Sunday, June 14, 2020

Laughter is Sacred

Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….

Opening Reflection

The Faith in our God and in Christ is a joyous thing.  Our God does not condemn but is the very thing we name love and forgiveness. Today we laugh with Sarah, as life grows within the womb of an old woman. Today we stand in amazement with the crowds, as illiterate fishermen perform the miracles of God. Today we throw away what we believe we know! Today we stand expecting miracles! For with God anything is possible!

 poem by Leslie Dwight

What if 2020 isn't canceled?
What if 2020 is the year we have been waiting for?
A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw -
that it finally forces us to grow.
A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us
from our ignorant slumber.
A year we finally accept the need for change.
Declare change. Work for change. Become the change.
A year we finally band together, instead of
pushing each other further apart.

2020 isn't canceled, but rather
it's the most important year of them all. 

Again let me say anything is Possible with God!

let us begin today’s worship

Call to Worship

Call to Worship

L: Call to the lord who hears our prayers.
P: Sing to the lord, who delights in our songs.
L: Wait for the Lord, the source of our hope.
P: Worship the lord who is worthy to be praised

The God of Abraham be praised #24

(All candles lit.)

Matthew 9:35-10:8 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Harvest Is Great, the Laborers Few
35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

The Twelve Apostles
10 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

The Mission of the Twelve
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.

The word of God for the people of God!


A Son Promised to Abraham and Sarah
18 The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

I find humor in the readings of today. Technically the first reading should have been the old testament but instead I have included it here as part of my sermon. But why is this tale important? What makes the tale funny?  Well

Maybe it is not funny but more of a jab in the rib saying gotcha!  God works that way sometimes.

In the old testament there is nothing too unusual. A nomad seeing stranger come by would commonly offer them respite and food.  The fact that these visitors showed up in the daytime made it safe to assume they were in a hurry and so to offer hospitality, it must be done in haste.

But the story turns when these strangers ask where is your wife and they ask for her by name…
How did they know her name? Why would stranger ask about Sarah and not even mention Abrahams name? Not to mention the strangers are traveling in midday heat which is strange enough…

As this is going on and the conversation heads towards its punchline we catch Sarah eavesdropping.. she is listening in and when one of the strangers proclaims she will be with child upon their return she laughs.

There it is! This ridiculous notion, that Sarah could bear a child when she and her husband are not having relations and she is old to boot…she laughs.  But when caught she denies that she laughed and well “But Yahweh insists she did, and the repeated verb “laugh” simply emphasizes the connection between this incident and the name of Isaac. Isaac! Isaac! Like the ringing of a bell: Laughter! Laughter!”[1]

I remember back when someone did a drawing of a laughing Christ …some thought it blasphemous!

“Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.  Laughter triggers the release of endorphins.  These are the body's natural feel-good chemicals, which promote an overall sense of well-being and temporary pain relief.  You worried about catching the flu or has pain gotcha down?

There's a time for everything.  In Genesis Abraham and Sarah had a good chuckle when God told them they would be having a baby at 100.  In Ecclesiastes we learn there's a time to weep and a time to laugh.”[2] 
“Abraham’s legendary hospitality takes on a startling reading among the rabbis who composed the Midrashim. Lingering over the Hebrew word by word, they read it as “The Lord appeared to Abraham. Seeing three men, Abraham hurried to them, interrupting God’s speech, asking God to wait until he had waited on his visitors.” Hospitality trumps even the Divine Presence in Judaism — or maybe Abraham models how to see and hear God in the persons of strangers.”[3]

Again there is humor at play…can you see Abraham saying Ooh Ooh visitors God hold on one moment let me tend to the strangers first …hold that thought!

One pastor reflects on this passage as another kind of laughter, maybe cynical and or maybe simple joy;

“Maybe spirituality is seeing strangers, noticing them, and discerning something angelic or even divine in them. These strangers have a kind of omniscience; they know Sarah’s impending pregnancy, and they can even read her silent thoughts just inside the tent. Robert Alter’s rendering is vivid: “Sarah no longer had her woman’s flow. And Sarah laughed inwardly, saying ‘After being shriveled, shall I have pleasure?’” The laugh, Yitzhak, is cynical, and ironic since we know the baby is coming, and that his very name Isaac, Yitzhak, means laughter. The sermon just has to play on this: How we might snicker at the possibility of new life, and then how when it comes we laugh — for the joy, or even at ourselves for our prior snickering.”[4]

Then todays gospel caught me pondering, wondering…Jesus tells his 12 ““Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’[c] 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers,[d] cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.”

Wow that’s serious…what could I possibly find funny here?

Well I wondered out loud why did Jesus only send them to the places they knew?  Was this a test drive?  Maybe because the 12 always seem to blunder things Jesus just didn’t want to give them too much yet.  You know the old gotta crawl before you walk. 

Maybe it was just in these crazy days of the coviid, in these painful days of the Black Lives Matter movement gaining momentum only because people died!…I needed humor. I needed to laugh if even for that moment.

Reverend James C. Howell looks at the scripture today and wonders if doesn’t speak to us in this world today… he says;
“Jesus, unhappily for me, directs them not to go to Gentiles but only to the Jews. I wish he’d urged the opposite, given anti-Semitism and our often-strained relationships with Judaism. Hagner reminds us that this limitation is “temporary,” as Matthew’s Gospel later on sends Jesus’ people to the whole world. Maybe, if you're white, we translate this into our world as We begin with white people. So much to work on in here before we can connect and change out there.”[5]

I have to laugh especially amidst the pain.  I am but one simple human doing my best tripping and plodding through life as many of us are. I believe that God can work through me, I pray God uses me and if God is, then I have to laugh because it sure isn’t elegant!

Perhaps I even may appear foolish…Perhaps those disciples first attempt at ministry looked clumsy and foolish…then I am in Good company…Hopefully I am in God company.

Paul was the first to address being a fool for God and then iconicly Francis of Assisi perfected it…

“Francis’s commitment to this way of being in the world, what he would call the vita evangelica (“Gospel life”) appeared foolish to his peers in Assisi. He was at first mocked for his new lifestyle and commitments. Francis was a certain type of fool, a fool whose life and actions revealed Gospel wisdom. I have often heard some of my Franciscan brothers say, “If Francis had applied to religious life today, he’d never make it beyond the psychological exam!” How true that is! (You should see that exam.) Even retrospectively, Francis is dismissed as a madman.

The risk of appearing foolish never stopped him from embracing the Gospel as best he could, protesting the injustices of certain social systems, and letting nothing get in the way of his relationship with others. The virtue between the two foolish vices of avoidance and exploitation is the embrace of evangelical foolishness to become one of God’s fools. But as Paul makes clear to the Corinthians, being a Christian means those very things: appearing mad, foolish, and out-of-step with the rest of society at times. This is because a Christian’s priorities aren’t measured by popular culture, but according to the reign of God (Basileia tou Theou) that Jesus preached and modeled. It is the counterintuitive and gratuitous foolishness of God’s love revealed in the healing of the broken and brokenhearted, forgiving the unforgiveable, and loving the unlovable.”[6]

We are called to do the crazy, dangerous things as Christians…we are called to stand against empire, often to stand against our own family members in light of the gospel truth.  We will look foolish, many of us will be clumsy…and perhaps, that will make some point and laugh with cynicism but know that how we live, and proclaim the gospel of an all loving God makes many people laugh with Joy.

So yes I laughed when I first imagined clumsy fishermen trying to heal and preach, and I laugh at myself as well!

I pray Joy in these strange days.  I pray we continue to find moments to laugh at ourselves and with each other as we continue to be the church of fools, doing foolish things, standing against Empire, radically welcoming the stranger and the marginalized, standing in unity with the world as its people continue to seek a better way, God’s way to be one people equal and just. Amen.

A call to prayer
The early disciples devoted themselves to prayer,
The teachings of the apostles, and sharing the bread of life.
They were a people of prayer,
Who shared their joys and concerns?
Their passions and sorrows,
With one another and with the Lord.
For burdens shared and burdens lessened,
And joys shared and joys enriched,
Come, let us follow their example and lift our prayers to God

Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn

Here I Am, Lord #47

Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us

Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

Invitation to the Offering

In thanksgiving for all we have for the fruitful abundance of God’s creation. For the unexpected miracles and joys God grants us, let us return a portion of what we receive.

if you would care to, you can mail in your offerings or go to the top of the webpage and click the donate now button

Offering Prayer

For all you have given, for all we have received,
we give you thanks.
We bring before you our gifts of substance
and the gift of our lives.
Touch these gifts, O God, with your manifold Blessings.

Touch our very lives,

That we may become instruments of your hope.

May our gifts and our lives,

Bring your healing, love, and compassion to a world in need.

The office is open for regular hours
We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry

I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat, check in

I will call upon the Lord #529

Benediction (Genesis 1, Psalm 8)
Go now in peace, but be prepared to laugh with Sarah.
Go now in hope, and be ready for unexpected miracles.
Go now in Love, for the one who loves us goes with us.

[1] Brueggemann, W., & Cousar, C. B. (1998). Texts for preaching: A lectionary commentary, based on the NRSV. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

[4] Ditto
[5] Ditto

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