April 19, 2020 – Holy Humor Sunday – Pastor Teressa Sivers
Acts 4:32-35 & John 20:19-31
The late Rev. Eugene Peterson (Episcopalian priest) left as one of his many legacies the biblical paraphrase entitled The Message. Peterson returned to the ancient Hebrew and Greek and spent many, many hours (years) digging deep into the many layers of meaning in our beloved texts. He sought to capture some of those deep layers in his paraphrase, while taking a more every day, conversational tone. The Message is by no means perfect, but it does help us to hear familiar and beloved passages in a new way, and to experience some of those rich layers of meaning. This is true in our call to worship this morning, Psalm 100 as read from The Message. This beautiful and well known psalm takes on new layers of meaning when we read the Call to Worship and then listen to Emily Preston (our choir director) sing the more familiar wording. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord” becomes “bring a gift of laughter.” The psalm calls us to be so filled with joy at the reality of God’s presence that it bubbles over from us in laughter.
Laughter born of joy is healing. It is healthy. It changes us heart, mind, body and soul. It lifts us up, opens us up. This joy is woven throughout our reading from the Book of Acts. This lovely description of the infant church radiates with the joy of new community. These people, once strangers, have been brought together through the love of Jesus Christ. They are of one heart and mind, sharing all things in common, taking care of all in need. This is a community born of life and love and JOY! We can almost hear the laughter overflowing from full and grateful hearts.
Laughter born of joy also is found in our reading from John’s Gospel. Thomas, confronted with the living, breathing, touchable Christ, is overcome with joy. His joy is beyond measure, beyond description, and it bursts forth from him, “My Lord and my God!” We can picture this moment, Thomas falling to his knees is wonder and emotion, tears pouring down his face as realization takes hold, and laughter surrounding his cry of faith. “My Lord and my God!” Thomas bursts forth a joyful noise to the Lord, a gift of laughter.
That is the gift of the Easter season, the gift of joy in the light of the resurrection. This is especially needed this year. We must hold tightly to our witness of life abundant where all could seem to be of illness and death. Our faith is grounded in John’s proclamation from the first chapter of his gospel—“The light shines in the darkness” and the darkness cannot overcome it. The darkness cannot comprehend the light. Jesus, our light, shines brightly in this Easter season, and we are filled with joy…with laughter.
And so, let me share some beautiful, rich, joyful noise from Garrison Keillor, a fellow Methodist.
Garrison Keillor on “Those People called Methodists”
Adapted by Rev. Ben Witherington
It was bound to happen. At some juncture a pronouncement would come forth from Lake Wobegon about the second largest Protestant denomination– namely the family of Methodist Churches. And sadly and indeed humorously, many of the insights are true. So here are some of the highlights (P.S., along the way you discover that Garrison is a Methodist– which explains a lot! I sprinkle in a few comments of my own along the way in square brackets).
“We make fun of Methodists for their blandness, their excessive calm, their fear of giving offense, their lack of speed, and also for their secret fondness for macaroni and cheese. But nobody sings like them….If you were to ask an audience in New York City, a relatively Methodistless place, to sing along on the chorus of ‘Michael row your boat ashore’ they would look daggers at you as if you had asked them to strip to their underwear. But if you do this with Methodists, they’d smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! And down the road!”
“Many Methodists are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony, a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person’s rib cage. Its natural for Methodists to sing in harmony. We are too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When you are singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of you, its an emotionally fulfilling moment. By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other.”
“I do believe this: People, these Methodists, who love to sing in four-part harmony are the sort of people you could call up when you’re in deep distress. If you are dying, they will comfort you. If you are lonely, they will talk to you. And if you are hungry, they will give you tuna salad!” [That’s in the north. In the south its definitely potato salad]
‘Methodists believe in prayer, but would practically die if asked to pray out loud.” [I remember a Thanksgiving dinner when my Dad was suddenly asked by Aunt Harriet to say the blessing. Flustered, and unprepared, he said “Dear Lord, please pardon this food and bless our sins, in Jesus’ name. Amen” Well Aunt Harriet, never let him live that one down, having spent so many hours in kitchen fixing the meal!]
“Methodists will usually follow the official liturgy, and will feel it is their way of suffering for their sins….You know you are a Methodist if when you watch Star Wars and they say ‘May the Force be with you,’ you instinctively respond ‘And also with you.'”
“Methodists think that the Bible forbids them from crossing the aisle while passing the peace. “
“Methodists believe in miracles and even expect miracles, especially during their stewardship visitation programs or when passing the plate.”
“Methodists believe their pastors will visit them in the hospital, even if they don’t notify them that they are there!”
“Methodists are willing to pay up to a dollar for a meal at church….They drink coffee as if it were the third Sacrament.”
“You will know you are a Methodist when its 100 degrees outside with 90% humidity and you still serve coffee after the service.”
“Methodists still serve jello in the proper liturgical color of the season and think that peas in a tuna casserole adds too much color.” [especially if you are not in Ordinary time].
“Methodists feel guilty if they don’t stay to clean up after their own wedding reception in the Fellowship Hall.”
“You know you are a Methodist when doughnuts are a line item in the church budget, just like coffee.”
“You know you are a Methodist when it takes at least ten minutes to say goodbye!”
Joyful noise…the gift of laughter…My Lord and my God!
Thanks be to God! Amen.
Holy Humor shared a various times throughout the service:
Holy Humor Moment #1
Voice 1: How many United Methodists does it take to change a lightbulb?
Voice 2: Undetermined. Whether your light is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved. You can be a light bulb, turnip bulb, or tulip bulb.
Voice 1: Bring a bulb of your choice to the Sunday Lighting service…and a covered dish to pass.
Voice 2: How many camp ministry leaders does it take to change a lightbulb?Voice 1: Just one, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.
Voice 1: So how many United Methodists does it REALLY take to change a lightbulb?
Voice 2: Actually-15. One to change the lightbulb and 2 or 3 committees to approve the change…Oh, and one to organize the pot luck dinner.
Holy Humor Moment #2
Voice 1: Six-year-old Angie and her four-year-old brother Joel were sitting together in church. Joel giggled, sang, and talked loudly. Finally, his big sister had had enough. “You are not supposed to talk out loud in church!” “Why? Who is going to stop me?” Joel asked. Angie pointed to the back of the church and said, “See that person standing by the main door? They are the hushers!”
Voice 2: The preacher had to use a microphone one Sunday with a long cord while they preached the sermon. They moved briskly around the platform, jerking the microphone cord as they went. Once they got wound up in it and almost fell before jerking it out of the way again. After several circles and jerks, a little child in the third pew turned to their parent and whispered, “If the pastor gets loose, will they hurt us?
Voice 1: A woman had been teaching her three-year-old daughter the Lord’s Prayer. For several evenings at bedtime, she would have her daughter repeat the lines from the prayer after her. Finally, her daughter tried to pray solo. Her mom listened with pride as she slowly enunciated each word, right up to the end of the prayer: “Lead us not into temptation,” she prayed, “but deliver us some e-mail…”
Voice 2: The Sunday School teacher asked, “Now, Johnny, tell me, do you say prayers before eating dinner?” “No,” he replied, “We don’t have to. My parents are good cooks!”
Holy Humor Moment #3
Voice 1: You might be a United Methodist if…
Voice 2: …you don’t take Rolaids when your heart is strangely warmed.
Voice 1: …you know that a circuit rider is not an electrical device.
Voice 2: …you’ve ever sung a gender-inclusive hymn.
Voice 1: …the word ‘apportionment’ sends chills down your spine.
Voice 2: …you consider coffee and pot-lucks sacramental.
Voice 1: …You think UMW stands for United Methodist Women and not United Mine Workers.
Voice 2: …your congregation’s Christmas pageant includes gender-inclusive magi and angels.
Voice 1: …you are asked to donate money to a ‘special offering’ every other Sunday.
Voice 2: The pastor saw a young boy standing in front of the veteran memorial plague hanging in the hallway, deep in thought. The pastor walked up and stood next to the boy. After a few moments, the boy asked, “What are all these names, pastor?” “They are the names of all those who died in the service.” replied the pastor. The boy was silent for a few moments and then asked timidly, “Which one…9:00 or 11:00?”