The Easter Laugh (April 8, 2018)
The couple was celebrating their 60th anniversary. Both were 85 years old, and both were still in very good health, largely because the wife had insisted on healthy foods and exercise for the last ten years.
They decided to celebrate by going on vacation. The plane crashed and they ended up at the pearly gates. St. Peter escorted them inside, and took them to a magnificent mansion, beautifully furnished, with a fully stocked kitchen and a waterfall in the master bath. They gasped in astonishment when he said, “Welcome to heaven. This will be your home now.”
The old man asked Peter how much all this was going to cost. “Why, nothing,” Peter replied. “Remember, this is your reward in Heaven.”
The old man looked out the window and saw a championship golf course, finer and more beautiful than any ever built on earth. “I’ll bet the greens fees are astronomical,” grumbled the old man.
“Nope,” said Peter. “This is heaven. You play for free, every day.”
They went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffet lunch, with every imaginable cuisine laid out before them, from seafood to steaks to exotic deserts, free flowing beverages.
“Don’t even ask,” said Peter. “This is heaven. It’s all free. Enjoy!” The old man looked around and glanced nervously at his wife. “So where are the low fat and low cholesterol foods, and the decaffeinated tea?”‘ he asked.
“That’s the best part,” St. Peter replied. “You can eat and drink as much as you like, and you’ll never get fat or sick. This is heaven!”
The old man pushed, “No gym to work out at?”
“‘Not unless you want to.”
“No testing my sugar or blood pressure or…”
“Never again. All you do here is enjoy yourself.”
The old man glared at his wife and said, “You and your stupid bran muffins. We could have been here ten years ago!”
We’ve been celebrating the Easter laugh for 13 years. The tradition seems to come from a sermon preached in the 4th century by John Chrysostom. He imagined the risen Christ laughing at the joke God played on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead. He encouraged his people to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on the day after Easter with laughter and joy. He called it the risus paschalis, the Easter laugh. What better way to celebrate the triumph of life over death?
It’s a wonderful way of reminding ourselves that at its heart, our faith is a joyful thing … and even with all the bad jokes I tell, you look forward to it. I know you do.
There is an old story of a man who kept falling asleep during the sermon. His priest was getting frustrated and, one Sunday, decided to teach the man a lesson.
As was his practice, he started to preach slowly, almost in a monotone, and sure enough, the man soon fell into a deep sleep. The priest then said to the congregation, “Everyone who wants to go to heaven, stand up.” Everyone stood, except the man who was fast asleep.
The priest asked everyone to sit. Then he gently said, “Everyone who wants to go to hell,” and with a bang on the pulpit and a rise in his voice, “stand up!”
The sleeping man snorted awake and jumped to his feet as everyone around started to snicker. The man looked at all the people sitting around him, then looked at the priest and said, “Preacher, I don’t know what we’re votin’ on. But it looks like you and me are the only ones in favour.”
George Burns once said that the secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending—and to have the two of them as close together as possible.
Laughter is one of the hallmarks of a healthy life. It is also the sign of a healthy spirit. Desmond Tutu, one of my heroes, used laughter to make his point all the time. And whenever you see him, he’s always smiling, laughing, having a good time. Laughter is a tool to help us deal in a healthy way with the difficulties of life.
A cranky old woman was arrested for shoplifting at a grocery store. She gave everyone a hard time, from the store manager to the security guard to the arresting officer who took her away. She complained and criticized everything and everyone throughout the process.
When she appeared before the judge, the judge asked her what she had stolen from the store.
The lady defiantly replied, “Just a stupid can of peaches.”
The judge then asked why she had done it. She replied, “I was hungry and forgot to bring any cash to the store.”
The judge asked how many peaches were in the can.
She replied in a nasty tone, “Nine! But why do you care about that?”
The judge answered patiently, “Well, ma’am, because I’m going to give you nine days in jail—one day for each peach.”
As the judge was about to drop his gavel, the woman’s long–suffering husband raised his hand slowly and asked if he might speak.
The judge said, “Yes sir, what do you have to add?”
The husband said meekly, “Your Honour, she also stole two cans of peas.”
The Bible also is full of laughter. When Abraham and Sarah have a son in their old age, they name him Isaac—which means “Son of Laughter”. Many of Jesus’ parables have situations which make us laugh out loud. Imagine the laughter when Jesus shows up to Thomas and says to him, “Go ahead. Put your fingers in.”
This is our faith. We celebrate a story of life in all its fullness. It’s a story of goodness and wholeness, justice and peace, healing and new life.
A blond goes into the Post Office to buy some stamps for her Christmas cards. She says to the clerk “May I have 50 Christmas stamps please?”
The clerk says “What denomination?”
The blond says “God help us. Has it come to this?” In exasperation she says “Give me 22 Catholic, 12 Anglican, 10 Methodist and 6 Baptist.”
One Sunday the priest told the congregation that the church needed some extra money. He asked the people to prayerfully consider giving a little extra in the offering plate. He mentioned that whoever gave the most would be able to pick out three hymns.
After the offering plates were passed, the priest glanced down and noticed that someone had placed a $1,000 bill in offering.
He was so excited that he called out, “I’d like to personally thank the person who placed the money in the plate.”
A very quiet, elderly, saintly lady all the way in the back shyly raised her hand.
The priest asked her to come to the front. Slowly she made her way to the front. He said how wonderful it was that she gave so much and told her she could pick out three hymns.
Her eyes brightened as she looked over the congregation, pointed to the three handsomest men in the building and said, “I’ll take him, and him, and him.”
I’ve told you before about my clinical depression. One of the things I learned when I finally came out of it was that I had forgotten how to laugh. Life had become a heavy burden, and it ground me into little bits. So for me, this kind of laughter is a powerful sign of good health, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
The laughter of faith comes when we know that we are living out of God’s abundance. If we are constantly pinching pennies, if we are worried, if we live in fear, if we live in anxiety, if we are never satisfied with our lives … we lose the ability to laugh. What a tragedy! Laughter says that we are content, that we know we are blessed, that we delight in life, that we are ravished by the beauty of the world, that we enjoy our lives and our world.
Someone once said, “What I have learned … is that the more you expect from life, the more your expectations will be fulfilled. By laughing, you do not use up your laughter, but increase your store of it. The more you love, the more you will be loved. The more you give, the more you will receive.”
G.K. Chesterton once wrote: “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. Never forget that the devil fell by force of gravity. He who has the faith has the fun.”
May the holy laughter of Easter fill your lives. May God’s healing love embrace you in every moment of your lives, and may the last laugh of Easter fill your lives with hope and delight. May you live in the light of the risus paschalis, the Easter laugh each day of your lives. Most importantly, may you, when you go out into the world, take the Easter laugh with you.
Thanks be to God.
Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt
April 8, 2018 (2nd Sunday of Easter)
Acts 4: 32–35
1 John 1:1–2:2
John 20: 19–31