“A God Who Laughs”
1Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? 2The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying, 3“Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.” 4He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision. 5Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, (NRSV)
lthough our text says that God laughs at us, it is more like the laughter of a parent whose three-year-old who brags that they can out run their Father or Mother, or that they can beat them in a wrestling match. Our Heavenly Father does not laugh at us, but He laughs with us.
Aren’t we glad that we serve a God who laughs! 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). In Dr. Luke’s rendition of "The Sermon on the Mount" we hear Jesus talking about our laughter. 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? Our Spiritual Joy does not always depend on outward circumstances, because we maintain the “long view,” which extends toward Glory.
Humor helps us see ourselves as we really are. If we can step outside of ourselves and look at our plight, we can then begin to allow the Spirit to help us find a better life. Sometimes we can see ourselves mirrored in a funny story and it will sometimes be more helpful than many hours of counseling; or a boatload of preaching. 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 feeling more of the actual situation with understanding. God was doing something like this when he looked on the feeble and frantic efforts of humanly powerful leaders who were comical to G the Almighty One.
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 adult conversion, but he did not know that it was God’s presence in his life through what we call “Prevenient Grace.” God was drawing Lewis to himself before he relented. Lewis used the German word “Sehnsucht,” which typically means “Longing.” Lewis had felt this inner sense of longing even as a child and it finally led him to his knees. Ever after he lived a life of Sehnsucht. This is how he survived so many difficulties.
J.B. Phillips, the beloved translator of The Phillips New Testament, also 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, but it is a gift of God that is perhaps lying dormant in our souls even now. Let’s 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! Do you have an unspeakable, inexpressible happiness that at times fills your heart with gladness, even amid great sadness? What a happy band we are!
Humor also helps us see ourselves as we really are. This is exactly the grace that the kings of Psalm 2 referred to. They were laughable in their pompousness. If we can step outside of ourselves and look at our plight, we can sometimes allow the Spirit to change us. 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?
Lots of jokes have been told on the front steps of the church, or in the Sunday School Classes. One that I cheeriest is that of a prosperous sawmiller in my Daddy’s church near Mayberry. One day he went down to the sawmill and none of his hired men showed up for work. Truth is he had forgotten that it was Christmas Day in his drunken stupor. Anyway, as he fussed under his breath he went over to the huge saw mill, which he had often run by himself in his younger days and got the gas powered engine started. The six foot buzz saw blade started to move, as the inebriated sawmiller smiled. He was pushing in pine logs and producing fine pine boards. However, about then he got down too close to the giant buss say blade whirling around at a hundred miles per hour, and then he slipped just enough for the blade to cut his nose clean off. The thought real fast and pulled out his bandanna handkerchief and stuck his nose back on. Six weeks later he decided that it must be healed so he got in front of the bathroom mirror and untied the handkerchief: My, my, he had stuck it on upside down; from then on every time it rained he almost drowned and when he blew his nose his hat would fly off.
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?
Folks laughing at a funny story, even in church pews, can seem to feel a reckless abandon and often feel that they have peeked out of their invisible protective shell. Even some businesses are hiring comedians in at times of bonding to tell jokes that will get the bosses and new hires to feel bonded.
The syndicated comic strip DILBERT picks up on the hilarious situations within the cubicles and offices of businesses. It is more specific to contemporary businesses and can help employees to bond. I have heard of Sunday School Classes w that have met to watch together the movie “Office Space,” Another humorous look at today’s business environments. Church offices could benefit from this “helpful” satire. But, the outside world expects our Church Office settings to resemble heaven. Most Americans consider a sad sack sourpuss expression is not representative of the “Joyful Christian” they have come to expect from Christians. Our office staff tries to keep up a merry tone in our doing of God’s Work.” But I am sure that God looks down from heaven occasionally and has a big belly laugh at some of our church offices situations. After all, laughter is about the easiest way we can become godlier.
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor