Sermon and Liturgy for Laughter Sunday - Year A
Genesis 18:1-15; Genesis 21;1-6, Ecclesiastes 3:1-4, Proverbs 17:22
"Laughter Sunday"

READING:  Genesis 18:1-15;21;1-6, Ecclesiastes 3:1-4, Proverbs 17:22
SERMON :  "Laughter - One of The Best Medicines"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-le04laugh-sn 826
   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

   See our Laughter Sunday Page page for a little background
   to the following service.  The structure of the service is a bit
   different than normal - and the texts are not drawn from the
   Revised Common Lectionary.  There is no real sermon or homily as
   such, but there are reflections on the texts offered.  You will
   find that there will be a lot of material offered by the
   congregation and the time will go quickly.

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

* CALL TO WORSHIP: (Isaiah 66:10)
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her.
P  All you who love her; rejoice with her in joy.

* INTROIT:  "This Is The Day"                                      - VU 412

This morning is the Fourth Sunday in Lent - traditionally known as L„tare
Sunday, from the Latin word for the introductory prayer in the Roman
Catholic mass for this day - a prayer based on the words of Isaiah 66:10,
which begins with the word "Rejoice".   This Sunday, which falls at the
time of year when the sun is showing more frequently and Spring can be seen
to be close, came to be know as "Rejoicing Sunday", then as Laughter
Sunday" or "Lighten Up Sunday" and was celebrated in Europe with great glee
with parades and feasts.  Today we share the joy of humour with the telling
of jokes and stories.  Our homily features some biblical thoughts about
humour and joy.

- Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Special Time for St. Andrew's
- Sharing Joys and Concerns For Prayer

TIME OF PREPARATION (Music and Silent Prayer)

Loving God, glorious Creator, we praise and thank you and rejoice before on
this day that you have made.  With Israel upon hearing your promises of
salvation, we rejoice in what you are about; with Jerusalem upon hearing of
her coming restoration, we shout for joy.   Oh Father, on this our Holy
Sabbath we remember not only the cross, but the resurrection; and we sing
of Christ's victory and praise you for bringing life out of death, hope out
of despair, and laughter out of sorrow -- and granting them to us as part
of our internal inheritance in him.  We pray you, attend our praise and
restore our hearts with your love, both now and evermore.  Amen.

* HYMN:  "Sing Your Joy"                                           - VU 253

   (NRSV)  The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at
   the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.  He looked up and saw
   three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent
   entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, "My lord,
   if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.  Let a little
   water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the
   tree.  Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves,
   and after that you may pass on--since you have come to your servant." 

   So they said, "Do as you have said."  

   And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, "Make ready
   quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes." 
   Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it
   to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.  Then he took curds and
   milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he
   stood by them under the tree while they ate. 

   They said to him, "Where is your wife Sarah?" 

   And he said, "There, in the tent." 

   Then one said, "I will surely return to you in due season, and your
   wife Sarah shall have a son".  And Sarah was listening at the tent
   entrance behind him. 

   {Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be
   with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself,
   saying, "After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have

   The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, and say, 'Shall I
   indeed bear a child, now that I am old?'  Is anything too wonderful for
   the LORD? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and
   Sarah shall have a son." 

   But Sarah denied, saying, "I did not laugh"; for she was afraid.  

   He said, "Oh yes, you did laugh."

L  This Is the word of the Lord. 
P  Thanks be to God

What I can tell you about humour and the Bible   well - it's found from the
beginning to the end.  Not only is the bible full of puns and of images the
provoke smiles as we hear them - we come to see God as has having a sense
of humour - as playing with the opportunities we create for God -as if we
are the straight men that allows to God to fire off another good line.

A line like that of Isaac.  His name means "laughter".  And what child of
God is not a delight?  Is not full of laughter and glee?  But Isaac's
arrival, the arrival of laughter - comes only after God insists on
stretching our sense of belief - or should I say the Sense of Belief - the
sense of faith that Abraham and Sarah had.  

Feel it for a minute.   Think of the inner dialogue here - as told by your
favourite Jewish comedian: "Hey - I am a 100 years old, and Sarah, you
bless her why don't you, well she isn't any spring chicken - I tell you 90
times that woman has gone completely around the sun  - I mean she's
travelled so far Star Ship Voyager will never catch up   there is no way
what you are suggesting is possible.  Why listen to her - cackling away in
the tent just thinking about it."

And we do hear in the scriptures how Sarah laughed at the whole idea - how
she laughed at God  - and then denied it - and we hear how God says to her  
"hey you did too laugh!  And the laugh is on you   for it's true - you're
going to have a baby - just as I always said you would.  So - it's a little
late in life...  Look at this way  - lots of people wonder if there is life
after kids, in your case at least there was life before kids....

Isaac - one of the great three forefathers of the faith   he was the result
of God's promise.  And laughter is a key ingredient in the family tree of
our faith.  And Sarah wanted to deny it. 

I begin the cutting up today with the story of another debate.  And
apocryphal tale from the Middle Ages.  But there is something rather
biblical about it in how it makes you think about things even as it amuses:

   It seems that the Pope, under pressure from all the Cardinals,
   decided that all the Jews had to leave Rome.  Naturally there was a
   big uproar from the Jewish community.  So the Pope made a deal.  He
   would have a religious debate with a member of the Jewish community. 
   If the Jew won, the Jews could stay. If the Pope won, the Jews would

   The Jews realized that they had no choice.  So the elders of the
   people picked a respected Rabbi to represent them.  The Rabbi was
   rather flamboyant in his expression, so they asked for one addition
   to the debate. To make it more interesting, and safer, neither side
   would be allowed to talk.  The Pope agreed.

   The day of the great debate came. The Rabbi and the Pope sat
   opposite each other for a full minute before the Pope raised his
   hand and showed three fingers.   The Rabbi looked back at him and
   raised one finger. 

   The Pope waved his fingers in a circle around his head.  The Rabbi
   energetically pointed to the ground.

   The Pope pulled out a loaf of bread and a glass of wine and he broke
   the bread and ate, then sipped the wine.  The Rabbi pulled out an apple
   and took a bite from it. 

   The Pope then stood up and said, "I give up.  This man is too good. 
   The Jews can stay in Rome as long as they want."  

   An hour later, the cardinals were all around the Pope asking him what
   had happened. 

   The Pope said, "First I held up three fingers to represent the
   Trinity.  He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that
   there was still one God common to both our religions.  Then I waved
   my finger around me to show him that God was all around us and is
   Lord over the church.  He responded by pointing to the ground and
   reminding me that God may be all around, but God was also right here
   with us and is God of the Jews as well as of the church.  I broke
   bread and drank wine to show that God absolves us from our sins. 
   The rabbi ate of the apple to remind me of original sin and how it
   still affects us.  He had an answer for everything. What could I

   Meanwhile, the Jewish community had crowded around the Rabbi. "What
   happened?" they asked. 

   "Well," said the Rabbi, "First he said to me that the Jews had three
   days to get out of here.  I told him that not one of us was leaving. 
   Then he told me that this whole city would be cleared of Jews.  I
   let him know that we were staying right here." 

   "And then?" asked a woman.   

   "I don't know," said Moishe, "He took out his lunch and I took out
   mine - and now we can stay as long as want"

CHILDREN'S TIME:  Sharing Humour" 
This morning I have some things for you to think about   funny things about
our language.  Perhaps you have stories too; do you?  Anything you want to

      ** Let the children share their stories and prompt them with others
   you can include from the selections below as time permits **

Have you ever noticed that  
       There is no egg in the eggplant
       No ham in the hamburger
       And neither pine nor apple in the pineapple.
How about this       English muffins were not invented in England
           And        French fries were not invented in France.
           Or         Boxing rings are square
           And        A guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

Questions to Ponder
   - If writers write, how come fingers don't fing?
   - If the plural of tooth is teeth, shouldn't the plural of phone booth
   be phone beeth?
   - If the teacher taught, Why didn't the preacher praught?
   - If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what the heck does a humanitarian

Go figure this one 
  Why do people Recite at a play, yet play at a recital?
                Park on driveways and drive on parkways
  Or  When a house burns up we say it burned down
  Or  when you fill in a form we say you filled it out.
 When the stars are out they are visible, but when the lights are out they
are invisible  When I wind up my watch, it starts, but when I wind up my
sermon, it ends.

   We thank you God -- for life and love and laughter.   We thank you
   for fun and food and feeling happy.   We praise you god for caring
   and kindness.   And most of all we thank you    for Jesus who makes
   all things whole.    Amen".

   And in the words Jesus taught us:

   Our Father who 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

* HYMN:  "Give To Us Laughter"                                     - VU 624

   (NRSV)  The LORD dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for
   Sarah as he had promised.  Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in
   his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him.  Abraham gave
   the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him.  And Abraham circumcised
   his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 
   Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 
   Now Sarah said, "God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears
   will laugh with me."

L  This Is the word of the Lord. 
P  Thanks be to God

- Introduce with Sarah commentary and joke
- Stories from the Congregation
- Close at the right time so that you can continue later

At first Sarah denied laughing   but when her time came   she saw the
humour of it.  "God has brought laughter for me", says Sarah when Isaac is
born, "Everyone who hears will laugh with me".  

The laughter of knowing that God is good.  The laughter of the wonder of
all that God does.  Biblical humour is the humour of those who know love. 
It is not nasty or cruel.  It focuses on our failings - our pride - our
silly habits - our way of thinking and speaking, and by playing with these
things - transforms them.  Let me start off this time with a little story
and then - you take a turn at laughing with Sarah.

   A fisherman and his wife were blessed with twin sons.  They named
   the boys "Towards" and "Away" because when they were infants one of
   the boys would always turn towards the sea, while the other boy
   would always face inland.  It didn't matter which way the parents
   positioned the boys, the same child always faced the same direction.

   The years passed and the boys grew.  The day came when the fisherman
   said to his sons, "Boys, it is time that you learned how to make a
   living from the sea."  They provisioned their ship, said their
   good-byes, and set sail for a three-month voyage.  The three months
   passed quickly for the fisherman's wife, yet the ship had not
   returned.  Another three months passed, and still no ship. Finally,
   after three whole years passed, the grieving woman saw a her husband
   walking down the lane to her house - alone.

   "My goodness!  What has happened to my darling boys?" she cried. 

   The ragged fisherman told this story: "We were just barely a day out
   to sea when Towards hooked into a great fish.  Towards fought long
   and hard, but the fish was more than his equal.  For a whole week
   they wrestled upon the waves without either of them letting up.  Yet
   eventually the great fish started to win the battle, and Towards was
   pulled over the side of our ship.  He was swallowed whole, and we
   never saw the great fish or Towards again."

    "Oh dear, that must have been terrible!  What a huge fish that must
   have been!"

   "Yes, it was, but you should have seen the one that got Away...."

    SHARE      SHARE     SHARE

* HYMN:  "Sing A Happy Hallelujah"                                 - VU 224

A READING FROM ECCLESIASTES 3:1-4                                          
   (NRSV)  For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter
   under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant,
   and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to
   heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and
   a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

L  This Is the word of the Lord. 
P  Thanks be to God

HUMOUR INTERLUDE: A TIME TO LAUGH - Stories From The Congregation
- Introduce
- Stories from the Congregation
- Close at the right time so that you can continue later

There is a time to laugh.  Well - this is it.  Who has a story or joke to

ANTHEM: "Take Now My Voice"

HOMILY: "Laughter - One of The Best Medicines" (Proverbs 17:22)

My homily is very brief.  With what I have said before - and a reading of
Proverbs 17 - verse 22 itis enough.  Consider thou this word from God
through Solomon.  It is written:

                "A cheerful heart is a good medicine,
                 but a downcast spirit dries up the

My last contribution of the day has recently helped a lot of bones stay
moist.  In fact, over the last couple of weeks I have seen several good
church people, including a Protestant Pastor and A Catholic  Priest, just
about weep over this one.  Anyone might think that these folk have been
part of a Red Neck Church.  

A few items from: You Might Be In A Red Neck Church  You might be in a
redneck church if...
-- The Call to Worship is ,"Y'all come on in!"
-- People grumble about how Noah let coyotes on the Ark.
-- The Preacher says, "I'd like to ask Bubba to help take up the offering"
- and five guys stand up.
-- Opening day of deer hunting season is recognized as an official church
-- A member requests to be buried in his four-wheel drive truck because, "I
ain't never been in a hole it couldn't get me out of".
-- In the annual stewardship drive there is at least one pledge of "two
-- The only time people lock their cars in the parking lot is during the
summer and then only so their Neighbours can't leave them a bag of squash.
-- The pastor wears boots. **
-- There is no such thing as a "secret'' sin.
-- Finding and returning lost sheep  is not just a parable.
-- High notes on the organ set dogs in the parking lot to howling.
-- People wonder when Jesus fed the 5,000 whether the two fish  were bass
or catfish.
-- It's not heaven, but you can see heaven from there.
-- The final words, of the benediction are,  "Y'all come on back now, ya

That is my final words.  How about yours?

-- last chance for congregation - remainders that they may offer.

* HYMN  "I Come With Joy"                                          - VU 477

Lord, we thank you for the gift of joy -- the gift that comes from knowing
you and knowing that your purpose and will for us can never be thwarted -
the joy that comes from knowing that you are in charge - and that by hook
or crook  - your will will be done.  Indeed Father, we rejoice with
Jersualem over your promises to them - and to us...  Lord, hear our

We thank you Father than in your wisdom you have appointed a time in our
lives for laughter -- and that laughter and a merry heart are means by
which you bring healing and wholeness to that which would be otherwise
dried up and without beauty or vitality .  Indeed, O Lord, we praise you
for giving Abraham and Sarah laughter in their old age -- and for ever
since sending unto us those like Isaac who warm our hearts by their
presence -- those people and events who enter our life when we think it is
impossible and prove all our certainties to be entirely too limiting... 
Thank you Lord for granting to us a sense of the ridiculous and the ability
to appreciate it when it comes to pass....  Lord hear our prayer....

Bring joy and hope, laughter and wholeness, rejoicing and healing, today, O
Lord, to the many people and situations we lift up to you at this time...
BIDDING PRAYER.... Lord, hear our prayer...

These things we ask in the name of Jesus.   Amen.


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:  As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of

   Most loving God - as you have given yourself to us in Christ Jesus,
   now let us give ourselves to you.  We give you our bodies that they
   may be vessels for your Spirit; we give you our souls that they may
   be made pure by your grace; we give you our hearts that we may
   always love you and we give you our minds that they may be always be
   full of your wisdom.  Receive all that we offer and use it for your
   honour and glory.  Amen

* DEPARTING HYMN:  "  "When All Your Mercies, O My God"            - VU 219

* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of
Go in peace
and may God be in your head and in your understanding,  
may the Father be in your eyes and in your looking
may the Spirit be in your mouth and in your speaking, 
and the Son in your heart and in your thinking,
May the Trinity be in in your hands and in your working,
And the Three in One be in your feet and in your daily walking,
 - both now and forevermore.  Amen

"Y'all come on back now, ya hear!"

* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                              - VU 964

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2002 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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