SERMON FOR MAY 23, 1999
Pentecost Sunday and Holy Humor Sunday
CHRISTIAN TESTAMENT: “Fools for Christ” ~ Corinthians 1:18-27
Today is Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian Church. The story goes something like this…
The disciples were moping around and trying to figure out what they were going to do now that Jesus was gone. All of a sudden the Holy Spirit came upon them. Scriptures say that there were tongues of fire above their heads. There was a wind blowing. With that wind and that fire the spirit came upon the disciples. All of a sudden they were speaking in different languages so that all who were gathered together heard the message of God’s love in their own language. Some of the other people who were on the outside looked at them and said “ Those folks are all drunk”. The disciples defended themselves, “You know, it’s ten o’clock in the morning. We’re not drunk. This is something different. This is the Holy Spirit.”
Well, all along people thought that Christians were a little bit strange. They believed odd things. They lived their lives in a different way. They didn’t worry about tomorrow. They didn’t worry about where money was going to come from. They shared all their things in common. Those who were not believers said, “You’re nuts.” “You’re crazy.” When Paul arrives he says, “Don’t worry about it. Be fools for Christ because the foolishness of God is much greater than the wisdom of humans.”
Now, after two thousand years have gone by, we need to hear the words in different ways, because we have been willing to stand up and declare our faith in Jesus. We have been willing to take risks and pay the price of being a Christian. But in doing so we have lost the joy of what it means to be Christian. Can you imagine, if you were an early Christian, what it meant to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead? That wasn’t a serious time. That wasn’t a somber time. That was a joy filled time. A time to dance. A time to laugh. A time to sing out at the top of your lungs. It was a time for joy. In fact, through many years of the church the Sunday after Easter was known as Bright Sunday. It wasn’t a time to withdraw, ”We’re done with Lent and we’re done with Easter, and now we can take a vacation.” Instead it was a time to celebrate the joy of the resurrection.
But we have those Puritan ancestors, those folks who say you are supposed to be religious with your head and not with your heart, not with your smile, not with your body. We come here and we want to sit, and listen, and think, but we don’t want to move and we don’t want laugh, and we don’t want to sing out loud with our voices. Somewhere along the line people began to whisper, “You know, being a Christian shouldn’t be such serious business.”
Thirteen years ago, on April Fools’ Day , 1986, a group came together and declared themselves to be the Fellowship of Merry Christians. Jerry Rutherford ran across one of their newsletters and subscribed to it. Every month she receives the Joyful Noiseletter, filled with cartoons and clean jokes, to help people find the joy in life. And so Paul’s words, instead of encouraging us to pay the price now say to us “Don’t be so darn serious all the time. Enjoy yourself a little bit. Take a delight in life. Smile and laugh. It shouldn’t be so hard.” And so this day came about.
Now I didn’t prepare a stand-up routine today, but we’re going to start out with some holy light bulb jokes, and then after that I’ll depend on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to find a few other pieces to read to you. Are you all set now? OK!
How many Calvinists does it take to change a light bulb? None. God has predestined when the light will be on. Calvinists do not change light bulbs. They simply read the instructions and pray the light bulb will be the one that has been chosen to be changed.
How many Orthodox does it take to change a light bulb? Change????
How many Catholics does it take to change a light bulb? None. They always use candles.
How many members of an established Bible teaching church that is over 20 years old does it take to change a light bulb? One to actually change the bulb and nine to say how much they liked the old one.
How many liberal neo-orthodox does it take to change a bulb? No one knows. They can’t tell the difference between light and darkness.
How many TV evangelists does it take to change a light bulb? One. But for the message of light to continue, send in your donation today.
How many Charismatic’s does it take to change a light bulb? One to change the bulb and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.
How many mainline Protestant Churches does it take to change a light bulb? This statement was issued. “We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey you have found that a light bulb works for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relations with your light bulb (or light source, or non-dark resource), and present it next month at our annual light bulb Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three way, long life, and tinted - all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.
How many Tai Chi players does it take to change a light bulb? 100. One to change it and 99 to say: “That’s not the way my teacher does it.
How many youth workers does it take to change a light bulb? Youth workers don’t last long enough for a light bulb to burn out.
There are two holy humor books that Betty Carter donated to the church library. I have now stolen them for my library, so you can talk to me if you want to read them. No, I borrowed them for this Sunday. I’ll put them back in the library.
(Following readings from, “Holy Humor, Inspirational Wit Cartoons”, by Cal and Rose Samra.)
OK, this is the Holy Spirit. I’m going to go like this and open the book somewhere - no markers, open the book somewhere, and it will say,
You can cut open a pumpkin and put a candle in it to shed some light and people will smile. But heaven forbid if they will smile at a stranger. Isn’t it time for more people to open up, to be more friendly to strangers and be a light to the world? Wouldn’t it be nice to see pumpkin-sized smiles on human beings?
They are not all jokes, some are inspiration.
Not even approaching death could erase Winston Churchill’s sense of humor. Churchill planned his own funeral and filled it up with the promise of Easter. After the benediction he directed that a bugle high up on the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral play taps. Churchill then directed that immediately after the playing of taps, a second bugler, also in the dome, would play reveille - a call to get up in the morning.
My wife and I went to the beach and I said, “You know, I am 56 and middle aged.” She said, “How many men do you know over a 112?” She said just as soon as my pimples cleared up my hair fell out. I wish I had hair. If I had the gift of healing would I look like this?
An Episcopal Diocesan Bishop went to an unfamiliar church to celebrate the Eucharist. There was a microphone on the alter and as he was uncertain whether it was switched on or no, so he tapped it gently with no result. Then leaning very close to it, he said, in a loud whisper which echoed through the whole church, “There is something wrong with this microphone.” The well trained and responsive congregation, very familiar with the very latest in liturgical language, replied at once, “And also with you.”
The Rector Emeritus of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Columbus, Ohio, writes that a little girl in his confirmation class went home and reported to her mother that the pastor had urged the children to be kind to strangers because you never know, you might be entertaining angels in their underwear.
You will have to get the book at the library if you want to hear any more. But, I need the ushers, and I need the musician. Will the ushers come forward, please? You won’t have to sing anything. Do not unwrap these until you receive permission. You can dispense them to the congregation. (Ushers distribute “holy humor” cartoons which are rolled up and tied with a red ribbon)
I would like some help from Helen Dahl and Karen Turner, please. Take one, but don’t open it yet. (Music plays and Walter John and the gals are dancing.)
You all have your secret roll, but don’t open them yet. In order to get you wound up for all this, I’ve asked some experts from our congregation to come forward. Okay, this is the way it’s going to go here. (Directions to Helen and Karen) I’m going to say something, and you are going to repeat it after me. Okay? Ready?
Ho, ho! (Ho, ho!) Ha, Ha! (Ha,ha!) Hee, hee! (Hee, hee!)Ho, ho! (Ho, ho!)
Hee, hee! (Hee hee) Ho, ho! (Ho, ho!) (Everyone breaks into laughter)
I want you all to open up your cartoons on the count of five. If you happen to like your cartoon, go and find someone else and show it to them. Pass them around, trade. You don’t have to just turn in the pew, you can move around if you want to. Can we have some more traveling music? Okay - five, four, three and a half, three, two , one. (Much laughter as they read their jokes and pass them around.)
Find a seat somewhere. We decided we had made a mistake in letting the children escape to their classes, so we are bringing them back in. We didn’t think through everything.
While we have a moment of quiet, we are going to empty your wallets. Will the ushers please come forward? (More music, and cow-bells ringing as the ushers pass the collection plates around and the congregation sings “The Doxology”) You know what? That’s much better than usual, but we can still get a bit more life into it if we were to throw in a few alleluias here or there. Watch your words and the bouncing ball! (Congregation sings again. with alleluias included, different tune.) Let’s sing it a little sweeter. (Sung Once again, different tune). Now maybe a little beauty (different tune). Or pure drama (different tune).
Let’s do the prayer together: “Lord, as I stumble through this life, help me to create more laughter than tears, dispense more happiness than gloom, spread more cheer than despair. Never let me become so indifferent that I will fail to see the wonder in the eyes of a child or the twinkle in the eyes of the aged. Never let me forget that my total effort is to cheer people, make them happy, and forget, at least for the moment, all the unpleasant things in their lives. And, Lord in my final moment, may I hear you whisper: “When you made My people smile, you made Me smile.” Amen.
(“The Clown’s Prayer” of Smiles Unlimited, a clown ministry in hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons, based in Indianapolis.)