Sermon April 7, 2024 by Tricia Gerhard

Holy Humour Sunday

Jesus was walking through heaven one day, a little bored, when he passes by the Pearly Gates and sees St. Peter talking with an elderly gentleman and decides to go over to hear the man’s story.

“Where are you from, sir?” Jesus asks.

“Well, I lived my life on the shores of the Mediterranean,” the old man replies.

“Hmmm, I spent some time there myself,” says Jesus. “What did you do for a living?”

“Well, I was a poor carpenter.” Replies the man.

“Wow. So was I,” says Jesus.

“And I had a son,” says the old man, “Well, he wasn’t my son really, but a miraculous spirit came into him and he became famous, and people talk about him all over the world.”
Jesus is very excited, because he is sure he knows who this man is, and can’t hold back any longer.
“Father!” he cries.

The old man falls into Jesus’ outstretched arms.  “Pinocchio!”

We have lots of ways of describing God – Omnipotent – check.  Amazing – yup. Creator – heard that one.  We’ve got all sorts of words to describe the nature of God but there is one word we don’t often find included on a list of Godly attributes: funny.  One might even wonder if God even has a sense of humour.  So often our images of God tend toward the more serious, dignified, and staid.  We don’t find a lot of art depicting a God rolling around on the ground giggling.  And yet, if you dig into our scriptures – particularly the Hebrew Scriptures you find that God indeed does have a funny bone or two.  Take a look at creation – have you seen a platypus recently, or how about a Shoebill stork?  Or the colour combinations found in some the plant life that surrounds us.  God has a creative touch that sometimes smacks of whimsy or even ridiculousness.

God does indeed have a sense of humour – for example, think back to the text from Genesis we just heard read.  In a generous show of hospitality, Abram and Sarai entertain three strangers, who at the end of the meal, announce that Sarai, who is almost 90 years old and way past child bearing years, will indeed have a child. Uh huh.  Right.  The only thing to do when confronted with outlandish pronouncements like this is to laugh – like full on belly laughing with tears.  Which is exactly what Sarai does.  She laughs and is trying to catch her breath when God enters the scene to confirm what these three strangers told her, reminding her and her partner that even the impossible is possible with God.  Now a wee bit more fearful than before, Sarai tries very hard to deny that she laughed – but God’s not having any of it – “Oh yes, you did laugh, I heard you loud and clear” – but God’s question isn’t so much as a condemnation but rather a recognition that sometimes the mysterious work of the Holy simply boggle our human minds.  I can almost imagine God chuckling in response, in a “if only you knew what I know” kind of way.  There is a gentleness in God in this moment.

And what does Sarah name her son?  Isaac – “he laughs”.  So why laughter on this Holy Humour Sunday?  Well, lets sing something that might show us why – Linnea Good’s Ha Ha.  The words are in your bulletin.

Did you find yourself laughing all?  Maybe a giggle?  As you laughed, snickered, or giggled, did you find yourself feeling a little lighter, a little more relaxed.

God wants us to laugh and God is in our laughter.  For a long time church was serious, solemn.  Sit quietly, listen carefully…it was serious business.  But we are coming to understand that there is a place for laughter in what we do together as a community of faith.  Rev. Heather Davies of St. James-Rosemount United Church in Kitchener says: “I think a church meeting is more successful the more laughter there is, I think a funeral is more real the more laughter punctuates the tears. And even worship itself, is improved when laughter greets us in the midst of the moment.”  When humour is used well and appropriately, it can break the ice, loosen tension and can draw people in.  There is nothing like laughing together to feel closer to them. Comedian Stephen Colbert did an interview where he spoke about his catholic faith and the purpose of laughter. He said: “In the face of something that might strike you as horrible, I think laughter is the best medicine.  You cannot laugh and be afraid at the same time. We laugh when we are afraid. Doing something joyfully doesn’t make it easier, it makes it better and communal.  Jokes, laughter, humor and joy connects people.”

Not only does laughter deepen shared relationships, laughter is good for our minds and our bodies.  When we laugh, we release endorphins – the body’s natural healing enzyme.  Singers get that kind of release when they sing.  Runners and bikers get that high of endorphins as they move.  Endorphins are released through hugs, chocolate, listening to music, getting a massage, and from having a great big belly laugh.

That reminds me of two cannibals who were sitting together, feasting on a clown.  One turned to the other and (looking mildly perplexed) said, “Does this taste funny to you?”

And so we laugh. We laugh because God is in the laughter, because God has given us a reason to laugh.  God is funny.  We see that sense of humour in God’s greatest joke: the empty tomb.  The resurrection.  The impossible becomes possible.  And as we laugh, God shows up, with a chuckle and nod that reminds us that with God, all things are possible.  We laugh again and again, because it all seems to good to be true.  Our belly laughs echo the laughter of Sarah.  We are overwhelmed with the joy and laughter, a deep resounding laughter that ripples through our whole body and washes our beings with endorphins.

And so with Sarah we laugh.  In the rippling affect of Easter Sunday we laugh.  And as we move out into the world, we carry go giggling with joy knowing that God is right there with us, laughing in the marvel of life.  Amen.