Monday, April 11, 2016

Sundays' Sermon - Laughter as Resurrection

Genesis 17:15-19, 18:9-15, 21:1-7.  Luke 24:13-35

A mom wakes her son up on a Sunday morning telling him he has to get ready for church.  He fights her saying he just plain doesn't want to go.  She responds, "I'm sorry son by you have to go to church.  For one thing I'm your mom and I'm telling you you must go.  Second, you are forty years old and ought to know better.  And third, you are the pastor.  So get your butt out of bed and get moving!" 

A pastor runs into a kid who is looking to trade his lawn mower for a bicycle.  The pastor agrees to do this, but then is pulling and pulling on the mower cord and it isn't starting.  He turns to the boy and asks him how he is supposed to get the mower to start.  The boy responds, "oh, you just have to cuss at it and it will start right up."  The pastor is highly affronted and says, "I don't cuss!  I don't even know how to cuss!"  The boy responds, "You pull long enough on that cord, and I'm certain you will learn." 

A pastor declares that he is going to preach the following week on the sin of lying.  He says that in preparation for that sermon, he would like everyone to read Mark 17.  The following week he begins by asking the congregation, "how many of you remembered your homework and read Mark 17 in preparation for today?"  Everyone in the church raises their hands, to which the pastor responds, "Mark only has 16 chapters.  We will now proceed to my sermon on lying."

A man joins a monastery and is told he must remain in silence for six years.  He does so and at the end of the six years the head priest tells him he can say two words.  The monk says, “too cold”.  "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that!" declares the head priest.  We will surely take care of that for you!  And he gives the man additional blankets and then tells him he must go away into silence for another six years.  After another six years passes, the monk is called back again and told he can say two more words.  “Food bad” the monk declares.  Again, the head priest is very apologetic, promises to do something about it and does so, sending the monk away for another 6 years of silence.  This time when the monk appears and is told he can say two more words, he declares, “I quit”.  "Well," says the head priest, "that's a good thing!  You've done nothing but complain the whole time you've been here!"

A pastor comes across a group of kids surrounding a puppy and asks them what they are doing.  "Oh, pastor," says one of the kids, "We are seeing which one of us can tell the biggest lie!  Whichever one of us tells the biggest lie will get to keep this puppy that we found!"  The pastor is highly offended.  "That is outrageous!  You should not be practicing lying!  Why, when I was your age, I never would have told a lie!"  The kids become quiet for a few minutes until finally the one kid says, "Well, pastor.  You just won yourself the puppy!"

Christine Longhurst wrote, “Laughter Sunday (also known as Holy Humour Sunday, Hilarity Sunday, God’s Laughter Sunday, Bright Sunday or Holy Fools Sunday) has its roots in a number of different Christian traditions.  Churches in 15th century Bavaria used to celebrate the Sunday after Easter as Risus Paschalis (‘God’s Joke,’ or ‘the Easter laugh’). Priests would deliberately include amusing stories and jokes in their sermons in an attempt to make the faithful laugh. After the service, people would gather together to play practical jokes on one another and tell funny stories. It was their way of celebrating the resurrection of Christ – the supreme joke God played on Satan by raising Jesus from the dead.  However, the observance of Risus Paschalis was officially outlawed by Pope Clement X in the 17th century. Perhaps people were having too much fun.  In 1988, the Fellowship of Merry Christians began encouraging churches to resurrect some of these Christian traditions—to celebrate the grace and mercy of God through the gift of laughter and joy.  G.K. Chesterton once wrote: “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. Never forget that the devil fell by force of gravity. He who has the faith has the fun.”
While the psalms we read encourage joy, and laughter is a good way to get there, it is more than that.  There is also humor in the Bible.  Some of the stories are joyful, but others are downright funny.  Professor Hershey Friedman says that the different types of humor we find in scripture include, sarcasm, irony, wordplay, humorous names, humorous imagery, and humorous situations.  A couple of examples, when the Israelites were fleeing Egypt, they used sarcasm in confronting Moses by saying, “was there a lack of graves in Egypt that you took us away to die in the wilderness?”  In Samuel, Achish said to David, “Why did you bring him to me? Do I lack lunatics that you have brought this one to carry on insanely in my presence?"  Jesus says, “"You are like a person who picks a fly out of his drink and then swallows a camel".  Additionally, God names Isaac “laughter” – the one who leads us forward, who is our ancestor in faith is named “laughter”.
Laughter is a gift from God in so many ways.  Research shows that laughing actually has pain-reducing capacities, and it raises our pain threshold so we can tolerate pain better and we experience it less when we are laughing and for some time after a full, strong laugh.  It helps us learn – we learn better after a good laugh.  And it boosts our immune-enhancing capacities.  When we laugh fully and completely, we are said to “lose” it.  What we actually “lose” in those moments is our distraction of everything else – our distraction of our self-consciousness, our distractions of the stresses in our lives, we stop fleeing our stressing out and instead are completely present in the moment – and that moment, the NOW is where God is.
I want to read you part of an article on “The hope of laughter” by Rev. A. Stephen Pieters: Article by Stephen Pieters

In the Genesis passages that we read for today, we hear that there are different kinds of laughter.  Abraham laughs out of disbelief, but it doesn’t feel bitter to me.  It just feels like someone has said something so surprising and so ridiculous that he can’t help but laugh.  Sarah’s laugh feels different.   Her laughter feels more like sarcasm – almost a bitter laughter, a “yeah right” kind of chuckle.  And this laughter God confronts, saying there is nothing that is beyond God, no matter how “absurd” it may seem.  But in the end, Sarah names her son laughter – and in this laughing it is delight.  It is the laughter of sarcasm and bitterness turned into the laughter of joy, of celebration.  Finally, we come to another story of Jesus’ resurrection.  And through it we are reminded that God has the final “laugh”.  And this time that laugh is on death itself.  Even that is overcome, to the surprise, to the JOY, to the delight of God’s people and the disciples in particular.  The joke is on “evil”.  Good wins.  It is hilarious and wondrous and wonderful that just when death seemed to win and grab even Christ, that even death was overcome.  It is not just something to celebrate, this is something to truly delight in, to laugh about!  God is the God of the amazing, of healing, of joy, of LAUGHTER.  And today we celebrate THAT gift – we honor THAT gift by laughing with God, by enjoying life WITH God, by remembering that God won!

AND, to end with a few more laughs:
After every flight, UPS pilots fill out a form, called a 'gripe sheet,' which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems, document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight.

Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by UPS pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers.
P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
 S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
 S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit.
 S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
 S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200-feet-per-minute descent.
 S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
 S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
 S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
 S: That's what friction locks are for.

P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
 S: IFF is always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
 S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
 S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny. (I love this one!)
 S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
 S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics..

P: Mouse in cockpit.
 S: Cat installed.

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
 S: Took hammer away from the midget