Minister’s Letter June 2020
Hope you are all ok in this time of lockdown. As I write the Government is proposing schools go back at beginning of June, and some restrictions are lifted as we ease ourselves gently into the "new normal", whatever that might mean! Whatever happens we know things will not be the same as they were before!
The new normal will affect both our church and secular lives, in ways that we will all have to get used to. In these difficult times there is enough death, despair, hardship and difficulties to fill newspapers and the media for a while, so to try and lighten the mood a little, I want to look at the opposite, and that is something that I am calling "healthy hilarity".
That is not to say that I am not taking this crisis seriously, of course I am, but we all need positive reinforcements now and again and so from a biblical perspective, I began to look at the bible and see what brings joy and what makes us laugh or smile.
For the Christian, the Bible is the book of Good News, but is there anything in the Bible that makes us laugh? In the course of my ministry I have been more than once asked ‘are there any jokes in the Bible?’ and in answer to that question, I do not think there are, or if there are, I may have missed them! But I would be interested to know what makes people laugh in the Bible.
Throughout my life I have been told that I have a good sense of humour, which is important, and we all know people who have no sense of humour, which can often lead to a strain on relationships, and some people have the knack of killing the joy out of everything, which is also not good!
Members of my congregations know that when I preach there is usually a joke or funny story in there somewhere. Hopefully this does not detract from the message that I am trying to give but adds a bit of realism and colour to the proceedings.
And so to funnies in the Bible. I think there are maybe some funny stories in the bible, not necessarily laugh out loud jokes, but things we can smile at, and I really do believe that our Lord had a sense of humour and fun.
And so, to the Bible. I find it exhilarating to read words from the book of Genesis that says "God has brought me laughter" and these words are from Sarah, Abraham’s wife, and I believe that this laughter would have been infectious, for she goes on to say "everyone who hears about this, will laugh with me!"
The reason for such laughter is that God had promised Sarah, "well advanced in year" and "past the age of child-bearing", a son, by her husband who was also well advanced in years!
And so, Sarah laughed when the promise was made. She laughed when Isaac was born, (the name Isaac means laughter).
Sadly at this present time there is not a great deal to smile about, so against such a background the God given laughter of Sarah is indeed exhilarating, for I believe it reminds us of the wonder of the joy, the divine surprise, and new beginnings that brought her such glee. And in these coronavirus filled days we can forget that people are laughing, babies are being born, and the birds are still singing, and the sun is still shining!
There is a hymn that most church people are familiar with and it’s the hymn by Richard Gillard and he writes "brother, sister, let me serve you, I will weep when you are weeping, when you laugh, I will laugh with you, I will share your joy and sorrow, till we have seen this journey through".
Of course in these difficult times there is a time to weep together, and alone, but thanks to Sarah and her joyous glee, there is, as the book of Ecclesiastes says "a time to weep and a time to laugh" and that’s what Sarah did. Of course, as people of faith we take our faith seriously but nowhere in the words of scripture does it say Christians cannot laugh, and if people of faith say its sinful to laugh in Church, and sometimes to laugh at our faith, without causing offence to others, then we are reading different Bibles!
And so in conclusion, a Jewish father was troubled by the way his son turned out, and went to see his Rabbi about it:
"I brought him up in the faith, gave him a very expensive bar mitzvah, that cost the earth, and last week he told me that he had decided to become a Christian! Rabbi, where did I go wrong?
"Funny you should come to me, said the Rabbi. Like you I did the same, brought my son up in the faith, put him through university, cost me a fortune, and then one day, just like your son, he tells me, that he has decided to be a Christian".
"What did you do"? asked the father.
" I turned to God for the answer."
"And what did he say"? pressed the father.
God said "funny you should come to me!!"
Lord God we thank you for the gift of humour and laughter and the joy that it brings to us all.
Be with all in these difficult days when we have nothing to laugh at but when these days of weeping, and hardship are over, may people once again hear the sound of joy and laughter.
We ask this in Jesus Christ’s name.
Yours in Christ,