Why angels fly and Albertans don't move away

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, May 15, 2002

Did you ever hear of Holy Hilarity Sunday? Well, I hadn't till last year when longtime coffee companion Frank Breisch asked if I had any jokes he could use in his Holy Hilarity sermon.

Frank's a Presbyterian minister presently serving a church in Regina. Before that, he pastored churches here in the Bow Valley in Banff and Calgary. I first met him back in 1962 when he was pastor of a church in Wheaton, Illinois.

All the time I've known him, Frank's been quite the wit. But when he told me his idea for Holy Hilarity Sunday, I thought he'd really outdone himself.

Frank planned to fill his sermon for the Sunday after Easter with as much humour as possible. He wanted the occasion to be a celebration of "the great joke of Easter, the cosmic pratfall as God pulled the rug out from under the powers of darkness and death by the resurrection."

My curiosity piqued by Frank's request, I soon learned that this tradition of post-Easter lightheartedness goes back a very long way, and is especially rooted in the religious life of Eastern Europe.

It is associated with such Polish customs as smigus dyngus, something I've learned about from Naomi and Thomas, my Polish-heritage grandchildren who, following Easter, like to surprise me with a sprinkling of water, to their great delight.

Now, we're all familiar with jokes about church life – for example, these two bulletin bloopers sent me by coffee companion Lawrence Buehler: "The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been cancelled due to a conflict." And "The senior choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir."

But holy hilarity cannot be confined within liturgical seasons and church walls. Wasn't it G.K. Chesterton who once wrote: "Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly"?

So, let's fly around with the angels for a moment by way of some more jokes you folks have e-mailed me lately.

Coffee companion Tiffany Maxwell of Calgary asks: "What do you get when you cross a King Charles Spaniel and a Miniature Pinscher? A King Pin, the choice of short mobsters everywhere."

Echoing my own frustrations with computers, Calgary editor Monique Achtman forwarded this one: "When you get to the point where you really understand your computer, it's probably obsolete."

Recording artist Crystal Plamondon forwarded these office signs to me:

On a maternity room door: "Push. Push. Push."

At an optometrist's office: "If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place."

And in a nonsmoking area: "If we see smoke, we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action."

Talking about smoking, Libby Graham of Cochrane forwarded this brilliant observation taken from a high school exam: "Q: Name a major disease associated with cigarettes. A: Premature death."

Maida Bush of Cochrane, knowing my weakness for puns, forwarded this one: "A gossip is someone with a great sense of rumour."

While we're on the topic of language, Calgary coffee companion Jeff Perkins forwarded this one about a linguistics professor who was lecturing to his class:

"In English," he said, "a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language where a double positive can form a negative."

A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right!"

Jeff also forwarded these observations:

"I feel like I'm diagonally parked in a parallel universe;" and "The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."

Finally, in view of last week's interesting weather, I just couldn't resist closing with this piece forwarded by Ken Hagel about springtime in Alberta:

"When it's springtime in Alberta, And the gentle breezes blow, About seventy miles an hour And it's fifty-two below, You can tell you're in Alberta 'cause the snow's up to your butt, And you take a breath of springtime air And your nose holes both freeze shut. The weather here is wonderful, So I guess I'll hang around, I could never leave Alberta. My feet are frozen to the ground."

© 2002 Warren Harbeck

Return to Coffee With Warren home page