“Risus Paschalis” April 28, 2019

“Risus Paschalis”

Psalm 150

Acts 5:27-32

John 20:19-31


When God created the dog, he told him, “OK, here’s the deal: your purpose on this earth is to always be on the alert. You are to spend your days on the front porch and are to bark with volume and enthusiasm at every single thing that approaches the house. For this you will live 20 years.” The dog thought about it and said, “You know, that sounds like a lot of work and 20 years is a long time; how about I do this for 10 years and I’ll give you back the other 10.” The Lord said, “So be it.”

Then the Lord created the monkey and likewise told unto him, “For 20 years you shall dwell upon this earth. In that time you are to perform tricks, entertain, be goofy, and cause amusement for those around you,” and likewise the monkey replied, “I don’t think I have it in me to do that for 20 years. How about I monkey around for ten of those and I’ll give the other 10 back to you.” And the Lord said, “So be it.”

Next God created the cow. “For 60 years you shall labor upon this earth. You shall pull the wagon, you shall pull the plow, and you shall provide milk and sustenance to those around you.” The cow had a different idea, however. “It is an honor and I mean no disrespect, but could you arrange it so that I only labor upon this earth for 20 years? I would gladly give the remaining 40 to whomever you please.” And the Lord said, “So be it.”

Finally, God created man and said onto him, “For 20 years you shall dwell upon this earth. Your life will be free of care, full of fun and frolic, and all of your needs will be provided onto you.” And man thought that was pretty good plan. “I accept,” he said, “but is there any chance you could throw in the 10 years that the dog and the monkey left behind and maybe the 40 years the cow didn’t want?” And the Lord said, “So be it.”

So, in case you were wondering, this is why we spend the first 20 years of our lives without a care in the world, followed by 40 years of hard work making a living and providing for our families and communities. The next 10 spent are spent performing tricks and acting goofy for the benefit of our grandchildren and, if we’re lucky, the last 10 years are spent sitting on the front porch barking and growling at anybody and anything that dares to walk on the front lawn.

Greetings, one and all, and welcome. Today is the 2nd Sunday of Easter, also celebrated in some churches as “Holy Humor Sunday.” Now you may not have heard of Holy Humor Sunday, but it really isn’t something new. In fact, it was the Greeks in the early centuries of Christianity who were the first to focus on laughter on the Sunday after Easter. Early theologians figured that God played a great practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead and this became known as the Great Easter Laugh, or Risus Paschalis.

I have to say that the idea of a Sunday dedicated to humor has always intrigued me. I mean, think about it: if you were to announce to a huge group of people who have just been through 6 weeks of Lent, the agony of Christ’s betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion, and then the miracle of resurrection – if you were to announce to them that it’s time to lighten up and spread a little joy around, what could possibly go wrong? It makes perfect sense and the idea caught on. It became a thing. Priests in the 15th century, usually a sober bunch, took to telling jokes in middle of their sermons and people got in the habit of planning out elaborate practical jokes to pull on each after the service. Laughter Sunday had become a tradition; it was a big hit. But wouldn’t you know it that Risus Paschalis, the great Easter laugh, was officially outlawed by Pope Benedict X sometime around the 17th century. I guess people were just having too much fun. But here’s the thing: if we are indeed made in the image of God, if we are to be the body of Christ in this world, what kind of transforming power can be found in sour faces and voices without laughter? No, we are an Easter people, a resurrection people; we are a people who are blessed by our faith and empowered by our belief; a belief (vs 31) “that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in his name.” Holy Humor Sunday – I kind of like the idea. And so I’d like to close with a Communion of Saints, in a way, put together by Rev Chris Anderson: An Affirmation of Humor:

We believe with the bible that “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh.”

We believe with Luther that “You have as much laughter as you have faith.”

We believe with John Wesley that “A sour religion is the devil’s religion.”

We believe with Kierkegaard that “Humor is intrinsic to Christianity.”

We believe with G. K. Chesterton that “A good joke is the closest thing we have to divine revelation.”

We believe with Elton Trueblood to “Never trust a theologian without a sense of humor.”

And finally, we believe with Charles Schultz that ”Humor is proof that everything is going to be all right with God nonetheless.”

Young Harold tended to dominate the conversation in the youth confirmation class. So Pastor Smith asked him the question, “Harold, what do you call a person who keeps on talking when people are no longer interested?” Harold didn’t miss a beat; he replied simply, “A Preacher.”

Happy Holy Humor Day and may it be filled with the blessings and joy of our faith: our faith in a Christ who was raised from the dead.

Amen & Shalom


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