“A kindergarten teacher gave her class a “show and tell” assignment. Each student was instructed to bring in an object that represented their religion to share with the class.
The first student got up in front of the class and said, “My name is Benjamin and I am Jewish and this is a Star of David.”
The second student got up in front of the class and
said, “My name is Mary. I’m a Catholic and this is a Rosary.”
The third student got in up front of the class and said, “My name is Tommy. I am Methodist, and this is a casserole.””[i]
Continually people are wondering if I can help teach people about technology and how to understand its uses better. A few members of the church have actually invited me to help them with computer questions. The biggest ask of me is if I can help people understand social media(Twitter and Facebook) better and also how to use their phones. This morning seemed as good as any to do a few instructional pieces on these things. While this is not part of a typical sermon, well nothing about this Holy Humor morning is really typical.
The first piece of technology I would like to share with you is proper texting. Many people are getting smartphones now, and they are supposed to do everything for you. Right? Well sometimes you have to understand a little how the language and methods of phones work to get your message across. Take for example these text messages gone wrong.[ii]
Text Fail 1 – A mom texting her son.
Mom – “Your great aunt just passed away. LOL
Son – “Why is that funny?”
Mom – “It’s not funny David! What do you mean?”
Son – “Mom lol means Lauging Out Loud!”
Mom – “Oh my goodness!! I sent that to everyone I thought it means lots of love. I have to call everyone back. Oh God.”
Text Fail 2 – A Mom texting her child.
Mom – “What does IDK, LY & TTYL mean?”
Child – “I don’t know, love you, talk to you later.”
Mom – “Ok, I will ask your sister.”
Text Fail 3 – Mom texting child.
Mom – “Hi Bridget I space space space how space are space you space doing period capital eye love this new phone exclamation point”
Child – “I see you’re using voice text. You don’t have to say space mom it does it for you.”
Mom – “I cucumber letter pea Ritalin”
Child – “What? Mom stop just type.”
Now that I have given some basic instruction in texting I want to give you some basic instruction in twitter. This is a tweet I sent out last week.
As you can see it is fairly simple. I have a picture of me and a handle or nickname. Zestyreverend has a whole connotation I can explain later. Then I wrote a message to St. Paul’s because I wanted it to show up on the St. Paul’s timeline. Then the end is the infamous hashtag. Those of us that grew up pre-twitter also know that as a pound sign. The hashtag is like a topic that people can search for. So, if you searched #holyhumor you would see all the people using that hashtag. You can then see what is trending worldwide on Twitter at anytime.
I can tell you how to use twitter, but don’t ask what to use it for. It is a tool to discuss topics, events, or ideas. It is like a worldwide brainstorm. So, there you go an introduction to Twitter.
Now, to the scripture for the day. It is found in John 20:19-31. It is the story of Thomas, “Doubting Thomas,” and how he stuck his hand in the side of Jesus. I invite you to hear the reading from the stories from the time after the resurrection of Jesus.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Jesus and Thomas
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[a]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
The Purpose of This Book
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah,[c] the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
The traditional title of this story is “Doubting Thomas.” It focuses in on the moment when Thomas will not believe until he is able to touch Jesus and put his hand in the wound on his side. This story is traditionally told and preached on by focusing in on the last line Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” The traditional interpretation implies that those who believe without direct experience are somehow better. This message focuses on a reality in which doubting is bad, pulls us from the truth, and in which you don’t want to find yourself. For some preachers they might even say to be “doubting” put you in danger of eternal time near one infamous fire.
Just to remove any doubt you might have about this story and that it actually happened. I want to share this next research with you to make sure you are free of doubt. This example came from some extensive research, during which I came across a historical set of Tweets. These tweets claim to date back to the time of Jesus, so take a look and see what you think.
There you have it, a tweet interpretation of scripture.
Today is Holy Humor Sunday and the tradition is that the resurrection is the last laugh. It is the moment in which the threat of death is overcome and we now trust that through the resurrection death is not the end. Then we are handed this scripture passage about Thomas, which is part of the church schedule of scriptures to be used post Easter. The traditional interpretation is either doubt or believe, but you can’t be a doubting believer.
The invitation in the joke of Holy Humor Sunday is to step away from the traditional interpretation and see if we can resurrect it’s meaning. We are invited on this Sunday as we place humor along side Thomas, to recognize that laughter and doubt are both universal human experiences and that both are invitations from God to experience our faith and our lives. We can see this universal reality in the fact that both doubt and fear are emotions that reside in the most primitive parts of our brain.
To demonstrate the universal nature of laughter I went straight to the source of medical and human behavioral knowledge, Web MD.[iii] (Brought to you by WEB MD the place you go late at night to look up your symptoms. Web MD helping people think they are dying since 1999.) Web MD states that laughter most likely pre-dates speech by millions of years. Which means it is more instinctual than even our need to talk to one another. Imagine the lessening of awkwardness over Thanksgiving dinner if we just laughed all the time. If laughter predates speech we are more susceptible to laughter as a response even in the most awkward of situations.
Web MD continues that we are 30 times more likely to laugh when with people, than when we are by ourselves. It also states laughing events occur most often not because of a joke, but in response to another person. Laughter is actually a social response to spark positive feelings in others. We laugh because it helps people relax, to ease tension of the unknown. Humor helps us invite positive feelings and emotions.
Doubt is also a universal feeling. It is tied into the same area of our brain designed to help us detect threats. The area of our brain that helps us with reactions of fight, flight or freeze. The fact that the part of our brain tied to detecting threats is primitive is often time why we laugh in the face of doubt or uncertainty. Laughing is a way to relieve the tension in our brains during threating situations. Doubt is an incredibly healthy thing that helps us to understand our world better. Too much doubt can raise our anxiety, and can literally paralyze us or be unhealthy. However, unhealthy is much different than eternal torment.
This passage about Thomas is trying to reveal to us the place of doubt in our exploration of faith. Doubt has its place in our world and in our lives. Without doubt we wouldn’t have incredible scientific endeavors striving to teach us more about our universe because everyone would just believe what they were told about reality. Without doubt we would let injustice in the world continue, because we wouldn’t doubt it to be a threat. Without doubt we wouldn’t have conviction to share our faith because faith would be easy. Faith being easy might sound like, “Believe and your life will be better.”
Thomas’ story shares the universal message that sometimes doubt is needed to prove our faith. This gospel story pulls us from our seats and into the resurrection story, like some bad 1980s sci-fi movie. It makes the experience of doubt a universally acceptable part of faith.
When Thomas reaches into the side of Jesus it changes the message of “doubting is bad” to “doubting will happen.” For most of us we have to experience the messiness of laughter, of doubt, the messiness of being human to really understand the faith of Christ. We have to touch the icky awful realities of the wound of our mortality to understand what God is and can be for us in this life. The God who was in Jesus and in is in us now. God wanted us to know that God has experienced and continues to experience our mess and mortality. This is God clearing up the message that we are loved and that God is in all of creation.
To clear up any confusion, Jesus last line, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe,” is saying it is a blessing to be one who does not need to experience the mess of life to have faith. For most of us we have to experience God in the difficult messes of life. For most of us it feels like the world is cutting a wound in our side before we usually experience a reality in which we feel like we can touch God. Thomas’ doubt is the experience most of us will have before we ever find faith, and that is ok.
There is a great newspaper out there called the Onion. It is a newspaper committed to writing stories in the most sarcastic voice possible. A recent headline was titled Local Church Full Of Brainwashed Idiots Feeds Town’s Poor Every Week.[iv]
“Sources confirmed today that the brainwashed morons at First Baptist Assembly of Christ, all of whom blindly accept whatever simplistic fairy tales are fed to them, volunteer each Wednesday night to provide meals to impoverished members of the community.”
The article is funny because I think most of time we universally doubt that this religious/spiritual community called church we take part in really matters. We wonder if we are blindly following something that won’t get us somewhere. And yet the humor and the sarcasm in this article point to a fact, “Our faith guides us to help offer hope to situations that most of us would usually ignore.” The resurrection is about offering hope to places where all seemed hopeless.
As we merge our laughter at the joke of resurrection with the faith that comes from reaching into our doubt there is an invitation here for us. God invites us to be human and to doubt, because doubt brings us closer to the truth. God invites us to laugh, because it brings us closer to each other.
Go enjoy the joke of the resurrection, which is that God lives. God lives in us and that Christ is right there by our sides.
[i] Email Message Received on March 3rd, 2014.
[ii] Text failures found at http://www.lifebuzz.com/funny-texts/?utm_source=email#!FEqhb