April 8, 2018 sermon (Holy Humour Sunday)
Matthew 18:1-5/ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
Like a Child
I told my wife that she was drawing her eyebrows too high. She looked surprised. Working in a mirror factory is something I can totally see myself doing. A Roman legionnaire walks into a bar, holds up two fingers and says, “Five beers, please.” My wife accused me of being immature. I told her to get out of my fort. I tried to catch a fog yesterday. Mist. When I was little, my parents used to always pretend that food was an airplane. They made me wait for it for hours. Can a kangaroo jump higher than a house? Of course, a house can’t jump at all! “Anton, do you think I’m a bad mother?” “Mom, my name is Paul.” My dog used to chase people on a bike a lot. It got so bad that finally I had to take his bike away.
That was fun, but since we are in the middle of a worship service, let’s do some praying. Are you familiar with the Serenity Prayer? “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Now listen to this; “Lord, grand me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the kind of money where I don’t really care either way.” “Lord, give me coffee to change the things that I can change, and wine to accept the thing I can’t.” Can you relate? Can I hear an amen?
Now let’s talk about the greatest prayer in the world; the prayer that our Lord Jesus taught us. The Lord’s Prayer contains so much in a short prayer form, and we could do a lecture series, a sermon series about it for months. Listen to how some young children say the Lord’s Prayer; “Our Father who makes art in heaven, how do you know my name?” “Our Father who art in heaven, Howard be thy name.” “Give us this day our jelly bread.” “Forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.” “And deliver us from eagles.” Meanwhile, some adults pray like this: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive those who call to harass us about our debts.”
When we pray, we tend to ask God for a lot of favours. Here’s a prayer of a control freak; “God, help me to relax about insignificant details, starting tomorrow at 7:41, 23 seconds, Eastern Standard Time.” And a prayer of an impatient person; “Help me to be patient, and I mean right now!” And a prayer of someone who has difficulty focusing; “Help me to keep my mind on one thing… oh look, a bird… at a time.”
Are you loosening up yet? How comfortable do you feel joking and laughing at church, especially during a worship service? As I mentioned at the beginning of the service that Jesus was a funny guy, joking with Peter before saving him from drowning. What about God’s sense of humour making a donkey talk because the prophet Balaam wouldn’t listen? My Old Testament professor at the theological school used to say, “If this story doesn’t make you interested in biblical studies, I don’t know what will.” It’s okay to be funny and silly. After all, today’s gospel story teaches us to be like little children.
According to Jesus, the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to children and those who become like children. We might ask, what is it about children that makes them suitable for God’s kingdom? Some say, it’s their innocence. I would say, yes and no; have you seen some of the children these days? Innocence? It’s debatable. There are other qualities of children that makes them an ideal model for the citizen of God’s kingdom, compatible with the teachings of Jesus. The first and the most important is humility. Children don’t pretend to know everything. Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus emphasized the importance of humility over and over. The second is dependence. They need adults to take care of them, and they know it. By urging us to be like children, Jesus is urging us to acknowledge that we can’t do everything on our own or take care of ourselves on our own all the time, which leads us to the next quality of children; trust. Children have to be trusting of their parents and guardians. Of course, there are children whose parents and guardians break that trust and hurt them; but children in a healthy environment can innately and blindly trust their caretakers. Jesus wants us to trust God’s love with a childlike trust. To trust someone else to take care of us in any way, we have to let ourselves be vulnerable. In patriarchal cultures, including my own, men suffer greatly because they are not allowed to show vulnerability. They are expected to be tough and strong all the time. They should be taking care of women and children, not let themselves be taken care of. But don’t we know that it is not healthy, trying to be tough all the time? We should trust each other and God to be vulnerable sometimes, so that we can be taken care of and be guided.
I will add one more thing to this list of children’s qualities that makes them suitable for God’s kingdom; their ability for unbridled joy and silliness. Thus said Lord Jesus, “Thou shalt become silly and have fun once in a while”. Ok, he never said that, at least not in this universe; but his command to be like little children makes me believe that he would have. Listen to what the Apostle Paul said to the Thessalonians; “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” See? It’s not only my crazy idea!
We are God’s beloved children. Last Sunday, we received the gift of Easter and the Easter hope that our story is a happy ending no matter what we go through now. This is enough reason to rejoice, give thanks to God, and party silly like little children. Considering today’s lesson, I will end with a prayer of a party queen who wants to become more serious in life; “God, help me to take things more seriously, especially laughter, party, and dancing!” Amen? Amen!
Rev. Sunny Kim