Two cows are standing in the pasture. One turns to the other and says, "Although pi is usually abbreviated to five numbers, it actually goes on into infinity."
The second cow says, "Moo."
The message is simple and hilarious..
Comedy overwhelms tragedy. Life defeats death. Love conquers hate. Good has the final word over evil.
The Bible is serious about humor. This great book of books is about the comedy of human life which includes quite rightly the tragedy as well for we are talking about human life here in all of its profound and glorious reality but the final word it turns out is the overwhelming of the tragic with the happy ending of comedy.
This mews alone is radical and sets us apart for who would dare to suggest that all is well except the one who rises from the grave, who suffered and knows our suffering, who lived at the very apex of the human tragedy and overcame it all in glory. If even death has lost the power to destroy us what fear can hold down now?
O death (the Bible says with glee) where is thy sting?
Buechner it was who said that it is the tragic that is inevitable. The comic is the unforeseen. This is a monumental insight into the truth. Our gospel is completely unexpected. It is too good to be true. It demands that we believe impossible things.
The Bible asks us to be the like the Queen of Hearts in Alice and Wonderland who said she practiced believing impossible things and sometimes believed as many as 5 impossible things before breakfast.
The comedy of the Bible begins and ends where laughter and tears are not so different. Sometimes we laugh until we cry. Sometimes we don't know whether to laugh or cry. This is the human story played on the stage built by God for the creation of love for God could not create love without someone to love.
And sometimes it really is funny:
Right away in Genesis do you remember the little story about how Adam and Eve, after their disobedience, are hiding from God is a mad cosmic hide and seek game as if God couldn't find them if they hid well enough. When I read this I think of my little granddaughter playing hide and seek t the park. She always hides in plain sight and I have to find her. Well so it was that God found Adam and Eve and learned of their disobedience and the real comedy begins because if you remember Adam goes first and he blames Eve and Eve goes next and she blames the snake and so is a perfect take off on the human condition ever since. Dorothea de Gaza was to write years a later that the main cause of all our disturbance is the refusal to accept the blame.
Humor might even be a source of peace. Maybe if we could laugh at ourselves we wouldn't be afraid to do the right thing when we do the wrong thing and take responsibility for what is wrong with us.
The comedy of the Bible continues with God's choice of Moses who is at best a reluctant hero. And then God chooses a people who want freedom and complain and disobey when they get it. It is particularly amusing that when Moses is off receiving the law of God his silly followers are constructing a golden calf to worship. And that would be the only time in the history of the world that the people would choose something easier than the real thing to be religious about. NOT.
Gods own self proves to be pretty funny when Moses demands to know Gods name and God says "Tell 'em I AM sent you!" I AM WHO I AM. Perfect. An absolutely perfect name for God.
And then there is Sarah laughing. This is one of those cases where we don't know whether to laugh or to cry. All her life all she ever wanted was to have a child, a boy child and when in the words of the Bible (she was as good as dead) God delivers the impossible once again. Holy Humor abounds at the very heart of our faith story.
Jacob is a tragicomic figure, a personal favorite. He stole his brothers inheritance and wrestles with God in the night refusing to give up until he gets what he wants (Jacob always gets what he wants) he gets Gods blessing which is a limp and new name- Jacob was a scoundrel if ever there was one, a scoundrel chosen and loved by God. Who could have foreseen his brother embracing him with tears of love and forgiveness at their meeting where Jacob had come to take his punishment for what he stolen from his brother.
We can deal with just punishment with people getting what they deserve but we aren't so sure about unjust forgiveness people getting what they don't deserve are we? Grace is the ultimate humor - it turns tragedy around every day in the world. Humor can heal us.
When Jesus enters Jerusalem it is a comic scene. Humor is used for revolutionary purposes. Jesus on a donkey, hailed as King. Much laughter on all sides. It was funny. Deadly funny for in the humor was revealed the truth, truth that others didn't want to know.
There is even a good one in the reading today. Apparently Peter felt he had to tell those who witnessed the hilarity of those who had been touched by the Spirit on the day of Pentecost that they were not drunk since it was only 9 o'clock in the morning seeming to imply that had it been at night they might very well have indeed been drunk.
Buechner says that Jesus got the joke himself when they came in force to take him away he said to his friends: Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
And so he has.
For our Christian journey, the one written down in the Biblical witness, in this most serious Bible there is a punch line like no other that speaks still plainly and clearly to a world of death. The Bible is serious about the humor that turns tragedy to comedy. The punch line goes like this:
Behold I am alive forevermore and because I live you shall live also.
The comedy of the Bible continues beyond the words left there. All we have to do is look around at ourselves and see who God has chosen in this time and place and laugh out loud if we dare when we imagine ourselves as those called to bring through our won faithful living, our own laughter and tears, the salvation of Gods love to the world. Gods sense of humor is revealed in who God chooses to do Gods work. Just look at us!
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The United Methodist Church