Sunday April 16, 2023 – Holy Humor Sunday
Life and Work of the Church
Acknowledgement of Territory
Christ is alive, and comes to bring good news to this and every age,
till earth and sky and ocean ring with joy, with justice, love and praise.
© Hope Publishing Company used by permission OneLicense #A723256
Lighting the Christ Candle
On Good Friday, the light was extinguished. On Easter it shone again. Today it shines in our lives bringing such love and hope that we cannot help but sing out in joy and laughter. Christ lives. Christ’s light shines. Hallelujah.
Introduction What is Holy Humor Sunday?
For centuries in Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant countries, the week following Easter Sunday, was observed as a time of joy and laughter, with parties and picnics to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. The custom included “Bright Sunday”, the Sunday after Easter. It was based on the idea that God played the best practical joke ever on the death, by raising Jesus from the dead, “Risus paschalis, is what is was called by the early church, which translates as “the Easter laugh”.
Today “Bright Sunday” is celebrated in many churches around the world as “Holy Humor Sunday”. So, today, instead of following the narrative lectionary scriptures which we normally do, we’re going to have some fun.
Call to Worship
God has taken what we call an absurdity and turned it into possibility … Life beyond death …
And in doing so God has coaxed us to sing springtime alleluias.
God has called us out of the tombs we inhabit, the tombs of fear and uncertainty,
And called us into an undreamed future of joy and possibility.
So why do we take ourselves so seriously?
Why do we hesitate to claim the happiness that is rightfully ours as children of God?
As we gather here in this time and this space, let praise break forth in the most unlikely places and in silliest of ways.
Let our laughter be deep, our joy overflow and our praise be filled with Divine delight.
O Great Laughing God, we come into your presence with joy, longing to be surprised. With eyes and hearts wide open, we thank you that you have given to us the gift of laughter and delight. In those moment when we abandon ourselves to sheer joy, we experience just a hint of the nature of your purpose for us and for all creation. May we find that in giving up to laughter there is healing and hope and abundance and blessing. Tickle our souls with the touch of your Spirit, that your joy may renew our worship and our living. Amen.
Opening Hymn Give to Us Laughter #624
1st Scripture Reading
Our first reading today tells the story of the promise and the birth of Isaac.
Genesis 18:1-14, Genesis 21:1-6
As Abraham was sitting at the entrance of his tent during the hottest part of the day, he looked up and saw three men standing there. As soon as he saw them, he ran out to meet them. Bowing down with his face touching the ground, he said, “Sirs, please do not pass by my home without stopping; I am here to serve you. Let me bring some water for you to wash your feet; you can rest here beneath this tree. I will also bring a bit of food; it will give you strength to continue your journey. You have honored me by coming to my home, so let me serve you.”
They replied, “Thank you; we accept.” Abraham hurried into the tent and said to Sarah, “Quick, take a sack of your best flour, and bake some bread.” Then he ran to the herd and picked out a calf that was tender and fat, and gave it to a servant, who hurried to get it ready. He took some cream, some milk, and the meat, and set the food before the men. There under the tree he served them himself, and they ate.
Then they asked him, “Where is your wife Sarah?”
“She is there in the tent,” he answered.
One of them said, “Nine months from now I will come back, and your wife Sarah will have a son.”
Sarah was behind him, at the door of the tent, listening. Abraham and Sarah were very old, and Sarah had stopped having her monthly periods. So Sarah laughed to herself and said, “Now that I am old and worn out, can I still enjoy sex? And besides, my husband is old too.”
Then the Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Can I really have a child when I am so old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? As I said, nine months from now I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”
The Lord blessed Sarah, as he had promised, and she became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham when he was old. The boy was born at the time God had said he would be born. Abraham named him Isaac, and when Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had commanded. Abraham was a hundred years old when Isaac was born. Sarah said, “God has brought me joy and laughter. Everyone who hears about it will laugh with me.”
Something to Think About
So, what I can tell you about humour in the Bible? Well, it’s definitely there from the very beginning right through to the very end. Not only is the bible full of puns and of images the provoke smiles as we hear them, if we look, we come to see God as has having a sense of humour, as playing with the opportunities we create for God, as if we are the straight men that allows to God to fire off another good line.A line like “Isaac”, a name that literally means “laughter”. Every child is or at least should be a delight. By their very nature, children are full of laughter and glee. But Isaac’s arrival, the arrival of laughter – comes only after God insists on stretching our faith and our ability to believe, or should I say the belief and faith of Abraham and Sarah. Think about it for a moment. Put yourself in their position. Think of yourself as Abraham or as Sarah. Abraham, you’re 100 years old. Now I know that here in Yarmouth, there certainly seems to be something in the air or perhaps the water that seems quite conducive to long life, but still reaching 100 is quite an accomplishment. And to sire a baby at that age? Sarah, even through we are not told exactly how old you are, you are certainly no spring chicken! And we hear in the scriptures how Sarah laughed at the whole idea that she could have a child at her age. Well of course she did! As I look around this congregation, there aren’t very many of you who wouldn’t laugh if I told you that you were going to have a baby at this time next year. Let’s be real here. It’s just not possible. But then again, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”Sometimes however, we need to remember that it’s not always about how likely or even how realistic something seems to us. Sometimes it’s all about how we look at things or how we interpret something. Sometimes there is more then one explanation and more then one way to interpret a story or a situation. And sometimes it is much easier to make a point using humour than trying to explain something with a straight face.So, I want to tell you a story. It occurred during the Middle Ages, and it is a story that makes us think about how we interpret things, even as they amuses us. It seems that, during a difficult time in the early medieval church, the Pope was under considerable pressure from a number of the Cardinals, to issue an edict that all Jews had to leave Rome. Naturally there was a huge uproar from the Jewish community. So, the Pope approached the council of Rabbis with a suggestion. He would have a religious debate with any member of the Jewish community that they chose. If the chosen Jewish representative won the debate, then the Jews could stay in Roam, but if the Pope won, the Jews would have to leave. After considering the offer, the council of Rabbis agreed and picked their representative.The Rabbi who was selected was extremely flamboyant and outspoken, while the pope himself was much more subdued. So, in order to level the playing field a bit, in favor of the Pope of course, and as the Cardinals insisted, in order the allow time for the Spirit to speak, it was decided that neither representative would be allowed to talk. They would have to find other ways to make their point. The day of the great debate came. The Rabbi and the Pope sat down opposite each other and after a full minute before the Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. The Rabbi looked back at him and raised one finger. The Pope waved his hand in a circle around his head. The Rabbi pointed to the ground. The Pope pulled out a loaf of bread and a glass of wine and he broke the bread and ate, then sipped the wine. The Rabbi pulled out an apple and took a bite from it. At that point the Pope then stood up and said, “I give up. This man is too good. The Jews can stay in Rome as long as they want.” An hour later, the cardinals gathered around the Pope and asked him what had happened. The Pope said, “First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there was still one God common to both our religions. Then I waved my hand around me to show him that God was all around us and is head of the church. He responded by pointing to the ground and reminding me that God may be all around, but God was also right here with us and is God of the Jews as well as Christian. I broke bread and drank wine to show that God absolves us from our sins. The rabbi took a bite of the apple to remind me of original sin and how it still affects us. He had an answer for everything I tried. What could I do?”Meanwhile, the Jewish community had crowded around the Rabbi. “What happened?” they asked. “Well,” said the Rabbi, “First he said to me that the Jews had three days to get out of here. I told him that not one of us was leaving. Then he told me that this whole city would be cleared of Jews. I let him know that we were staying right here.” “And then?” asked one of the woman. “I’m not really sure,” said the Rabbi. “He took out his lunch and I took out mine – and apparently now we can stay as long as want”
Have you ever noticed that there is no egg in eggplant, no ham in hamburgers, and no pine or apple in the pineapple. How about this fact that English muffins were not invented in England, French fries were not invented in France and guinea pigs is neither from Guinea nor are they pigs. And can anybody tell me, if a vegetarian eats vegetables, what the heck does a humanitarian eat!?Why do people park on driveways and drive on parkways?
Hymn Sing A Happy Hallelujah # 224
2nd Scripture Reading Our second reading is a familiar passage from the book of Ecclesiastes.
Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses. God sets the time for birth and the time for death, the time for planting and the time for pulling up, the time for killing and the time for healing, the time for tearing down and the time for building. God sets the time for sorrow and the time for joy, the time for mourning and the time for dancing, the time for making love and the time for not making love, the time for kissing and the time for not kissing. God sets the time for finding and the time for losing, the time for saving and the time for throwing away, the time for tearing and the time for mending, the time for silence and the time for talk. God sets the time for love and the time for hate, the time for war and the time for peace.
What do we gain from all our work? I know the heavy burdens that God has laid on us. God has set the right time for everything. God has given us a desire to know the future, but never gives us the satisfaction of fully understanding what God does. So I realized that all we can do is be happy and do the best we can while we are still alive. All of us should eat and drink and enjoy what we have worked for. It is God’s gift.
Something to Think About
So how many of you have heard this reading at a funeral? You likely heard the first 8 verses, but I’m willing to bet that the next 5 were not included. “What do we gain from all our work… So I realized that all we can do is be happy and do the best we can while we are still alive. All of us should eat and drink and enjoy what we have worked for. It is God’s gift.
So often we seem to focus on the hardships of life, on the struggles and on the responsibility and challenge of following God, but it seems like it is far too seldom that we focus on the joy. We focus on the joy of our faith at Christmas when we celebrate the birth of the baby and at Easter when we celebrate the resurrection, but so often in between these times, we forget to smile and to laugh and to truly appreciate the amazing joy of our faith. Maybe that’s why so many people become CE Christians (Christmas and Easter Christians). But joy and laughter are what give life its greatest meaning. Without joy, why bother? Without laughter, how do we get through the tough times? We can’t always be laughing, but unless we can laugh, truly deeply laugh with absolute abandon then we miss the whole point of what Ecclesiastes tells us.
There is certainly no denying that there will be hard times in life. There will be difficult things that we all have to go through and there are times when we look at the world around us and see very little to celebrate. But these are not what give our lives meaning and purpose. I realized that all we can do is be happy and do the best we can while we are still alive. All of us should eat and drink and enjoy what we have worked for. It is God’s gift.
If we forget that it is God who provides us with joy and laughter, how can we truly trust God to get us through the tough times? How can we believe that God does love us and care for us? How can we continue to have a faith that nurture us, that sustains us and that allows us to see the joy and wonder of life? So we’re going to sing our request hymn for today to remind us of the promise that God does indeed care for us, guide us and protect us, and that in holding on to that promise we can indeed find gives joy in life.
Request Hymn The Lord’s My Shepherd #747
So I have a few “churchy” Knock, Knock” jokes.
Knock, knock. Who’s there? Lettuce. Lettuce who? Lettuce pray.
Knock, knock. Who’s there? Rita. Rita who? Read a Bible if you want to hear some good news.
Knock, knock. Who’s there? Luke. Luke who? Look all around you at all the smiling faces.
Knock, knock. Who’s there? Gladys. Gladys who? Glad it’s Sunday, aren’t you?
Knock, knock. Who’s there? Oliver. Oliver who? All of our joys come from God!
Enough from me. It’s your turn. Does anyone have a story or joke to share.
We Offer Our Gifts
You’ve all been so generous with your jokes (well since no one seems to what to be generous with your jokes) let’s share our generosity in another way. As we offer God our gratitude for the gifts of joy and laughter, let us also express that gratitude in the gifts we bring. Those gifts may be our financial contributions to this church. At Beacon we do not pass the offering plates, but ask you to place your gifts on the plates in the entryway either on your way in or as you leave. Donations can also be made online or through PAR. But our gifts might also be the activities that we take part in, the ways in which we volunteer to help out, or other ways in which we give back to our church, our community or our world. But whatever it is that we have to offer today, let us present it now as we sing our offertory response.
Offertory Response VU#549
For all your goodness, God, we give you thanks.
And so, we offer you, all that we have and do,
to serve and honour you and give you thanks.
© Daryl Nixon 1987. All rights reserved. Used with permission OneLicense #A7323756
We Offer Our Prayers
As we offer of gifts, we also offer our prayers. Let us take a moment of silence to pray for all those whose names have been placed in our prayer jar and for all those who are in our own hearts and minds, as well as those who needs are known only to God.
Prayers of the People
Amid the laughter and celebration of this day, we know that it is important to remember that not everyone finds it easy to laugh or has much in their lives to laugh about. And so, let us offer our prayers for others. Let us pray. Holy Laughing God, you smiled and the sun burst through the shadows of chaos, creating light and life; you chuckled, and the platypus splashed into creation’s fountain; you laughed, and all that is good and beautiful was given shape by your imagination… Snickering at our feeble attempts to control everything, you show us how to resist temptation; giggling at the silliness of the desperate desires we hold on to, you free us by your love; howling with laughter at death’s foolish belief that the tomb could hold you, you burst forth into our lives with peals of laughter and joy… As you fill us with new life, may we delight in sharing that life with others. As we rejoice in the love that you have shared with us, may we rejoice in offering that some love to others… With the sad, the broken, and the lonely, may we share your joy… With the hungry, the poor and the desperate, may we share your abundance… With the sick, the frightened and the suffering, may we share your hope and healing… With the despondent, the hopeless, and the despairing, may we share the deep and abiding peace that comes from knowing that your deepest desire for us is that we always know we are loved… With laughter on our lips, with joy in our hearts, and with souls overflowing with gratitude and wonder, we offer you this prayer. Amen.
Closing Hymn Never Ending Joy MV#40
May we go out from here with joyful hearts and a holy sense of humor.
May we go out from here with the gift of laughter and the gift of faith.
May we live each moment remembering that each moment is not something that must be endured but a gift to be received with joy, unwrapped with excitement, enjoyed with gratitude and shared with love. And so as you go from here …Go in laughter; go in grace. Keep the Lord in your heart and a smile on your face.
Choral Blessing VU#169
Your name we bless, O Risen Lord, and sing today with one accord
The life laid down, the life restored: hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.
© 1958 renewal 1986 Hope Publishing Company All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission. OneLicense.net#A-723756