This is the second article of a two-part series. Read the first article here.
Some think God is so holy, so stern and serious, that laughter has no place in church and that religion is no laughing matter. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, such a dark depiction of God is a lie which hides God’s tender heart. Yes, the world is a sad place, a serious place at times, but those ugly moments are mitigated with laughter. The ability to see the funny in a life burdened with care and suffering brings much relief and even healing. Remove laughter and you might as well take music with you--both come from the heart of God.
Remember the Wedding at Cana? The wine ran dry; the band packed up their instruments; the show was over; they were calling it a night. Jesus said, “No way, fill the water jugs! Let’s get this party started.” And He created the most exquisite wine. Suddenly the wedding wasn’t over, the band re-grouped, the music flowed, and the crowd celebrated the couple, dancing for days.
God loves a celebration. Scripture is replete with festivals and banquets (other words for "party"). God is the creator of all laughter. Joy is His invention, Her brainchild, and I imagine joining the human family at a festive occasion is one of God’s favorite things.
Two scriptural truths clearly indicate God’s participation in laughter: Creation, where I was created in God’s image, and the Incarnation, where God took on human flesh and bones. God fashioned me as a relational being to reflect the divine relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God made me like Her, free to engage and relate with others, exercising my mind, body and spirit. This includes emotions like crying, singing, shouting for joy, sharing from the heart, and laughing from a spirit free as the wind.
We see glimpses of God’s Kingdom (Incarnation) every day. Every act of kindness, generosity, and compassion, even common expressions of courtesy, are evidence of the present Kingdom. Displays of goodness are God-inspired and further exhibit a vibrant Incarnation at work. Humor and glee demonstrate a good God interested in our happiness and health. God is not offended at our merriment; God invented the smile and the laughter that emanates deep within us and lifts our spirits. Nothing about us escapes God’s notice or participation. Joy, mirth, and their concomitant human traits are a peek into divine nature.
The corpulent head elder knew something was awry with the sound during the sermon. Faithful to his office, he furtively waddled up front, acting invisible. As the preacher prattled on eloquently, the elder quietly lay down in front of the pulpit, like a beached whale, his posterior obstructing the floral display, and began fiddling with the microphone connections.
We glanced at each other wondering, What next? He then got to his knees and began to slowly swing his rotund rump back and forth as he pursued a cure to the faulty sound system. Back and forth, left and right, again and again, like he was swaying to the cadence of the sermon, all in front of a church full and bemused, trying to make sense of the moment.
My friends and I began to snicker. It was one of those moments when knowing you are not supposed to laugh only makes suppressing laughter impossible. We tried to subdue our mirth, not wanting to offend, but it was no use; the pew shook, not unlike the head elder’s comical oscillating behind. He turned to see what the commotion was, scowled, and returned to his sacred work. Whatever the pastor was saying mattered little; we were lost in hopeless hilarity.
Finally, proud of his successful efforts at repairing the sound system, he retreated back to his seat, tip-toeing like a ballet hippo in Disney’s Fantasia. My mind can still see that spectacle, and I still giggle.
Was God dishonored because this elder, with a good heart and failed social grace, tried to save the service from a scratchy microphone? I hardly think so, but I suspect God cried laughing like the rest of us. The Incarnation is like that—God present in all our human moments, be they sorrow or delight.
We would do well to appreciate laughter more, even chuckling at ourselves often, and enjoying God’s smile. Laughter and humor are God’s presents to us, to help us get through life that can frequently fall out of context with tragedy and pain. Humor is the lubricant that greases us through life’s challenges; it is the light that illuminates our darkness. And from a Savior who gave us His all, it is one of His sweetest gifts.
Greg Prout is father of three, grandfather of two, and has been happily married for 30 years to Mary Ventresca. He was a pastor for 4 years, Bible teacher for 8, and realtor for 32. Greg describes his spiritual experience: "I trail after God incessantly for He/She is the most wonderful, fascinating, mysterious Being who has never failed me, loves me well, has unlimited patience and understanding, abundant grace, and loves the surprise."
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5543