A sermon preached by Pastor Robert Schaefer
First and Spring Creek Lutheran Churches
Second Sunday of Easter—March 27, 2003
Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Easter is such a joke!
It’s true that some people live as though God didn’t matter and treat faith as a bad punch line. And it’s also true that there are folks who make a joke out of Easter, turning it into little more than a spring clearance sale on chicks, candy, bunnies and baskets. But I want to let you in on a secret: Easter was a joke way before anyone ever sold a chocolate rabbit…even before anyone ever lived like Easter didn’t matter. Easter has been a joke right from the beginning, and the one laughing hardest is Jesus himself!
It’s called the risus paschalis, or the Easter laugh. Imagine a person who has just gone through hell and come out the other side: What sort of a noise is the first to escape her lips once it’s all over? Why, a laugh of joy, of course! Great, gasping, teary-eyed gales of laughter. And who ever had more reason to laugh out loud in sheer joy than our Lord Jesus on the day of his resurrection? He had suffered and died, and now he had been raised to new life! And if that weren’t enough for him to burst into howls of delighted laughter, don’t forget that in his resurrection Jesus had conquered death once and for all. Death no longer had the last laugh for God’s people…Jesus had the last laugh, and it was the greatest Easter laugh you ever heard. God’s great joke on death and the devil had finally been told, and it was the doozey of all time.
We’ve been somber for a quite a while now. Back in March we put on long faces as we entered the season of Lent and recalled the long road to the cross. Laughs were hard to come by. But now Easter is upon us, and it’s time to laugh for joy again. Taking delight in the joyful, surprising and funny things in life is to appreciate God’s great goodness. He wants us to laugh along with him this Easter season, and what better place to start than by laughing a little at our own Lutheran selves?
Ever Sunday in church we confess our beliefs with the Apostles’ or Nicene Creeds. But I have it on good authority that neither of these gets to the heart of what good Lutherans really believe:
· Lutherans believe in prayer but would practically die if asked to pray out loud in public.
· Lutherans like to sing except when confronted with a new hymn or a hymn with more than four verses.
· Lutherans believe their pastors will visit them in the hospital even if they don't notify them.
· Lutherans usually follow the official liturgy and will feel it is their way of suffering for their sins.
· Lutherans believe in miracles and even expect miracles especially during their stewardship visitation programs or when passing the plate.
· Lutherans feel that applauding for their children's choirs would make them too proud and conceited.
· Lutherans think that the Bible forbids them from crossing the aisle while “passing the peace.”
· Lutherans drink coffee as if it were the Third Sacrament.
· Some Lutherans still believe that an ELCA bride and an LCMS groom make for a mixed marriage.
· Lutherans feel guilty for not staying to clean up after their own wedding reception in the fellowship hall.
· Lutherans are willing to pay up to a dollar for a meal at church.
· Lutherans think that Garrison Keillor’s stories are totally factual.
· Lutherans still serve Jell-O in the proper liturgical color for the season and think that peas in a tuna noodle hot dish add too much color.
· Lutherans believe it's OK to poke fun at themselves and never take themselves too seriously.
Now, if you really want to know about Lutherans, you have to go back to the man who started us out in the first place: Good ol’ Martin Luther. Although I can’t understand why, I was told that probably not many of you had read a good biography of Martin in the last few weeks! In the spirit of keeping things simple, here’s the story of Luther’s life in a nutshell, as told by Les Stahlke:
Look and see!
See Luther run!
Run, Luther, run!
It is raining!
It is pouring!
See the lightning!
Hear the thunder!
See Luther get scared!
See Luther hide under that big tree!
See Luther pray to St. Anne.
"If you save me," prayed Luther, "I will become a monk, okay?"
"That's okay with me," said St. Anne, "but if you don't get out from under that tree, you will be a friar!"
See the lightning hit the tree!
See the tree get rent asunder!
"Ach! Yammer!" said Luther.
See Luther clearly define Law and Gospel.
See Luther go to a monastery.
See Luther learn that indulgences are wrong.
"Wholly unnecessary, Batman," said Luther.
See Luther write 95 Theses.
See Luther nail the Theses to the church door.
See Luther bang his hammer.
Bang your hammer, Luther, bang your hammer.
See Luther bang the wrong nail. "Uff dah!" said Luther.
Now the Pope is mad.
See the Pope send Luther an angry letter.
It is a Papal Bull.
"That is a lot of bull," said Luther.
See Luther barbecue the Pope's Bull.
"You burned my Bull," said the Pope.
Now you will have to go to a Diet of Worms.
(A Diet is a long synodical convention with no meals.)
See King Charles tell Luther to shut up.
"I can't," said Luther.
"Then recant," said King Charles.
"I can't recant," said Luther.
"Then go start the Missouri Synod!" said King Charles.
"Oh, goody," said Luther, "now I can get married."
See Luther look for a wife.
See Luther find nun.
See Luther and Kitty get married.
See Kitty get morning sickness.
"What does this mean?" said Luther.
"We shall have a little Lutheran soon," said Kitty.
"Is this true," said Luther, "or are you just ribbing me?"
Kitty said, "This is most certainly true."
Martin Luther was always glad to sing a hymn, even as he got older. He just never stopped kicking, you know? And so for those of our congregation who are stumbling back down the hill after camping out on top for a while, the music and worship committee has updated a few good “old” hymns to keep your pipes young:
· Precious Lord, Take my Hand (And Help Me Get Up)
· It is Well with My Soul (but my back hurts)
· Nobody Knows the Trouble I Have (Seeing)
· Amazing Grace (Considering My Age)
· Just a Slower Walk With Thee
· Go Tell It on the Mountain (And Speak Up)
· Give Me that Old Timers Religion
· Blessed Insurance
· Guide Me Ever, Great Redeemer (I've Forgotten Where I Parked)
Songbooks will be available in the narthex next Sunday.
Now, every once in a while you come across a joke that is just too good not to share…and often it’s a blonde joke. Being a flaky blonde myself, I feel entitled to tell you about these three blondes who died and found themselves standing before St. Peter:
He told them that before they could enter the Kingdom, they had to tell him what Easter represented.
The first blonde said, "Easter is a holiday where they have a big feast and we give thanks and eat turkey."
St. Peter said, "Noooooo," and he banished her to Hell.
The second blonde said, "Easter is when we celebrate Jesus' birth and exchange gifts."
St. Peter said, "Noooooo," and he banished her to Hell.
The third blonde said she knew what Easter was, and St. Peter said, "So, tell me."
She said, "Easter is a Christian holiday that coincides with the Jewish festival of Passover. Jesus was having Passover feast with His disciples when He was betrayed by Judas, and the Romans arrested Him. The Romans hung Him on the cross and eventually He died. Then they buried Him in a tomb behind a very large boulder...
St. Peter said, "Verrrrrry good."
Then the blonde continued, "Now, every year the Jews roll away the boulder and Jesus comes out. If he sees his shadow, we have six more weeks of Lent."
St. Peter fainted.
As for us, there are no six more weeks of Lent coming. Jesus ended Lent with a holy laugh, and we’re now in the season of Easter, the season of joy and resurrection. May God fill our days with Easter joy, Easter hope, and most of all with Easter laughter. Amen.