First Congregational Church
April 3, 2015
Holy Humor Sunday
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Christmas is a big deal within and without the life of the church, but Easter, with the exception of candy, is mostly a big deal within the church. Last week we got to celebrate Christ’s resurrection and what it means - as in hope for the future. This week we get to sit in the joy of that reality - joy that allows for laughter, thoughtfulness and appreciation.
When I was teaching, I would teach my students all the “alternative” words to songs like “Yankee Doodle” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” I told them that if they were going to sing them on the playground, then as a reflection on me, they’d better sing them correctly.
It’s a similar idea with the bulletin covers this morning. If one is going to have such an inviting bulletin cover, they why not provide the color crayons to doodle during the sermon? Not only that, but coloring is becoming one of the great activities of relaxation - for adults, to -, so it’s good for you. You may commence coloring if you’ve not yet begun.
Sticking with that mindset, here are some fun things to do during boring sermons. (Even if the sermon is boring, you don’t have to be bored!) Devise ways of climbing into the balcony without using the stairs. Listen for the preacher to use a word beginning with 'A' then 'B' and so on through the alphabet. Try to raise one eyebrow. Wiggle your ears so that the people behind you will notice. Twiddle your thumbs. Twiddle your neighbor's thumbs.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
Thank you, Hugh. Some of our faith ancestors would celebrate Holy Humor Day with the playing of pranks, telling of jokes, smoking of cigars and drinking of cognac. If a church frowns on the use of wine for communion, it’s very conceivable that it will not allow for the substitution of cognac. And besides, those who struggle with addictions don’t need our help in that manner.
I don’t know if this would be considered enough of a public space, but I would imagine that the fire chief would hear about smoking cigars in a church and get a little excited. Besides, some of us are becoming more and more sensitive to smells and odors as we age.
There is nothing like a really good prank, but they aren’t so conducive to larger groups, so those are out. Sadly - or joyfully - depending on your point of view - we are left with the jokes. And really, truly, jokes are good, if they are well thought-out, because they lead to laughter. This day and being able to laugh at death is, as my buddy, Rev. Richard J. Fairchild of Spirit Networks, says….
“The laughter of knowing that God is good. The laughter of the wonder of all that God does. Biblical humor is the humor of those who know love. It is not nasty or cruel. It focuses on our failings - our pride - our silly habits - our way of thinking and speaking, and by playing with these things - transforms them.
A fisherman and his wife were blessed with twin sons. They named the boys "Toward" (spell) and "Away" because when they were infants one of the boys would always turn toward the sea, while the other boy would always face inland. It didn't matter which way the parents positioned the boys, the same child always faced the same direction.
The years passed and the boys grew. The day came when the fisherman said to his sons, "Boys, it is time that you learned how to make a living from the sea." They provisioned their ship, said their good-byes, and set sail for a three-month voyage. The three months passed quickly for the fisherman's wife, yet the ship had not returned. Another three months passed, and still no ship. Finally, after three whole years passed, the grieving woman saw a her husband walking down the lane to her house - alone.
"My goodness! What has happened to my darling boys?" she cried. The ragged fisherman told this story: "We were just barely a day out to sea when Toward hooked into a great fish. Toward fought long and hard, but the fish was more than his equal. For a whole week they wrestled upon the waves without either of them letting up. Yet eventually the great fish started to win the battle, and Toward was pulled over the side of our ship. He was swallowed whole, and we never saw the great fish or Toward again."
”Oh dear, that must have been terrible! What a huge fish that must have been!"
"Yes, it was, but you should have seen the one that got Away….”
It has been said that “you don’t stop laughing when you grow old; you grow old when you stop laughing.” If God continues to laugh at Satan’s folly, maybe we should take a lesson from God.
Four brothers left home for college, and they became successful doctors and lawyers and prospered. Some years later, they chatted after having dinner together. They discussed the gifts they were able to give their elderly mother who lived far away in another city. The first said, "I had a big house built for Mama."
The second said, "I had a $100,000 theater built in the house." The third said, "I had my Mercedes dealer deliver an SL600 to her."
The fourth said, "You know how Mama loved reading the Bible and you know she can't read anymore because she can't see very well. I met this preacher who told me about a parrot that could recite the entire Bible. It took 20 preachers 12 years to teach him. I had to pledge to contribute $100,000 a year for 20 years to the church, but it was worth it. Mama just has to name the chapter and verse and the parrot will recite it."
The other brothers were impressed. After the holidays, Mom sent out her Thank You notes. She wrote: "Milton, the house you built is so huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house. Thanks anyway.
"Marvin, I am too old to travel. I stay home. I have my groceries delivered, so I never use the Mercedes. The thought was good. Thanks.
"Michael, you gave me an expensive theater with Dolby sound. It could hold 50 people, but all my friends are dead, I've lost my hearing and I'm nearly blind. I'll never use it. Thank you for the gesture just the same.
"Dearest Melvin, you were the only son to have the good sense to give a little thought to your gift. The chicken was delicious. Thank you.
Ironically, I was talking to someone - just this week - who mentioned her father’s favorite book. It is a book of sermons a congregation put together in celebration of their pastor’s anniversary of ministry with them. (Now don’t get any ideas - I’ve got all my sermons on my computer, so none of them need to be commemorated beyond that.) Anyway, Rev. Carleton Brooks Miller of First Congregational Church, UCC, of Battle Creek, MI wrote a sermon called “Living Life with a Capital “L”. In that sermon, his first directive was “laugh,” as it is a form of courage. We don’t often equate laughter and courage. In fact, we most often associate laughter with foolishness.
A girl passed an old man's house on the way to Sunday School. One day the old man said, "Why do you always go to Sunday school? All they tell you is ridiculous fairy tales!" So the little girl replied, "Like what?"
"Well," the old man said, "like that story about Jonah and the giant fish. Do you really believe that that could happen?" "I don't know, but when I get to heaven I'll ask him." The old man said, "Well, what if Jonah's not there?" "Then you can ask him." the little girl replied.
Because Christ lives, we can laugh at ourselves and our peculiarities. An old-fashioned elderly lady was planning a weeks vacation in Florida at a particular campground. Uppermost in her mind were the toilet facilities, but she couldn't bring herself to write "toilet" in a letter. After considerable deliberation, she settled on the term "bathroom commode." But when the lady wrote that down, she thought it still sounded too forward. So in her letter she wrote, Does the campground have it's own B.C.?"
The campground owner was baffled. He showed the letter to several of the campers who couldn't decipher it either. Finally, the owner figured she was referring to the location of the local Baptist church. He sat down and wrote back to her the following letter:
Dear Madam: I regret very much the delay in answering your letter, but I now take the pleasure in informing you that the 'B.C.' is located nine miles north of the campgrounds, and is capable of seating 250 people at one time. I admit it is quite a distance away, if you are in the habit of going regularly, but, no doubt, you will be pleased to know that a great number of people take their lunches along and make a day of it. They usually arrive early and stay late. It may interest you to know that right now there is a supper planned to raise money to buy more seats. They're going to hold it in the basement of the 'B.C.! I would like to say it pains me very much not to be able to go more regularly. It is no lack of desire on my part. As we grow older, it seems to be more effort--particularly in cold weather. If you decide to come to our campground, perhaps I could go with you the first time. I'd sit with you and introduce you to all the other folks. Remember, this is a friendly community!
Because Christ lives, our hope is so very different than those who grieve or suffer without hope. Q: What was the name of Isaiah's horse? A: Isme, because he said: "Whoa Isme!" (Isa. 6:5).
Because Christ rose, faith is not the absence of fear, but the presence of love. New evidence has been found that William Tell and his family were avid bowlers. However, all the league records were unfortunately destroyed in a fire. Thus we'll never know for whom the Tells bowled.
Because Christ is alive, we will never know a time that Christ will not be with us. Back in the 1800s the Tates Watch Company of Massachusetts wanted to produce other products and, since they already made the cases for pocket watches, decided to market compasses for the pioneers traveling west. It turned out that although their watches were of finest quality, their compasses were so bad that people often ended up in Canada or Mexico rather than California. This, of course, is the origin of the expression, "He who has a Tates is lost!”
Joy, hope, faith, love - all those kinds of life aspects are different for us because of Christ and his resurrection. So shall we prepare our hearts for communing with the Risen Christ, the Holy Spirit, God of all.
Gracious, delightful God, we thank you for the joy of this day, and the supreme “joke” you played in Christ’s overcoming of death. When our way is drear, remind us of the joy that lies so close. When we feel despair, remind us that your hope - our hope in you - is not of this world - but beyond this world. For the gift of faith, from our ancestors to that of those who sit among us, we are grateful for their inspiration. And for the love that sent your son away from you to us, that he would show us the way home, thank you. Help each of us point the way home for all those who happen our way. For all your joy, hope, faith and love, all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.