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Did I hear “95 feces”?

By October 30, 2017 5 Comments

A number of years ago, my sister and I were driving to pick up a cake on a Sunday.
We had planned a big birthday celebration for my mom’s 60th birthday, but it turned out quite differently than we planned. Dad started feeling chest pains and we all decided that Dad should go to the hospital, though he was reluctant to ruin all the effort and planning that went into Mom’s birthday bash, especially if it turned out to be “nothing.”
Good thing Dad went to the hospital, because it turned out that he had a very serious blockage in his artery.
My sister and I went to pick up the cake to eat with dad and the rest of the family at the hospital. After all, we didn’t want to let a good birthday cake go to waste. While driving, we happened to catch Garrison Keillor’s episode of Lake Wobegon on the car radio. It was about a Reformation church service, of all topics.
We laughed until we cried, relishing the emotional release from a difficult weekend.

While the Reformation is a serious subject for me as a historian and as a believer who grew up in the Reformed tradition, a little humor is always welcome. After all, Luther wrote, “I resist the devil, and often it is with a fart that I chase him away.” (Gritsch, 7)

In honor of Reformation Day, enjoy Keillor’s humorous story about a Reformation church service at the Lutheran Church in Lake Wobegon, MN:

it’s better if you can listen to Keillor, a master storyteller – the Reformation service part of the story starts at 9:18:

Otherwise, the text is here:

“…it was Reformation Sunday last week, last Sunday, at Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church so they all got together to celebrate the day that Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg, and they sang “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” and opened up the window towards the Catholic Church so the Catholics could hear them.
And Pastor Ingqvist preached on the church door at Wittenberg and that manifesto of Martin Luther’s. And there was laughing that broke out in the choir, among the junior choir, and there was a boy in the junior choir who thought that he said that Martin Luther had nailed 95 feces to the door of the church at Wittenberg. And this child collapsed in laughter. And of course when one person laughs, then other people need to know what they’re laughing at and the word went around and people started to break up, even very solemn people who had not laughed in a long time. They started to whinny at the thought of the founder of the Lutheran faith with a whole bag full of turds and nailing them to the door of a church. A bag full of manure. They must have been dry ones, not fresh ones, for him to nail them up.
While Pastor Ingqvist went on with his sermon about the meaning of the Reformation, and nobody whatsoever was listening. It took about 10 minutes for this all to pass around and for people to get the word and some people looked at each other with horror and other people just laughed and they couldn’t stop laughing. And the more they tried to stifle it then it would suddenly burst out into these odd sorts of whinnying laughs, and then somebody let a huge fart from trying to suppress laughter. It sort of blew up and then of course everyone exploded in laughter and the sermon had to come to a halt and he waited for people to quiet down. So they had this in their minds, Martin Luther, there with turds in his hand, and then when it came to the prayers and they had to pray for their sister church in the Upper Penninsula, Zion Lutheran of the U(you) P (pee), then it all got started again. People laughed and laughed, people sitting there, solemn Lutherans, solemn serious Lutherans, they just couldn’t help it. Things came out of their noses, things came out and then they sat there and they were quiet for a while. And then Marilyn Toleroot, who’d been downstairs fixing doughnuts for the fellowship hour came up and she heard about the 95 feces and she just started screaming and laughing from up in the choir loft and then Tibby Marklund, the organist, she started laughing and she put her foot down, accidently, on a base pedal and this long low groan came out, which sounded like an old man sitting on the throne who was passing a very difficult one, so everybody had to laugh at that.
The sermon came crashing to an end, and then Pastor Ingqvist looked down and saw that the first communion hymn was “Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior” so they skipped communion and they just went to the closing hymn.

It was a great service, it was a wonderful service, it was just what everybody needed. They didn’t know it but they needed it…”

Don’t we all?
Happy Reformation Day (eve)!

Rebecca Koerselman

Rebecca Koerselman teaches history at Northwestern College in Orange City, IA.


  • Hugh Jass says:

    Few things are funnier and require more creativity than bodily function jokes. I mean, c’mon, how did he come up with this stuff!?! How in the world did he manage work in references to defecation, flatulence, and urination all in one story? My junior high locker room buddies would be rolling on the floor with this one. Too bad Garrison didn’t work in an f-bomb or two along with a menstruation reference and a perhaps even some masturbation or VD innuendo. Then he’d really be firing on all cylinders. Nevertheless, that is truly some master storytelling there. I’m starting think that Seymour Butts didn’t write the book “Under The Bleachers” after all – it was Keillor.

    • Rebecca Koerselman says:

      Keillor certainly uses more salty language in this story than in most of his stories. I guess we all (need?) chuckle at ‘bathroom’ humor now and then

  • Fred Mueller says:

    About four decades ago, National Lampoon did a cartoon of this. The heading was “Martin Luther nails his 95 Feces to the door of Wittenberg Chapel.” Obviously it was memorable. Impossible to forget, or as the young people say, “You can’t unsee that.” Thanks for this Rebecca. How I miss Keillor on Saturday nights. Many times the Prairie Home Companion interfered with my final sermon draft, but my preaching was always better for his amazing skill with the simplest of language and his playful love of the church.
    Fred Mueller

  • Huh. None of this came up last night in our commemorative service of the Reformation … 😉

  • Harris says:

    For the artistic minded, sounds like a reference to Chris Ofili.

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