This week's text: Psalm 100
The most joyful noise I hear in my life right now is the sound of my grandson, Mateo's laugh. He's three months old and he has begun to laugh. My eldest son, Daniel, and his wife, Faith, adopted a little boy in August. We must wait until February to spread pictures electronically. But there was no wait in systematically falling more in love with him each day. One more sentence about our newest love? He's got these amazing chipmunk cheeks that are simply scrumptious!
But the thing that has us in his grip right now is the giggle. It's buoyant and surprising. It's honest in the sense that it's so natural, physiological, as if reminding us that laughing is supposed to happen. When we laugh we our mind has been somehow jostled into clarity. When we smile, our muscles loosen and our mood lifts. When we laugh, we feel the physiological results of it.
I love to laugh and I surround myself with funny people. For starters I'm married to one of the funniest people around - although don't tell him I said that because his jokes are so dry they make me thirsty. I can only take so much.
I belong to a small group of women pastors who meet each week. They are hilarious and they think I am too, which is so generous. Here's my favorite story of late - We were talking about the kind of prayer requests we field on any given Sunday morning during the prayers of the people and one of them was asked "to pray for the people of Mallomar." I'm giggling as I write that - my eyes squint, my cheeks fill with something unknown and I am making repetitive throat sounds. (Indeed, we pray for the people of Mallomar and their fluffy friends, their rivers of chocolate...)
And I can't imagine a Sunday worship service without laughter. The laughter usually begins with the worship team messing around with something before the service - a couple weeks ago, they greeted me by playing a song on the keyboard using a patch that sounded like someone yelping. Imaging yelping out the tune of a hymn. And my congregation generally speaking is completely fine laughing at me, whether I join them or not. I think that's healthy. Because I laugh at them, whether they join me or not too.
"Make a joyful noise to the Lord," says the psalmist. "Serve the Lord with gladness," says the psalmist. Is laughter - in church, in conversation or even in private - a joyful noise unto the Lord?
Without a disclaimer about how we ought not anthropomorphize God, I'd like to imagine God's response to our laughter quite similar to our response to little Mateo's. It sounds the same every time and yet we are just as thrilled with each note of his giggle song. We do the same things to get a laugh out of him and still we find delight in each responsive giggle.
Here's the thing - to get a giggle out of us sometimes takes a lot of work. We are fortified against laughter sometimes, the fort built up by disappointment, disease, and daily news. Sometimes we think we must first get through the serious stuff before we can laugh - a pit that I fall into regularly with my husband always ready with the joke first and the answer second or third or fourth (for the love of God - I'm trying to ask a serious question here, can do you do me the favor of answering it first??!!)
If you think about it, we as a culture are looking to satire to give us the news these days with the Daily Show, the Colbert Report and John Oliver's newish show "Last Week Tonight." We're starved for laughter amidst the disappointment, disease and daily news. Dr. Virginia Wiles, one of my beloved professors from New Brunswick Theological Seminary studied stand up comedy during her last sabbatical. Learn more in this article.
I wonder if the psalmist would find his or her rank alongside these satirists? I wonder if the psalmist was surrounded by laughter? I wonder if the psalmist wished to be surrounded by laughter? I wonder if you wish to be surrounded by laughter? And I wonder what might happen if God attempted to get a giggle out of you sometime this week?
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