Wed 6th May 2020 APC Midweek “The Gift of Laughter”
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Midweek time of worship together. Today is the third reflection in our series “Counting our Blessings” as we think about some of the gifts God gives us. Today we will be thinking about the gift of laughter. But to begin, as always, let’s take a moment to talk to God. Let’s pray.
Loving God, we thank you for the things in life which make us laugh, the things that bring a smile to our faces. We thank you for a sense of humour helping us to see the funny side of life, enabling us to share a joke even when it is on ourselves. We thank you for those with the special gift of bringing laughter to others, bringing a little light relief into the seriousness of our world.
Loving God there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a place for solemnity and a place for humour. Help us to get the balance right in our lives. Teach us to appreciate your gift of laughter and to share it with those around us, in the name of Christ, Amen.
Let’s join together in the words of the Lord’s Prayer…
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
Bible Reading Ecclesiastes 3 v 1-8 ‘A Time for Everything’
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Reflection “The Gift of Laughter”
A poodle and a collie were walking together when the poodle suddenly confided in his friend – “My life’s a mess” he says. “My owner is mean, my girlfriend ran away with a Schnauzer and I’m as jittery as a cat.”
“Why don’t you go see a psychiatrist?” suggests the collie
“I can’t” says the poodle. “I’m not allowed on the couch!”
We all know people who are blessed with the ability to come up with one liners or funny stories which have us all rolling around in stitches.
We call this the gift of laughter. It reduces stress, recharges our focus, and gives us a much needed break. It renews the spirit, energizes us to face a tough situation and deepens our friendships. It’s something to be treasured, something to be encouraged and something to be extremely thankful to God for.
That’s why I want us to spend a few minutes this morning reflecting on the wonderful gift of laughter.
One of the earliest recorded joke books is called The Philogelos. This is a Greek word meaning “the love of laughter.” It dates back to about 350 AD. It’s hard to appreciate some of its humor, but one joke that our modern ears may still appreciate goes like this-
“An intellectual came to check in on a friend who was seriously ill. When the man’s wife said that he had ‘departed,’ the intellectual replied: ‘when he arrives back, will you tell him that I stopped by?”
The existence of such an early book of funnies reminds us that ‘risibility’ or the ‘ability to laugh’ is one of the characteristics that makes us truly human.
When we laugh, we make those around us feel comfortable, we ease a difficult situation. Laughter has the ability to keep our engines humming with joy, even when everything around us is falling apart. That’s why in the bible we read that when motivating the discouraged Israelites to take up tools and begin rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, Nehemiah said to them, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” He knew all about their prolonged suffering, yet he encouraged them to not be grievous in spirit. God is the creator of joy and laughter, as we pray to Him, He will lift our spirits, and strengthen us in the most amazing ways! Laughter is God’s gift to us.
Reflect Take a few moments in silence now and thank God for His gift of laughter…
Because laughter is God’s gift to us, it is inherently good for us. That’s why in the book of Proverbs we read “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”
Did you know a child laughs approximately 400 times a day, yet the average adult laughs only 1.5 times? There are many amazing physical benefits to laughing. Laughter stimulates our hearts, lungs, and muscles and enhances our oxygen uptake. It is also clinically proven to increase those awesome chemicals in our brains called endorphins. These make us feel happy and lighten our mental load. Laughter is so good for us, that’s how we know it is God’s idea! When we laugh we remind ourselves of all the great things God has done in our lives. Psalm 126:2 says, “Then our mouths were filled with laughter; our tongues sang for joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” So when we laugh we proclaim God’s goodness!
Reflect Take a moment and reflect on how much laughing benefits us mentally and physically.
Also take a moment and reflect on the truth that when we laugh we reflect what God is like to others.
Of course there are times when it is not appropriate to laugh as the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us when he says, “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
It is also never right to laugh at the expense of someone else’s feelings which is why the writer of Proverbs says, “Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, I was only joking!”
Laughter used in this way is not funny, it is bullying. It can ruin people’s lives, affect their physical and mental health, damage their capacity for learning and for a few, even affect forever the way they interact with peers and colleagues.
As a Christian we are also encouraged not to laugh at things that are crude. So Paul says in Ephesians 5 v 4, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”
This can be difficult at times because while most modern comedians include observations about life that are incredibly funny, often these are interspersed with references which are crude or at times even blasphemous. It’s hard for all of us to know where to draw the line sometimes, and so we must allow ourselves to be guided by our conscience. We must pray for great wisdom to know how best to engage with our friends and colleagues during times of banter without compromising our faith or giving the impression that God is a joyless prude.
Reflect Are there any ways that you have been joking that may not be pleasing to God or may be hurting other people around you? If so take time to confess and ask God for His help to know how best to have a laugh…
Laughter and joy are God’s gifts to us. When Jesus was on earth he was constantly with his friends. They enjoyed eating and drinking together on a regular basis which is why the religious conservatives of his day referred to him disparagingly as “a wine bibber and a glutton!” He was no party pooper either. We find him accepting the invitation to a family wedding and discover that on that occasion he performed his first public miracle by turning water into wine!
When I think about Jesus, I think about him often having the craic and being surrounded by people because of his good humour and generosity of spirit. People like this are God’s gift to us – the joker in the pack.
Reflect Take a moment to thank God for the people in your life who make you laugh and for people in society who have this ability to make others laugh and have fun.
So let me encourage you, especially in these difficult days to find ways of making yourself and your children laugh. That will look different for all of us depending on our circumstances and our stages of life. It might be playing a game, watching a comedy or cartoon or reading a funny book. It might involve googling some Irish jokes, listening to a comedian on CD, the internet or on telly, or arranging a zoom or Whatsapp call with family or friends during these days of lockdown. Laughter is God’s gift to us. It is medicine for the soul especially at a time like this. So make it a priority this week to do something fun.
To kick start that process I want to leave you with a few of my favourite comedy clips and something for the kids at the end of today’s reflection. It’s my prayer that as you watch these that God will begin to lift your spirits and fill your hearts again with joy. Why don’t you send in your favourite comedy clip or something funny you’ve seen on U-tube. Then together we can encourage one another…But for now let’s take a moment to pray. Today we will be thinking particularly about teachers, parents, young people and students as they try to negotiate the difficulties of care and study during these days…
Lord we pray for teachers in schools and colleges as they continue to provide online support for parents and students. Give them wisdom, patience and strength. Encourage them in the knowledge that they are making a very significant difference in the lives of their students and their families.
We pray for parents who are trying their best to juggle work and home-schooling or child care responsibilities. Give them wisdom to know how to balance these tasks and renewed energy and enthusiasm to keep doing their best.
We pray for children, young people and college students. Lord, give them the motivation that they need to see the value in their studies and the resolve to do their best despite not having the support of their peers around them. We think especially of those who are doing significant examinations-
Lord, pour out your Spirit of Wisdom on these students particularly.
Help them to remain calm, and to find the energy and enthusiasm to be self-motivated and to study well.
Enable them to attend carefully to the questions asked,
to think clearly, to remember accurately,
and to express themselves well.
Grant that they may reflect on the best of the work they have done
and the best of the teaching they have received.
Accept their best efforts in these examinations
and in the great test of life on earth. May they know that their best is always good enough and that in the end, they will find the way that is best for them.
May your love be upon them, O Lord,
and may they learn to seek your help and to place all their trust in you.
And Lord, in all the seriousness of these days, teach us how to maintain a positive attitude and to still enjoy a good laugh.
We ask this through Christ our Lord,
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on. I hope you have found our time together to be an encouragement. Do join me again on Sunday morning when we will be celebrating the amazing work of Christian Aid. This will be a virtual worship service arranged by Christian Aid staff. It will include prayers, songs, bible readings, a kids slot and a talk led by Presbyterian minister Rev Liz Hughes who is the chair of Christian Aid Ireland. If you would like to contribute to the work of Christian Aid there will be a link provided on our Facebook page and website to facilitate that. In the meantime do keep everyone in your prayers and look out for anyone you can help. Don’t forget to click on today’s links for some of my favourite comedy clips and something fun for the children. For now, let me close with a benediction after which, as always, I invite you to join me in saying the grace together…
May the God of hope fill you up with joy,
fill you up with peace, so that your lives,
filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit,
will brim over with hope!
And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore, Amen.
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