“Everybody Wants to Rule The World” Apr. 8, 2018
“Everybody Wants to Rule the World”
Acts 4:32-35/ 1 John 5:1-6
First of all, for those who are disappointed that Easter is over, I have good news! Easter – or the season of Eastertide – is just beginning! And for those who are thankful to see Easter over and done with, well…take heart. Take heart because we are now going into a time that is not only important, it is critical in how we define who we are as believers of Jesus Christ. That being said, the season of Eastertide, which began at sunset on the eve of Easter Sunday, will continue for 50 days and will end on Pentecost, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost falls on the Sunday of May 20th this year, so we have lots of time to sing the hymns, eat the chocolate, and more specifically, to study and perhaps to rethink what it means to worship the Christ resurrected.
But, of course, the Eastertide season is not without its traditions. This 2nd Sunday of Easter is often referred to as Holy Humor Sunday. Now this is not a recent thing. According to Ralph Milton, the origins of Holy Humor Sunday go back hundreds of years as a way of celebrating God’s resurrection victory over Satan. The idea was to laugh at Satan who had been outwitted by God. It’s true. You see, the medieval church believed that Satan could absolutely not stand laughter. At least not genuine laughter. If you laugh at the evil one, he has no power over you. And even though our theology has become a bit more sophisticated over the years, I can’t help but think they were on to something. In fact, I’d venture to guess that there are many churches today that dedicate this, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, to nothing more than telling jokes – the cornier the better. And I confess that I was tempted to do the same, but in the course of looking through volumes of bulletin bloopers and stories of the priest, the pastor, and the rabbi who walked into a bar, I couldn’t get the story of Thomas out of my head. We know the story well: the disciples are holed up in a room behind locked doors for fear of the authorities. After witnessing the gruesome death of Jesus, they could only figure that they were next and so were keeping a low profile. So there they were, all huddled together, when somehow Jesus is standing before them saying, “Peace be with you.” Try to imagine the wide range of emotions that went through this group at seeing this man they all believed to be very dead, yet there he was – very alive. He showed them the marks on his hands and side and gave to them the blessing of the Holy Spirit. Not a normal day by any means.
Thomas was out that day, but later when the disciples told him they had seen the Lord, it gets comical. Thomas, true to his reputation, doesn’t believe a word they say and gets a bit dramatic, saying, (vs 25) “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Drama, drama, drama.
And so it is that we all get a good chuckle when a week or so later, Jesus appears again, and this time Thomas does indeed see for himself. It would be the ultimate last laugh if it weren’t for the fact that the story of Thomas speaks to our disbelief so clearly. Far too often, Thomas’s story is our story as well. Now, all of a sudden, it’s not so funny and we are left wondering, “Without concrete evidence, how can our faith – our resurrection faith – make any sort of a difference?” The answer came to me in the writings of John the Evangelist – our reading today from First John. (1 Jn 5:1) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. Could this be right? We believe a little, we believe a lot. We get mad at God, we are humbled – and through all this, through the ups and downs, we remain born of God. And as children of God it just comes natural to care for the children of God even when they drive us up the wall, even if we don’t understand or agree or see eye to eye for this is the love of God.
But the real clincher comes in verse 4: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” In 1985, when the British group Tears For Fears came out with the song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” it was a big hit. It’s one of those songs that tends to rattle around in your head. It’s catchy and all that, but the idea sticks with you. “Everybody wants to rule the world.” Now that’s funny. That’s funny because the only reason I can find for wanting to rule the world is because I can’t live with the fact that the world rules me. Besides, it sounds like a lot of work and I don’t think I’m up to the task. But to overcome the world – to break free of its grip – now that’s something I can get excited about. Once again, verse 4: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” This is the faith of a Resurrection people: a liberating faith, a faith that sets us free, that cuts us loose, that allows us to overcome the world. This is the faith of an Easter people: a faith that finally brings us true peace. To know the peace of Christ doesn’t mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. “Peace be with you,” Christ tells us, and he means it. He’s not kidding around.
So, Happy Humor Sunday. The joke for the day lies in the fact that we may want, but we will never rule the world. Let’s leave that to the expert. Let’s leave that to one who created this big, beautiful, glorious, happy, and laughable world in the first place.
Amen & Shalom