2/15/04, Ep6C

“For You Will Laugh”
Luke 6: 17-26

ren’t we glad that we serve a God who laughs! "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh..." (Psalm 2:4 KJV). Our laughing God wants us to have times of joyful abandon. The wisdom of Ecclesiastes observes that there is, "A time to weep and a time to laugh." (3:4). We hear Jesus saying that one of the great purposes of his words is to bring joy into the hearts of believers: "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 in this manner:"...for the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (14:17).

I grew up hearing church folks express the old adage: "No joy, no Jesus." What they obviously were affirming was that when Jesus comes into one’s heart to abide, there is a natural joy, gladness, and holy laughter that results.

In Dr. Luke’s rendition of "The Sermon on the Mount" we hear Jesus talking about our 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 grace there is an inner experience of true joy beyond temporal things: "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh." (6:21).

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 “Mr. Happiness.” Sure, there is always sorrow and tears, but we Christians do not grieve like those who have no hope, for we know that even though this body of flesh will be destroyed, yet we will see God in Glory. The desire to live as long as possible is hard wired into us. Our Lord gives great hope in the face of death, for in Christ we are immortal.

What a happy band we are! As I go out and do after dinner talks at civic clubs, and all sorts of groups, my best received 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 experience amid joke telling times. Our ears are opened in an uncanny way by humor. It’s hard to not listen to a humorous story.

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 turned that huge circular buzz saw. He started feeding in pine trees and slicing them into inch thick planks. Things went along for a while, but then he staggered too close and cut his nose off. He ‘thunk real quick like and stuck it back on and tied it in place with his ‘bandanner handkerchief. About six week went by and he got in front of the mirror and took the handkerchief off--- he had put his nose on upside down. In the 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 drunken person is likely to do something about that stupid. Those who sometimes drive legally drunk can hear that joke when most preaching about the subject falls on deaf ears.

Humor also helps us see ourselves as we really are. If we can step outside of ourselves and look at our plight, we can sometimes begin to allow the Spirit to help change us. Sometimes we can see ourselves mirrored in a funny story and it will do us more good than many hours of counseling. In fact, many counselors attempt to use humor in their process. If we can laugh at ourselves we can begin to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

However, Christian joy is much more than laughing at a joke, it’s laughing at a joke with understanding. Christian Joy knows that behind everything that happens to us in life, there is good that can come out of it. Sure, when we are in an accident, face illness, or experience a disappointment, there is pain. Has it not been our experience that Joy always returns as the pain is put into the wider perspective we have of life in Christ?

Sometimes we temporarily forget who we are--- as “Children of God,” “The King’s Kids.” We sometimes forget to call upon God in emergency situations. A pastor tells of having a heart attack and being rushed to the hospital. Three days later, after many treatments, he remembered that he had not breathed a prayer. But when he remembered God, he realized that He had been with him all the time, even when He was forgotten. Sometimes we are surprised by the joy of the Holy Spirit’s presence with us at all times.

Two of my favorite authors wrote books by the very same name, Surprised by Joy. C.S. Lewis wrote his as an autobiography in which he shared how a feeling of joy had been an experience that he had often felt even prior to his midlife conversion, but he did not know that it was God’s presence in his life through what we call “Prevenient Grace.” God is drawing us to him before we recognize that it is him. J.B. Phillips, the beloved translator of The Phillips New Testament, wrote his book, Surprised by Joy, out of a time of psychological depression. His gift of inner joy was always there even in his darkest times of gloom. God joined him in his deep pit and gave him a reminder that there was hope of eventual recovery. We are reminded by these two beloved Christian giants that our divine gift of joy is not dependent upon our emotions, or even of our awareness, but it is a gift of God that is perhaps lying dormant in our souls even now.

Lets look inside and see if there is any unused joy in us that needs letting out. And if so, think what a wonderful laugh we can all have, along with Jesus!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
2/15/04, Ep6C