We have reached the final week of my series of throwback sermons. But before I get to today's topic, a word about last week. You may recall my sermon was on the nine fruit of the Spirit Paul lists in Galatians. We went out to eat afterwards and I commented that the technology went about as well as it ever has. It was nice to have no glitches for a change. Then Julie broke it to me a nicely as she could, I missed one of the 9 fruit Paul listed, I left out patience. So much for perfection....
But I like to think I can laugh at my mistakes, many as they are. Speaking of laughter, today is a look back at our Holy Humor services. By my count, we've done eleven special services focusing on the Easter Laugh. And the question is always how appropriate is the Holy Humor service. Judy Holmes addressed this some seven years ago in one of her newspaper articles, “Easter is a joyous celebration and ushers in a season of laughter. God has the last laugh with the resurrection of Jesus. The Easter laugh reminds us we are to share the joy of Christ with others. Created in the image of God, we laugh. Just as I am certain God laughs, I am certain God shakes his head at our seriousness; our intensities.”
And so over the years, we've found way to laugh while sharing a message of the Good News of Jesus. In the spirit of joy, praise, thanksgiving, I'll share some of our jokes and stories and remind you all of the message that went with it.
Our last real performance was “Holy Humor Batman... a matter of laugh or death, in 2017. 2018 was snowed out and COVID dealt the death blow to our shows since then. But in 2017 the pulpit area was Gotham City. Batman and Rhonda appeared to fight the arch criminal The Riddler. Perhaps you remember the answer to his first riddle, “When is a banana like a church bell?” They are both pealed. Batman and Rhonda barely survived due to the good jokes the congregation shared.
The year before that was a fun one. Dr. Seuss on the Loose! Here's how I summarized the day 6 years ago: “The committee again did a wonderful job planning, decorating and carrying out our twists on the Dr. Seuss stories. Shirley Brooks was the new chair and she dove right in with the committee members who've been together for 8 or 9 years: Rosie, Julie, Rhonda, David and newcomer Amy Levinski. The Rechs added their own wild touch to our day as did Katie with her creative treats. Lots of hats, Lexie and Riley with their own Horton trunks. Dale and Elaine Yungk from across the street came as Thing 1 and Thing 2 all grown up! The Townsends gave their view of what the Zoo would look like if they ran the zoo.”
The sermon consisted of rhymes and special characters. The Grinch (David) took away the music in our sanctuary. “Pooh-pooh to the who's,” he was grinchishly humming. “They're finding now that no music is coming. Their mouths will hang open a minute or two then the Presbyterians will all cry BOO-HOO! That's a noise that I simply must hear.” And the Grinch put his hand up to his ear.
(We all sang Joyful, Joyful a Capella)
But the sound wasn't sad, Why this sound was merry! It couldn't be so... but it was merry...very! Every Presbyterian, the tall and the small, was singing without any music at all. He hadn't stopped praises from coming. They came! Somehow or other, they came just the same. And what happened then, well in Litchfield they say, that the Grinch's heart grew three sizes that day! (And we finished singing joyful, Joyful.)
Speaking Minnesotan was the theme in 2015, the title: Jesus loves me, ya sure ya betcha. An example we used were the ten commandments, Minnesota style:
1. Der’s only one God ya know.
2. Don’t make the fish on yer mantle an idol.
3. Cussin’ ain’t Minnesota nice.
4. Go to church, even when yer up nort.
5. Honor yer folks.
6. Don’t kill — catch & release.
7. Der’s only one Lena for every Ole. No cheatin’.
8. If it ain’t yer lutefisk, don’t take it.
9. Don’t be braggin’ ’bout how much snow you shoveled.
10. Keep your mind off yer neighbor’s hot dish.
2014 was game shows. We were hosted by Monty hall and Jay Stewart and Carol Merril. Games included “Let's Make a Deal” and “The Holy Family Feud.” The Joldersma Family took on the Holy Family to test their biblical knowledge; Joseph, Mary and Jesus won. And the title that day and the message was this: “The Price is Right... and Jesus paid it all!” The conclusion was final Jeopardy. The category was Eternal Life and the answer was “He is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but through him.” The question: Who is Jesus?
Perhaps our biggest production was “There's No Place Like Home.” in 2013. Savannah Joldersma played Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy dreamed of a place of happiness and joy somewhere over the rainbow. We discovered that it was not in Oz but in the presence of God. Rhonda was the good witch Glinda. Julie was the wicked witch with her flying monkeys. Jayne played the scarecrow-when asked how she could talk without a brain, she answered “some people without brains do an awful lot of talking.” Rosie played the Tin Man and David the cowardly Lion.
You know the story, they are sent to the witch's castle to get her broomstick, the guards chant... Wade Viehauser and Michael Joldersma, “Oreo, O O, Oreos...” and passed out Oreo cookies to the crowd. Julie melted into a puddle of ooze right behind the piano there. The wizard, me, is found to be a fake. He gives the scarecrow a diploma, the Lion a medal and the Tin Man a testimonial. Dorothy is whisked home by the power of the Ruby slippers. But our conclusion is that our power to go to our heavenly home is through the grace of God in Christ.
Hee Haw in 2012 found the characters from down oin the farm celebrating the good news of Easter with us. Minnie Pearl showed up with the price tag still on her hat. Junior Samples was here looking a lot like Josh Anderson. Jayne and Rosie sang the question, “Where O Where, are you tonight?” A men's quartet described in song the emotions of the disciples after Jesus died, “Gloom, Despair, And Agony On Me.” The ladies kitchen band had pots and pans, a jug, spoons, a washboard. And the pews were our cornfield from where the jokes were told. And we concluded that we can laugh even in times of trial because we celebrate the victory of Jesus over sin and death.
The Sermon on the Mound featured baseball players, food fit for the ballpark, an umpire (Ed) who needed to be shown just where home plate was. We had a relief preacher, Judy. We sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame and God bless America during the seventh inning stretch.
In Fish Tales in 2010, the Choir came in with their fishing poles whistling the theme song from Andy Griffith Show which is called Fish Tales. Whistle along...
We did “Rock of Aging” in 2009. My main memory from that day, we had a drawing to see who got to sit in a rocking chair for the sermon. Porter Ashley won it.
And our very first Holy Humor Sunday was “How Many Presbyterians Does it Take to Change a Light bulb?” Anybody know the answer? 12. 5 on the building and Grounds committee to determine the light bulb is bad. 6 session members to approve the recommendation of B and G. and one to actually turn out the old bulb and screw in the new one. And that led me to another joke... how many blonds does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, cause she holds the bulb and the world revolves around her. But in truth, we found, salvation is all Jesus and so rather than fret about it too much, we can and should find all the joy we can in this life.
I want to finish up with a couple of jokes provided by people other than myself. I sometimes take a little heat for my sense of humor. So first, most of you remember Kay Hansen and her general disdain for my jokes. That showed her high standards for jokes, so we can judge her submission:
Joe asked God, "God, how long is a million years to you?"
God replied, "To me, it's about a minute."
Joe asked, "God, how much is a million dollars to you?"
God said, "It is like a penny to me"
So Joe asked for a penny.
God said, "Sure, in a minute."
And from Bev Driver, “Three pastors were having lunch in a diner. One said, “Ya know, since summer started I’ve been having trouble with bats in my loft and attic at church. I’ve tried everything — noise, spray, cats — nothing seems to scare them away.” Another added, “Yeah, me too. I’ve got hundreds living in my belfry and in the attic. I’ve even had the place fumigated, and they won’t go away.” The third said, “I used to have that problem too, then I confirmed all mine and made them members of the church … Haven’t seen one back since!”
Perhaps if we can make laughter a regular part of our worship, we can all celebrate the good news as the family of God, with humor, with joy, with thanksgiving. I believe since we are created in God's image; and since we have a sense of humor, God must have a sense of humor. Maybe we see a hint of that in creation; have you seen a platypus? Or how about a spitting Lama? A kitten playing with string?
As the psalmist wrote, our mourning can be turned into dancing; we don't need to wear the clothes of sadness-- as God clothes us with joy... so that our souls may praise the creator and Savior. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. God gives us much to laugh about, much to rejoice over. And the closing words of Jesus in today's gospel reminds us why we rejoice... “rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” And so we rejoice, we laugh, and we celebrate and we give thanks. Amen.
Hymn: Give Us Laughter Unexpected (Hymn to Joy)