“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”
― E.E. Cummings
“Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss
I think that laughter is a mark of joy. I encountered joy the other day at work and there was a lot of laughter. A work mate had just returned from a walk and was lamenting about the fact that she was hot . . . in fact, she stated, “I’m hot!” My reaction and works, “My . . . you have a mighty high opinion of yourself!” It was the best laugh I had had in weeks . . . a real belly shaker. It was complete joy as we both laughed.
I love the picture above . . . I can hear the laughter of the child as she plays with the dog . . . I can feel the excitement of the dog as it runs along . . . both oblivious to the world around them . . . pure joy. We need more joy in the world and in our lives . . . we need more laughter.
Each and every church that I have served as a pastor I have always told them, “It ain’t worship unless there is laughter.” In each and every church I have served I have attempted to bring a little laughter into the worship. Hey, it isn’t difficult . . . afterall, I am the minister . . . who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor? I have laughed my way through the ministry now for nearly thirty years and it has been nice to have a few laugh with me too.
I think that joy is defined by laughter—at least for me . . . laughter is a huge part of joy. Nothing beats sitting around a table with friends and family, breaking the bread, sharing stories, and laughing. Even as an introvert, I love a good gathering around the table. In the church—especially the denomination I belong to—the “table” carries a central place in our faith. It is around the table that Jesus gathered his disciples for the last meal that he would have with all of them. Often this scene is painted with a melancholy—a sadness—that marks the things that are to come . . . primarily the crucifixion; but, I disagree with this image. I like the image from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar in which everyone is gathered around the table, there are stories being shared, food and wine being drank, and lots of laughter . . . there is joy despite the impending tragedy. Whatever the case, the table is central to the story . . . it is there that joy is found.
You’ve got to laugh at the table . . . my favorite communion joke goes like this: What were the last words Jesus spoke at the table? “All you guys who want in the picture need to get on this side of the table.” Think about it . . . do you get it now? You have to laugh . . . you have to experience the joy. Laughter marks the joy.
Because of laughter I can find joy in life . . . in the good and the bad. I even find laughter in myself and all of the silly, stupid things that I do . . . once I let myself off the hook. Hindsight might be 20/20, but it is also quite funny too. I think of the time that I decided to see if all those cartoon about someone stepping on a rake and smacking themselves in the face were true . . . yeah, they are. It hurt, but now it is funny. Next time I will take Bugs Bunny’s word for it. I think about how frustrated I was on a recent conference call and wanted to mute the other people, pushed the first red button I saw, and hung up on everyone much to the shock of the others in the room. But, you know what, it worked . . . it shut everyone else up! It will be several weeks before we quit laughing about that one. Even in the goof ups of life, there is room for joy because there is laughter.
Norman Cousins write about the role of laughter and joy in his struggles with cancer. He called laughter spiritual jogging. He credited laughter and joy as helping in his battle against the cancer that was ravishing his body. The man was smart . . . a good laugh seems to add life. If that is true, I’ll probably live to be a million and one! Laughter . . . joy . . . is a gift from God given to all of us. The key is in accepting the gift . . . can we . . . will we?
I don’t know, but God knows we need more of it in our world and lives today. We take ourselves way, way too seriously . . . we need to laugh . . . we need to experience joy. We need to laugh until the tears roll from our eyes, we bend over in joy, and we experience the holy. Holy laughter . . . there is nothing better than that. We all need to run with exuberance with our dogs . . . to feel the wind in our hair (at least those of you who still have, the rest of us . . . well, we will take a breeze across the forehead) . . . and to let loose with a real belly laugh. How much closer to the Holy . . . to God can we get? Think about that the next time you gather around the table . . . and, the minister cracks a joke.