First Congregational Church
April 7, 2013
First Sunday after Easter, Holy Humor Sunday and Communion
"Because of God's Great Love for Us"
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
So it vas discovered dat Lena was using the following password on her computer: MickeyMinniePlutoLouie DeweyDonaldGoofySacramento. When asked why she had such a long password, she said she was told that it had to be at least eight characters long and include one capital.
Sometimes it is celebrated on the fourth Sunday in Lent and is called Laetare Sunday - Latin for "rejoice" - to celebrate God's presence and goodness in the midst of life. "They say" it started in Southern Germany - Bavaria - during the late Middle Ages - most likely between 1100 and 1500. William the Conqueror and most of the English King Henrys sat on thrones. The Crusades were in full swing; Robin Hood was living in Sherwood Forest. Robert the Bruce, Thomas Aquainas, Kublai Khan and Geoffrey Chaucer were just some of the names that help you create the understanding that what we celebrate today is not just something that yours truly dreamt up.
Priests would come down from their lofty pulpits to stand among the people, telling stories and singing silly songs and the church would ring with laughter. All the forces that conspired to lay Jesus in the tomb, the fury, the lovelessness, the violence, the boastful powers of kings and empires were made a laughing stock that day. Jesus was - and is - alive and loose among us.
There was once a message on the outside sign of Faith Temple Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It said, "We welcome all denominations - $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100." By the way, what kind of man was Boaz - from the Old Testament - before he married? Ruthless. Who was the greatest financier in the Bible? Noah. He was floating his stock while everyone else was in liquidation. Which Bible character had no parents? Joshua, son of Nun. And what do they call pastors in Germany? German shepherds.
Maybe there is a misconception that Holy Humor Sunday is only about the cheap laugh or the poor pun. But its much more than that. There would be no Holy Humor, no Easter, no Christmas, if it had not been for God's great love for us. If Jesus had not made his side-trip to earth, we would still have to be bringing peace offerings and sin offerings and burnt offerings, grain offerings and trespass offerings. The priest, I guess that would be me, would have to offer one lamb in the morning and one lamb in the evening service during the week - two on the weekends. Once a year a goat would have to be offered on the Day of Atonement, and bulls were offered for sin offerings. We might have not used these colors for the sanctuary if we were still under that old law.
But God sent Jesus, to give us a New Testament - Good News of Great Joy - that is for all the people. And thanks to the individual who left it on my desk last week, we have the Eyes of a Child version of that New Testament.
When the Old Testament was done, they started the New Testament. Jesus was the star. He was born in a barn in the town of Bethlehem. I wish I had been born in a barn, too, because then, when my mother says to me, "Close the door. Were you born in a barn?" I could say, "As a matter of fact, I was."
Jesus argued a lot with the Chief Priests and Democrats. He had twelve opossums. Most of them were good, but Judas Asparagus was not. He was so bad, they named a really yucky vegetable after him.
Jesus healed some people and leopards. Then He preached to the Germans on the Mount. But the Chief Priests and Democrats were mad at him and put Him on trail. Pilot was too chicken to stick up for Him, so he just washed his hands.
Jesus died for our sins and came back to life again. He went to heaven, but will come back at the end of the aluminum. We can read about this in the Book of the Revolution.
Book of Revelation or Revolution, opossums or Apostles, Iscariot or Asparagus, Germans or Sermons, God sent Jesus to go through some of the darkest moments so that we could hope through our darknesses. And God gave us Easter joy so that we can fully embrace God's great love for us.
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Thank you, Hilda. God has given us so many pairs of gifts: mercy and forgiveness, humility and grace, dawn and sunset and yes, tears and laughter. As a culture, we have somehow held tighter to the images of Puritans and reformers and austere ways of worship. We forget that in those late Middle Ages, congregations would play practical jokes on each other - during or after the service. And they would dance after the service out in the fields. Yes - they danced! And I'd bet dimes to dollars that adult beverages were involved.
From the bulletin blooper file: The Church will host an evening of fine dining, superb entertainment and gracious hostility. Potluck supper at 5:00 p.m. - prayer and medication to follow. Prayer and Fasting Conference: The cost for attending the Fasting and Prayer Conference includes meals.
In Latin, Risus Paschalis means Easter Laugh. The Sunday of it's Celebration was also known as "Refreshment Sunday" and a special kind of fruit cake was often served that day. How appropriate that we celebrate our Lord's Supper today. Originally, the rumor was that priests gathered the day after Easter to smoke cigars, drink cognac and laugh at God defeating death. Because of God's perfect love for us, we have a perfect way to celebrate that love - in this meal - this heavenly form of hospitality, but no cognac or cigars will be involved.
There are times when we celebrate this meal with a solemnity that is right and holy. And there are times when we celebrate with repentance, forgiveness and mercy, and it, too, is right and holy. I wonder if too often - agape - the bigger than life kind of love - and joy ways of celebrating this sacrament are overlooked.
Maybe this intinction method of communion can be a little intimidating. To come face-to-face with someone over such a holy sacrament is rather a big deal. But the opportunity to look at another member of Christ's body, and to smile at them, with all the purity of heart and love that we know is in there, then I think we get closer to really living in the joy of our faith. When we can do that, we are much more apt to be able to take it with us into the world and be the change in the world that God sees in our potential. So enough talking, and let's get to preparing hearts.
Let us pray. Omnipotent/all-powerful God, who turns mustard seeds into trees and conceals the meaning of life in bread and a cup of drink, we thank you for creating us with such complexity and variety. We give you our deepest thanks for your great love for us, and for turning our world topsy-turvy to give us joy and draw attention to that joy. To you, who is as invisible as the wind and as solid as a rock, we thank you for sending a part of you - your son and our brother Christ - to give us a new testament. Snickering at the feeble attempts of evil, you show us how to resist temptation, giggling at sin's desperate desire to hold on to us. Help us to embrace your howling laughter at death's foolish belief that the tomb could hold you. As the stars pealed with joy, and you gave us that delight, help us to rejoice in offering such great news to the broken, the sad and the lonely. As you tickle us with your grace and our hearts overflow with blessing, all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.