Holy Humor Sunday Reflections

Link to Service

Good morning and Happy Easter! 

A woman invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to her six-year-old daughter and said, “Would you like to say the blessing?””I wouldn’t know what to say,” the little girl replied.

“Just say what you hear Mommy say,” the mother said.

The little girl bowed her head and said: “Dear Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?”

  Out in the ocean, a large fishing vessel hit some rocks and The ship was sinking fast. The captain called out, “Anyone here know how to pray?” One man stepped forward; “I do, Captain.”  “Good,” said the captain. “You pray. The rest of us will put on life preservers; we’re one short.”  In many churches, the Sunday following Easter has the lowest attendance of the year, sadly… I guess after the long Lenten season and Holy Week, people just get tired of showing up; but it feels rather ironic because we finally have arrived at the good part. We’re able to rejoice and celebrate  the good news of Easter.  A few years ago , I discovered a tradition that dates back a long time called Holy Humor Sunday. Easter was “God’s supreme joke played on death, they believed, and  so the Sunday after Easter became a “bright Sunday” filled with joy and laughter as people played jokes on each other, sang, danced, told jokes and had fun. It is a time to experience joy more fully as we worship God together!  I think it is always a good time to remember how to laugh and to be reminded that God wants us to be happy despite the news of the world or even the ups and downs of life.  It is Easter and so let us rejoice.

Knock knock, who’s there? Lettuce. Lettuce who? Lettuce pray.”  Yes, indeed, let us pray this morning, O Lord, giver of joy and laughter, we thank you for giving us these gifts. For the moments of laughter and unbridled joy you give to us:  for opportunities to laugh at ourselves, 

for the belly laughs of children,  and  for friends and family who love us because of our quirks, and not just in spite of them. Help us to remember how to laugh and help us live in the joy of Easter. Amen.

One day Groucho Marx was getting off an elevator and he happened to meet a clergyman. The clergyman came up to him, put out his hand and said, ‘I want to thank you for all the joy you’ve put into the world.’ Groucho shook hands and replied, ‘Thank you, Reverend. I want to thank you for all the joy you’ve taken out of it.

The great Russian author, Dostoyevsky once wrote, “If you wish to glimpse inside a human soul and get to know someone, don’t bother analyzing his ways of being silent, of talking, of weeping, of seeing how much he is moved by noble ideas; you will get better results if you just watch him laugh. If he laughs well, he’s a good person.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

For centuries in Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant countries, the week following Easter Sunday, also known as “Bright Sunday” (the Sunday after Easter), was observed by the faithful as “days of joy and laughter” with parties and picnics to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Priests deliberately included amusing stories and jokes in their sermons in an attempt to make the congregation laugh. Churchgoers and pastors played practical jokes on each other, drenched each other with water, told jokes, sang, and danced. It was their way of celebrating the resurrection of Christ – the supreme joke God played on Satan by raising Jesus from the dead. Early church  theologians (like Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Chrysostom) supported this thinking: they called God’s overturning of Satan the “Easter laugh” (“Risus paschalis”).

Sadly, the observance of Risus Paschalis was officially outlawed by Pope Clement X in the 17th century. Some people don’t know how to have fun. The tradition also faded in Orthodox and Protestant traditions. In recent decades a Sunday to celebrate humor has experienced a bit of a revival. In 1988, a group called the Fellowship of Merry Christians began encouraging churches to resurrect this tradition to celebrate the grace and mercy of God through the gift of laughter and joy. And so today, We hope you smile, laugh, and remember the gift of joy God has blessed upon us. 

I have spoken in the past about humor and faith.  There are many passages in the Bible that reflect this idea because we know that humor is part of how we experience the joy in life, how we cope with hard times, and how we lift one another’s spirits.  And, some people truly have the gift of humor and can really make people laugh. That is a gift. In Scripture, we read…  Job 8:21 “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting.”

Ecclesiastes 3:4 reminds us that there is “ a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,”  and in Psalm 126:2 “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’”

Some years ago, the author Norman Cousens wrote a book entitled Anatomy of an Illness which shared some of his personal journey with a rare condition he had been suffering with. The doctors gave Norman Cousins three months to live.

They asked Cousins to “get his affairs in order.” Cousins did not accept the death sentence that his doctors pronounced. He rented a hotel room (which cost a fraction of a hospital room). He rented comedy videos. He laughed his heart out. For three months.  Norman Cousins laughed himself back to health.  This is a simplified version of the story but the fact remains that laughter was the most important part of his recovery and he later wrote the book to share his experiences with others.

Writer Jean Houston once said, “At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.”  And none other than Shakespeare wrote, “With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” – William Shakespeare.   This morning, we give thanks for the gift of Easter and the joy it brings to our hearts.  We give thanks for the gift of laughter and the ways in which laughter enriches our lives.  May we laugh more, celebrate more, and be glad.  Now I invite others to share a joke if you wish.

 A minister parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city because he was short on time and couldn’t find a space with a meter. Then he put a note under the windshield wiper that read: “I have circled the block 10 times. If I don’t park here, I’ll miss my appointment. Forgive us our trespasses.” When he returned, he found a citation from a police officer along with this note: “I’ve circled this block for 10 years. If I don’t give you a ticket I’ll lose my job. Lead us not into temptation.”

How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?

At least 15. One to change the light bulb, and two or three committees to approve the change. Oh, and also one to provide a casserole.

How many Nazarenes does it take to change a light bulb?

Six:  One woman to replace the bulb while five men review church lighting policy.

How many Anglicans/Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?

Three. One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks and one to talk about how much better the old one was.

How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?

At least 15. One to change the light bulb, and two or three committees to approve the change. Oh, and also one to provide a casserole.

How many Unitarians does it take to change a light bulb?

We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey you have found that light bulbs work for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship with your light bulb, and present it next month at our annual Light Bulb Sunday Service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.