by Pastor Tami Good, Swamp Congregation
The Sunday after Easter my sister-in-law sent me a video entitled, “Holy Humor Sunday.” It was a church service filled with funny hymns, jokes, bright clothing, and a thoughtful reflection on the need for laughter today.
My first reaction was, “This is amazing!” However, it also brought me pause. Is this kind of thing really allowed in church? Church is supposed to be a solemn place, right? I was a bit skeptical. So I researched it.
In the early Church, the Sunday after Easter was a day of laughter and joy. Parties were thrown and practical jokes were played. Bright clothing was worn, and everyone joined in on the fun. The custom of “Bright Sunday,” as it was called, was an idea formed by early church theologians who believed that God played a joke on the devil by raising Christ from the dead. The resurrection was God’s ultimate surprise on Death. Over time, this practice was pushed aside and forgotten … until recently.
The importance of joyfulness and gladness has always been part of our tradition. Psalm 100:1-2 (NRSV) says, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord…worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.” As God’s beloved children we are encouraged to live out the joy and thanksgiving God’s presence brings.
However, God does not only exist to bring us joy. Does God experience joy and laughter too? Imagine God during Creation, breathing over the waters. Couldn’t a breath be one big burst of joyous laughter?
Jesus was no different. Think about Jesus’ companions: weathered fisherman, party girls, and outcasts, who sorely needed a dose of hope, joy, and laughter. This is one of the reasons the religious people of Jesus’ day hated him so much. He was a friend to “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34, NRSV). Maybe it was Jesus’ laughter with these people that was so scandalous to the religious leaders.
Remember when Jesus breathes on his disciples (John 20:19-23)? Just as God breathed creation into being, Jesus breathed in a new creation as well. Only this new creation was the power of the Holy Spirit. I can hardly believe this breath of God’s Chosen One was a gentle, fluttering breeze. Instead I picture it as a gregarious eruption of laughter! What pure elation the disciples must have felt as they celebrated the complete defeat of death!
We are currently living in chaotic and stressful times. It is hard to live within the unknown. I wonder, however, if we might be able to find ways to imitate Jesus’ sense of humor through all of this? I’m sure there were smirks and giggles when Jesus told some of his outlandish parables or crazy ideas: A camel going through the eye of a needle? Feeding 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and fish?
Laughter puts things back into perspective and reminds us to see the good in those around us. It takes the focus off what we cannot control and lets us see our situation in a new light. If Jesus appeared on earth to deliver God’s punchline, how might God long to surprise you in the coming days?
As we continue in this time of being apart, I encourage you to ask God to help you see the humor all around you. Wear bright clothing, sing a silly song, and tell the cheesiest “Dad jokes” you know. How might God long to bring some “Holy Humor” into your life today?