Bishop Kevin Robertson preached at our 10:30 am service on Easter Day. The following is the sermon preached by Lucy Reid at the 8:30 service.
There’s something so appropriate about Easter Day falling on April 1st this year. In some traditions people tell jokes in church at Easter, because they’re reflecting the idea that the resurrection was God’s cosmic joke, fooling the Devil into thinking he’d won when Jesus died, but then raising him to new life.
So let’s have a few jokes:
Little old lady.
Little old lady who?
I didn’t know you could yodel
But why can’t you tell knock-knock jokes to Newfoundlanders? This is what happens:
Now why are you knocking at the door? It’s never locked. Come on in!
Holy laughter is a gift. Sacred surprises are part of the Easter story.
In some of the accounts of Jesus appearing to his disciples after the resurrection he says, “Greetings!” But a colleague of mine says it would be better translated as, “Surprise!”
I can imagine incredulous joyful laughter among Jesus’ friends when they gradually stumbled upon the truth that he was alive and with them. There’s shock at first, and disbelief, fear, bafflement. But as the truth sank in, wouldn’t there be laughter – maybe mixed with tears of relief – as they welcomed him and touched him and ate with him?
Jesus himself is sometimes portrayed as a holy fool. Remember the 1970s musical Godspell? Jesus was dressed as a clown in it. He’s this wise, loving man who does what seems ridiculous: leaves his home and family, wanders from village to village, speaks in parables, annoys the authorities, and ultimately goes silently to his death.
St Paul said that the cross is foolishness to this world: it doesn’t make sense; it’s about vulnerability not power, and weakness not strength. Yet God used it to break through the vicious cycle of sin and death.
Christians live inside that wise foolishness.
We believe and trust that our God of surprises is at work in the darkest of situations. We believe and trust that the way of vulnerability and forgiveness is more powerful than the way of violence and hatred.
We believe and trust that as we die to our own ego and live more and more in Christ, in the divine image that we’re created in, in self-giving and compassion, we actually become more alive.
The resurrection story isn’t a tall tale of a doubtful event that apparently took place two thousand years ago. It’s an eternal truth, as true today as it was then: that love wins, and the joke is on the powers of hell.
Life is difficult, and evil is no laughing matter. But perhaps we need to take ourselves less seriously and discover what God is up to.
I’m reading a remarkable book based on conversations between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of S. Africa. It’s called The Book of Joy. These are two global spiritual leaders, whose people have suffered immensely: the Tibetan people denied their freedom by the Chinese, and S. Africa torn apart by colonialism and apartheid. Yet Tutu and the Dalai Lama are always laughing, especially when they get together. They tease each other, poke each other in the ribs, make jokes at their own expense, and love to laugh.
I think Jesus would fit right in.
There’s laughter in heaven, I’m sure of it. More laughter than piety. Piety can be so self-conscious, whereas laughter frees something in us and releases us.
So there needs to be laughter here and now – holy laughter, as we stumble into the amazing grace of God, and the astonishing truth of the power of love.
After all, we Christians have the greatest punchline of all:
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!