Short Prayers 30: Humor

Short Prayers 30: Humor February 26, 2022

Short Prayers? Well, what about humor? Is the Bible a humorless book? Did Jesus have a sense of humor? Should Christians walk around every day as if they have a mouth full of sauerkraut?

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. (Luke 6:21b)

Is laughter today a proleptic anticipation of joy in heaven?

 

Humor in the Great Reversal 

Here’s a limerick I like.

There was a young lady from Hyde,

Who was carried away by the tide.

But a man-eating shark

Was heard to remark,

“I knew the Lord would provide.”

I have always loved  poets and comedians.  Each in their own way have the ability to take what lies right at our feet, lift it up, turn it just a little, and then we suddenly see what we might have been overlooking.  I do not want to say we see things in a “new” way.  It is not new really.  What we see with the help of the poet or the comedian is what we have already known, known in some sort of pre-conscious fashion.  Now we see it and know we see it, and we are silently thankful that the poem or joke has brought it to our attention.

Silly Bible Puns

I like silly Bible puns too.

When was tennis first introduced into the Bible?

When Moses served in Pharaoh’s court.

Humor as as signal of God’s presence

The presence of God needs something like poets or comedians to bring it to our attention.  God is always present, of course; but we are frequently unaware of it.

This is what the prophets do.  When King David had misused his royal power to seduce Bathsheba and to murder her husband Uriah, the prophet Nathan had the task of reminding David of God’s justice.  He did this through the telling of a parable, through the telling of a story with comic justice.  Nathan’s parable was about a cruel rich man who confiscated the pet ewe lamb of a poor man and then used it to serve lamb chops to an out of town guest.  Upon hearing the story, David became angry that a rich person would treat poor person so unjustly.  Then Nathan drove home his point: “David, you are the man!”   (2 Samuel 12:7) David got the point and suddenly realized what a terrible sin he had committed.  David had been religiously asleep, or perhaps blind.  But now he knew that God was present, present as David’s judge.

Jesus used parables too.  Frequently, he would accompany a parable with the rejoinder, “If you have ears to hear, then listen!”  God is present and speaking to us; but if we are not listening we will not hear the divine voice.  If our eyes are not open, we may not see what is right in front of us.  We need prophets and we need Jesus and we need poets and comedians to sharpen our vision and focus our hearing, to be sure.  But more than this, we ourselves need to open our eyes and clean out our ears so we can perceive what is immediately before us, namely, God.

Easter was God’s supreme joke played on death, hence the risus paschalis  – “the Easter laugh.”

Easter as God’s last laugh, according to Patheos columnist, Leah Schade.

PRAYER

O holy God of Israel, you are nearer to us than we are to ourselves; enable us to open our eyes and direct our hearing so that we may realize your nearness every moment. Amen.

Ted Peters is a Lutheran pastor and emeritus seminary professor. He is author of Short Prayers  and The Cosmic Self. His one volume systematic theology is now in its 3rd edition, God—The World’s Future (Fortress 2015). He has undertaken a thorough examination of the sin-and-grace dialectic in two works, Sin: Radical Evil in Soul and Society (Eerdmans 1994) and Sin Boldly! (Fortress 2015). Watch for his forthcoming, The Voice of Public Christian Theology (ATF 2022). See his website: TedsTimelyTake.com.

About Ted Peters
Ted Peters is a Lutheran pastor and emeritus seminary professor. He is author of Short Prayers  and The Cosmic Self. His one volume systematic theology is now in its 3rd edition, God—The World’s Future (Fortress 2015). He has undertaken a thorough examination of the sin-and-grace dialectic in two works, Sin: Radical Evil in Soul and Society (Eerdmans 1994) and Sin Boldly! (Fortress 2015). Watch for his forthcoming, The Voice of Public Christian Theology (ATF 2022). See his website: TedsTimelyTake.com. You can read more about the author here.

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