“If you lived here, you’d be om by now.”
Alan Zoldan, Wesley Hills, New York
“If you lived here, you’d be om by now.”
Alan Zoldan, Wesley Hills, New York
A few months ago, Hamas “arrested” a dolphin for being an Israeli spy. Readers of Reason magazine came up with titles for the film this action might inspire:
• Free Schmuelly
• The Porpoise-Driven Life
My sister-in-law was teaching Sunday school class. The topic for the day: Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Christ.
“What did Jesus do on this day?” she asked. There was no response, so she gave her students a hint: “It starts with the letter R.”
One boy blurted, “Recycle!”
Mari-Lynn Finley, Los Angeles, California
While volunteering in a soup kitchen, I hit it off with a very attractive single man. It was a relief, since my mother and I always laughed because the men to whom I was drawn were inevitably married. So, optimistic about my chances, I asked my new friend what he did for a living. He replied, “I’m a priest.”
Lisa Shasha, Norwich, Connecticut
The last time we changed from daylight saving time, a preacher friend posted, “For those who habitually show up 15 minutes late to church, allow me to remind you that tonight is the night you set your clock back 45 minutes.”
Michael Stephens, Ontario, Canada
Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?
A: A mechanic.
“What’s wrong, Bubba?” asked the pastor.
“I need you to pray for my hearing,” said Bubba.
The pastor put his hands on Bubba’s ears and prayed. When he was done, he asked, “So how’s your hearing?”
“I don’t know,” said Bubba. “It isn’t until next Tuesday.”
Submitted by Kenneth Roberts, Mauston, Wisconsin
Gary was having a yard sale. A minister bought a lawn mower but returned it a few days later, complaining that it wouldn’t run.
“It’ll run,” said Gary. “But you have to curse at it to get it started.”
The minister was shocked. “I have not uttered a curse in 30 years.”
“Just keep pulling on the starter rope—the words will come back to you.”
Submitted by LaVerne Lauterbach, Lansing, Michigan
We were making leaflets for a local church, and the client wanted a logo designed with Earth being shielded by the hand of God. I sent the client a proof. Shortly thereafter, I got a call.
Client: The hand looks too human. Please use a hand that looks more like God’s.
When my husband, James Rowles, was in the seminary, he was invited to preach at a small rural church. However, the man who was to introduce him to the congregation had trouble pronouncing his name. So James
offered this verbal clue: “Remember rolls, like hot buttered rolls.”
It worked. When it came time for the introduction, the man announced, “We are pleased to have with us the Reverend James Biscuits.”
Ruth Rowles, Halifax, Virginia
I work out religiously—Christmas and Easter.
Submitted by comedian Matthew Wohlfarth
• If an anonymous comment goes unread, is it still irritating?
• What is the sound of no hands texting?
• If nobody likes your selfie, what is the value of the self?
• To see a man’s true face, look to the photos he hasn’t posted.
Religion is generally a verboten topic for everyone at work, except for Larry. Recently, after he steered yet another conversation toward the subject, a coworker whispered to me, “That Larry—he always has to put his two saints in.”
Mark Latessa, Brownstown, Michigan
I. What You Need to Know Now About the Lord Totally Being God
II. At the Beginning He Had Me Confused, but by Minute Two I Knew that I Shouldn’t Have Other Gods
III. Are You Making This Common Mistake with Graven Images?
IV. How I Work: Read This Life Hack from God, Your Only Creator
V. She Admitted to Doing What Every Sunday?
VI. Seven Morning Habits of People Holier than You: #7 No Killing Before Lunch
VII. 37 Things in Your Bedroom That You Need to Get Rid of Right Now, Like Adulteresses
VIII. What the Government Doesn’t Want You to Know About Stealing Your Neighbor’s Servants
IX. This Little Girl Bore False Witness, and the Results Will Shock You
X. Doctors Hate Her, but You Shouldn’t Covet Her
From DAVID TATE, on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, mcsweeneys.net
Age: About 15 minutes since I was invented, but I don’t look a minute over ten minutes old
Location: Over by some ferns
Height: A tall vine
Weight: A bunch of sticks
Body Type: Only female type there is
Favorite music: Birds
Favorite movies: Birds
Favorite food: Birds
Hobbies: Being tempted, birds
Personality: VERY easily tempted
Turn-ons: Adam, birds
Income level: A handful of beautiful sticks
Looking for: The only other person in existence
From Science … For Her by Megan Amram (Scribner), copyright © 2014 by Megan Amram
Before beginning the service, our pastor read aloud a note he’d been handed moments earlier. “It says here that I should announce that there will be no B.S. tomorrow morning,” he said. He tucked the piece of paper into a pocket and added, “I’m hoping they mean ‘Bible Study.’”
Barbara Geerts, Davenport, Iowa
A priest and a pastor are standing by the side of a road holding up a sign that reads “The end is near! Turn around now before it’s too late!”
A passing driver yells, “You guys are nuts!” and speeds past them. From around the curve, they hear screeching tires—then a big splash.
The priest turns to the pastor and says, “Do you think we should just put up a sign that says ‘Bridge Out’ instead?”
We were reading The Wisdom of King Solomon in my Sunday school class. An illustration showed King Solomon ordering a child to be cut in half, as one woman sobbed and another watched uncaringly.
Pointing to the heartless woman, a young boy said, “I hope she ends up with the part that has the butt on it.”
Evelyn Wieland, Bay City, Michigan
Scene: Sunday mass. I turned to greet an older woman.
Woman: My! You have the most beautiful skin.
Me: Oh, thank you.
Woman: If I were younger, I’d hate you.
Two doctors and an HMO manager die and line up together at the Pearly Gates. One doctor steps forward and tells St. Peter, “As a pediatric surgeon, I saved hundreds of children.” St. Peter lets him enter.
The next doctor says, “As a psychiatrist, I helped thousands of people live better lives.” St. Peter tells him to go ahead.
The last man says, “I was an HMO manager. I got countless families cost-effective health care.”
St. Peter replies, “You may enter. But,” he adds, “you can only stay for three days. After that, you can go to hell.”
Three guys are fishing when an angel appears.
The first guy says, “I’ve suffered from back pain for years. Can you help me?” The angel touches the man’s back, and he feels instant relief.
The second guy points to his thick glasses and begs for a cure for his poor eyesight. When the angel tosses the lenses into the lake, the man gains 20/20 vision.
As the angel turns to the third fellow, he instantly recoils and screams, “Don’t touch me! I’m on disability!”
A priest, a minister, and a rabbi want to see who’s best at his job. So they each go into the woods, find a bear, and attempt to convert it.
Later they get together. The priest begins: “When I found the bear, I read to him from the Catechism and sprinkled him with holy water. Next week is his First Communion.”
“I found a bear by the stream,” says the minister, “and preached God’s holy word. The bear was so mesmerized that he let me baptize him.”
They both look down at the rabbi, who is lying on a gurney in a body cast. “Looking back,” he says, “maybe I shouldn’t have started with the circumcision.”
Submitted by Mitchell Hauser
How does Moses make tea?
Gandhi walked barefoot everywhere, ate very little, and often fasted, leaving him thin and with very bad breath. Thus he is often thought of as a super callused, fragile mystic plagued with halitosis.
Howard dies and waits in line for judgment. He notices that some souls go right into heaven, while Satan throws others into a burning pit. But every so often, instead of hurling a poor soul into the fire, the devil tosses it aside. Curious, Howard asks Satan, “Excuse me, but why are you tossing them aside instead of flinging them into hell with the others?”
“They’re from Seattle,” Satan replies. “They’re too wet to burn.”
Due to the recession, to save on energy costs, the light at the end of the tunnel will be turned off. &emdash;God
—Source: Funny in Russia Survey
Did you hear about the dyslexic devil worshipper? He sold his soul to Santa.
So I called up the spiritual leader of Tibet, and he sent me a large goat with a long neck. Turns out I phoned dial-a-llama.
A burglar breaks into a house. He starts shining his light around looking for valuables. Some nice things catch his eye, and as he reaches for them, he hears, “Jesus is watching you.” Startled, the burglar looks for the speaker. Seeing no one, he keeps putting things in his bag, again, he hears, “Jesus is watching you.” This time, he sees a parrot.
“Who are you?” the burglar asks.
“Moses,” the bird replied.
“Who the heck would name a bird Moses?” the man laughed.
“I dunno,” Moses answered, “I guess the same kind of people that would name a Rottweiler Jesus.”
An angel appears at a faculty meeting and tells the dean, “In return for your unselfish and exemplary behavior, the Lord will reward you with your choice of infinite wealth, wisdom, or beauty.”
“Give me infinite wisdom!” declares the dean, without hesitation.
“Done!” says the angel before disappearing in a cloud of smoke.
All heads now turn to the dean, who sits surrounded by a faint halo of light. “Well,” says a colleague, “say something brilliant.”
The dean stands and, with the poise of Socrates, opines, “I should have taken the money.”
Spotted on a church marquee: “Love your enemies; After all, You made them.”
As church secretary, I prepare the bulletin for each week’s services.
One Sunday morning, I heard snickering from the pews. Quickly grabbing the bulletin, I found the cause. The sermon title for that day was: "What Makes God Sick: Pastor Joe Smith."
A man with a huge grin approaches a priest.
"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” he says. "I’ve spent the week with seven beautiful women.”
"Do not fret, my son,” says the priest. "All you need to do is take seven lemons, squeeze the juice into a glass, and drink the juice.”
"Will that cleanse my sin from me?”
"No, but it’ll wipe that stupid smile off your face.”
After ringing cell phones ruined a service, our rabbi laid down the law in the latest temple newsletter: "Let’s turn off the technology and turn on each other."
The topic for my ninth-grade class was palindromes, words or sentences that are the same read forward and backward. I asked the question "What is the first thing Adam said to Eve?"
I was expecting the answer "Madam, I’m Adam," but one student had a better reply:
When our minister and his wife visited our neighbor, her four-year-old daughter answered the door. "Mom!"she yelled toward the living room. "God’s here, and he brought his girlfriend."
Meeting with my new pastor, I asked if I could have a church service when I eventually die. "Of course," he said, grabbing his date book. "What day do you want?"
En route to church to make his first confession, my nervous seven-year-old grandson asked me what he could expect.
"Confession is where you tell all the bad things you’ve done to the priest," I told him. He looked relieved. "Good. I haven’t done anything bad to the priest."
Is the chemical symbol for holy water H2Omg?
Sam shows up at a revival meeting, seeking help.
"I need you to pray for my hearing," he tells the preacher.
The preacher puts his fingers on Sam’s ears and prays and prays. When he’s done, he asks, "How’s your hearing now?"
"I don’t know," says Sam. "I don’t go to court till next Tuesday."
Late for a seminar and unable to find parking, I pulled into a spot behind a church. It was only after I’d gotten out of the car that I spotted this sign: "No parking. Forgiveness is our business, but don’t make it harder than it already is."
During our priest’s sermon, a large plant fell over right behind the pulpit, crashing to the ground. Acknowledging his reputation for long-windedness, he smiled sheepishly and said, "Well, that’s the first time I actually put a plant to sleep."
When I asked my friend if she was planning to attend church, she just shook her head. "I haven’t gone in a long time," she said. "Besides, it’s too late for me. I’ve probably already broken all seven commandments."
After examining the paltry tips left by a church group, our waitress was not pleased. Looking toward my table, she grumbled, "These people come in with the Ten Commandments and a ten-dollar bill, and they don"t break any of them!"
A woman goes to the post office and asks for 50 Hanukkah stamps.
"What denomination?" asks the clerk.
The woman says, "Six Orthodox, 12 Conservative, and 32 Reform."
Adam bit the apple and, feeling great shame, covered himself with a fig leaf. Eve, too, felt shame and covered herself with a fig leaf. Then she went behind the bush to try on a maple leaf, a sycamore, and an oak.
Louie was shipwrecked and lived alone on a desert island for years until he was finally rescued. Before leaving the island, he gave the rescue party a tour. "I built myself a house. That’s it there. Here’s the barn, and over here is the church I worshipped in."
"What’s that building over there?" one of the rescuers asked.
Louie sneered. "That’s the church I used to belong to."
With Bible in hand, I read to my high school religion class, "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife."
"Okay," I said, "from this Scripture, what do we learn is important in marriage?"
A student blurted out, "Cleavage."
The subject line on the e-mail sent by our campus ministry after Easter read "He is risen!" But the next day, we received a rather startling message intended to clear up a minor typo in the first e-mail. The subject line now read "He is risen—correction."
The pastor asks his flock, “What would you like people to say when you’re in your casket?”
One congregant says, “I’d like them to say I was a fine family man.”
Another says, “I’d like them to say I helped people.”
The third responds, “I’d like them to say, ‘Look! I think he’s moving!’ “
During his fourth week of basic training, my grandson was able to make a brief phone call to me. He said he was attending church on base every week, which I was pleased to hear.
"Everyone goes to church here," he added. "It’s the only place we don’t get yelled at."
My friend opened a ministry, using a snippet from the Bible as the name. But he soon regretted his decision to order office supplies over the phone. When his stationery arrived, it bore the letterhead "That Nun Should Perish."
Fact: We salesmen believe we can sell anything. But my confidence was put to the test recently in a hotel lobby. When the doors to the elevator opened, it was packed with women. I walked in, flashed a broad grin, and said, "Looks like tonight is my lucky night."
"Don’t count on it," said a voice in the back. "We’re nuns."
A preacher trained his horse to go when he said, "Praise the Lord," and to stop when he said, "Amen." The preacher mounted the horse, said, "Praise the Lord" and went for a ride. When he wanted to stop for lunch, he said, "Amen." He took off again, saying, "Praise the Lord." The horse started going toward the edge of a cliff. The preacher got excited and said, "Whoa!" Then he remembered and said, "Amen," and the horse stopped at the edge of the cliff. The preacher was so relieved and grateful that he looked up to heaven and said, "Praise the Lord!"
When I went to a Christian school, I walked into the cafeteria and there on the table was a plate of fruit. Next to it was a sign that said "Take one. God is watching."
Next to the fruit was a plate of cookies, which had a sign next to it, written by a fellow student, that said "Take as many as you want. God is watching the fruit."
I was telling my three boys the story of the Nativity and how the Wise Men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the infant Jesus.
Clearly giving it a lot of thought, my six-year-old observed, "Mom, a Wise Woman would have brought diapers."
Giving a sermon one Sunday, I heard two teenage girls in the back giggling and disturbing people. I interrupted my sermon and announced sternly, "There are two of you here who have not heard a word I’ve said." That quieted them down.
When the service was over, I went to greet people at the front door. Three adults apologized for going to sleep in church, promising it would never happen again.
As my five-year-old son and I were heading to McDonald’s one day, we passed a car accident. Usually when we see something terrible like that, we say a prayer for whoever might be hurt, so I pointed and said to my son, "We should pray."
From the back seat I heard his earnest voice: "Dear God, please don’t let those cars block the entrance to McDonald’s."
A friend of mine, a professional organist, was asked to play for a wedding. Unfamiliar with the church’s organ, she went to the sanctuary to practice. Curious about a small keyboard that slid out from under the two regular keyboards, she tapped out a couple of bars of a children’s song but heard nothing. Then she played a few more notes, but still no organ music.
Just then a man came running into the church, shouting, "Who’s playing ‘Three Blind Mice’ on the church-steeple bells?"
She had been operating the carillon.
The phone rings at the synagogue office.
"Hello, is this Rabbi Schwartz?" The caller asked.
"This is the Internal Revenue Service. We wonder if you can help us."
"Do you know Herman Cohen?"
"Is this man a member of your congregation."
"Did he donate $10,000?"
As part of his talk at a banquet, our minister told some jokes and a few funny stories. Since he planned to use the same anecdotes at a meeting the next day, he asked reporters covering the event not to include them in their articles.
Reading the paper the following morning, he noticed that one well-meaning cub reporter had ended his story on the banquet with the observation "The minister told a number of stories that cannot be published."
Jesus, Moses, and an old bearded guy were playing golf. On the first tee, Moses shanked his ball into a lake. He parted the water and hit his ball onto the green.
Jesus teed off, hitting his ball into another water hazard. But he walked on water and stroked his ball just short of the cup.
Then the old man with the beard stepped up for his tee shot. He hit the ball with tremendous force, but hooked it badly. The ball bounced off the clubhouse roof, hit the cart path, and rolled down a hill into a pond, coming to rest on a lily pad. A frog hopped over and picked up the ball, then an eagle swooped down, snatched the frog, and flew over the green. The frog dropped the ball, and it rolled into the cup for a hole in one.
Moses turned to Jesus and said, "I hate playing golf with your dad."
Not long after I resigned as pastor of a small community church, the phone rang. "Is the reverend there?" a man asked.
I explained that I was a minister, though not the current pastor.
"You’ll do," he said. The man wanted to know which Scripture verses applied to funeral services.
I gave him several references, and he jotted them down.
"What about the ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ part?" he asked.
I read it to him slowly. Then, intending to offer him some sympathy, I inquired, "And who is the deceased?"
"My daughter’s rabbit," he replied.
One Sunday morning my sister Liz was surprised to receive a phone call from her minister. He reported that he’d just been in a minor car accident and asked if she could inform the congregation he’d be unable to conduct services that day.
Liz was flattered that out of the entire congregation, she was the one he had called—until the minister went on to say that since Liz was always the last to arrive at church, he knew she would be the only person he could still reach at home.
As the golfer approached the first tee, a hazardous hole with a green surrounded by water, he debated if he should use his new golf ball. Deciding that the hole was too treacherous, he pulled an old ball out and placed it on the tee. Just then he heard a voice from above say loudly, "Use the new ball!"
Frightened, he replaced the old ball with the new and approached the tee. Now the voice from above shouted, "Take a practice swing!"
With this, the golfer stepped backward and took a swing.
Feeling more confident, he approached the tee when the voice again rang out, "Use the old ball!"
The pastor of my church hates to plead for money. But when the coffers were running low, he had no choice. "There’s good news and there’s bad news," he told the congregation. "The good news is that we have more than enough money for all the current and future needs of the parish. The bad news is, it’s still in your pockets."
My boyfriend was working in the souvenir shop at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent, England. One afternoon he was talking with an attendant who worked in the cathedral when they were approached by two tourists. "Are you a monk?" one of the women asked.
"No," the attendant explained, "I wear this robe as part of my job, but I’m not a member of any religious order."
"Then where are the monks?" asked the woman.
The man replied, "Oh, there haven’t been any monks here since 1415."
Hearing this, the woman looked at her watch and announced to her friend, "Betty, we missed the monks."
During an ice storm I went to check the mailbox, carefully shuffling down the driveway. When I reached for the mail, my feet went straight up in the air, and I landed on my back. More embarrassed than hurt, I looked to see if anyone witnessed my fall and spied a fire truck passing by. The crew had seen the whole thing.
Firefighters climbed out of the truck to assist me. "It’s the preacher," one said. "Are you okay?"
"I just got the wind knocked out of me," I replied.
"Wow," said another firefighter. "It takes a lot to knock the wind out of a preacher!"
We were celebrating the 100th anniversary of our church, and several former pastors and the bishop were in attendance. At one point, our minister had the children gather at the altar for a talk about the importance of the day. He began by asking them, "Does anyone know what the bishop does?"
There was silence. But finally, one little boy answered gravely, "He’s the one you can move diagonally."
The teacher in our Bible class asked a woman to read from the Book of Numbers about the Israelites wandering in the desert. "The Lord heard you when you wailed, ‘If only we had meat to eat!’ " she began. "Now the Lord will give you meat. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, or ten or twenty days, but for a month—until you loathe it."
When the woman finished, she paused, looked up, and said, "Hey, isn’t that the Atkins diet?"
"If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale, and gave all my money to the church, would I get into heaven?" a teacher asked the children in her Sunday school class.
"No!" the children all answered.
"If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would I get into heaven?"
Again the answer was, "No!"
"Well," she continued, "then how can I get to heaven?"
A five-year-old boy shouted out, "You gotta be dead!"
A doctor died and went to heaven, where he found a long line at St. Peter’s gate. As was his custom, the doctor rushed to the front, but St. Peter told him to wait in line like everyone else. Muttering and looking at his watch, the doctor stood at the end of the line.
Moments later a white-haired man wearing a white coat and carrying a stethoscope and medical bag rushed up to the front of the line, waved to St. Peter, and was immediately admitted through the Pearly Gates.
"Hey!" the doctor shouted. "How come you let him through?"
"Oh," said St. Peter, "that’s God. Sometimes he likes to play doctor."
The sentence in the Thanksgiving edition of my church bulletin intended to say "Thank you, Lord, for the many miracles we are too blind to see." But in what might have been a classic Freudian slip, the sentence read
"Thank you, Lord, for the many miracles we are too blond to see."
At an ecumenical round-table discussion, various religious leaders tried to answer the question "When does life start?"
"At conception," said the Catholic priest.
"No, no," said the Presbyterian minister. "It begins at birth."
"It’s in between," said the Baptist. "Life begins at 12 weeks when the fetus develops a functional heartbeat."
"I disagree with all of you," said the rabbi. "Life begins when your last child leaves home and takes the dog with him."
The Presbyterians were convening in Scotland. After a couple of days of sitting on hard pews, a group decided to stretch their legs in the countryside. Soon they approached a rickety old bridge over a river. They were so busy talking they missed the Keep Off the Bridge sign.
A villager saw them step onto the dangerous span and yelled for them to stop. "That’s all right," one of the ministers responded. "We’re here from the Presbyterian convention."
"I dinna care aboot that," came the reply. "But if ye go much farther, ye’ll all be Baptists!"
A computer salesman dies and meets St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter tells the salesman that he can choose between heaven and hell. First he shows the man heaven, where people in white robes play harps and float around.
"Dull," says the salesman.
Next, St. Peter shows him hell: toga parties, excellent food and wine, and everyone looking as though he’s having a wonderful time.
"I’ll take hell," he says.
He enters the gates of hell and is immediately set upon by a dozen demons who poke him with pitchforks. "Hey," the salesman demands as Satan walks past, "what happened to the party I saw going on?"
"Ah," Satan replies. "You must have seen our demo."
Vacationing in Hawaii, two priests decide to wear casual clothes so they won’t be identified as clergy. They buy Hawaiian shirts and sandals, and soon hit the beach. They notice a gorgeous blonde in a tiny bikini. "Good afternoon, Fathers," she says as she strolls by.
The men are stunned. How does she know they’re clergy? Later they buy even wilder attire: surfer shorts, tie-dyed T-shirts, and dark glasses. The next day, they return to the beach. The same fabulous blonde, now wearing a string bikini, passes by, nods politely at them, and says, "Good morning, Fathers."
"Just a minute, young lady," says one of the priests. "We are priests and proud of it, but how in the world did you know?"
"Don’t you recognize me? I’m Sister Kathryn from the convent."
Our pastor was teaching Proverbs 16:24: "Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones."
The minister then added, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."
My wife leaned over, put her head on my shoulder, and whispered in my ear, "I just love to watch your muscles ripple when you take out the garbage."
We accompanied our son and his fiancée when they met with her priest to sign some pre-wedding ceremony papers. While filling out the form, our son read aloud a few questions. When he got to the last one, which read "Are you entering this marriage at your own will?" he looked over at his fiancée.
"Put down ‘yes,’ " she said.
A young parish minister about to deliver his first sermon asked a retired cleric for advice on how to capture the congregation’s attention. "Start with an opening line that’s certain to grab them," the older man said. "For example: ‘Some of the best years of my life were spent in the arms of a woman who was not my wife.’ " He smiled at the younger man’s shocked expression before adding, "She was my mother."
The next Sunday the young clergyman nervously clutched the pulpit rail in front of the congregation. Finally he said, "Some of the best years of my life were spent in the arms of a woman."
He was pleased at the instant reaction—then became panic-stricken. "But for the life of me, I can’t remember who she was!"
My friend and I delivered a large refrigerator to the local priest’s home. With difficulty we had managed to get the fridge into the porch, but struggled for over 20 minutes to make the 90-degree turn through the narrow door. The priest, seeing our difficulty, asked what we usually did when confronted with such a situation.
Rubbing some badly skinned knuckles, I replied, "Well, Father, at this point we usually start cursing."
"Well, gentlemen," Father replied, "allow me time to move out of earshot so you can continue your work."
Every Catholic church in town but one had its Mass schedule posted in front. The exception announced the time weekly bingo started. I phoned the priest to complain.
"My son," he replied, "our parishioners know when we hold Mass, but we have to be sure the Protestants know when we hold bingo."
Kevin was not an ideal child. He managed to get into mischief frequently, and was always trailed by his younger brother, Ken. Finally, at her wits’ end, his long-suffering mother took him to see their parish priest. The father decided to focus Kevin’s mind on higher levels.
"Kevin," he asked with great seriousness, "where is God?"
Kevin gave no reply.
"Kevin, where is God?"
Again there was silence.
For a third time the priest asked the question, and this time Kevin bolted out of the office and ran all the way home. He burst into his brother’s room.
"Ken," he panted breathlessly, "Father can’t find God and he thinks we had something to do with it!"
Slogan for a now out-of-business restaurant in Carmel, California:
"Karma Café. We don’t have a menu. We give you just what you deserve."
The preacher, arriving in a small town to be guest speaker at a local church, wanted to mail a letter to his family back home. He stopped a young boy on a bike and asked him where the post office was. The boy gave him directions, and the preacher thanked him.
"If you come to church this evening," the preacher said, "I’ll tell you how to get to heaven."
"I don’t think I’ll be there," the boy said. "You don’t even know your way to the post office."
Sharma, my cousin, was telling me about an evening service at the church we’ve both attended for years. She and her husband usually sat in the back, but this time they moved up front to be sure to hear the Scripture reading. They sat beside a longtime church member who cheerfully said, "Good to have ya with us! Where y’all from?"
Taken by surprise, Sharma mumbled, "The back."
The funeral directors of the mortuary where I am a receptionist were asked by a grieving family if they could place a golf club in the casket alongside their uncle, who had been an avid golfer.
"Of course," was the answer.
On the day of the funeral, as the pallbearers descended the steps toward the hearse, a loud rattling and rolling came from the coffin. "Sounds like a pinball machine," murmured one startled director.
Later a family member of the deceased came to the chapel office to apologize. At the last minute, they had decided to place in the casket, along with the club, a half-dozen golf balls.
My sister’s dog had been deaf and blind for years. When she started to suffer painful tumors, it was time to put her down. As I explained this to my seven-year-old son, he asked if Jazzy would go to heaven.
I said I thought she would, and that in dog heaven, she would be healthy again and able to do her favorite thing: chase squirrels.
Jacob thought about that for a minute, then said, "So dog heaven must be the same as squirrel hell."
A preacher was asking for contributions to the church’s program to buy food for the needy. The town gambler, who also owned the saloon and several other shady operations, offered the preacher $500.
"You can’t take that," a scandalized deacon told the preacher. "That’s the devil’s money."
"Well, brother," said the preacher, cheerfully accepting the gift, "in that case, the devil has had his hands on it long enough. Now let’s see what the Lord will do with it."
My six-year-old son was excited about his Halloween costume. "I’m going to be the Pope," he said.
"Ian, you can’t be the Pope," I said. "You’re not Catholic. You’re Lutheran."
Ian hadn’t thought about that. So he considered his alternatives. After a few minutes, he asked, "Is Dracula a Lutheran?"
An elderly couple, admitted by St. Peter through the Pearly Gates, found conditions there just heavenly. Said the man to his wife, "I could have been here two years ago if you hadn’t fed me all that oat bran."
For the past year or so, my husband has helped count the collection money after church. One Sunday a visitor placed a $500 check in the plate. After the service my husband congratulated the priest on the large donation. "I’m sure it was because of your wonderful sermon," he gushed.
"Oh, boy," replied the priest. "If you can’t be more honest than that, how can I trust you to count our money?"
Do you know how to make holy water? You take some regular water and you boil the hell out of it.
A distinguished minister and two elders from his congregation attended an out-of-town meeting that did not finish until rather late. They decided to have something to eat before going home, but unfortunately, the only spot open was a seedy bar-and-grill with a questionable reputation.
After being served, one of the elders asked the minister to say grace. "I’d rather not," the clergyman said. "I don’t want him to know I’m here."
Prior to our wedding, David and I met with the minister to discuss our marriage ceremony and various traditions, such as lighting the unity candle from two individual candles. Couples usually blow out the two candles as a sign of becoming one. Our minister said that many people were now leaving their individual candles lit to signify independence and personal freedom.
He asked if we wanted to extinguish our candles or leave them burning.
After thinking about it, David replied, "How about if we leave mine lit and blow out hers?"
Doug was leaving church after Christmas services when Father McCarthy took him aside. "Douglas, my son," he said, "it’s time you joined the Army of the Lord. We need to see you every Sunday."
"I’m already in the Army of the Lord, Father," Doug replied.
"Then why do we only see you on Christmas and Easter?"
Doug looked to the right and to the left, and then leaned over to whisper in Father McCarthy’s ear. "I’m in the Secret Service."
One Sunday I asked our pastor to announce that the church softball team had won its league championship. As he did, he asked team members to stand up.
Although there were usually ten to twelve of us at Sunday service, I was embarrassed to see only four of us standing.
Not missing a beat, the pastor continued, "And what is most amazing is that they won with such a small team."
When Travis Wolfe was the editor of religious news for the Chattanooga, Tennessee, Times, he would receive photographs from clergymen, church musicians, and speakers on religion. Wolfe made it a point to return all such photographs to their owners.
With a flourish of his pen, he would inscribe this commandment to the post office on the envelopes in which the pictures were returned: "Thou shalt not bend."
The ten-year-old boy was failing math. His parents tried everything to get him to do well in school, but nothing worked. Finally they enrolled him in a Catholic school. From his first day, the boy spent every night poring over books. When his first report card came, he had received an A in math.
"Son," his father asked, "what made the difference in math class? The nuns? The textbooks?"
"Dad, I had never taken math seriously before," the boy admitted. "But when I walked in and saw that guy nailed to the plus sign, I knew this place meant business!"
Our synagogue was throwing a coming-out party of sorts for our new officiant, which was to be billed as "Coffee With the Cantor." The guest of honor, an Argentine, suggested that rather than coffee we serve mate, a variation of a South American tea.
That idea was quickly nixed, however, when we realized that we would be inviting congregants to "Mate With the Cantor."
A man left Chicago for a vacation in Key West. His wife was on a business trip and planned to fly down to meet him the next day. When the man arrived in Florida, he e-mailed his wife to let her know he had arrived, but mistyped her address.
Instead, his message went to the inbox of a woman whose husband had just passed away. When the grieving widow opened her e-mail, she read the message, screamed, and passed out cold.
The woman’s daughter rushed into the room and found this note on the computer screen. "My darling wife: Just checked in. Everything is prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to being with you again. Your loving husband. P.S. Sure is hot down here!"
A group of guys I know took a trip to France and decided to attend Mass in a small town, even though none of them understood French. They managed to stand, kneel, and sit when the rest of the congregation did, so it wouldn’t be obvious they were tourists. At one point, the priest spoke and the man sitting next to them stood up, so they got up too. The entire congregation broke into hearty laughter.
After the service they approached the priest, who spoke English, and asked him what had been so funny. The priest said he had announced a birth in the parish and asked the father to stand up.
During a Sunday service, the pastor asked the congregation for their intentions. We heard the usual requests to pray for sick people and the acknowledgments for those who helped when a parishioner died. The somber mood was broken when the last intention was heard.
A woman stood up and said, "My granddaughter turned 16 this week and received her driver’s license. Let us pray for us all."
Seen while passing by a church:
"Get in touch with God by knee mail."
Two priests died at the same time and met St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. "Our computer’s down," said St. Peter. "You’ll have to go back for a week, but you can’t go back as priests. What’ll it be?"
The first priest said, "I’ve always wanted to be an eagle, soaring above the Rocky Mountains."
"So be it," said St. Peter, and off flew the first priest.
The second priest thought for a moment and asked, "Will any of this week count?"
"No," said St. Peter.
"Well," the priest said, "I’ve always wanted to be a stud."
"So be it," said St. Peter. A week later, the computer was fixed, and the Lord told St. Peter to recall the two priests. "Will you have any trouble locating them?" he asked.
"The first one should be easy," said St. Peter. "He’s somewhere over the Rockies, flying with the eagles. But the second one could prove more difficult."
"Why?" asked the Lord.
"He’s on a snow tire somewhere in northern Ontario," said St. Peter.
My wife and I arrived late to a crowded religious convention where there was standing room only. We noticed some people get up to leave, and after they hadn’t returned for several minutes, we took their seats. The woman next to us insisted that the chairs were taken. I assured her that we’d be glad to move if the people came back.
Moments later we sang a hymn, and at its conclusion the music director asked all of us to turn to our neighbors and say that we loved them. The woman at my side faced me and said, "I love you, but those seats are still taken."
One Sunday our priest announced he was passing out miniature crosses made of palm leaves. "Put this cross in the room where your family argues most," he advised. "When you look at it, the cross will remind you that God is watching."
As I was leaving church, the woman in front of me walked up to the priest, shook his hand, and said, "I’ll take five."
My husband and sons and I had stopped to take in a spectacular sunset and were on our way back to our car when four Buddhist monks dressed in orange robes walked by. When our sons asked about them, I explained, "Their life is a quest for enlightenment."
"I wonder what kind of car they drive," my husband said, and jokingly suggested, "a Ford Focus?"
"Or a Honda Odyssey," I said.
The monks got into a Pathfinder.
In December at our church, we collect frozen turkeys from generous parishioners, and I drive the turkeys to the Calgary Food Bank in time for Christmas. Contributions are left in the church kitchen’s freezer. On checking the freezer the day of delivery, I was pleased to find not only several turkeys, but an extremely large goose with a note attached saying it was from Mary B., one of our most active parishioners.
Arriving back home after the delivery, I had a call from our church secretary. "Do you know what happened to Mary’s goose? It disappeared!"
The goose had been for Mary’s Christmas dinner and was being stored at the church because it was too big for her own freezer.
Henry goes to confession and says, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. Last night I was with seven different women."
The priest says, "Take seven lemons, squeeze them into a glass, and drink the juice."
"Will that cleanse me of my sins?"
"No," replies the priest. "But it’ll wipe that silly grin off your face."
Jake, Johnny, and Billy died and went to heaven. "Welcome," St. Peter said. "You’ll be very happy here if you just obey our rule: Never step on a duck. If you step on a duck, the duck quacks, they all start quacking and it makes a terrible racket."
That sounded simple enough until they passed through the Pearly Gates and found thousands of ducks everywhere. Jake stepped on one right away. The ducks quacked, making an unholy racket, and St. Peter came up to Jake bringing with him a ferocious-looking Amazon woman.
"I warned you if you broke the rule you’d be punished," St. Peter said. Then he chained the Amazon woman to Jake for eternity.
Several hours later, Johnny stepped on a duck. The duck quacked, they all quacked, and St. Peter stepped up to Johnny with an angry-looking, shrewish woman. "As your punishment," St. Peter told Johnny, "you’ll be chained to this woman for eternity."
Billy was extremely careful not to step on a duck. Several months went by. Then St. Peter came up to him with a gorgeous blonde and chained her to Billy, uniting them for all time. "Wow!" exclaimed Billy. "I wonder what I did to deserve this?"
"I don’t know about you," said the beautiful woman, "but I stepped on a duck."
A motorist was driving in the country when he came upon a priest and a rabbi standing on the shoulder of the road, fishing. Next to them was a sign that read "Turn Around. The End Is Near."
The motorist didn’t like to be preached to, so he rolled down the window and yelled, "Mind your own business, you religious nuts!"
A few seconds later the two fishermen heard tires screech, then a splash.
The rabbi turned to the priest and said, "I told you we should’ve just written, ‘Bridge Out.’ "
Moses was walking down the street when he bumped into George W. Bush. "Hello," Bush said. "Nice weather we’re having, huh?" Moses took one look at the President, turned, and ran in the other direction.
The next day Moses was walking down the same street and there was Bush. Again he tried to initiate a conversation. Again Moses turned and ran away.
Bush was tired of this bizarre treatment, so the next time Moses ran away from him, Bush followed. When he caught up, he asked Moses what was wrong.
Moses said, "The last time I talked to a bush I spent 40 years in the desert."
Walking through the forest, an atheist hears a rustling in the bushes. Turning, he sees a massive grizzly charging towards him! He runs as fast as he can but trips over a stump and falls. As the bear raises a huge paw to strike, the atheist screams: "God! Help me!"
Time freezes. The bear becomes immobile, the forest is silent, and the river stops running. Then the atheist hears a powerful voice: "You have denied my existence for years, taught others I don’t exist and credited my creation to a cosmic accident. Why should I help you?"
"It would be hypocritical to ask you to show mercy on me," the atheist agrees. "But perhaps you could make the bear a Christian?"
At that, the noise of the forest resumes, the river runs, and the bear drops to its knees, brings its paws together, and says, "Lord, for this food which I am about to receive, I am truly thankful."
While serving as church usher, I was carrying out our tradition of escorting parishioners to their seats before the service began. After I returned to the entrance of the sanctuary to escort the next party, I greeted two strangers and asked where they would like to sit.
Looking confused, the young man smiled and said, "Nonsmoking, please."
The newly appointed priest was being briefed by the housekeeper on problems in the rectory that required immediate attention. "Your roof needs repair, Father," she said. "Your water pressure is bad and your furnace is not working."
"Now, Mrs. Kelly," the priest allowed, "you’ve been the housekeeper here five years, and I’ve only been here a few days. Why not say our roof and our furnace?"
Several weeks later, when the pastor was meeting with the bishop and several other priests, Mrs. Kelly burst into the office, terribly upset. "Father, Father," she blurted, "there’s a mouse in our room and it’s under our bed!"
Shortly after my husband passed away, one of my daughter’s Jewish friends approached her with a question. "Kate," he said, "I’ve never attended a Catholic wake before. What is the significance of the widow not wearing shoes?"
Kate replied, "My mom’s feet hurt."
A human-resources director found herself at the Pearly Gates. "We’ve never had a human-resources director here before," said St. Peter. "So we’re going to let you spend one day in heaven and one in hell, and you can choose where to spend eternity."
"I’ll go to hell first and get it over with," said the HR director.
To her surprise she spent a wonderful day with her former fellow executives, playing golf on a beautiful course. The game was followed by a sumptuous meal at the clubhouse. When she returned to heaven, she spent her day there sitting in a cloud, playing a harp.
"Have you decided where you’d like to spend eternity?" St. Peter asked.
"Yes," she said, "heaven was great, but too boring. I choose hell."
"Okay," said St. Peter, "off you go."
This time when she arrived in hell, she found everything barren and desolate. Confused, she confronted Satan. "Where’s the golf course?" she asked. "And where are my friends?"
Satan smiled. "Yesterday we were recruiting you; today you’re staff!"
My first pastoral ministry was as an assistant pastor to youth at a large church in the Pennsylvania Dutch country. In the fall of that first year, an evangelist was having a Saturday breakfast meeting with our group.
I was anxious for every detail of this event to be flawless and elegant, so the lay youth workers and I agreed to bring the last of the fall flowers from our gardens for floral arrangements.
The next morning, I decided to walk to church. There I was, dressed in a dark suit, a tie, hat and overcoat, walking down the street at 6:30 a.m. with a bouquet of chrysanthemums tucked under my arm.
As I strolled along, a car passed me from behind. Then, as though an afterthought, the driver stopped, backed up, rolled down the window, gestured to the flowers, and quipped, "If you’re just getting home, buddy, you’d better take her more than those."
Los Angeles weatherman Fritz Coleman, after a year that included a few earthquakes, several wildfires, extreme winds, record flooding, and even some funnel clouds: "California—more than a state, it’s an Acts of God Theme Park."
One of my friends is in charge of the part-time help hired by an old-age home run by an order of nuns. She confided to the mother superior, a feisty little nun of 70, that she always felt uncomfortable giving the young girls the obligatory lecture about the need to be careful around certain of the older male patients.
The mother superior volunteered to give it for her, and eventually reduced my friend’s 30 minutes of embarrassed rambling to a one-liner that has now become famous around the place. "Girls," she announced. "Just remember—old ain’t dead."
Toward the close of a banquet held during an Episcopal Church convention some years ago, the bishop of the diocese stood up and quite disrupted the entire affair by announcing, "We will reserve the entertainment of the evening until the waitresses have taken everything off."
While in seminary, I taught the Old Testament to prisoners. One evening as I waited for a guard to appear and check me in, I noticed the fellow ahead of me fidgeting and constantly checking his watch. Take a chill pill, I thought.
Finally the guard came. The man scribbled his name in the visitors’ book and rushed inside. "What does that guy teach?" I asked the guard.
"Serenity Through Meditation."
A man walks into a church one day and kneels down to pray. "Lord," he says, "I’ve made mistakes, but I’m determined to change. If you let me win the lottery, I promise to be a good servant and never bother you again."
Nothing happens. So the next week the man tries again. "Please, God, let me win the lottery, and I’ll come to church every week."
Again nothing happens. So the man decides to try one last time. "Lord," he implores, "why haven’t I won the lottery? Have you abandoned me?"
Suddenly a deep voice booms down from above. "My son, I have not abandoned you, but at least meet me halfway—buy a ticket!"
At church recently, I stopped to study an announcement promoting the youth choir’s sandwich sale. Being an English teacher, I couldn’t resist the temptation to correct the last line, which read "Donations Excepted." I crossed out the misused word and penciled in "Donations Accepted."
After the service, I glanced at the announcement again, this time noting yet another penciled-in correction. It now read "Donations Expected."
During his children’s sermon, our assistant pastor asked the kids, "What is gray, has a bushy tail, and gathers nuts in the fall?"
One five-year-old raised his hand. "I know the answer should be Jesus," he began, "but it sounds like a squirrel to me."
My co-worker and I were making a sales call to a rural Baptist church. We gave our presentation to the church committee, and then the group’s chairman walked to the altar and knelt down. After about a minute of silent prayer, he returned and announced in a solemn tone, "The Lord tells me we should wait."
My colleague responded by walking to the altar and kneeling down himself. Then he returned to the group, looked at the chairman, and declared, "He wants to talk with you again."
The ordination of women as Episcopal ministers occasionally presents awkward situations as to what to call us. "Father" sounds inappropriate to some; "Mother" is traditionally used for unordained women overseeing religious communities.
Last year, one of my colleagues, dressed in her clerical garb, was in an airport. A man summoned the courage to ask her, "Pardon me, but what do you call a female father?"
My colleague smiled mischievously and replied, "Ambisextrous."
Desperate for a child, a couple asked their priest to pray for them. "I’m going on sabbatical to Rome," he replied. "I’ll light a candle in St. Peter’s for you."
When the priest returned three years later, he found the wife pregnant, tending two sets of twins. Elated, the priest asked to speak to her husband and congratulate him.
"He’s gone to Rome," came the harried reply, "to blow out that candle."
During birth-preparation class we were learning relaxation techniques, and the instructor asked us to come up with ideas to lower stress levels. Silence pervaded the room, but one dad, a slight fellow with round glasses and a religious T-shirt, finally offered: "Prayer?"
"Good," the instructor replied. "Anything else?"
"How about sex?" suggested another father-to-be.
Once again, silence followed. Then the devout dad-to-be muttered under his breath, "What do you think I’ve been praying for?"
I was working as a phone-order representative for a textbook publisher. One very busy day, many customers had been put on hold. When I took my next call, I heard a soft yet annoyed voice on the line muttering, "Darn, darn, damn, darn, darn it!"
I chuckled and said, "What may I help you with today?"
There was a brief silence, followed by, "I’m so sorry. I wish to place an order."
"Don’t be sorry," I replied. "That’s hardly the worst thing I’ve heard today. Now, first I need your name."
"Oh, dear," she said, "how embarrassing. My name is Sister Patience."
Taking advantage of a balmy day in New York, my brother and three other priests swapped their clerical garb for polos and khakis and time on the golf course. After several horrible shots, their caddy asked, "Are you guys priests?"
"Actually, yes," one cleric replied. "Why?"
"Because," said the caddy, "I’ve never seen such bad golf and such clean language."
While waiting in line to check out at a Christian bookstore, a man in front of me asked the clerk about a display of hats with the letters WWJD on them. The clerk explained that WWJD stands for "What would Jesus do?" and that the idea is to get people to consider this question when making decisions.
The man pondered a moment, then replied, "I don’t think he’d pay $17.95 for that hat."
Our minister’s sermon was about how the institution of marriage is under assault in popular culture. He cited the show Desperate Housewives .
"How many are going to watch the season finale this week?" he challenged.
When no one raised a hand, he smiled. "Nobody’s willing to admit to being a fan?"
My mom whispered to me, "Actually, the finale was last week."
Sitting on a bus just days after undergoing surgery at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston, my father noticed a passenger coming down the aisle with a standard-issue hospital cane just like his. Pointing to it, my father asked the man, "New England Baptist?"
"Hell, no," the man replied, "Irish Catholic."
During our church service one Sunday, a parishioner was speaking about an emotionally charged topic and had trouble controlling her tears. Finishing her remarks, she told the congregation, "I apologize for crying so much. I’m usually not such a big boob."
The bishop rose to close the session and remarked, "That’s okay. We like big boobs."