Monday, April 9, 2018

Humor and laughter and all good things

Acts 4:32-35
Luke 24:1-9

One Easter a priest and a taxi driver both died and went to heaven. St. Peter was at the Pearly gates waiting for them.

'Come with me,' said St. Peter to the taxi driver.

The taxi driver did as he was told and followed St Peter to a mansion. It had everything you could imagine from a bowling alley to an Olympic size pool.

'Oh my word, thank you,' said the taxi driver.

Next, St. Peter led the priest to a rough old shack with a bunk bed and a little old television set.

'Wait, I think you are a little mixed up,' said the priest. 'Shouldn't I be the one who gets the mansion? After all I was a priest, went to church every day, and preached God's word.'

'Yes, that's true.' St Peter rejoined, 'But during your Easter sermons people slept.  When the taxi driver drove, everyone prayed.'
How many Presbyterians does it take to change a light bulb?
“Change!?  My grandmother donated that lightbulb!”

"Are limericks suited to Lent?
Yes indeed, in both form and intent:
     They're a well-designed ploy
     To bring insight and joy
With a final, uplifting event.”

"Here's the question that Eastertide begs:
Is it all about candy and eggs?
   No, the point to be praised
   Is that Christ has been raised
And death taken down a few pegs.
         The point of humor Sunday is the same every year: God has had the last laugh, has even overcome death by raising Jesus.  There is nothing to fear, nothing to mourn, nothing to worry about because God has overcome the worst thing to be feared, the worst pain to be overcome, the greatest loss. Maybe that doesn’t bring laughter to your lips, but the absurdity of the one thing that could be counted on: death: that, too being overcome, being challenged, being faced – that should bring a joy that bubbles over into laughter.  If you trust that having even that which is un-challengable challenged by a loving God, if you can have faith that the God who overcomes even the most natural of things is a good and loving God, then all the rest must seem silly, trite, unimportant, and laughable.
            Several theologians wrote this year about how terribly appropriate it was this year to have Easter on April Fool’s Day.  (a very rare occurrence, by the way.  The last time this happened was in 1956). 
Easter, and the Sundays that follow it should be a relief!  All really is in God’s hands, and the outcome IS known.  It will end well, it will be okay. This is God’s world and we get to enjoy it as well as work to make it better for everyone.  We get to delight in the good, celebrate the beauty, and work for wholeness from a place of joy and trust. But even if that is hard to see, hard to trust and hard to take in, the gift of laughter is still there for us.  It is still a gift to be given and received.  We know it helps health-wise, we know it releases tension and stress.  It also reminds us to not take ourselves and our lives so very seriously. 
The funniest things I find are actually situations that happen in my own family, especially with my kids.  When Aislynn was 6, Jonah was 8 and Jasmyn was almost 12, we had a typical morning interaction.  I asked Aislynn, as I often do, "How did I get such an adorable child?"  And then turning to Jonah, who was also there, "How did I get such a handsome son?"  Again, this is part of a familiar morning routine.  But their answers have always been really unpredictable.  That particular morning Aislynn responded, "Well, your heart picked Daddy.  And that is why you now have an adorable daughter, a handsome son, and also an older, cranky daughter!"  
Another story from this year.  We were watching the Olympics and Jonah asked from the other room, “what’s happening on the Olympics now?” to which Jasmyn replied, “Well, it appears to be synchronized skiing. However, they are not doing a very good job because some are trying to outrace the others, which is not good team-work, people!!”
I remember taking my kids to see Zaboomafoo at the Oakland zoo when they were very little.  One of the things that the Zaboomafoo hosts always did was tell knock knock jokes.  But in person, they would bring the mic around and ask the children to tell their jokes.  But what was so funny about their jokes was that the kids understanding of humor was so different from adult humor.  “knock knock” the child would say, “Who’s there?” they would respond.  “Me!” they’d shout and then laugh their heads off.  We would laugh too – both because of their lack of understanding of what makes jokes jokes, but also because their laughter would be infectious. 
My experience in that humor is two-fold.  First, those real life stories are the ones that I remember most, that bring me the most joy and delight in this world.  But second, it is in those moments of utter silliness that I see God most clearly.  I hear God laughing alongside of us, enjoying the creation that He/She made, delighting in the beautiful, the wonderful, the absurd, the silly.
Today we are given two stories in scripture.  The first is a reminder that the early believers shared everything and that we are called to also share.  I believe that in our laughter we share a connection and a depth like no other.  I found the following story about a harried pastor in Alaska who was trying to bring together a very fractious, divided church. The church was in turmoil with a heavy, discouraged spirit. For several years, the pastor had tried everything, without success, to bring the various squabbling cliques together. He finally decided to try a Holy Humor Sunday celebration on the Sunday after Easter. The service was filled with joyful songs and hymns and inspiring Scripture readings celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. Members were encouraged to tell their favorite jokes. And practical jokes were played on the pastor and others. Everybody had a lot of fun. The entire congregation rallied around the resurrection of Jesus. The Holy Humor Sunday service brought everyone together in a spirit of good cheer and camaraderie. "The response was overwhelmingly positive," the pastor wrote. "The congregation needed to know that they could come to worship and just 'let go' for an hour-and that it was possible to come to church and feel good. People have been talking about the service all week. And some, who said they had intended to leave the church and go to another church, said they had decided to stay. "The Holy Humor Sunday service was just what the doctor ordered for our church. It provided much-needed healing."
In the second scripture we are reminded of how scary and unbelievable it felt to the disciples to hear that Jesus was risen.  This, too, the unpredictable nature of life can be scary for us, too.  But laughter, humor Sunday is again another opportunity to listen to the angels who say again and again, “Be not afraid!” and who invite us into joy and trust and faith.
I want to end my sermon with this poem:
"Smiling is infectious. You catch it like the flu."
"When someone smiled at me today, I started smiling, too."
"I passed around the corner, and someone saw my grin."
"When he smiled I realized I'd passed it on to him."
"I thought about that smile. Then I realized its worth."
"A single smile just like mine could travel the whole earth."
"So if you feel a smile begin, don't leave it undetected."
"Let's start an epidemic quick, and get the world infected!"

This is a way of spreading the light and joy: smile, laugh, share, hug, live in the joy of the resurrection!  Amen.
What jokes did you bring to share today?

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Interrupting Cow

Q: What did the alien say to the garden?
A: Take me to your weeder!

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Otto who?
Otto know. I’ve got amnesia.