Holy Humor Sunday dates back centuries. Until Mother Julie Wizorek+ asked me to deliver the homily on this Sunday, I had not heard of it, but I learned. These are the words I shared with the congregation at St. Paul’s Piney Parish on this day, Holy Humor Sunday. We had a great time together and I so appreciate the love of this congregation. So, if you were not able to be with us and join in our joy and laughter together, I extend that love and joy to you by posting the words here. Alleluia, Christ is risen!
Doubting Thomas is the central character in the reading today. We all know his story. He doubts whether it is really Jesus until Jesus invites Thomas to examine his hands and for Thomas to put his hand into Jesus’ side.
We all have doubts, I think that is healthy. Doubt, in good balance, keep us looking for answers. In our life and journey with God, we have to find that balance of faith and doubt.
When Mother Julie talked to me about preaching this week, she told me that there is a tradition of telling jokes during the homily or the Second Sunday of Easter.
I have heard this Sunday referred to many times as “Low Sunday”. Attendance is often down on the Sunday after Easter. I wonder if that is why she asked me to preach this week. Hmmm….do you think I should have some doubts about our relationship and her opinion of me???
In any case, being inquisitive, which is a big difference from doubt; I went to my faithful research assistant and looked it up by typing the words, “Telling jokes on the Sunday after Easter.” It is always good to know what you are talking about, right? And, sure enough, there’s this custom that was rooted in the musings of early church theologians (like Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Chrysostom) that God played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead. “Risus paschalis – the Easter laugh,” the early theologians called it. In more contemporary times, we call it Holy Humor Sunday. The contemporary custom is to tell funny stories and some congregations even employ the use of good practical jokes.
In my research I found an incident where, for Holy Humor Sunday, they used this variation of the creed:
Priest: We believe in God, who made us in His image.
People: We live, we love, we laugh, because we are like Him.
Priest: We believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior.
People: He had the last laugh on the devil when He rose from the dead.
Priest: We believe in the Holy Spirit, coequal and coeternal with the Father and the Son.
People: Our counselor, our guide, our motivator – He is our joy!
Priest: Forgive us, Lord, when we take ourselves too seriously, when we don’t claim the happiness that is rightfully ours as your children, when we forget that you will have the last laugh in this world.
People: Restore to us the joy of our salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Well, I have never been opposed to a good time and since it is our tradition to preach from the gospel and “Doubting Thomas” is the central character in today’s gospel, I have, along with my faithful research assistant, found many stories to share with you on the topic of doubt.
A defendant was on trial for murder. There was strong evidence indicating guilt, but there was no corpse. In the defense’s closing statement the lawyer, knowing that his client would probably be convicted, resorted to a trick: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have a surprise for you all,” the lawyer said as he looked at his watch. “Within one minute, the person presumed dead in this case will walk into this courtroom.”
He looked toward the courtroom door. The jurors, somewhat stunned, all looked on eagerly. A minute passed. Nothing happened. Finally the lawyer said, “Actually, I made up the previous statement. But you all looked on with anticipation. I therefore put it to you that there is reasonable doubt in this case as to whether anyone was killed and insist that you return a verdict of not guilty.”
The jury, clearly confused, retired to deliberate. A few minutes later, the jury returned and pronounced a verdict of guilty. “But how?” inquired the lawyer. “You must have had some doubt, I saw all of you stare at the door.”
The jury foreman replied: “Oh, we looked, but your client didn’t.”
Pilot Flying Rules
We all have nagging little doubts when we fly or even when someone else is driving sometimes. I found a list of rules that it is good for pilots to follow that I hope will make you all doubt a little less the next time you fly.
1. If you push the stick forward, the houses get bigger. If you pull the stick back, they get smaller. That is, unless you keep pulling the stick all the way back, then they get bigger again.
2. The ONLY time you have too much fuel is when you’re on fire.
3. The propeller is just a big fan in front of the plane used to keep the pilot cool. When it stops, you can actually watch the pilot start sweating.
4. A ‘good’ landing is one from which you can walk away. A ‘great’ landing is when they can use the plane again.
5. Learn from the mistakes of others. You won’t live long enough to make all of them yourself.
6. Good judgment comes from experience. Unfortunately, experience usually comes from bad judgment.
7. It’s always a good idea to keep the pointy end going forward as much as possible.
Never Doubt the Fire Department
A fire started in the grasslands close to a farm. The county fire department rushed to the scene, but the fire was more than they could handle. Someone suggested calling the volunteer fire department. Despite some doubt that they would be of any assistance, they were called.
The volunteers arrived in a dilapidated old fire truck. They rumbled straight towards the fire, drove right into the middle of the flames and stopped! The firefighters jumped from the truck and frantically started spraying water in all directions. Soon they had snuffed out the center of the fire and leaving two parts which were easily put out.
As the farmer watched all this, he was impressed and grateful that his house and farm had been spared. He quickly got his checkbook and donated $1000 to the volunteer fire department. A local news reporter asked the volunteer fire captain how they planned to use the funds.
The captain replied, “The first thing we’re going to do is get the brakes on our fire truck fixed!”
Never Doubt Drew
Drew was bragging to his boss one day, “You know, I know everyone there is to know. Just name someone, anyone, and I know them.”
Tired of his boasting, his boss called his bluff, “OK, Drew how about Tom Cruise?”
“Sure, yes, Tom and I are old friends, and I can prove it.”
So Drew and his boss fly out to Hollywood and knock on Tom Cruise’s door and sure enough, Tom Cruise shouts, “Drew! Great to see you! You and your friend come right in and join me for lunch!”
Although impressed, Drew’s boss is still skeptical. After they leave Cruise’s house, he tells Drew that he thinks Drew’s knowing Cruise was just lucky.
“No, no, just name anyone else,” Drew says.
“President Obama,” his boss quickly retorts. “Yes,” Drew says, “I know him, let’s fly out to Washington.” And off they go.
At the White House, President Obama spots Drew on the tour and motions him and his boss over, saying, “Drew, what a surprise, I was just on my way to a meeting, but you and your friend come on in and let’s have a cup of coffee first and catch up.”
Well, the boss is very shaken by now but still not totally convinced. After they leave the White House grounds he expresses his doubts to Drew, who again implores him to name anyone else. “The Pope,” his boss replies.
“Sure!” says Drew. “My grandparents are from Argentina, and me and my family have known the Pope a long time.” So off they fly to Rome.
Drew and his boss are assembled with the masses in Vatican Square when Drew says, “This will never work. I can’t catch the Pope’s eye among all these people. Tell you what, I know all the guards so let me just go upstairs and I’ll come out on the balcony with the Pope.” And he disappears into the crowd headed toward the Vatican. Sure enough, half an hour later Drew emerges with the Pope on the balcony but by the time Drew returns, he finds that his boss has had a heart attack and is surrounded by paramedics.
Working his way to his boss’ side, Drew asks him, “What happened?”
His boss looks up and says, “I was doing fine until you and the Pope came out on the balcony and the man next to me said, “Who the heck is that on the balcony with Drew?”
That was fun, wasn’t it? It is certainly okay to have fun in church. I mean God is all about joy, right?
But, I cannot simply stand here and tell stories and feel good about what this time of reflection is really meant to be. A time for us to get serious about our lives with Christ. And since the reason Jesus died for us was centered on our sin, I want to share with you on that topic. Let me just get the text I prepared for this topic of sin, a word that appears in the Bible over 400 times, so there is a lot to say about it. Hang on just a second please…
Oh, here it is….
SIN, DON’T DO IT!