This one comes to us from the Rev. Aaron Boerst.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of the kind of inquisitive gaze that makes a person look like a confused puppy?

I have.

Everybody has at least one friend who, without warning and without frame of reference, bursts into a conversation with some ridiculous statement like a child wandering into the middle of a movie theater. A statement that makes the person saying it seem “out of his element,” you could say. A statement that on the surface—and in terms of the current flow of discussion—seems absurd.

In my social circle, I happen to be that guy. And you may be the one as well. But what many often do not realize is that wisdom can dwell amidst the foolish. Even in the most outlandish of comments there is often a glimmer of truth. When you take that truth seriously, sometimes that off-the-wall remark you heard can all-of-a-sudden appear much deeper and more meaningful.

So it goes for “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey,” from Saturday Night Live renown. Between 1991 and 1998, NBC’s Saturday Night Live included “Deep Thoughts” on the show as a running gag between sketches. As an SNL writer, Handey featured his deadpan humor in the form ofone-liners that, on first exposure, seem nothing but ridiculous. But upon further thinking, they are quite (for lack of a better term) “deep.”

Introduced with the voice of the late, great Phil Hartman, and then read out loud by the man himself, Jack Handey’s one-liners made the childhood of many a Millennial profound. Hartman’s narration would wisp in with a soothing, “And now, Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handey…” Calming ambient music would play amidst the backdrop of a picturesque countryside. Then, without further prompt, Handey would give you something like this to ponder:

Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself: “Mankind.” Basically, it’s made up of two separate words—“mank” and “ind.” What do these words mean? It’s a mystery, and that’s why so is mankind.

Or how about this gem:

If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins the most? I’d say Flippy, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong though. It’s Hambone.

Funny? Yes. Ridiculous? No doubt. Deep? Deeper that you might think!

But that’s what makes them great. There is hidden depth despite it all. Upon further analysis of the two above quotes, you could say being facetious is the only way to make sense of life. And you could say that things in life are not always what they seem.

Still not convinced? Ok, here’s another:

Ambition is like a Venus fly trap. If a frog were to sit on it, the fly trap could bite and bite but it wouldn’t hurt the frog because it only has tiny little plant teeth. Then some other stuff could happen and that would be like ambition.

In this case, you might think he’s going to give you a simile about ambition, but in the end he’s actually characterizing ambition (or the lack thereof), by making a sharp left turn away from completing the joke. Such are the temptations in our lives which get us off course and hinder our real ambition.

But for how absurd all of this might be so far, nothing compares to how absurd it is to talk about the Gospel.

What makes the Gospel so absurd? A holy and perfect God slumming it with his fallen creation. A God who takes on flesh himself and is born in a feeding trough for animals. A God who shares in the imperfect family tree of some of the worst people imaginable. A holy and perfect God, who is 100% God while being 100% human whose death made a satisfactory payment for sin. A dead God who after three days returns to life. A God who shows strength through weakness; freedom through servitude, and life through death. But that’s what makes it such good news. We can hardly make sense of it. Mike Yaconelli, author of Messy Spirituality reiterates, “The grace of God is dangerous. It’s lavish, excessive, outrageous, and scandalous. God’s grace is ridiculously inclusive. Apparently God doesn’t care who He loves. He is not very careful about the people He calls His friends or the people He calls His church.” As human creatures, we are trained from our youth: With effort comes reward. Doing homework makes the grades. Work equals pay. But when it comes to God, this equation doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t add up. Concepts and philosophies like “karma” or “cause and effect” may appear true, but not when it comes to salvation—it has nothing to do with our actions or worthiness. It is not contingent on who we are; it is dependent on who God is and His love for the unlovable.

We can turn on the news or go through our Facebook feed, and we can beat our brains talking about people politically and religiously going unhinged who lean on the conservative right, and those who lean on the liberal left, and those who try to have a voice of reason in between. All those things don’t matter. All that matters is what Jesus’ lavish love does. That’s what matters. Not books people write to gain attention, not the blogs people put out to gain a voice, not the theological resolutions to keep people on the right path. Just Jesus. We don’t need more articles telling us what is wrong with our churches or what is wrong with the world. What we need is to be reminded how shocking it is to simply have Jesus. What we need is to be daily surprised by grace. And when we are surprised, we will find salvation amidst the shocking (and often messy) parts of our lives.

Let me say it again. We need to be daily reminded of how absurd God’s grace really is. If God’s ridiculous grace isn’t revealed to be the lucid absurdity that it is, no one will care to pay attention. In The Parables of Judgment, theologian Robert Capon reminds us, “Grace doesn’t sell; you can hardly even give it away, because it works only for losers and no one wants to stand in their line.”

None of us ever moves beyond the need to hear the basic good news of God’s grace. No matter how many times you hear it, the Good News of Christ’s sacrifice always brings peace to our stressed, struggling souls and joy to our heavy, hungry hearts. It’s absurd to be told daily we can’t satisfy a righteous God. We don’t have to claw our way to salvation. And thanks be to God we don’t have to. Jesus has burned those accounting books. The bookkeeping is over. Father Capon said it best in Kingdom, Grace, Judgment when he quipped:

What the Son will offer the Father at the last day is the silence of his death on the subject of our sins and the power of his resurrection on the subject of our life. Therefore we are to stop—right now—living as if we could have the least influence on that happy outcome by fussing about who owes what to whom.

So where do we go from here? How can we make sense of something so absurd?

The answer is clear. We don’t try to make sense of it. We simply accept the paradoxes of what Jesus does, and trust in what we cannot understand. That’s the life of faith.

But, the absurdities in life don’t stop here. There is something called the Law. And it would be a disservice to anyone if we spoke about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and didn’t talk about the Law. After all, we aren’t Antinomians. Yes, faith, eternal life, and forgiveness are all offered right now for free because of Jesus. But you know full well: “nothing is free.” Freedom cost Jesus dearly. And that’s why we talk about God’s law. Not because it is a natural out-flowing of the Gospel. Far from it. The Gospel plus anything else is not the Gospel. The Law however is still the good and necessary will of God. The Law remains God’s intentions for our lives. We have forgiveness; we have eternal life right now, so that means we do something with it.

Martin Luther would advance this surprising revelation about our meaning in life in his teachings on the Two Kinds of Righteousness and Vocation. In his sermon on March 28, 1518 (between the posting of the 95 Theses in 1517 and the Diet of Worms in 1521), he preached that, in in the first kind of righteousness, one has an “Alien Righteousness.” That is, one from outside of ourselves. You could call it “Passive Righteousness.” Christ comes into our world and obtains saving righteousness by himself on the Cross. Then in the most absurd of ways, he gives to the world that same righteousness to all who believe. Luther even started getting to this point earlier in Thesis 37 of his 95 Theses where he wrote: “Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all the benefits of Christ.” In other words, it is through faith in Christ that Christ’s righteousness literally becomes our righteousness. It is imputed. God doesn’t infuse his grace in us; he places it upon us without anything done on our part. And then all that Jesus has is ours, and in fact, He Himself becomes ours and we are given a new identity. That is the first kind of righteousness that we know and love. That’s the first absurdity of the Gospel that we talked about. But there’s more!

The Second Kind of Righteousness is one that all people get to do. You could call this “Active Righteousness.” Luther advised that once the world has been redeemed and all have the freedom of Christ, all have an obligation to serve others. For Luther, the Second Kind of Righteousness, “the righteousness of man,” is that all act in love and obedience for our neighbor out of service, and in so doing, all are given a new character. Luther summarizes saying, “God doesn’t need our good works; your neighbors do.”

Without God, our behaviors will always seem meaningless. But, with God, things get interesting. A person may be the best citizen, philanthropist, or humanitarian, but unless that person has Christ, none of those good things matter. We tend to think that when we eliminate God or the “need for God” in our lives, we would enjoy life more. Instead, the opposite is true; for a believer, all of a sudden even the most mundane things matter. “Even when a milkmaid is milking a cow,” Martin Luther said, “she is glorifying God just as much as a preacher in a pulpit preaching a sermon.” If one has Christ, changing diapers, mowing lawns, and doing laundry can each be considered holy work. Even the most mundane of tasks is pleasing in His sight, if done through faithful service to God according to the vocation He has called you. When you are a stay-at-home mom and spend your days cooking, cleaning, and doing everything in between, you are doing holy work just as God intended, because you’re doing a service no one else can uniquely fulfill for your family. If you are a husband, and you remember your anniversary by making your wife happy, you are doing holy work. When you are a student, and you pour yourself into endless pages of exam material instead of partying with your friends, you are doing holy work. When you are retired, and all you can do is spoil your grandchildren, you are doing holy work, just as God intended. And God smiles. Absurd? Without question. And it is all possible because of God’s absurd grace.

So, if you made it this far in delving into these lucid absurdities of faith and how the Christian faith connects us to the realities of everyday life, and you still don’t buy it, remember once more Jack Handey, who said:

Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes, that way when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.

Rev. Aaron Boerst is Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Lake Mills, WI.