Reflections on laughter as holy practice: themes from Luke and ministry of Christ

I commend mirth. — Ecclesiastes 8:15

A smile is a curve that sets everything straight. — Phyllis Diller

A child’s laugh should be
the butterfly wing,
the ripple-maker,
for all the world.
There are many children crying —
we hear them echoing
from news media.
It is time to pray
the change of the world
in children’s laughter.
— Maren Tirabasi


Questions to consider:

  • Do you have favorite comics/comedians who are able to act in a prophetic way, stating uncomfortable truths, by using humor? What issues do they address?
  • Have you ever experienced or used ‘gallows humor’ as a form of coping in tough times?
  • In whose company do you relax enough to laugh? With whom do you let down your guard?
  • When was the last time you belly laughed?

Songs about laughter:

Holy Humor

Satire, or any sort of humor for that matter, is tough to do right.  … using humor as a prophetic, yet disarming, method for sharing with vulnerability, challenging the powerful, and tearing down idols. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses on this — from the prophets, to Chaucer, to Swift.  Jesus too was a brilliant humorist, with a penchant for hyperbole—planks in the eye, camels through the eyes of needles, straining gnats and swallowing camels. (I love that God seems to find camels especially comical.) — Rachel Held Evans

It is cheerful to God when you rejoice or laugh from the bottom of your heart. — Martin Luther King Jr

I developed a sense of humor to protect myself from abuse and jeering. I learned to roll with the punches. There’s nothing like humor to help you do that. There’s a line in Plan B that “laughter is carbonated holiness.” Always my salvation was laughter–laughing with friends, with girlfriends, laughing in the dark. The name of my first book was Hard Laughter, about trying to keep one’s sense of humor and one’s head above water in extreme crisis, which at that time was my father’s brain cancer. So I’m not sure how much humor the hardship has given me. But it turned out that when hardships came, the sense of humor of my friends, and of my own, saved the day.— Anne Lamott

The Bible is funny. But it’s not a gag type of funny like Lucille Ball. The humor we experience in the Bible is more of a meeting of the tragic and the absurd. It’s a can’t-stop-laughing-at-a-funeral-because-the-honest-weight-of-our-mortality-is-too-much type of funny. It’s the slightly self-effacing type of funny we get to when we’re willing to see how absurd we are. The Bible offers us an “ouch” type of funny, an honest funny. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

If Christ laughed a great deal, as the evidence shows, and if he is what he claimed to be, we cannot avoid the logical conclusion that there is laughter and gaiety in the heart of God. [and] There are numerous passages … which are practically incomprehensible when regarded as sober prose, but which are luminous once we become liberated from the gratuitous assumption that Christ never joked. … Once we realize that Christ was not always engaged in pious talk, we have made an enormous step on the road to understanding —Elton Trueblood

A master storyteller would never forsake humor as a means to reach an audience. Jesus, who spent much of his ministry breaking down barriers between people, knew that humor does exactly this. Humor disarms and unites; it sets people at ease and leaves them receptive to the speaker’s message. — Father Tim

The opposite is also true, of course: if Jesus wept, surely he laughed. — Jennifer Johnson

Having mentioned the problems in the Middle East, he turned to me and said, “And what is this about chosenness?”  I answered that Jews believed God chose them for a particular purpose, but it does not mean we are the only ones chosen; different peoples can be chosen for different things. He laughed, and said yes, it is true, Tibetans think they are chosen as well. It seems strange to say that a religious figure’s authority is dependent on his laugh. There is far more, but nonetheless His Holiness’ laugh is striking. Having met my share of religious leaders, I don’t think any of them is as un-self-conscious and as devoid of a sense of self-importance. Every now and then, if feeling particularly mischievous, he will stick his tongue out to emphasize the ludicrousness of it all. It reminded me of a comment by G.K. Chesterton, that angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. — David Wolpe (about the Dalai Lama)

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. — His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Laughter Is the Best Medicine (excerpt – full article) — Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
  Physical Benefits:

  • Boosts immunity
  • Lowers stress hormones
  • Decreases pain
  • Relaxes your muscles
  • Prevents heart disease

Mental Health Benefits:

  • Adds joy and zest to life
  • Eases anxiety and tension
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves mood
  • Strengthens resilience

Social Benefits:

  • Strengthens relationships
  • Attracts others to us
  • Enhances teamwork
  • Helps defuse conflict
  • Promotes group bonding

On Laughter

A smile starts on the lips, a grin spreads to the eyes, a chuckle comes from the belly; but a good laugh bursts forth from the soul, overflows, and bubbles all around. — Carolyn Birmingham

And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh. — Friedrich Nietzsche

God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. — Voltaire

He deserves Paradise who makes his companions laugh. — Qu’ran

The moment of awakening may be marked by an outbursts of laughter, but this is not the laughter of someone who has won the lottery or some kind of victory. It is the laughter of one who, after searching for something for a long time, suddenly finds it in the pocket of his coat. — Thich Nhat Hanh

I have always felt that laughter in the face of reality is probably the finest sound there is and will last until the day when the game is called on account of darkness. In this world, a good time to laugh is any time you can. — Linda Ellerbee

Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy. — John Cleese

Meditations on tangible love during Advent 4: holy, messy, stubborn love that moves among us here on earth.

I believe God loves the world through us—through you and me. — Mother Teresa

The three grand essentials of happiness are: Something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for.― George Washington Burnap

The great struggle of … life is to take God’s name for us, to believe we are beloved and to believe that is enough. ― Rachel Held Evans

The roots of a lasting relationship are mindfulness, deep listening and loving speech, and a strong community to support you. — Thich Nhat Hanh

You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.
― William W. Purkey

Prayer
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
— St. Teresa of Ávila
 

Questions to consider:

  • When did you have an experience of holy, stubborn love this week?
  • When has love insisted on showing up, despite whatever should have turned it away, in your life?
  • What or who has been transformed by love, in your life?
  • When have you served as tangible love in someone else’s life?
  • What is your ‘language’ of love? How do you express love to others? Read an article on this concept.
  • In what ways are you willing to receive or accept love? When and how is it hard to allow yourself to be loved?
  • What songs make your playlist as great love songs? Are they romantic or do they describe a different kind of love?

HOLY, STUBBORN LOVE: Incarnate, Embodied, Among-Us

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. ― Rumi

Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love. ― Mahatma Gandhi

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Every one of us is trying to find our true home. Some of us are still searching. Our true home is inside, but it’s also in our loved ones around us. When you’re in a loving relationship, you and the other person can be a true home for each other. ― Thich Nhat Hanh

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close. ― Pablo Neruda

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. ― Elie Wiesel

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always. ― Mahatma Gandhi

I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough … ― Nicholas Sparks

Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love. — Mother Teresa

You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not. ― Jodi Picoult

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could. ― Louise Erdrich

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater. ― J.R.R. Tolkien

Spiritual Commentary on Love

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. ― Dalai Lama

I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us. ― Anne Lamott

Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change. ― Richard Rohr 

Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love. ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

What I love about the ministry of Jesus is that he identified the poor as blessed and the rich as needy…and then he went and ministered to them both. This, I think, is the difference between charity and justice. Justice means moving beyond the dichotomy between those who need and those who supply and confronting the frightening and beautiful reality that we desperately need one another. ― Rachel Held Evans

God’s grace is a gift that is freely given to us. We don’t earn a thing when it comes to God’s love, and we only try to live in response to the gift. No one is climbing the spiritual ladder. We don’t continually improve until we are so spiritual we no longer need God. We die and are made new, but that’s different from spiritual self-improvement. We are simultaneously sinner and saint, 100 percent of both, all the time. The Bible is not God. The Bible is simply the cradle that holds Christ. Anything in the Bible that does not hold up to the Gospel of Jesus Christ simply does not have the same authority. The movement in our relationship to God is always from God to us. Always. We can’t, through our piety or goodness, move closer to God. God is always coming near to us. Most especially in the Eucharist and in the stranger.
― Nadia Bolz-Weber

When love awakens in your life, in the night of your heart, it is like the dawn breaking within you. Where before there was anonymity, now there is intimacy; where before there was fear, now there is courage; where before in your life there was awkwardness, now there is a rhythm of grace and gracefulness; where before you used to be jagged, now you are elegant and in rhythm with your self. When love awakens in your life, it is like a rebirth, a new beginning. ― John O’Donohue

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