Laughable, Historic Hope | Sojourners

Laughable, Historic Hope

The most serious of events can seem,

The most serious of events can seem, well, funny at the time. Encountering God’s transformative actions directly, the first human response can be to break down into laughter.

In Matthew 9, a synagogue leader asks Jesus to help his daughter, who has just died. When Jesus tells the crowd "the girl is not dead but sleeping," they laugh at him. Until she gets up. When the Lord tells elderly Sarah and Abraham they are soon to have a baby together, Sarah starts to laugh to herself. Wouldn’t you?

The passages for June carry us from the hilarity of holy surprise to the necessity of trust, and from the paradoxes of love to the consequences of grace. God acts - and history changes. When the faithful hear God’s voice and respond, expect a turn of events.

In the all-too-bloody 20th century, some oddly funny things happened on the way to justice and liberation. Lech Walesa (the Black Madonna on his lapel) scaled the Gdansk shipyard fence and nonviolently led the Polish people to freedom. Mohandas Gandhi and his gun-less "army" liberated India from colonial rule. Laughter seemed normal to many as Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed the power of marching, singing, and going to jail.

The readings invite us to laugh at the surprises of salvation history. We are asked to consider how "the kingdom of heaven has come near" today (Matthew 10:7), and dare to make a public witness. Beware: Earthly kingdoms sometimes miss the humor.

Robert Roth is a writer and social activist who lives in East Lansing, Michigan.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2005
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