grew up hearing folks express the old adage: "No joy, no Jesus." What they were affirming was that when Jesus' love comes into our hearts there is joy and laughter. As a child I observed an unshakable joy in the lives of the saints, my mentors in the faith. My theological assumption is that when we fall in love with God the result is joy and laughter.
In Dr. Luke's rendition of this sermon preached, not on a mountain but from a "large level area," we hear Jesus talking about laughter. He is actually rebuking those who are laughing for all the wrong reasons: "Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep." (Lk. 6:25). But, we hear his promise that for those of us who know his love there is an inner experience of true joy beyond temporal things: "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh." (6:21). As a physician, perhaps Luke uniquely was aware of the therapeutic value of laughter and was thus the only biographer of Jesus who included these words.
Aren't we glad that we serve a God who also laughs? "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh...(Psalm 2:4 KJV). God is not laughing at us but at our childlike ideas about our power. It is like the laughter of parents when their child boasts of being more knowledgeable than them. We do not laugh in derision, but we are enjoying the playfulness of the child. As we grow up we are able to laugh at ourselves in situations beyond our control and in those times of tears and laughter, turn to God who loves us and guides us through human limitations to divine peace.
In today's gospel
reading we hear Jesus saying that one of the great benefits of the divine/human
friendship is to bring joy into our lives: "These things have I
spoken unto you that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might
be full." (Jn. 15:11). Paul expresses it to the Romans
Do you have an unspeakable, inexpressible happiness that at times fills your heart with gladness even amid great sadness? One by one my father's eleven brothers and sisters have died and each funeral has brought a surprise guest called Joy. Sure, there is always sorrow and tears, but we do not grieve like those who have no hope, for we know that even though these bodies of flesh will be destroyed, yet we will see God in resurrection. This hope gives great joy even in the presence of sadness because we see joy in our future.
What a happy band we are! As I use humor in sermons and talks, my funniest material is church humor: sometimes true stories that have been passed down by oral tradition and retold from thousands of pulpits. Great truths are often experienced amid joke telling. Our ears are opened in an uncanny way by humor. It's hard to not listen to a humorous story. An old adage is "the sleeper waketh for the pun."
For example, back in Mayberry there was a sawmiller in my Daddy's church who was "bad to drink." One Saturday afternoon he drunkenly went alone out to the mill and turned on the motor that powered a six foot circular saw. He started feeding in pine logs and slicing them into inch thick planks. Things went along well for a while, but then he got a little too close to the buzz saw and cut his nose plumb off. He "thunk real quick-like" and stuck it back on and tied it back in place with his "bandanner" handkerchief. About six weeks went by and he got in front of the looking-glass and took the handkerchief off--- he had stuck his nose on upside down--- every time it would rain he'd nearly drown and when he "blowed" his nose his hat would fly off.
That's one of my
Daddy's stories and every place that I tell it there is laughter. However,
it communicates the point that any drunk person is likely to do something
about that stupid.
Humor also helps us see ourselves as we really are--- the joke gives objectivity. Humor enables us to stand off and see ourselves as we really are. One of the hardest things we do is allow God to heal our broken hearts. However, in a punch line we can more clearly see that it must be God's will for our broken hearts to heal.
We had a rich man in our town who knew that he was terminally ill. He called his wife in and said, "Darling you are a beautiful woman and I know you'll want to get married again after a while, and I know that whoever you marry will want to drive my Lincoln and live in my mansion and maybe even wear my fine clothes. But just one thing, if you ever marry again, please don't let him play with my new golf clubs!" The young wife responded, "O, don't worry, he's left handed."
However, Christian joy is much more than laughing at a joke, It's discovering understanding through the release of laughter. Sometimes we temporarily forget who we are--- as children of God, the King's Kids. We often forget Him. A Pastor tells of having a heart attack and being rushed to the hospital and having all kinds of treatments, and it being three days later that he remembered that he had not breathed a prayer.
So, God sends a Valentine and on that card He is saying, "I Love You!" I sent my first Valentine's card to a fifth grade classmate--- it was a huge dollar card, and you could get a giant one for a dollar back then. However, when she opened it and saw my name signed, she slammed it shut. Humans have the freedom to say no, even to God who lovingly seeks relationship with us.
He loves us, but we must say yes!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor