April 20, 2020

Yesterday was Holy Humor Sunday, and I need to confess that for most of last week I wondered what in the world I’d gotten myself into. I am a pastor, not a stand-up-comedian. And comedy is participatory, much like a play or a concert. All of these are not complete until there is an audience, which is a much a part of the presentation as the musicians, actors, etc. Telling funny stories without the rapport of those present feels incomplete. It’s sort of like preparing a great meal, setting a lovely table, and no one showing up to enjoy it.

But by Friday, I’d received a number of jokes, funny stories, puns, and found things coming together. And there was no turning back, as Sunday was coming at lightning speed. While recording the video of the service, amazing and multi-talented Becky Lytton, when not hanging onto the step ladder that serves as our camera-stand, was having a hard time not laughing. Many thanks to Becky for being a one-person physically present congregation, to those who contributed funny stories, and to you for putting up with a little bit of zaniness in the midst of this difficult season in our lives.

But the best laughs came Sunday morning during the KOLA class, unforced and unexpected. There were 7 participants, who on the screen of my computer looked like a rendition of Hollywood Squares. Something incredible occurred! Joy, tears-running-down-our-faces joy.

When the class was over, my spouse, Rod, who was on the other side of the house, asked me, “What was so funny?” And he could only hear my side of the conversation.

Karl Barth, a heavy-weight theologian wrote, “Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.” Anne Lamott, an irreverent and deeply humble Christian put it this way, “Laughter is carbonated holiness.” What do you think about those statements? Our faith is serious business, perhaps so serious, that laughter has to be involved. 

I doubt that most people would think of a virtual Sunday School class, made up primarily of women who have lived long enough to be considered “vulnerable elderly” as a place of great joy and laughter. But best not to judge a book by its cover. In the midst of talking about really serious things, like death, and experiences of a sense of the presence of Jesus in some of the darkest moments of life, joy simply broke out! We laughed at ourselves, with abandon, with love, with grace. Some of the most joyful, deepest laughs I’ve had in the past 6 months have come within this class. It is one of the signs of resurrection! 

I’m not sure what the other women would say about what happened. As I’ve thought about how holy, and how funny, this morning was, I think it is about grace and holiness, gifts born in community, as we talk about the intersection of faith and the deep issues in our lives. And that can happen even when we aren’t in the same room, even in the midst of the worst crisis we have experienced in our lives, because Jesus is in our midst. 

Carolyn Arends, in an article in Christianity Today, wrote, “Laughing is my favorite form of worship.” Hallelujah!

Praying with a joyful heart ~ Anne

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