Holy Hilarity Sunday celebrates time God had the last laugh

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, April 5, 2018

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Do you know why angels can fly? According to writer G.K. Chesterton, of fictional priest-detective Father Brown fame, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”

It’s in that spirit that Christianity has given license to its diverse followers throughout history to take themselves more lightly than usual this coming first Sunday after Easter, traditionally referred to as Holy Hilarity Sunday, but also as Holy Humour Sunday or Bright Sunday.

Why the lightheartedness on that particular day? Presbyterian pastor and longtime coffee companion Frank Breisch is quite the fan of the Holy Hilarity tradition. He told me once that he’d picked up the tradition from the Eastern European custom of post-Easter lightheartedness that celebrates “the great joke of Easter, the cosmic pratfall as God pulled the rug out from under the powers of darkness and death by the Resurrection.”

Yes, in Jesus’ crucifixion evil thought it had triumphed. But on Easter God had the last laugh! So, this week I thought we might indulge in a little lightheartedness of our own.

For instance, there’s the delightful story about some kids during a church service that our Vancouver Island coffee companion Leanne Forest shared with us:

“Six-year old Angie and her four-year old brother, Joel, were sitting together in church. Joel giggled, sang and talked out loud. Finally, his big sister had had enough. ‘You're not supposed to talk out loud in church.’ ‘Why? Who's going to stop me?’ Joel asked. Angie pointed to the back of the church and said, ‘See those two men standing by the door? They're hushers!’”

Then there’s the one about the pastor who, at his church’s Easter Sunday service, announced to his flock, “This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come forward and lay an egg on the altar.” (Haven’t heard yet whether she got the yolk.)

I’m thinking that could well have been the same pastor who announced to his congregation: “Weight Watchers will meet at 7:00 p.m. in the church hall. Please use large double door at the side entrance.”

Speaking of keeping ourselves in good physical condition reminds me of the story former Cochrane resident Rose Nowakowski forwarded to me some years ago on how to keep our arm and shoulder muscles in good shape:

“Begin by standing outside behind the house,” the story goes, “and with a five-pound potato sack in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can. After a few weeks, move up to 10-pound potato sacks and then 50-pound potato sacks, and finally get to where you can lift a 100-pound potato sack in each hand and hold your arms straight out for more than a minute. It can be done if you stick to it.

“Next, start putting a few potatoes in the sacks, but be careful not to overdo!”

Then, of course, in honour of the angelic levity about to be experienced by one very surprised country preacher, here’s one of my all-time favourites:

The pastor had decided to keep in good physical condition by skipping services one Sunday and going hiking in our beautiful foothills. Rounding a sharp bend in the trail, he collided with a bear and was sent tumbling down a steep grade. He landed on a rock and broke both legs.

Just then the ferocious black bear came charging toward him. The preacher began to pray fervently: “O Lord, I'm so sorry for skipping services today. Please forgive me and grant me just one wish: make a Christian out of that bear that's coming at me!"

At that very instant, the bear skidded to a halt, fell to his knees, clasped his paws together, and began to pray aloud, right at the preacher's feet: "Dear God, please bless this food I am about to receive."

Speaking of those now flying with the angels, Cochrane coffee companion Ann Manning reminded me recently of a lighthearted epitaph on a tombstone she’d encountered: “I told them I was sick!”

And with that, Happy Hilarity!


© 2018 Warren Harbeck

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