We Can Laugh!

 

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to John

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

(John 20:19-31)

Holy Humour Sunday.

The first Holy Humour Sunday I was asked to participate in,  I wondered about its origin.  So I looked up Holy Humour Sunday on my favourite website, and I found out it began in Europe, probably Germany.

It is normally held on the fourth Sunday of Lent, as a kind of respite from the gloom of Lent – a break, if you will. That Sunday was chosen apparently because it was called Laetare Sunday, which comes from the first word of the collect – Rejoice.

Not wanting to do what everyone else does, I chose to celebrate the day on the second Sunday of Easter. Today.

There’s no mention of Holy Humour Sunday  in the  Book of Common Prayer, nor in the Revised Common  Lectionary, but it seems a nice thing to do, to loosen up a bit, and celebrate with laughter.

There is laughter in the Bible, for example in the Old Testament, where we read that Sarah is in the tent and Abraham is outside talking to two men, said to be messengers from God, and they tell him he will be a father, and that Sarah will conceive.

Sarah hears this, and she is an old lady by now, so she can’t help laughing out loud.  But it did come to pass.

In the New Testament Jesus is called a drinker, and a glutton by some of the people who were trying to discredit him, and I would expect that, although not a drunkard or a glutton, someone who liked a drink now and then would  have to have a sense of humour, and would be heard laughing. 

If you are at peace with yourself, and with your God, then surely you can be happy, and can laugh.

I am always amused by the movies that show Jesus as a man speaking in a low voice, serious, and oh so proper.

Because he was human after all.

So, be at ease. We take today to remember, or to hear for the first time, or the second or third time, if it is funny, a joke, or a happy, funny remembrance. 

I am going to begin with, appropriately, an Easter story .

A man was driving to church on Easter Sunday. He had plenty of time – didn’t want to be too early – and he was on a country road, so wasn’t driving as carefully as he did normally, when he felt a bump, and a squeak, and alarmed, halted at once.

He got out of his car and saw, there, lying on the floor, a bunny, not moving, and to one side, a basket full of Easter eggs.

“Wow,” he thought, ” I have killed the Easter Bunny.”

As he stood there, feeling bad, not knowing what to do, a car pulled up behind him, and a lady got out.

“What’s wrong?”  She asked, coming toward him, and then seeing the Easter Bunny.

He couldn’t speak, but she sized up what had happened right away, and went to her car and took out something. 

She carried a spray can of some sort, and she leaned over the Bunny and sprayed something onto the poor thing.

After a few seconds, the Easter Bunny opened his eyes, and got to  his feet and, grabbing his basket, he just ran off,  waving back at them every few yards. Waving and running. Waving and running.

“My, ” the man said to the lady, ” What do you have there?”

She handed him the spray can she had used, and he looked at the label.

It said, ” Good for permanent wave,  brings new life to dead hair.”

We don’t need a commercial product, do we? Coming to know Christ beings new life, right away, doesn’t it?

But not everyone you meet during the day, has that new life in Christ, do they, and don’t you wish they did? ,

The Gospel has that story about Thomas, saying that he wouldn’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection until put his finger in the wounds in Jesus’ hand, and his hand into his side, and then when he sees Jesus, and the wounds, he is convinced.

It is a lovely story, but I can’t help thinking that Thomas must have been embarrassed as all get out.

I remember being embarrassed.  And on more than one occasion.

The first time  was when I was five years old and in infants’ school – or kindergarten – and my class was doing a play. I was chosen to go on stage at the very beginning and say a line that would set the scene for the play.

Quite proudly I walked on stage and said my line, ” It is a beautiful sunny day.”

And everyone, parents and teachers laughed. I didn’t know why and thinking I had done something wrong, was naturally embarrassed. 

The reason they laughed was that when I  said, ” It is a beautiful sunny day,” it was raining cats and dogs outside.

The second time I had to speak in public, kind of,  was a short time afterward, I was about six years old,  when my mother asked me to go on an errand. She sent me to the butcher’s shop for a half a pound of bacon.

In those days a child could go out without  fear, as everyone in the neighborhood  knew everyone else, so it was quite safe. And the butcher’s shop was a five minute walk away.

I had a shilling in my tight little hand and I kept reciting to myself what I had to say, ” A half pound of bacon. A half pound of bacon.”

When I got to the store, there were a few people there. In those days you gave the butcher your order, and he went and cut the piece of meat, or selected the chops, or sliced the bacon, wrapped it,  took your money and you left. Self service hadn’t yet arrived in the UK.

So line-ups were quite common.

I waited behind three adults, and I was quite nervous as this was the first time I had been trusted with such an important errand.

Eventually I reached the counter and the butcher looked down at me and said, ” What do you want?

I said, quite proudly, ” A half pound of bacon.”

He said, ” Lean?”

And I leaned forward  – and repeated,  “Half a pound of bacon,” much to the amusement of those in line behind me.

It took a while before I understood what had happened. And felt, even later, embarrassment.

I have been told by some that when they had the opportunity to mention their faith, in front of others, they were too embarrassed to do so. 

But, you know, people who sell door to door aren’t embarrassed to talk about their product, or to enroll someone they spot who might become a sales person for them.

Some guy, working for one of those direct sales companies  seemed to be always in line near me at the bank, and he invariably took me aside and asked me if I would  be interested in a job.

Naturally, I said, ” No thank you, I have a job,” and angrily pulled my arm out his grasp.

He did this a couple of times and I made up my mind that the next time he did it, I was going to say, ” Why don’t you kneel with me right now and we will pray for your soul.” But I never did get that opportunity to “help” him. And I have often questioned, in my mind, if  that  would have embarrassed him. How would he have responded?

That’s a question to which I will never know the answer.

There are many questions in life for which there doesn’t seem to be an answer.  For example, Why is it called lipstick if you can still move your lips?  And why do we say   that night falls but day breaks?  And Why do they call it “chili” if it’s hot?  Then again, can you catch a toad sitting on a toadstool?  Or,  if cats and dogs didn’t have fur would we still pet them?  And If peanut butter cookies are made from peanut butter, then what are Girl  Guide cookies made out of?

Do  they use real shepherds in Shepherd's Pie? And finally, 
if tin whistles are made out of tin, what do they make fog horns out of?

The Gospels raise a lot of questions, too, don’t they?

One example: Why would Jesus give His life for us, for worthless people, for criminals even?

Because. I believe,  God sees something in each of us. He sees a soul worth saving. He sees a lost lamb that needs finding, He sees a prodigal son or daughter who wants to come home but doesn’t know the way.

But God in Jesus, and especially  in Jesus’ death and resurrection, shows us the way.  We can be found.  We can be forgiven and accepted.

I remember reading about a woman who said that Jesus came to her in her dreams and spoke to her.

She told her priest about this, and the priest said, perhaps to test her, “When you next speak to Jesus, ask him what I did secretly in seminary that I am ashamed of.”

A couple of days later, he saw her and asked did she speak to Jesus. She said “Yes.”   He then asked if she had posed the question he had given her and she said, ” Yes.” The priest then asked, ” And  what did he say? “

She said, “He couldn’t remember.” .

He could not remember!!

My own dad, wasn’t such a bad dad, but he never forgot anything “cute, or embarrassing”  you had done as a child – .things which he would repeat every time we had family visiting – embarrassing me, shaming me, in fact.  I would blush and go into another room..

What I would have given to have a dad who forgot the silly childish things I had done.

I found that in Jesus.

We find that in Jesus.

You notice that Jesus didn’t ridicule Thomas for his unbelief, then his belated belief, he merely said, “Blessed are those believe without seeing.”

He never brought it up again. It was forgotten.

And that’s something to be grateful for, and why we can laugh today, and relax, on Holy Humour Sunday –  or any Sunday!. 

Amen