Guess what! I found two more names for the second Sunday of Easter! Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Rite Catholic Churches celebrate the week between Easter and the next Sunday as Bright Week and the week is marked by ‘days of joy and laughter’ and this has evolved, in some churches around the world, by celebrating the second Sunday, Bright Sunday, as Holy Humour Sunday.
Holy Humour Sunday is a way of celebrating the resurrection (I am reminded of this wonderful cartoon Felicity Volk sent to me last Easter Sunday morning while we were all in lockdown) and the resurrection of our lives, our new identity in Christ and the small moments of resurrection that we experience.
And humour, the embracing of our humanness, and the letting go of our tensions, can also have a restoring impact on us. As they say, laughter is the best medicine.
This is true of families and communities – as well as individuals.
I think, looking back years from now, at this period of my father’s illness I am going to remember the funny moments, the times that we have joked – often at very macabre things – to relieve some of the intense emotion – and how this has drawn us together. I won’t forget one family conversation in which, in response to different family member’s complaints about work or recalcitrant children or daily frustrations, my father kept chiming in with, “I’ve got cancer you know!” It was good to laugh.
And humour and laughter is healing for communities as well. I read a story this week about a church in Alaska where the minister was struggling to unite a very factious divided community, and for several year he’d tried everything, without success, to reconcile the different cliques. He finally decided to hold a Holy Humour Sunday celebration on the Sunday after Easter. The service was filled with joyful songs and hymns and inspiring Scripture readings celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. Members were encouraged to tell their favourite jokes. And practical jokes were played on the pastor and others. Everybody had a lot of fun. “The response was overwhelmingly positive,” the pastor wrote in an article. “The congregation needed to know that they could come to worship and just ‘let go’ for an hour-and that it was possible to come to church and feel good. People have been talking about the service all week. And some, who said they had intended to leave the church and go to another church, said they had decided to stay.”
On Sunday we also had the opportunity to listen to Thorwald speak about ‘being a Baptist Christian today’ and the distinctives of our Baptist Christian identity;the baptism of believers, that scripture is the authority that points us to Jesus, the priesthood – the lived faith and shared ministry – of all believers, freedom of conscience, and the church as a gathered community of friends of Jesus.
Which brings me back to humour because I cannot imagine a gathered community of friends of Jesus that does not laugh together! Yes, we are serious about our relationship with Jesus, but yes, we also celebrate that relationship, and the relationship that it draws us into with each other. We are a gathered community of friends that should enjoy each other! As we sang on Sunday, “I will weep when you are weeping, when you laugh, I’ll laugh with you.”
So, as we move towards the third Sunday of Easter, and hear again the commission of Jesus in Luke 24: 48, “You are witnesses of these things…” I’ll leave you with this take on witnessing which made me laugh this week.
Grace and peace – and laughter!
PS There won’t be a Sunday to Sunday next week. I am on leave for the week, but I’ll be back from Tuesday 27th April.