This Is No Laughing Matter

You know the 10 Commandments. (At least you’ve heard of them.) Here’s an 11th. THOU SHALT NOT SNICKER! Especially at God.

I mean, some stuff’s just no laughing matter. O, how many of us love to laugh. The good kind. The fun kind. The kind that makes you wanna fall down or fall over, makes your nose wanna show everybody what you just drank, or the tears run down like rollicking-rivulets-of-relief from boredom or distress. A good laugh is a great gift, and God knows I myself love it so. But… did you know?… It takes the Bible 12 different words in 2 languages used 39 times to cover the subject. And more than ½ are not so good. They tell us how laughter can lash out at the human soul or lacerate the bond between ourselves and God! They all come down to this: scorn. Putting down, not lifting up. Raising doubt, not raising hope. Pointing, sniveling, snickering. Hence command 11. O, don’t do that. At school this week. (Yea, I know it’s coming.) Not at work. Not at the table over some family member or friend. Thou simply shalt not snicker! … But especially, profoundly, positively… not at God. For God’s sake not. Or for your sake. Or for the sake or in the name of Jesus Christ!

Abraham and Sarah can help us here. In today’s lesson, we meet up with Abraham, sittin’ on his front porch, so to speak. He spies these three guys. Like a good western cowboy, he over-the-shoulders to Sarah, “Somebody’s comin’!” (Apparently, Sarah doesn’t hear. Maybe she was using her hair dryer.) Now old Abe senses there’s somethin’ holy afoot. Afterall, just verses earlier, he’s had a visit from God! At 99, he’s been told he and Sarah are gonna have a baby! And you know what Abraham does? He laughs. ‘Laughs at God! Abraham falls on his face and laughs. “COME on, Lord. I’m soon to be 100. A child?! NOT!” It’s like first Abe snickered, then outright laughs at GOD! In that instant, Abraham’s certainty outweighs God’s authority! In fact, he tries to help God out. “Why put yourself to the trouble of making a miracle?” he asks. “You know, I’ve got Ishmael. Do your thing with him!” But God insists. NOW, here’s Abe with these 3 visitors. He senses somethin’s up. And it’s holy.  So he welcomes his visitors with the required extravagance. But it’s a man world in that day. So he puts Sarah doin’ much of welcoming work. The messengers ask, “Where’s Sarah?” “In the tent.” The Lord pipes up, “I’ll surely return to you in the spring, and Sarah shall have a son.” Sarah is listening at the tent flap. Sarah laughs to herself. “Are you kidding me? Pregnant at 89? NOT! (That’s ridiculous! I’m quite certain.) Well, God hears her laughter, feels her snicker, even though she does so to herself! There’s a lesson there for us, you know! When God confronts her, she says, “I never….” God responds, “O yes, you ever!!!” he asks her this question. It puts her certainty to the test. He asks, “So… is there anything too hard …for God?”

Now there are three lessons here, suitable for a first week in school, a new week in our families and a new day in our world.

First, making welcome for God in our lives is no laughing matter. Perhaps one thing to the good marks Abraham. He’s willing to welcome God. ‘To sense the presence of the Holy in the ordinary. If it doesn’t sound too goofy, put it this way. Abraham seems keenly aware he could be entertaining angels unawares! He’s into holy hospitality! He beckons toward him every opportunity to be in touch and in conversation with God! Do you do that? Do you really believe God might be coming your way, just to speak /visit with you?! [Examples… calling by the shore >>> conversations with the Lake… Jesus would have understood. Wilbur… I always stop and listen to the quiet (5 AM) before I start to make a lot of noise. Teacher… I always greet my kids at the door. It tells them somebody can hardly wait to see them, just like God. And I always tell them, “We’re gonna have a good day today.”]

Second, making light of what God can do is no laughing matter either. Abraham experiences 1st hand what Jesus says in the first person. “With human beings this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Mtt. 19: 26. And again, to the dad of an ill child, who believes, but wonders (don’t we all). “What do you mean, heal him if you can.  don’t you know, “All things are possible to him who believes.” Mark 9: 23 God keeps telling us just as he tells sarah, “Nothing’s too hard for God. Not even a baby shower for a ninety yr. old!” [I understand, after watching a building rise over these last 9 months, “God has begun a new work in you. And he is eager to complete it! This is a snicker free zone! I like what MEH tells the kids: Mexican, not Mexican’t! I am moved by RB/Sct. Sud… & others who have more than endured, they have triumphed over illness and limitation… not on their own, but by the grace of God.] What are you facing that looks just, well, impossible? Ask yourself… do you really believe it is bigger than God’s power to be bigger in you? O, Sarah can tell you. Don’t laugh. Not even to yourself. See, God is always near enough to hear. And you have no need to laugh in doubt… or shrink in fear!

Third, whatever and what all God has set before us, God’s promises, if you will, are a snicker-free zone. I read that famous passage from Eccelsiastes last Thursday at Grill and Chill. It’s the one about to every thing there is a season. Back to school, work, the challenge of kids/parents, good economy or bad, war & peace. You know the real words. But then we read from this sage, this wise, holy soul who gave us this marvelous Book, these words. “God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has put eternity into [our] mind, so [we] cannot find out what God has done from beginning to end. Whatever God does endures for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has made it so, in order that [we] should hold God in awe. What is, already has been; what’s to be, already has been; and God seeks what/[who] has been driven away.”  Ecc.  3: 11, 14-15 So when God gives you a calling [SS teach, choir, Council, Mission, etc.], don’t laugh. In God’s mind and in God’s power and time, why, it’s already been accomplished! All we need to do is do it. When you read/or your kids read the course outline, don’t snicker, “No way!” Just do it. When you hear the doc say the treatment, don’t snicker in your innards. Surely God will hear as though you laughed out loud. Naa. instead, try this, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.”

Friends, this is God’s time with you and with me. And I tell you earnest andi n truth. This is no laughing matter!

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