The Rev. Jimmy Abbott
Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 18, 2017
Genesis 18:1, 21:1-7
Laugh It Up
A chuckle is not the same as a giggle. A guffaw is different from a chortle. Laughter comes in many forms. A big belly laugh over a great joke is different from shooting your soft drink out your nose at a sudden laugh. Laughter comes in many forms.
We laugh at jokes, we laugh when we’re nervous, we laugh until we cry. We laugh at someone who does something funny, who says something funny. Or we laugh at someone who says something downright ridiculous. We laugh at the absurd.
Sarah laughs at the absurd. The story from Genesis this morning is about laughing at the absurd. See, the Lord God has come to visit Abraham and Sarah in their old age. For many, many years, Abraham and Sarah have been wanting children. Long ago, in their younger years, the Lord God told Abraham that Abraham was to be the father of many nations. That his family would be like the stars in the sky. A Father’s Day of epic proportions. But after years of trying, years of praying, it just wasn’t happening for them. How can you be the father of nations when you can’t even have one kid? Sarah has given up on God. The impossible promise seems to be just that, impossible.
And now these three visitors from God plop themselves down in the middle of their tent, eating Abraham’s fatted calf and cottage cheese. And the Lord God renews the promise. Abraham will be a father, at one hundred years old. Sarah is going to have a baby at 90 years old. I’m no doctor, but that’s laughable. Of course Sarah is going to laugh, because it’s funny. She guffaws, “yeah, right, I’m going to have a baby.” That’s just absurd.
Well, when you think about it, God is absurd. Imagine this – the creator and maker of the entire universe, the sustainer of all things, the Lord God Almighty, chose to be born in a barn to an unwed teenage mother. That’s laughable. And not only that, the same Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ, chooses to die on a cross. Jesus could have called down legions of angels to set him free, but God himself surrenders to our cruelty. That’s laughable. But it gets better, right? People don’t get up from being dead. That’s impossibly absurd. And you know what? That’s exactly what the people said to the disciples when they said that Jesus was alive though he had died. They laughed at them. God is so absurd in love, that we can’t help but laugh.
And you know, five years ago, if someone had told me that Holy Comforter would be where it is now, I would have laughed. If somebody had said we’d be building a church, I would have shot my soft drink straight out my nose. But God, God is doing the absurd.
Once something is on God’s mind, look out, because it’s going to happen, whether we believe it will or not. Take what happened to Sarah. Soon enough, Sarah’s laughter at God’s absurdity becomes laughter of joy when she gives birth to Isaac. And actually, that’s what Isaac’s name means, “laughter.”
I bet that Mary laughed with joy when, improbably, she held Jesus in her arms in that manger. I bet that the disciples laughed with delight when they broke bread with the risen Jesus. And you know what? We’re laughing now. Laughing with joy and with gratitude for all that God has done for us. It’s almost absurd.
Once something is on God’s mind, look out, because it’s going to happen. And so I’ve got a question for you – what are you laughing at now?
I know you laugh at God’s absurd ideas, because I’ve laughed at God’s absurd ideas. But once something is on God’s mind, we can laugh all we want, it’s still going to happen.
Do we laugh, when God says that we’re being called to do something for the Kingdom of God? Do we laugh, when God says that we don’t have to be enslaved to our jobs? Do we laugh, when God says that we could spend less money, and still be happy? Do we laugh, when God says that it’s time for us to change our lives? Do we laugh, when God says that things in our society, our country, could be better? It may not seem possible now, but God is in the business of doing the impossible for the sake of love.
Just this week, I was back in Alexandria, Virginia at the seminary for some continuing education. I was just two miles from that baseball field where Congressional lawmakers and their staffs were shot. I’ll tell you, there was no laughter on campus that day. There was no laughter around Alexandria, around our country.
Despite all the horror out there, I believe that God intends for all of this madness, and all of this shooting, this violence to stop. Just, to stop. Right now, the thought that we could make it a week without a shooting seems absurd. They are happening so often I can’t even keep track of them all. The vision that we could stop altogether seems laughable. It seems unbelievable. But I believe that God has a vision of peace for all people; a vision where the lion lays down with the lamb. A vision of the peaceable Kingdom, where swords are beaten into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks, and where mass violence is transformed into justice. Right now, that vision is unbelievably laughable. But once something is on God’s mind, we can laugh all we want; whether we believe it or not, God will accomplish it.
And, I need to be clear; this is not just about guns. This is not about public policy or laws. Honestly, I don’t know about those things. But what I do know, is the power of love. The power of God’s love to soften hearts. That I do know. And I have faith, faith that the way things are now don’t have to be that way.
All that being said, we may not see this vision come to full fruition. Abraham never saw the fulfillment of the promise, that he would be the father of many nations. In fact, the promise God made to Abraham is still being worked out today, as you and I are grafted into that promise. The promise that God made thousands of years ago is still becoming a reality. Promises might take time. That gives me hope for our society. Right now, we keep shooting each other because we don’t have any other way to work through our anger. But God has a vision for love, and God will get us there, whether we believe it or not.
Whether we believe it or not. I want to be theologically precise here. I’m not saying that if only we believe, or pray harder, or do the right thing, then God will make us happier. Remember, the initiative always begins with God. God is not Santa Claus.
So right now, we might come to church Sunday after Sunday and not feel any different. It may seem that no matter how many prayers we pray, things are still the same. But God has a vision for us of healing and of wholeness.
Week by week it may not seem that our church is all that different. But drop by drop, even over just five short years, God is transforming our community. It won’t happen overnight. God was willing to wait until Abraham was one hundred years old, until Sarah was ninety years old. God’s promise will be accomplished in due time.
There’s an angel of the Lord, knocking on the door of our heart. Knocking on the door of our country. Knocking on the door of our church. God has a vision that the way things are now, aren’t aways going to be that way. God is making good on the promises of love, even if all we can do right now is laugh.