From the Pastor’s Desk – October 2022
Following is a Newsletter Article I wrote for a class in Clergy Leadership in Health and Wholeness that I took while in Seminary.
Laugh ‘til it Heals
I find it amazing how humor can sustain a people. For centuries the children of Moses have endured such oppression, not the least of which in the form of Christian anti-Semitism. Still, the Jewish jokes about Christians abound. Like this one:
The priest says to the rabbi: “There are three things I can’t stand about you Jews: You wander about in the synagogue, you pray noisily, and your funerals are chaotic.”
The rabbi replies: “We wander about the synagogue because we feel at home there. We pray noisily because Yahweh is old and hard of hearing. And as for funerals, we too prefer the Christian ones.”
To quote a famous comedian, “That’s funny, I don’t care who you are!” I believe the healthiest and happiest people in the world, are the people who laugh; particularly at themselves. Now the medical community endorses what I’ve known for years. The Mayo Clinic and other sources report the many health benefits of laughter.
– Laughter enhances our intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulating your heart, lungs, and muscles.
– Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and dopamine, while it increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T cells, giving us a stronger immune system.
– Have you ever felt like you “have to laugh or I’ll cry”? Have you experienced the cleansed feeling after a good laugh? Laughter provides a physical and emotional release.
– A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward.
– Laughter brings the focus away from anger, guilt, stress and negative emotions in a more beneficial way than other mere distractions.
Where did humor originate? Not with people, angels, or Satan. God created all good things, including good humor. If God didn’t have a sense of humor, we, who are created in His image wouldn’t either. If God didn’t have a sense of humor, I would have a full head of hair. Still not convinced? Think of an aardvark, platypus, or a giraffe. Still not smiling? Go to the primate house at the St. Louis Zoo and look at a baboon’s butt! If any of these images put a smile on your face, can you imagine the roaring laughter in the heavens as God was creating all this?
God laughs at my jokes. No, I don’t believe I’m creative enough or quick enough to surprise God with the punch line. I recall many times, as a young boy, when I couldn’t wait to get home from school to share with my dad this great “new” joke I heard today. He always laughed. Later I realized these “new” jokes I share were older than his dad. His laughter was laughter of joy, because I was so excited to share with him. In the same way God laughs with us, and is filled with joy when I come to Him- even with a joke.
There’s nothing like the laughter of dear friends and family. The Bible often portrays us around the dinner table in God’s coming kingdom. What sound do you hear when friends gather to eat and talk? Laughter! When I go home to visit my parents, aunts and uncles, my three older sisters (I remind them often how old they are), and my nieces and nephews, we eat, we play cards, we share stories of family, and work. We share heart-to-heart, often pausing to pray-all surrounded by laughter. God certainly made us to love and laugh.
“But look at this world,” you might say, “What is there to laugh about?” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that God isn’t crying as well. Jesus wept, Jesus suffered for us, and He suffers with us. But, my friends, if God can suffer, surely God can laugh. Jesus tells us, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” In Heaven, I believe our joy will often erupt in laughter. Luther once said, “If you’re not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there.”
My friends, we are Easter people! We worship a God who promised us joy and laughter. We worship a God who recalls His promises and leads His people forth in joy (and laughter). So lighten up. A wise man once said, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” O.K. that’s a bad joke. You should laugh anyway. It’s good for you.
Maybe more important for us today is another benefit to laughter. Laughter connects us with others. Laughter is the one contagious thing we should want to catch. If you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more, and realize these health benefits as well. So laugh often. lt’s good for us, and it’s a wonderful ministry!
I read a bumper sticker the other day. It read, “God’s original plan for creation was to hang out in a garden with naked vegetarians.” I couldn’t wait to call Dad and share with him all the great “revelations” my seminary education provides. He belly laughed! I think I surprised him this time. God laughed with us.
And all God’s people say, AMEN!