Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Morning Laughter - John 20:1-18

Easter Morning Meditation
Commerce Community Worship Service at Commerce Presbyterian Church, GA

I want us all to help each other out; a good way to start the morning I think, this morning in particular.  

In a little while, I’m going to count to three, and when I do I want as many of you who care to, to burst out laughing. I’m not going to tell a joke. Or point out something funny.
I just want to see how contagious laughter is.

So those who are willing to help me out and participate you’ll laugh...and those who don’t want to, well, we know what that says about you :).  I’ll count to three in a moment.

But first, it’s been really neat to see my daughter Ruby Gene who is 7 and in the first grade discover jokes and humor.  She loves puns and catchy phrases.  Her ever watchful grandmother quickly got her 4 thick joke books from Highlights Magazines, and Ruby reads them every day!

We had guests came over to our house earlier in the week, and she spouted off several jokes in a row. Such as: Knock Knock, Who’s there? Little old lady, who? I didn’t know you could yodel !

Our guest, who happened to be the Rabbi at Congregation Children of Israel in Athens, went right along, laughed out loud, slapped his knee, and came right back with his own jokes.

I have found most Rabbi’s I’ve known are quick to laugh and tell jokes;
they’re comfortable with irony and paradox;
and even more impressively, out of frightening and tragic events, at an appropriate time they are often able to put a light spin on the events in surprising, clever and often humorous ways!
Just ask any Jewish friend of yours about the observance of Purim sometime.

I wonder how long finding humor in situations has been part of the Rabbinic tradition? Thousands of years perhaps?
Jesus was a Rabbi. What did Jesus think about practical jokes?

There are many scholarly works that suggest Jesus had quite a sense of humor.
Look at some of the stories he tells: a woman who lost a coin and turns her house upside down in search of it and then throws a big party when she finds it. That’s funny!

He had quick wit. How many times am I supposed to give?  7 times?  
Ha! Try seven times 70 times!  What a hoot!

And here on Resurrection Sunday we get one of the best practical jokes ever:
Jesus was directly involved with a tragic and brutal event.  He was placed in a tomb. His friends are devastated. One of them, Mary Magdalene, so devoted, gets up super early, probably because she couldn’t sleep she’s so distraught, and she comes to the place where they’ve buried Jesus.
She arrives, maybe before sunrise?!  and discovers he’s not there and begins to weep.

It’s really a pitiful scene and lots of mixed emotions. Is it an appropriate time for a little humor?

The angels start in with the joke by asking kind of an unnecessary question: Why are you weeping? She tells them why.

She turns around and looks right at Jesus, but, she doesn’t recognize Jesus, she thinks he is a gardener. In Mary’s defense, brain scientist have shown time and again, when you’re not expecting to see something, your brain won’t see it, even if your looking right at it.

Was Jesus surprised she didn’t recognize him? Maybe. Maybe not. He just goes right along with the angels repeating their question: “Why are you weeping?” He asks….
Do you think he was having to force himself to keep a straight face? Hold back the laughter?  
Maybe he was able to get in a little wink and nudge to the angels as Mary buries her face in her hands.

“Sir,” Mary says, “if you’ve taken him away, can you show me where he is?”

Jesus can’t hold back any longer. “Mary!”  And surely there was an outburst of laughter from the angels, from Jesus, eventually from Mary, once she got over the initial shock! Tears mixed with joy and laughter!   

Laughter has to be one of the greatest gifts of healing that we have access to as humans. It is said of Laughter… it„ improves our sense of well-being, reduces tension, depression, anger, „ lowers stress levels, „ reduces blood pressure,„ exercises hearts „, strengthens the immune system, „ reduces pain.

Did Jesus bring healing to the tears and pain of Mary and the others, through the gift of humor? Through laughter?

I wonder if laughter and humor should play a bigger role in our lives; in my life? Recently, and I think it’s because I haven’t been able to exercise like I normally do due to an injury, I’ve been a little cranky around the house. And not humored very easily.  When there has been a misunderstanding between my wife and me, or when if find my daughters a little on the annoying side, I’ve not exhibited the patience I aspire to.  And a few arguments have come as a result. I hope for your sake you don’t go through these kinds of things in your relationships. Do you?

But, recently I thought, what if, when there is a misunderstanding--kind of like Mary misunderstood who it was that was standing before her--instead of getting frustrated or upset,
I laughed!  What if when I find something to be annoying, like when my youngest demands my attention when I’m trying to talk on the phone even though I’ve asked her not to demand my attention before I got on the phone, and still seconds into the conversation she comes to me, ‘Daddy, Daddy..”
What if I found this wonderfully humorous!? Ha! The mind of a four year old. I love that she demands my attention, and she should get it.

A disposition of laughter, like what Jesus may have had, could bring healing and well-being to so much of life’s journey.  

Because, of course, “Life is difficult,” as M. Scott Peck says in A Road Less Traveled.  We may not like that, but it’s hard to argue with that reality. There will be tears, There will be suffering and pain and loss. But, even in those moments, maybe there can be opportunities for laughter and joy! A joke that is able to make its way through the crack in the concrete. Laughter that is able to shine a bit of light into dark places.

This is, in so many ways, the gift  of resurrection, because we know that in Jesus’ death and resurrection, the powerful destructive forces that sought to do him in, didn’t have the last word.
The light has overcome the darkness! There was laughter and joy on Easter morning!

So humor me and let’s help each other out this morning. I’m going to count to three, and let’s burst out in Easter laughter.
One two three….

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