"Jesus raised his eyes to his disciples and said:
'Happy are you who are poor,
because God’s kingdom is yours.
21 Happy are you who hunger now,
because you will be satisfied.
Happy are you who weep now,
because you will laugh.
22 Happy are you when people hate you, reject you, insult you, and condemn your name as evil because of the Human One. 23 Rejoice when that happens! Leap for joy because you have a great reward in heaven. Their ancestors did the same things to the prophets.'" - Luke 6: 2-23 (CEB)
About four years ago, I went on a human rights delegation to Colombia with Community Peacemaker Teams. I went with an old college friend, like good Anabaptist-ish Christians. The delegation was focused on women survivors of the civil wars, and it mainly focused on the injustice of the drug trade and state corruption.
One of the delegates that went along was named Philip. Everywhere he went, he carried around clown noses to hand out to people. It quickly became more of an in-team thing and a way to add humor to an otherwise tense setting. When the team’s chemistry seemed off, he would pop on a clown nose and everyone would start laughing. It was his own way of peacemaking.
There was one riverside village we visited that was under the constant risk of illegal eviction. The women of the village were the ones to oppose them the strongest. The powers that be didn’t like that, so they tore down a home while armed soldiers kept the communities back. When we visited, we saw on the walls in Spanish the words: “God is love.”
Despite everything they had faced, they found a way to continue celebrating. There was more laughter in that community than there was anywhere else. We danced and we took selfies with clown noses. We woke up at midnight to throw a surprise birthday celebration for one of the team members. She stumbled out and stared at us with blank eyes as we blasted Spanish pop music into her room. My birthday was two days later, so I turned to one of the team members and said, “If you do this, I'll feel pressure to violate my peace witness.” And sure enough, I saw in the corner Philip popping on a clown nose in the middle of singing.
It seems strange, doesn’t it? Why would people make jokes or have a sense of humor during such a tense, hard time? Well, despite humor being something that helps relieve stress, it’s also a sign of resistance. Willie Jennings once observed that joy is an ultimate act of resistance against oppression, because no matter what the world does to the church - we can still find a way to celebrate and hold onto joy because it is a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven.
That is what Jesus promises his audience here. He is looking at a group of people who are used to being oppressed. They want freedom. And yet, he is telling them that the Kingdom of Heaven will be found in laughter and joy.
When we gather around to celebrate Holy Humor Sunday, or as it is traditionally understood as Bright Sunday, we are not just gathering around telling jokes like buddies at a bar. We are celebrating a day when there will be no more war, no more suffering, and no more loss. We are celebrating God’s promise that, even though there is COVID, political unrest, war, that if we look at the writing on the wall, we will see that God is love. It’s okay to laugh. It’s okay to celebrate when things are terrible. It’s okay to put on our clown noses. As this passage says, we aren’t celebrating because things are going well. We are celebrating because we know God has the final word.
So as we share jokes and laughter, listen to the Spirit underneath it - because the Spirit is sharing with us today that this is but a glimpse of things to come. God already has had the final word. Our response is to live a Jesus-looking life, and to remember that promise that one day things will be made right.
Let us celebrate and remember that promise of continual resurrection. Let’s laugh with one another, and remember that we are never alone. The good news is even better than we think it is, and there is no better reason than that to celebrate and laugh.