“For We Will Laugh and Laugh”
21“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. NRSV
he most somber of our number enjoys a good laugh. It is a vital part of life. Aren’t we glad that we serve a God who laughs? I know it’s true because I have a picture of Jesus having a great big eyes-watering laugh. Our laughing Jesus wants us to have joyful abandon. Even through an awful bereavement or personal crisis the Spirit is present.
Bev Jones is the expert on Pierce Harris, the longtime pastor of Atlanta First. Bishop Jones shared with me that Pierce had told him that he had decided early in his ministry, “To be a happy preacher.” And if you ever heard him, or read any of his weekly articles in “The Atlanta Journal,” you know that this was always true of him.
The wisdom of Ecclesiastes observes that there is, "A time to weep and (also) 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 I have 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 recording of "The Sermon on the Mount" we hear Jesus talking about our need for laughter. In Jesus’ love we know his joy and laughter. 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 sadness? Our Spiritual Joy does not depend on our circumstances because we maintain the “long view,” that extends on to 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 is more helpful than a boatload of preaching. In fact, many of us pastors and some counselors use humor in our work. If we can laugh at ourselves we can begin to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Christian joy is more than laughing at a joke, it’s a feeling of being, absorbed, in the joyful situation with a divine awareness of the highest of spiritual joy.
Two of my favorite authors published best selling books by the very same name, Surprised by Joy. C.S. Lewis titled his autobiography by that name. In it 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 means “Longing.” Lewis had felt this inner sense of divine longing even as a child and it finally led him to his knees. 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, wrote his biographical 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 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!
Many jokes have been told on the front steps of the church or in the Sunday School Classes. One that I cherish 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 operated 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, he got down too close to the giant buzz say blade whirling around at a hundred miles per hour, he slipped just enough for the blade to cut his nose clean off. He thought real fast and pulled out his bandana 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?
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor