(Click on the title to hear the song & see the lyrics)
Clowns have a special place in the history of the circus. Their job was to lighten the mood. If an act did not go off well, the call went out to “send in the clowns” and the clowns flooded the ring. Clowns were also used to create a distraction especially if a tragedy or accident occurred. The clowns were sent in to distract and maintain the “happy” experience.
Stephen Sondheim wrote a song called “Send in the Clowns” which was popularized by Judy Collins and others. The song is from a musical in which an aging actress begins to see her talent steadily slipping away and wonders if she is at that point where they need to “send in the clowns” to distract the audience from her diminishing talent. A sad day for this actress when she realizes as far as her career goes, “it’s over”.
Churches have clown ministries. I guess they have their place; special occasions, working with children but I wonder if it is frivolous. What are they trying to distract us from, if anything, or is it just good fun?
As Christians, we are called to be joyous not morose. James 1:2 says: “Consider it pure joy”. Titus 2:7-8 says in part: “...in your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech…” But I don’t see where we are called to be frivolous. I mean when the wheels fly off of our life and we need help, will we seek out the clown?
I believe we will seek out a friend who is rooted in God’s word, a friend who is tested, passionate about life and the faith, encouraging with wise words of comfort. I believe we are called to be serious about the faith, not frivolous. Christ was never pictured as a chuckling, jolly figure. Isaiah 53:3 described Him as “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
In school, I was the class clown and I was good at it. As class clown I deeply wanted the approval of my peers. It masked or distracted from what was really going on in my life. Inside my heart was a God-shaped hole and no amount of acceptance from a fractured world could fill that hole. I needed Christ but I didn’t know it. I distracted myself from the sadness unfolding around me. It was a frivolous, self deception; I was the court jester.
How many people on the surface appear happy and well adjusted, keeping up a “glittering image” while being lonely and hurting deeply? Have we as a The Church “sent in the clowns” when we should be demonstrating the love of Christ?