“Christianity is a religion with both room and reason, for laughter as well as life.”
Last week I stated the resurrection story was a perfect set up for a practical joke, and for that the many doubters out there probably had a good giggle.
I didn’t say it to be silly or flip, or simply because it Easter was also April Fools Day. I had simply acknowledged the fact that God has a magnificent sense of humor.
If you don’t believe me just ask a platypus. Or my son, Sean. They both are creations of God’s silly imagination.
If we believe God gave us the gift of life, especially the resurrected Easter life, then it shouldn’t be too hard to believe that God also gave us laugher. I think Jesus might agree that we need more of it in the church.
After all, he said if we grown up’s want to get into heaven we need to be more like children who laugh an average of 300-400 times a day. Adults, on the other hand, produce a paltry 26 giggles or snorts at best. What’s wrong with us that we take life too seriously to enjoy it?
Not only is laughter free and fun, but it also releases endorphins that stimulate our blood to keep our hearts healthy; reducing stress, pain and conflict. It’s as if God gave us laughter as a gift for healing.
Look, I think God wants us to laugh and is joining in on the fun as we celebrate “Holy Humor Sunday” with churches across the country.
Long before there were old punk rock ministers holding internet services, the early church set aside the Sunday after Easter as a day to gather with the faith community to tell jokes and sing silly songs. It was designed to be a continuation of the joy and celebration of Easter – honoring the supreme joke God played on death.
Besides the health benefits, laughter is good for the church in that it has the power to draw people in and make everyone feel included. I can’t think of anything that unites us better than some good humor. Everyone know a good joke does not discriminate. A good religious joke welcomes all denominations: $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100.
There’s nothing like sharing a good laugh with someone to make you feel closer to them. When I was helping my mom set up her iPhone I actually L-O-L’d when I discovered her password was:
Mickey-Minnie-Pluto-Huey-Louie-Dewey-Donald-Goofy-Tallahassee. When I asked why she had such a long password, she said it was supposed to be least eight characters long and include one capital.
Of course, Holy Humor Sunday is not just about the cheap laugh or the poor pun. None of the silliness that we celebrate today would be possible without the seriousness of Easter and God’s great love for us that came into this world for our redemption.
The church needs to be a funny place It needs to be a sanctuary of laughter and where joy is freely shared – especially in times like ours where more people struggle for answers, to make sense out of where they are in their life.
Too many remain blind to the grace that is in right there in front of them because they continue to doubt the power of Easter and God’s love in their life. In light of John’s gospel this morning, I’m compelled to ask, “Can anything good come from doubt?”
I once met a guy who caused me to question what I thought I knew to be true. His name was Joe. He introduced himself to me as “The only man in the world that everyone knows.”
When I asked him to prove it, he walked me around the party and everyone said, “Hey, Joe!” Obviously I wasn’t impressed because they all knew me too. So we left the party and walked about the town where everyone kept saying, “Joe! How ya doing?” The shopkeepers, the police, and firemen, and even the mayor at City Hall all greeted Joe by name. Yet I still wasn’t 100% convinced. So we drove to Sacramento where the governor came out to met us shouting, “Joe, what a pleasant surprise.”
From there we flew to Washington DC. A cabbie pulls up and says, “Hey, Joe get in.” Even when we walked into the Oval Office, the president even exclaimed, “Boy Joe, am I glad you came.” But I still had my doubts. There had to be at least one person who did not know this guy. I threw a hail Mary and off to Rome we flew.
It was there, in the Vatican, that Joe stopped me in front of St. Peter’s cathedral. “Here’s the deal,” he confessed, “in fifteen minutes the Pope is going to go out on that balcony and give a sermon. He doesn’t like having a lot of visitors before he leads service, so you need to stay out here. If he grants me a visitation, you’ll know.”
True enough, about fifteen minutes later the pope came out, waving to the crowd. I stood there in shock and disbelief, as the man standing next to me asks, “Hey mister, who’s that up there with Joe?”
Just as we are free to laugh, we are also free to question and doubt God’s love for us. I believe Thomas’ story exemplifies how doubt is good for our spiritual renewal in that it turns our focus inward where God dwells. Our questions and doubts help us find the answers we seek because it begins a dialogue between God and us. You could say our doubts bring us closer to God and closer to finding our true self.
And for some strange reason, the church would rather laugh at poor Thomas than learn from him – dubbing him the doubter because he declared, “Unless I see the nail holes and touch him myself, I will not believe.” I think this is unfair and not really funny at all.
I’m not so sure Thomas doubted God’s power of the resurrection. Instead I believe he merely desired the blessings that came from the empty tomb. If I were Thomas I too would want what the other Apostles received the week before. He noticed something had changed in them; there was a certain light in their being and joy in their hearts again. I imagine Thomas didn’t want to feel sad or lost or scared anymore.
Jesus heard his plea and came to him. He didn’t scold Thomas for doubting, but instead took his pain and fear, and gave them new life, new purpose and meaning. He breathed the Holy Spirit upon him so he could live out this gospel, the good news of God’s love, in the world.
In the midst of our fear, in the midst of our trepidation, confusion, grief and loneliness, Jesus comes to us – even when we lock ourselves away, or when we don’t expect him to show up.
Jesus came for you and me, and shows us his scars, so we might understand the truth of God’s love for us. He shows us how our painful wounds and scars we bare are made visible to us so that we can see how God resurrects our suffering and transforms it into the glory of God’s kingdom.
But best of all, he breathes within us the very breath of life – the Holy Spirit, the great witness of God’s biggest joke of all – the one God played on death so that we might enjoy the gift of real life; Oneness with our Creator.
Our laughing is God’s laughter. Our life is God’s joy.
And so, together with laughter and joy, our hearts gather freely to worship our Lord and Savior who is alive, and whose Spirit is among us today.
Which reminds me of a joke: What do they call pastors in Germany?
Why, German Shepherds, of course!