?

2 Timothy 3 states:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

 

100 Foreskins is my attempt to test out Timothy’s bold assertion.

Is there something worthwhile about David’s gross dowry of 100 foreskins? Can we actually learn something from the story of the bare-a@#ed Isaiah prophesying in the nude? Can God get to us through the random bits of the Bible?

You can download the book here or by clicking on the image on the sidebar in the right.

Tell your friends.

Just think, now you can have my voice in your head and my words on your tablet without every worrying about the first-world problem of no wifi access.

 

1345062281-david-sedarisMy boxers, in case you were wondering, are in the wash.

Why?

Because I peed my pants reading David Sedaris’ new book, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.

In it is an essay, Author? Author?, David has read before at his shows and was featured in the New Yorker. It’s about Costco, rubbers and his book tours. You can listen to it here. It’s hilarious.

Warning: If you’re easily offended or have certain Victorian assumptions about pastoral decorum, don’t listen.

      1. Author? Author?

 

181433_3906181615236_956819031_nHere’s the video from last week’s Friar’s Club Roast we did for Fat Tuesday. Alexander, my 10 year old son, was the second best part of the show.

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This is what my son, Alexander, served up last night for our Fat Tuesday Comedy Roast of the Pastors.

At first, Elaine and Teer asked me to roast Dennis tonight. But that would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

So I decided to roast my Dad instead.

I think my Dad is the awesomest guy in the world. Of course, so does my Dad.

People are always asking me what it’s like to be a pastor’s kid. And I’m always like: ‘I don’t know. Don’t clowns have kids too?’

Here at church, all my Dad talks about is God, Jesus, the bible.
But at home, all my Dad talks about is himself: how awesome he is, how “brilliant” he is, how funny he is, how talented he is.

And he is talented. In ways you probably don’t know. For example, did you know my Dad can sing? It’s true.

On those rare occasions when my Dad actually takes a shower, you can hear him in there belting out ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.’

My Dad has other talents too.
He knows how to tell my Mom to fix the car.
He knows how to ask my Mom to get her tools and fix the sink.
He knows how to hold tools for my Mom when she’s hanging shelves.

Now, some of you people make fun of my Dad for wearing booty shorts to church.

Let me just say, you’ve got it easy. You’ve got nothing to complain about.

Imagine what it’s like for me. Imagine what it’s like to get picked up at school or swim practice by a Dad wearing booty shorts?

Imagine what it’s like when your classmates ask: ‘Is that guy in the tights your Dad?’

And in those moments all I can say is…‘Well…..I’m adopted.’

I mean, my Dad’s tights are so tight I can tell exactly how much change he has in his pocket.

Seriously, as bad as my Dad dresses at church, you should just be thankful he’s dressed at all.

At home, my Dad just walks around in his whitey tighties.

In fact, I don’t have an alarm clock. I don’t need one. I know it’s time to wake up in the morning when I hear my Mom yell: ‘Jason, you can’t walk around like that. Put some pants on.’

Some of you are critical of my Dad, from time to time. But it doesn’t really faze him.

Narcissism is helpful that way.

If you really want to upset my Dad, don’t criticize him. Just show him the trailer to the Blind Side. It only takes about 3 seconds of the Blind Side for my Dad to start crying like a baby with a poopy diaper.

Here at church, you hear my Dad talk a lot about how Dennis is old, forgetful, lazy, obvious, boring, tired, uninspired, old, predictable, vain, shallow, past his prime, full of himself, phones it in, takes credit for others’ work….

just to name a few things.
But here’s the funny thing—- at home, that’s exactly how we talk about my Dad.

He’s just like Dennis.

But with less hair.

You may have heard already that this year our project in Guatemala is toilets.

Thousands of kids die in places like Guatemala every day from diseases they get from dirty water. So it’s an important project for you to support.

It is also an appropriate project for my Dad considering how

A) my Dad is full of it

and
B) how much time my Dad spends on the toilet.

He goes in there and…….disappears.

He spends more time in the bathroom than those old guys at Mt Vernon Rec Center.

We don’t know what my Dad does in there.
The lunar cycle goes faster than my Dad’s potty breaks.

Thank you for coming tonight. I hope you give lots of money so that tonight will be a success.

I’m sure that if it is a success, my Dad will say it was his idea.

imagesFirst, I think I need to offer the disclaimer that it’s not easy to speak last at such a dud of an event- especially when you consider that this is a church not a comedy club and all of you, besides Steve and Kathy Larkin, are sober right now.

Just looking at you all gathered up here on stage, I think I speak for everyone when I say…I expected you guys to have more talent.

You guys gave up the State of the Union for this? I know these are partisan times but I think we can all agree that you made a bad decision.

But seriously, it’s a great treat to have Bill Perry wheeled in here tonight. I joke about Dennis, but Bill Perry’s so old that whenever he stops moving, people throw dirt on him.

You all have gotten to know Bill pretty well, but you might not know his wife, Carol. Or, as Bill’s lawyer calls her: ‘Jailbait.’ Bill and Carol met in school. He was her 2nd grade teacher.

Alexander, my son. I mean it from the bottom of my heart when I say: You’re grounded for the rest of your life.

Andreas, what a song! There’s a lot of words I could use to describe how I feel about your music. I just can’t say any of those words in church.

Teer, I used to hate you for being the taller, stronger, younger, handier version of myself. Now I just hate you.

And Elaine, I take back every compliment I ever lied to you about.

And Terri Phillips. Not only does Terri make this church hum, she’s also the only straight person to have ever worked at the Walt Disney Store.

And Leah…our Staff Parish Chairwoman, I just want to say…you did an incredible job, absolutely amazing. The beauty and power of your musical gifts is exceeded only by your character and leadership and compassion and generosity and innocent humor. If you have one flaw, Leah, it’s that you can’t relate to all of us who have flaws.

According to the late Steve Allen, the “art of the comic roast lies in the speaker’s ability to hug the line of what’s appropriate and clean without going over the line.

I think we can all agree that’s a skill I have in spades.

So it’s not that I don’t have the requisite skills to roast the Rev Dr Dennis Wayne Perry, a man whose name will go down in history with names like Michael Scott, Gomer Pyle and Roscoe Peco Train.

It’s not that I don’t have the skills to ridicule our fearless figurehead.

I just don’t know if my heart is in it.

Frankly, I’m appalled at some of the things I’ve heard said about Dennis tonight. I don’t mean here. I mean backstage. Terrible, insulting, emasculating, hate-filled things that you can never take back. And that was just from his wife.

And so it’s not that I can’t roast Dennis for your sick, twisted pleasure. I just refuse to be a party to it.

I’m sorry, but someone has to draw the line. Who am I to attack Dennis Wayne Perry? I mean, I work with him. I spend nearly every day with him. I’ve known him for 20 years, and the only thing I think when I look at this man is ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’

Why would I tempt the providence of God to afflict me as he’s afflicted this man?

To reduce me to a humorless, passionless, useless husk of my former self, haunting the halls of Aldersgate Church like some walking, talking VH1 Behind the Music cautionary tale of former potential wasted.

I won’t do it.

Many of you know that the church world is littered with ministers whose success eventually went to their heads: Billy Graham, Jimmy Swaggert, that lady with the purple hair on TBN.

But not this man. I’ve worked with this man for 8 years, and I can assure you this man has never overreached. He’s never attempted to do anything that was in any way different from the last thing he did. And that kind of unchanging sameness is just so refreshing in a church.

Instead of roasting Dr Perry, we should be honoring him.

This Rev works hard for you. Any one on staff can tell you, he’s working on the same thing on Thursday that he was working on on Monday. He never gives up. He never throws in the towel even though he types like a stroke victim relearning the use of their limbs.

Dennis Perry works hard. He’s not a quitter.

Not like that quitter Pope Benedict.

Who this week announced he’s gotten to the age when his tired, broken body, diminished mental faculties and antiquated job skills meant he could no longer lead the Church. To do so, Pope Benedict said, would require everyone else to do all the work behind the scenes while he got the credit.

Quitter, I say.

But not Dennis Perry.

Dennis Perry doesn’t let his worn-out body, rapidly fading mind, and prehistoric job skills stop him from showing up to work at least a couple of hours a week to take credit for our work.

No sir, he’s not a quitter.

And instead of roasting him we should honor him. Or at least just enjoy his company tonight. Between nose jobs, vacations, holy land trips and sabbaticals, this is the first weekday Dennis has spent at church in 3 years.

We should honor him, not lampoon him.

In these hyper-partisan times, Dennis Wayne Perry is perhaps the last remaining bipartisan citizen among us.

He expresses his ‘reach across the aisle’ spirit by sharing the same hair stylist as Gov. Mitt Romney. And in his work ethic and career achievements, Dennis strives to perfectly embody Barack Obama’s famous line: ‘You didn’t build that.’

We should honor this man, not ridicule him.

Because Dennis Wayne Perry- he’s not just a great man. No sir. He’s a great boss too.

Having Dennis Perry for a boss is almost like not having a boss at all. You have the freedom to do anything. All it takes is telling Dennis Perry: ‘Remember, we talked about this two days ago.’ And Dennis will agree, pretending to remember the conversation we did not have two days ago. He’s a great boss.

I don’t know whose idea tonight was, but I don’t think we should roast Dennis. He doesn’t deserve it, and he might not be able to take it. You might not know from his superficial, shoot from the hip sermons but Dennis Wayne Perry is a sensitive guy. He’s not Andreas Barrett sensitive, but he’s a sensitive guy.

He’s been sensitive- some might say touchy- ever since his twin brother made millions by recording ‘Islands in the Stream’ and starting a successful franchise of Fried Chicken Restaurants.

So I don’t want to be a party to this spectacle of shame.

For one thing, just to be honest, I don’t know if I trust myself to roast Dennis. You might not know that I harbor some unresolved anger towards Dennis Perry. You see Dennis Perry wouldn’t perform my wedding to Ali, 10 or 12 years ago.

Dennis wouldn’t perform my wedding, which is preposterous because we all know Dennis Perry will marry anyone. He’s the Johnny Cochran of the wedding industry. From drive-by I-Do’s to Destination Nuptials, Dennis Perry will marry any biped with a faint heartbeat and a roll of quarters.

But he didn’t marry Ali and me, and, truth be told, I’ve always been a little bitter about that, and that’s why I think we should focus on praising Dennis not poking fun at him.

For example, a lot of you give me credit for my ability to use words, like foreskin, to create mental pictures that stick with you long after the sermon ends.

But we should give credit where credit is due. I’m a novice compared to Dennis. Just consider this verbal-visual gem that Dennis once served up in a word picture that sticks in the mind like genital warts: ‘One morning when my daughter was a little girl she snuck into our bed and aroused me.’

Absolutely brilliant! He said that six years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. I might have just said something wooden and pedestrian like ‘my daughter woke me up.’ But this man, this man is a master wordsmith I can’t possibly ever hope to match.

And we should celebrate him for it not roast him.

I mean- what would a roast of Dennis even look like? Me making jokes about how old Dennis is? How lame would that be? I guess I could stand up here and joke that Dennis’ life is like a glass that’s half empty, but technically at his age the glass is 2/3 empty, and we all know that last third is always just backwash.

And yes, I know make jokes on Sundays about how Dennis is old and forgetful and lazy and complacent. But that’s just a preacher’s exaggeration.

I’ve known Dennis for 20 years. His forgetfulness and laziness and complacency have nothing to do with his age.

I knew Dennis when he was young and, other than the obvious physical and mental deterioration, he’s the same person today he was then.

The first time I met Dennis was in a worship service my mother forced me to attend when I was a teenager. I’ll never forget that sermon.

At the beginning of the sermon, Dennis had us turn to our neighbors to share something, while he tried to come up with a sermon in his head.

After we shared with our neighbors, he told us he had three points for us and asked us if we were ready. We said yes and he began to preach.

He preached for about 20 minutes and then he told us what his second point was.

That was the first time I met Dennis.

Since then, he’s been a mentor to me, a father-figure, a colleague and partner and a friend. He’s taught me most of what I know and if there’s something I don’t know it’s because he has the wisdom to let some lessons get learned on their own.

I’ve no doubt that in some part of me my desire to become a minister was also a desire to become like Dennis.

Without a father in my life, Dennis filled that role for about an hour each Sunday. We now know each other well enough to finish each other’s thoughts. After my wife, I trust him more than anyone in this world.

Without sounding too cheesy or preacherly, I should say that my relationship with God is the most important thing in my life.

And Dennis is the one responsible for that relationship and so he will always be one of the most important people in my life and that’s why I’d never, ever dream of roasting him.