Holy Humour

By Jen Flanagan

When I was doing my research for today I discovered that there are two different names for today – the first Sunday after Easter Sunday.

One is Low Sunday – no one is really sure why it is called Low Sunday – but it is probably a reaction to the high we have on Easter Sunday – last Sunday was full of exultation, excitement and celebration. Now we have come off the high of Easter and are feeling a bit flat – especially those who spent lots of time in preparation for the services for Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter. Not to mention the work some of our members also put into Palm Sunday and Fam@4!

I also discovered that today is known in some circles as Laughter Sunday, or Holy Humour Sunday, Hilarity Sunday, God’s Laughter Sunday, Bright Sunday, or Holy Fools Sunday, which, apparently started in Ancient Greece. Maybe it was started to counteract the negativity of Low Sunday.

I like the idea of Holy Fools Sunday – at last, a description of me!! – at least the ‘fool’ bit is!
While doing my homework for today, I read that:

‘Many churches are resurrecting an old Easter custom begun by the Greeks in the early centuries of Christianity-“Holy Humour Sunday” -celebrations of Jesus’ resurrection on the Sunday after Easter.
For centuries in Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant countries, the week following Easter Sunday, was observed by the faithful as “days of joy and laughter” with parties and picnics to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. I’m not sure that this weekend would be the best weather for a picnic!!
Churchgoers and pastors played practical jokes on each other, drenched each other with water, told jokes, sang, and danced.

The custom was 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.
In 1988 the Fellowship of Merry Christians began encouraging churches and prayer groups to resurrect Bright Sunday celebrations and call it “Holy Humour Sunday,” with the theme: “Jesus is the LIFE of the party.”

Maybe we could implement this here!! I’m up for a party – how about you? Today??
When I remember the services I attended as a child, it seems to me that the church lost a lot of that positivity and joy – especially in Sunday services! I’m happy that laughing in church is no longer considered inappropriate! I’m not sure my mother would have agreed with me on this one! She considered decorum and dignity to be essential and appropriate behaviour in church – and out of it!
Thinking about our reading from Acts, Holy Humour Sunday seems an appropriate way to celebrate our traditions.

We heard that the early Christians shared all they had. This didn’t mean that they all gave away everything all at once – after all, that would only lead to a bunch of naked people sleeping, and eventually, starving in the streets.

That is not really a useful result!

What they did do was meet people’s needs. When someone saw that another member needed something, they provided whatever they could to cover the need. For some that meant selling their homes – but not all of them. There was no blanket rule that said that everyone had to sell their homes.
Some felt led to do so – others did not.

The important thing was that, together, they listened for Jesus’ voice and followed.
Surely, this led to much celebration as people found they had all that they needed. This would have led to more joy as the apostles and other early church members saw the joy felt by those whose needs were met. And don’t we feel great when we see others being grateful and joyful?

I suspect that their worship in the early church included much joy and celebrations.

Today, not many of us are called to sell our OR even give away our entire wardrobe, however, I know that many, if not all of us are giving of our time, money and abilities even to the point of exhaustion at times, and I’m not sure that my exhorting you to give more of yourselves would help at all.
However, maybe we are so busy doing what we feel we should be doing that maybe we are burdening ourselves unnecessarily.

Maybe we are so busy doing and giving as we think we are called to do and be that we are not hearing what Jesus is really calling us to do and be.

Because maybe, Jesus wants something else from us. Maybe we are doing what Jesus is calling someone else to, and by stubbornly continuing on the same path we have always trodden, we are being a barrier to others. Maybe we are not willing to hear what Jesus is saying to us.

Remember, Jesus said ‘My burden is easy, and my yoke is light.’

So if we are feeling exhausted and worn out from our work for Jesus, then maybe we are not getting it right.

Sometimes we feel we are answering Jesus’ call by continuing to do what we have always done. Because that is easier than doing something new or different.

Might this mean that to really share as those early Christians did, we might also be need to be giving others in our Christian community a chance to utilise their gifts so they can grow?

Have you heard Jesus calling you to do things differently? Have you heard Him call you to something new – a new challenge, maybe – a new direction, maybe.

Is there something holding you back?

Do you feel you are doing enough already?

I have found that when Jesus calls us to something new, it usually means giving up something we are currently doing in order to make room for the new direction. We need to trust Jesus to pass that task on to someone else.

A very good friend of mine was very involved with the scout movement and had been for many years – in fact most of her life, of over 60 years. Her father had been a state leader of scouts before her, and she had followed in his footsteps. However, when she felt Jesus calling her to a greater involvement within the church, she felt she didn’t have the time due to her involvement in scouts. Eventually, she realised that she had to let go of her scouting ties, and trust Jesus to take care of them. That left her free to pursue the ministry that Jesus was calling her to.

Sometimes it is very hard to let go of those things which are very dear to us – but Jesus is always calling us forward to something new.

I was recently challenged by a young man who is not a Christian, however he attended Canberra Grammar, so was not unaware of the gospel story.

He said to me that his vision of Christians is of people who embrace change – he said – here’s a bunch of people wandering around in life minding their own business, when along comes this bloke, Jesus, who says ‘follow me’ and off they go with him on a new life – not knowing what was ahead, but willing to become whatever Jesus called them to’

I found that vision of the church to be inspiring and, as I said, a challenge. So many of us want things to remain the same – to be comfortable.

The early Christians, too, probably were comfortable with their traditions, and their possessions.
They needed to be willing to change everything in order to follow Jesus.

We may not be called to give up all that we have – but Jesus may be calling us to give up or change something in order to be the people that he is calling us to be.

As a church he may be calling us to give up or change something that is precious to us in order to together become the church he wants us to be here in our community. Is Jesus challenging you today to embrace change as my young friend thinks we should be?

Maybe we need to embrace Holy Humour Sunday – and laugh & joke our way to a new way of expression our love for Jesus.

Are you being called to something new and different? A path full of joy and laughter that witnesses to our world that Jesus’ way is always the best way?

Photo of Jen Flanagan

Written by Jen Flanagan

Jen is a lay preacher in training at TUC. As well preaching, Jen often assists with leading the 10:30am service and is a member of the Thursday Community Fellowship ministry team. Jen is Secretary of the Church Council.

More from Jen Flanagan