It's Holy Humor Sunday!
Ok, we’re going to try a Mad Libs start to this sermon (explain Mad Libs)….this part was written by Suzanne Schmidt, another UCC pastor and posted online. I asked some people beforehand for input and randomly selected their answers.
Every year on the Sunday after Easter, we hear the story of Doubting Thomas.
He’s always called Doubting Thomas—never __________________(adjective) Thomas or ___ ________(adjective) Thomas or even _____ _______(adjective) Tom. All the disciples are together in the upper room, except Thomas, who is off __ _(action verb ending in ing). Jesus appears to the disciples, and they believe, and they are filled with joy. When Thomas returns from _ __(verb—ing), the disciples tell him about this amazing experience. But Thomas doesn’t believe them. I mean really, would you? A man come back from the dead. It’s as preposterous as a _ ___(noun)__ (action verb ending in —ing) through______________________(noun) Thomas’ reaction is reasonable. The disciples’ story was unbelievable. But what must have been the most shocking to Thomas was the change in the disciples’ mood. When Thomas left them, the disciples were all grieving and shocked and heartbroken. When he returned, Thomas was still grieving, but the disciples were suddenly as happy as a _ _(animal) in a ____________________(noun). Thomas must have thought it was some kind of cruel joke.
When we tell this story today, we tend to imagine Doubting Thomas as a stern figure, like those old portraits of ________________________(stern and serious historical figure). If someone told us that Jesus was raised from the dead, we may have said, “You’ve gotta be pulling my ________________(body part).”
We may have laughed too - That scoffing, cynical, bitter kind of laughter. You know the kind of laughter I’m talking about—it’s not joyous laughter. It’s defensive laughter—the kind that protects us from the things that could really hurt, a laughing it off, a too-cool smug laughter, a can’t fool-me laughter.
But Thomas comes to know that God’s love triumphs over all. Thomas knows that he is loved, in spite of his doubts. It doesn’t matter if a __________ (noun = person) starts ________ (verb which may be viewed as sinful-ending in -ing), God will still love them and forgive them. Let us like Thomas, even with lingering doubts, believe in the resurrection, and experience deep and abiding joy. Believe in the resurrection, and join in the laughter. Laugh _ __(adverb ending ly), laugh _ _(adverb ending in ly), laugh _ _(adverb ending in ly), and laugh abundantly.
All kidding (and Mad Libs) aside, though, I love this look at Thomas. Poor “Doubting Thomas.” David Lose, on workingpreacher.org, writes, “When you read through the resurrection accounts of all four gospels, you quickly realize that Thomas is not alone in his doubt. In fact, doubt isn’t the exception but the rule. No one - even after all the predictions, no one says, "Welcome back." Or "We knew it." Or even "What took you so long?" No one anticipates Jesus return and when he shows up, everyone doubts. Everyone.”
I very much imagine that some people who encountered Jesus after the resurrection absolutely laughed! But that “nervous...what the heck am I seeing laughter?!” It makes me think of the purpose that laughter serves in our lives...the good and bad times to laugh! (I’m looking at all of you in the pew who have had to hold in a laugh during worship!)
I wonder if there was laughter among the disciples after Jesus’ death - and even his resurrection - until he was seen again. Did they find joy in those days? Did they tell jokes? Did they laugh with a baby or at the wonder of the world?
Our 1 Corinthians verses remind us that God’s foolishness is wiser than the world’s wisdom - and that God often uses the “foolish” things of this world - the things that don’t make sense to our rational brains - in order to bring glory to God. God uses the unexpected. No one certainly expected to encounter Jesus after his death on the cross.
And so I wonder what the laughter sounded like when people DID encounter him after his death.
We laugh for so many reasons, which is good because it is physically beneficial. We laugh from genuinely hilarious jokes; we laugh from nervousness; we laugh from exhaustion. We laugh because of absurdity.
Dr. Hymers, a Baptist minister, notes that the root word for “laugh” or “laughter” occurs 38 times in the Bible. He places these instances into four categories...laughter of unbelief (like when Abraham and Sarah are told they will have a child in their old age), laughter of a fool (like when thinking that our wisdom is greater than God’s), the laughter of God (like a parent, when seeing their children grow and learn), and the laughter of joy (like when knowing God’s faithfulness and love).
I appreciate the categories of laughter because it shows the many uses of it in our lives. When used in the right instances (not laughing at people falling off their chairs! at least ask if they’re okay first…), laughter is healing.
To illustrate, we have a few videos...showing different laughter.
May we have friends who bring laughter at just the right moments… (stop at 1:50)
May we laugh with innocence at the wonder of this world….
Scripture: John 20:19-31; 1 Corinthians 1:18-21, 26-31