Fay woke me up early this morning so I could get to church on time.
"I'm not going," I replied.
"Yes you are going, so get out of that bed!" she demanded.
"Give me ONE good reason why I should go,"
"I'll give you THREE good reasons ... One, I'm your wife, and I say you're going. Two, you're 69 years old, so you're old enough to know better ... and three, you're the Pastor, so you have to be there."
Welcome to Holy Humor Sunday.
Holy Humor Sunday has its roots in the Bright Monday celebrations of the middle ages. On the day after Easter the faithful would gather at the church for a day of pranks, jokes, singing and dancing in celebration of the trick God pulled on the Devil. Satan thought he'd won when Jesus was laid in the tomb, but then came Easter.
A week ago Friday was Good Friday, and the occasion of what is, perhaps, the funniest line of all scripture: Pilate said to them, "All right, take some of your soldiers and guard the tomb as well as you know how." (Mat 27:65) As Dr. Phil would say: “How's that working out for you?” Easter is a time of surprises, and Pilate, the priests and Pharisees, to say nothing of Jesus' followers, were all surprised. For some, the surprise brought joy and hope, while, for others it brought fear and dread.
For us, today, worship often seems like a tension between unbridled joy, and the sense of propriety and decorum that the event seems to call for. And to often propriety and decorum win out. But it's so refreshing once in a while for the joy to win out. In my first church, I was baptizing a single parent family led by the father, a recovering alcoholic. They were, you might say, a bit rough around the edges. It was my first baptism, and since I arrived at the church an hour or more before Sunday School, and two hours before church, I filled he font and assumed the water would be room temperature by the time we used it. Well, you know what they say about assuming. As I poured the water over the first child's head he hollered out for all to hear: “Damn that's cold!”
Holy Humor Sunday is aptly placed the week after Easter. This second Sunday of Easter continues the celebration of the empty tomb and the risen Lord. It celebrates the great joke God has played on Satan and on death. “In heaven the LORD laughs as he sits on his throne, making fun of the nations.
(Psa 2:4) And so, every year, on the second Sunday of Easter, the lectionary gives us this same story: Jesus' disciples, (at least most of them) cowering in fear behind locked and sealed doors, waiting the knock that will carry them off to the same fate that faced Jesus. Oh, they'd heard the women's story, but that's all they had, a story. And a pretty outlandish story at that. I mean, let's face it, dead people don't just get up and walk out of their grave. Not unless they're zombies. By the way, did you hear about the zombie who walked up to the bartender and said “make me a zombie?”
A: The bartender replied “looks like someone already has!”
Then, suddenly, there's Jesus! Now you might expect that at least one of those in the room would ask: “Wher'd he come from?” But no. Jesus just shows up and says the first century equivalent of 'Hi guys. Watcha doin'?” the disciples don't seem afraid, just joyful. The outlandish story the women told was true! As if he needed to verify his identity, he showed them the injuries to his hands and side. And breathing on them said: “Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, I send you.” I guess, in a way, it was Jesus' retirement speech. “I,m leaving now, so while I'm up in heaven, you guys are in charge down here until I come back.” Hmm. From what I've read, not all of us are anxiously waiting that day.
A recent survey of religious leaders from hundreds of Christian churches across the nation indicates a startling fact…they are not really looking forward to the Rapture. For those who have been hiding under a rock for the past 150 or so years, the Rapture is to occur during the second coming of Christ when true believers are swept up to escape the tribulation, or something like that.
Who knew that some Christian leaders are not so keen on the idea of a rapture of their congregations?
“We were looking forward to donations from these folks for at least a few more years,” said Father James David of the Apostolic Christian Christ’s Holy Christian Temple in Farnsmore, Indiana.
“We’ve been counting on renovating the Church basement since last spring when the sump pump went out and de-lectrified all our appliances and left a gaping hole in the middle of the dining hall.”
Other pastors who completed the survey had similar tales of woe. “You can’t do God’s work if God’s taking the money to heaven,” claimed one particularly distraught minister from Minnesota who admits the time just seemed to get away from him and he hadn’t realized the end times were upon us.
“Not to worry,” says one Biblical scholar who has been studying the Bible for years.
“While we don’t want to jump to any conclusions just yet, it would appear that the ‘rapture’ as it is being taught today is merely a made-up event to keep us Christians on the straight and narrow.” This scholar warns us against false prophesies and assures everyone that the chances of a parishioner getting hit by a bus or dying of a heart attack are far more likely than them being swept up by Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior.
One Baptist minister from Oklahoma, however, claims he has no problems whatsoever with the rapture, as he has already planned ahead one way or the other.
“I ain’t taking no chances. I’ve got all my parishioners’ promises in writing to leave everything they own to the Church before they go to the great beyond.” I guess some stories are just too hard to wrap our heads around.
After commissioning the disciples, breathing the Holy Spirit onto them, and giving them authority to forgive sins, Jesus disappears and Thomas, who for whatever reason missed the show, arrives on the scene. Kind of like the guy shows up late for work. The boss yells, “You should have been here at 8:30!” The guy replies: “Why? What happened at 8:30?”
“We saw the Lord! It's good news, and it's bad news. The good news is that he is risen, he is risen indeed.”
“Yeah. Right.” responds Thomas, “But if it's true, what could the bad news possibly be?”
“He is really steamed about Friday.”
This is the part where Thomas gets a bad wrap. All he wants is the same evidence the other disciples had.
"Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe." The other 11 saw Christ's hands and side, and when, a week later, Jesus shows up again he says to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!" (Joh 20:27) Thomas drops to his knees in awe: "My Lord and my God!"
Jesus said to him, "Do you believe because you see me?
Coming out of church, Mrs. Smith asked her husband, “Do you think that Johnson girl is tinting her hair?”
“I didn’t even see her,” admitted Mr. Smith.
“And that dress Mrs. Davis was wearing,” continued Mrs. Smith, “Really, don’t tell me you think that’s the proper outfit for a mother of two.”
“I’m afraid I didn’t notice her either,” said Mr. Smith.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” snapped Mrs. Smith. “A lot of good it does you to go to church.”
Jesus concludes today's lesson with: “How happy are those who believe without seeing me!"
I heard of one lady who was happy like that. She was a good Christian lady who lived next door to an atheist. Every day, when the lady prayed, the atheist guy could hear her. He thought to himself, “She sure is crazy, praying all the time like that. Doesn’t she know there isn’t a God?”
Many times while she was praying, he would go to her house and harass her, saying “Lady, why do you pray all the time? Don’t you know there is no God?” But she kept on praying.
One day, she ran out of groceries. As usual, she was praying to the Lord explaining her situation and thanking Him for what He was gonna do. As usual, the atheist heard her praying and thought to himself, “Humph! I’ll fix her.”
He went to the grocery store, bought a whole bunch of groceries, took them to her house, dropped them off on the front porch, rang the door bell and then hid in the bushes to see what she would do. When she opened the door and saw the groceries, she began to praise the Lord with all her heart, jumping, singing and shouting everywhere! The atheist then jumped out of the bushes and told her, “You ol’ crazy lady, God didn’t buy you those groceries, I bought those groceries!” At hearing this, she broke out and started running down the street, shouting and praising the Lord.
When he finally caught her, he asked what her problem was. She said, “I knew the Lord would provide me with some groceries, but I didn’t know he was gonna make the devil pay for them!”
The 11 saw Jesus and believed. Thomas saw Jesus and believed. But true faith believes and then sees: sees what others do not and cannot. We can see the good in even the worst of people. We can see joy in the sad times; we can see ways to sing God's song in a strange land; we can see beyond the grave. As you go through the week ahead, I invite you to believe and see. You'll be amazed.