Jesus was walking through heaven one day, a little bored, when he passes the Pearly Gates and sees St. Peter talking with an elderly gentleman and decides to go over and hear the man’s tale.
“Where are you from, old man?” Jesus asks.
“Well, I lived my life on the shores of the Mediterranean,” the old man replies. […]
[…] “H mmm. I spent some time there myself,” says Jesus. “What did you do for a living?”
“Well, I was a poor carpenter,” says the old man.
“Wow. So was I,” says Jesus.
“And I had a son,” says the old man, ”Well, he wasn’t my son really, but a miraculous spirit came into him and he became famous, and people talk about him all over the world.”
Jesus is very excited, because he is sure he now knows who this man is, and can’t hold back any longer. “Father!” he cries.
The old man falls into Jesus’ outstretched arms. “Pinocchio”
I need to admit my bias here— I like to laugh and I believe that God is in our laughter. I think that God wants us to laugh, And I think that it is about time that we felt like laughing in a church — if we laughed more maybe we would be healthier. I think a church meeting is more successful the more laughter there is, I think a funeral is more real the more laughter is punctuated the tears. And even worship itself, is improved when laughter greets us in the midst of the moment. There is of course a place for solemnity and respect but then I don’t think that laughter is disrespectful — as the matter of fact if it used well; used to lift people up instead of bring them down — laughter has the ability to draw people in, to widen the circle and to help people feel included, There is nothing like laughing with someone to feel closer to them.
So why do we laugh – we laugh because we find something funny- because something catches our fancy, tickles our funny bone, delights our sense of fun, Here in church we can laugh because we know that God is good. We can laugh because of the wonder of all that God does. When we read our scripture we encounter many funny stories, many preposterous events, many encounters with characters that require a sense of humour and a sense of the ludicrous to understand.
Hersey Feedman in his paper: Humour in the Hebrew Bible says: “The Hebrew Bible employs many sorts of humor, but its purpose is not to entertain. The major goal of the Hebrew Bible Is to teach humanity how to live the ideal life. Much of the humor found in the Hebrew Bible has a purpose: To demonstrate that evil is wrong and even ludicrous, at times. The punishments meted out to wrongdoers are often designed to mock them and to hoist them by their own petards.”
Biblical humour is the humour of those who know how to love.
It is not nasty or cruel. It helps us focuses on the absurdity of some of our human traits things like – our pride – our silly habits – our strange ways of thinking and speaking, and then when we laugh at these traits of ours they are transformed, and so are we.
Take this morning’s reading from John – It is pretty clear in the story that we just read that Easter feeling is missing, the wonder and awe that Mary experienced in the garden has faded as the day goes on and we find the disciples in a locked room, away from the crowds afraid for their life. There is not a lot of humour here. I imagine that they are all subdued and quiet and still in deep grief. The evening after the resurrection – the disciples are locked away in fear – afraid that they too may be branded as treasonous and sent to a cross, afraid that they may not know what to do next because it was Jesus who set their agenda’s and now with him gone they are at loose ends, with no direction, no purpose – what do you do when the one who gave your group meaning and co-hesion is no longer with you? Afraid, lost and grieving and locked in a room, this is where we find the disciples, this Easter eve.
And here is the part that I love, here is the part that I think is truly another Easter moment – in the midst of the fear, in the midst of the trepidation, in the midst of the confusion, and grief and loneliness, the Christ comes – and the Christ comes even though the way is barred – the Christ comes, even though the door is locked – the Christ comes even when no one is expecting him – the Christ comes – Peace says Jesus – and he shows his scars – Peace be with you – says Jesus again –and now – go and share the Good News – go and live the gospel- or as John puts it “as my Father has sent me, so I send you” and then he breathed on them…
Breath – life – ruah – Hebrew word for spirit – Jesus breathed on the disciples enlivening them and releasing them from their fear, their grief and their lack of purpose – this moment – this moment the disciples are gifted with Easter – these disciples have had the resurrection blown into them. – there must have been much laughter as Jesus was among them again -and and they must have felt deep deep joy in that moment of resurrection as they witnessed God’s biggest joke of all – the joke played on death.
But Thomas was not there – and he did not witness these events and as much as the other disciples try to convince him of the Christ coming in their midst – he refused to believe – how true is this for us too, that as much as we may want to believe based on another’s experience, as much as we wish we could jump on the bandwagon – unless we experience it ourselves it has no meaning, the stories of others just don’t do it for us – we want our own moment – we want to have Christ come to us.
And here comes again…God getting in, – Easter – not more than a week later, the Christ comes again – comes again to Thomas and he is able to touch the wounds and feel the presence and be transformed – and share in the laughter and feel the joy and be Easter transformed like the rest of the disciples. God’s laughed at death – and the world changed for Thomas too!
New life began because God played a joke on death, The disciples were released from their fear and stuckness – and they were then able to leave that room of the shut door and begin to live into their new life, and begin to live as new people, sharing the good News of God in their way through their own encounters with the Divine and their life with Jesus, This was Jesus gift to them. This is what the Acts reading is all about – living Easter – these resurrected disciples are living the good news, they are sharing their lives, sharing their property, sharing themselves with each other and the world – and God is getting in and the kingdom has come….too bad it does not last – but for a moment when the disciples were living the Easter resurrection – the kingdom came…and the laughter rang out!
You have heard of laugher therapy or that laughter is the best medicine. It’s true, when we laugh.. we release the body’s natural healing enzymes called endorphins.
Singers get that kind of release when they sing.
Runners and bikers get that running high endorphins.
You get endorphins from
• from chocolate
• from listening to music
• from getting a massage
• and from having a great big belly laugh.
That reminds me of the two cannibals who were sitting together, feasting on a clown. One cannibal turned to the other and (looking mildly perplexed) said, “Does this taste funny to you?”
Humor releases endorphins. It’s one of the things God grants us with as a gift. It is one of the ways that God grants us healing,
Reinhold Niebuhr, the great theologian, says . . . that ‘the very essence of sin is taking ourselves too seriously,” If that’s true, the very essence of grace is to receive the gift of laughter, especially when the joke is on us, particularly when the most laughable incongruities consist of the gap between who we are and who God would have us be.”
We human beings are funny and we often take ourselves too seriously Let’s face it we need to laugh — laugh at ourselves, laugh at the world, laugh with God because we do some pretty foolish things.
So let us thank God for the gift of laughter, and senses of humour and joy and love, for it is what make life worth living. Let us thank God for life and laughter and hope and humour, and jokes and joy and jest.
Let us remember not to take ourselves too seriously — and thank God especially that God does not take us too seriously too!