I believe Christian faith engenders an inherent playfulness, a free-wheeling optimism drenched in the largess of God’s love, yielding great droughts of laughter, hope and a near-scandalous rejection of fear, narrow-mindedness and gloom. Some of us, saddled with a stilted, dour or unimaginative faith, need to encounter anew the Father who threw raucous parties for wayward sons and daughters, the Jesus who gathered children, scoundrels and outcasts like the pied piper.
However, to say that faith is playful is not at all to say that faith is frivolous. God’s wide and joyous welcome comes as a happy shock precisely because God is the Almighty, the Holy, the final judge, the One true mystery. When we encounter this God, we’re fools if there’s never any tremor in our voice, never any disoriented wobble in our step. Because of Jesus, we come to God joyfully assured of God’s lavish welcome, but something’s wrong if our vision of this welcoming God evokes runaway chatter and piles of self-confident schemes. Something’s wrong if we never go mute, are never dumbstruck by wonder or the weight of love or the gravity of this God who was and who is and who will be forever.
God’s welcome releases us to be free, to make mistakes, to forgive ourselves, to chuckle over our muddleheaded detours. But God’s holiness, God’s fierceness, God’s piercing otherness, reminds us that this welcome God gladly offers arrives as a stunning gift.