For centuries, in Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant countries, Easter Monday and “Bright Sunday” (the Sunday after Easter) were observed by the faithful as “days of joy and laughter” with parties and picnics to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.
Parishioners and pastors played practical jokes on each other, drenched each other with water, sang, and danced. It was a time for clergy and people to tell jokes and to have fun.
The custom of Easter Monday and Bright Sunday celebrations were rooted in the musings of early church theologians (like Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Chrysostom) that God played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead. Easter was “God’s supreme joke played on death.”
“ Risus paschalis ?~ the Easter laugh,” the early theologians called it.
In 1988, observing that the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection has been sorely neglected by 20th-century Christianity, the Fellowship of Merry Christians began encouraging member churches and prayer groups to resurrect the old Christian custom of Easter Monday or “Bright Sunday” celebrations, as the early Greek Christians called it.
At a time when Jesus’ resurrection has been subjected to an onslaught of ridicule and disbelief, the Fellowship sought to shore up belief through ongoing resurrection celebrations. (—Salem UCC)
So, for today’s sermon, we will explore joy in small doses – that is, one joke at a time. When we begin to practice moments of joy, we grow in it. Hopefully, today will help you practice it so that you can take it with you.
Sometimes, we don’t know joy because we’re not looking for it…
A collector of rare books ran into an acquaintance who told him he had just thrown away an old Bible that he found in a dusty, old box. He happened to mention that Guten-somebody-or-other had printed it. “Not Gutenberg?” gasped the collector.
“Yes, that was it!”
“You idiot! You’ve thrown away one of the first books ever printed. A copy recently sold at auction for half a million dollars!”
“Oh, I don’t think this book would have been worth anything close to that much,” replied the man. “It was scribbled all over in the margins by some guy named Martin Luther.”
A young boy had just gotten his driving permit. He asked his father, who was a minister, if they could discuss the use of the car. His father took him to his study and said to him, “I’ll make a deal with you. You bring your grades up, study your bible a little and get your hair cut and we’ll talk about it.”
After about a month the boy came back and again asked his father if they could discuss use of the car. They again went to the father’s study where his father said, “Son, I’ve been real proud of you. You have brought your grades up, you’ve studied your bible diligently, but you didn’t get your hair cut!”
The young man waited a moment and replied, “You know Dad, I’ve been thinking about that. You know, Samson had long hair, Moses had long hair, Noah had long hair, and even Jesus had long hair….”
To which his father replied….”Yes, and they WALKED everywhere they went!”
Three sons left home, went out on their own and prospered. They discussed the gifts they were able to give their elderly mother. The first said: “I built a big house for our mother.”
The second said: “I sent her a Mercedes with a driver.”
The third said: “You remember how our mother enjoys reading the Bible. Now she can’t see very well. So I sent her a remarkable parrot that recites the entire Bible. It took elders in the church 12 years to teach him. Mama just has to name the chapter and verse and the parrot recites it.”
Soon thereafter, their mother sent out her letters of thanks.
“Milton,” she said, “the house you built is so huge. I live only in one room, but I have to clean the whole house.
“Gerald,” she said, “I am too old to travel. I stay most of the time at home so I rarely use the Mercedes. And that driver is so rude! He’s a pain!”
“But Donald,” she said, “the little chicken you sent was delicious!”
Sometimes, we don’t know joy because we’ve forgotten what it felt like to see life through the eyes of a child…
Terri asked her Sunday School class to draw pictures of their favorite Bible stories. She was puzzled by Kyle’s picture, which showed four people on an airplane, so she asked him which story it was meant to represent.
“The flight to Egypt,” said Kyle.
“I see … And that must be Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus,” Ms. Terri said.
“But who’s the fourth person?”
“That’s Pontius, the Pilate!”
A little boy asked his Sunday School teacher about a question he had about the Children of Israel.
“The Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea, right?”
“And the Children of Israel beat up the Philistines, right?”
“And the Children of Israel built the Temple, right?”
“Again you’re right.”
“So they fought the Egyptians, the Romans, and many more, right?”
“Yes, so what’s the question?”
“What I want to know is this,” demanded Joey. “What were all the grown-ups doing?”
A boy was sitting on a park bench with one hand resting on an open Bible. He was loudly exclaiming his praise to God. “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! God is great!” he yelled without worrying whether anyone heard him or not.
Shortly after, along came a man who had recently completed some studies at a local university. Feeling himself very enlightened in the ways of truth and very eager to show this enlightenment, he asked the boy about the source of his joy.
“Hey” asked the boy in return with a bright laugh, “Don’t you have any idea what God is able to do? I just read that God opened up the waves of the Red Sea and led the whole nation of Israel right through the middle.”
The enlightened man laughed lightly, sat down next to the boy and began to try to open his eyes to the “realities” of the miracles of the Bible. “That can all be very easily explained. Modern scholarship has shown that the Red Sea in that area was only 10-inches deep at that time. It was no problem for the Israelites to wade across.”
The boy was stumped. His eyes wandered from the man back to the Bible laying open in his lap. The man, content that he had enlightened a poor, naive young person to the finer points of scientific insight, turned to go. Scarcely had he taken two steps when the boy began to rejoice and praise louder than before. The man turned to ask the reason for this resumed jubilation.
“Wow!” exclaimed the boy happily, “God is greater than I thought! Not only did He lead the whole nation of Israel through the Red Sea, He topped it off by drowning the whole Egyptian army in 10 inches of water!”
(Previous selections from jokes.christiansunite.com)
A kindergarten teacher was walking around her classroom while her students drew pictures. One little girl was scribbling so intently that the teacher asked what she was drawing. The little girl replied, “I’m drawing a picture of Jesus.” The teacher said, “Oh honey, nobody really knows for sure what Jesus looked like.” The little girl, without missing a beat, responded, “They will in a minute.”
Darlene was sitting on her grandfather’s lap as he read her a bedtime story.
From time to time, she would take her eyes off the book and reach up to touch his wrinkled cheek. She was alternately stroking her own cheek, then his again. Finally she spoke up, ‘Grandpa, did God make you?’
‘Yes, darling,’ he answered, ‘God made me a long time ago.’
Feeling their respective faces again, Darlene observed, ‘God’s getting better at it, isn’t he?’
Sometimes, I think we miss out on joy because we get too comfortable with our way of doing things. Sometimes, we make our religious viewpoint ‘work for us,’ rather than accepting what Jesus has to offer. For example…
After starting a new diet I altered my drive to work to avoid passing my favorite bakery. I accidentally drove by the bakery this morning and as I approached, there in the window were a host of chocolates, donuts, and cheesecakes.
I felt this was no accident, so I prayed … “Lord, it’s up to You. If You want me to have any of those delicious goodies, create a parking place for me directly in front of the bakery.”
And sure enough, on the eighth time around the block, there it was! God is so good!
Q: What did Adam and Eve do after they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden?
A: They raised Cain.
Q: How long did Cain hate his brother?
A: As long as he was Able.
Q: What was the first math problem in the Bible?
A: When God told Adam and Eve to, “Go forth and multiply!”
Q: Did you know Jesus was a cattle farmer?
A: Sure, because he always talked about His pair-of-bulls.
Q: How many Church members does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Change? What do you mean change?
But if we’re going to “get” joy, sometimes, our perspective needs changed.
A pastor and a taxi driver both died and went to heaven. St. Peter was at the Pearly gates waiting for them.
‘Come with me,’ said St. Peter to the taxi driver.
The taxi driver did as he was told and followed St Peter to a mansion. It had everything you could imagine from a bowling alley to an Olympic size pool.
‘Oh my word, thank you,’ said the taxi driver.
Next, St. Peter led the pastor to a rough old shack with a bunk bed and a little old television set.
‘Wait, I think you are a little mixed up,’ said the pastor. ‘Shouldn’t I be the one who gets the mansion? After all I was a priest, went to church every day, and preached God’s word.’
‘Yes, that’s true.’ St Peter rejoined, ‘ But during your sermons people slept. When the taxi driver drove, everyone prayed.’
One day a Catholic an Anglican and a Methodist decided to go fishing. They got in their boat and rowed their way over to the middle of the lake.
The Catholic remarked, ‘I’ve forgotten my hat,’ so he got up, got out of the boat and walked across the water.
He returned and the Anglican said, ‘I’ve forgotten the fishing bait,’ so he got up, climbed out of the boat and walked across the water.
He came back and the Methodist murmured, ‘I’ve forgotten the Cokes.’ He got up, jumped out of the boat and was standing in the water then he sank.
The Anglican turned to the Catholic and asked, ‘Do you think we ought to tell him were the stepping stones are?’
Going over our church finances I found a receipt from a local paint store signed by someone named Christian. I wasn’t aware of anyone buying paint, so I called the store to point out its mistake
‘I’m sorry,’ I told the manager, ‘but there are no Christians here at St Mary’s Church.’
And sometimes, we just have to realize that the God who made Balaam’s donkey talk, who worked the salvation of the world through the curse of the cross, who uses disciples who fail and people like us … has a sense of irony and humor we often can’t even grasp.
Alan bought a horse, a religious horse it appeared. Strangely, the horse only reacted to two words: the word “Hallelujah” to make it go, and “Amen” to make it stop.
Excited, Alan took his new horse out on the range and was riding it happily when he realised he was heading towards the edge of a cliff. Terrified, Alan forgot which word was the one to stop the horse.
Obviously wanting to prevent falling over the cliff to certain death, he bellowed out a prayer ending with the word – Amen. Phew! The horse stopped.
‘Hallelujah,’ shouted the relieved Alan.
Friends, we have joy today – even in the face of hardship and trials because of Easter.
Jesus said in the Gospel of John, “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”
Christmas isn’t the Christmas we know without Easter.
Church isn’t worth much without Easter.
Life isn’t worth as much without Easter.
But Easter exists. Easter happened, and it changes everything.
So as we move forward in our study of the Fruits of the Spirit, as we consider what it means to live out this thing that we receive as believers — this indwelling of the Holy Spirit IN US, I pray…
That you would take joy.
Hold onto it. Cultivate it. Practice it. Nourish it. Share it.
That day has come. Easter lives.