Here is my column for this coming Sunday: Comedy Sunday 5.
Welcome to Comedy Sunday 5. I’d rather be faithful than funny. I’d rather be Christ-like than comedic. But part of me believes that humor, laughter, and comedy are an essential part of the grace-filled and Spirit-filled life.
Conrad Hyers writes: The history of Israel begins—if it does not sound too impious—with a joke, a divine joke. The laughter of Abraham and Sarah at this joke was not so much a laughter of unbelief as of disbelief, as when we say "You can't be serious" or "You've got to be kidding." Yet it was a laughter that became the laughter of faith. Abraham and Sarah would be less inclined in the future to declare the impossible. And their laughter, in turn, would become the laughter of faith and hope for generations to follow. (And God Created Laughter 10)
Frederick Buechner expands on Abraham and Sarah’s story: Sarah and her husband had had plenty of hard knocks in their time, and there were plenty more of them still to come, but at that moment when the angel told them they'd better start dipping into their old age pensions for cash to build a nursery, the reason they laughed was that it suddenly dawned on them that the wildest dreams they'd ever had hadn't been half wild enough. (Peculiar Treasures 173)
Sarah and Abraham named their son Isaac—which in the Hebrew language means “Laughter.” A reading of Laughter's (Isaac's) sons, Esau and Jacob, shows redemption and forgiveness through parody and satire. Also evident is the humor of reversal when God takes the trickster over the diligent brother. Esau is mocked as a slow-witted, unsophisticated hunter with way too much hair. His younger brother Jacob, was a schemer who occasionally became the schemed. The twins both received their fair share of satire as they labored through life (see Genesis 25-27, 33). After a wrestling match at the Jabbok River, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. God later told Moses that "I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Exod. 3:6, NLT). It turns out, to the Hebrew reader, that Laughter (Isaac) is the father of Israel (Jacob).
History's great comedy (a story with the surprise ending of good news) is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the early Greek Orthodox Church, the day after Easter the people gathered to tell jokes and funny stories. They did this to celebrate the practical joke that God played on Satan. Satan thought that he conquered the world, but on the third day the tomb was empty and Christ had risen. The comedy of the Bible, specifically the story of Jesus Christ, is found in the fact that liberation and laughter come through God's victory in Jesus Christ.