How Can We Laugh at a Time Like This?
I'm sitting at my computer, looking out the 24th floor window of my hotel in Des Moines. I am currently attending our annual School for Ministry and learning all sorts of neat things about capital campaigns and what kinds of fonts to use on worship slides. We've had some good practical teaching this year... with some good theological underpinings. It usually is. I'm glad Iowa does this!
Anywho... here I sit, looking out the window at 12:26am at the quiet streets below. I'm still up because I'm trying to plan worship for Sunday so that I can send my organist the hymns. I'm exhausted. Both from Holy Week and now these days of sitting in a conference room with no windows for hours upon hours. I do not want to preach. I have two funerals ahead of me in the days to come. And someone mentions "Holy Humor Sunday."
I've heard of Holy Humor Sunday... but never actually done one. It's this tradition (a very old tradition) of laughing on the Sunday after Easter as we celebrate the cosmic joke that God plays on sin and death when Jesus Christ is raised from the dead. It is a day to laugh, to lift up our hearts, to thank God that we know already the end of the story.
I'm loving this idea. I've spent about an hour already looking up hymns and liturgy and of course, jokes to tell.
And then I realize that since I've been holed up in a conference room for the last two days that I have no idea what has been going on in the world. I check CNN, and I check weather.com... 72 dead from tornadoes in one town in Alabama... friends freaking out on facebook over tornadoes that barely clipped their own homes and the severe weather alerts that have them shaking in their boots every time the sirens go off.
I start to think about these two funerals that I have coming up this very weekend.
I start to remember the brokenness so many people in our communities are experiencing right now.
I start to look out on that quiet street before me and wonder who is sleeping in an alley tonight, instead of in a king size bed at the Marriott.
I know in my bones that God has already won. I know that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. I understand. I believe. But I find it so hard to keep that Easter joy in my heart because we haven't reached the end of the story yet! We are inbetween times... in between the empty tomb and the new creation. It's here, but not fully. It's already, but not yet.
How on earth can we laugh at a time like this? How can we laugh as cities are ravaged by deadly winds and little ones go to bed hungry tonight? How can we laugh when people are staring death in the face and losing? How can we laugh when the disparity between the haves and the havenots is so stark?
Maybe the question is... how can we not laugh?
How can we not just take a deep breath and remember that God is in control... not us.
St. John Chrysostom preached in his famous Easter sermon:
If anyone is devout and loves God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If anyone is a wise servant, let him rejoice and enter into the joy of his Lord.
He gives rest to him who comes at the 11th hour, even as to him who has worked from the first hour. And He shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first.
Let all then enter into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, keep the feast. You sober and you heedless, celebrate the day.
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast… Let all receive the riches of loving-kindness.
Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior's death has set us free.
O Death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown.
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of the dead. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.
This world is broken and imperfect and horrible things happen all around us. But if we cannot laugh in the midst of our sorrows, then the Devil has already won. If we cannot laugh and lift up one anothers spirits, then there is no hope. If we cannot laugh and rejoice, then why keep going at all?
Christ is risen. Death is overthrown. Life reigns.
We don't have to be afraid. We don't have to be scared. We know the end of the story and we can laugh in the face of all that tries to hurt us.
Those words are so powerful... and so hard to believe in.
But maybe... just maybe... if we get together as a community and we laugh, we will find the faith we need to trust. Maybe together we can find the strength to laugh in the face of sin and death and to really and truly mean it.