SERMONS & SERMON - LECTIONARY RESOURCES
LAUGHTER SUNDAY - HOLY HUMOUR SUNDAY
(Often Observed on The Fourth Sunday in Lent)
On the Fourth Sunday of Lent, following an old tradition, albeit it in a new guise, we celebrate "Laugher Sunday" or "Holy Humour Sunday". We lighten up, we relax, and recall the joy of the Lord in the midst of the Lenten pilgrimage. We celebrate God's presence and goodness in the midst of life. We tell jokes. We share inspirational stories with humorous twists. And we still hear the gospel of the day. Well at least sometimes. Other times we find other texts and proclaim them.
I first heard of Laughter Sunday in 1991. A member of my congregation whose parents were German speaking Pastors told me about it and some of it's history in Europe. At the same time several "snow birds" (Canadians who winter in Florida) happened to migrate back home and told me about their experience of worship in a large (2000 member) congregation in Florida each year. One of them in particular was impressed with a service held each year in that church, where the pastors and numerous folk from the congregation told jokes and stories and had everybody all in a wonderful turmoil of laughter and good spirits. He said that the service was called "Holy Humour Sunday" and that it was a wonderful break in the midst of the solemnity of Lent. He looked forward to it each year. As have we ever since...
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is sometimes called "Laetare Sunday" - from the first word of the traditional collect for the day (Rejoice). It is also known as "Refreshment Sunday". It was a day when the austerity of Lent was relaxed a little, and the violet vestments of Lent could be replaced with rose coloured ones. A special kind of fruit cake was often served on this Sunday modestly breaking the Lenten Fast (as Sundays in Lent allow for). A recipe for this cake can be found on our page about Mothering Sunday (or open the recipes in a second window here).
A little research shows that Fourth Sunday in Lent is now being observed in a variety of individual churches around the world as "Holy Humour Sunday" or "Lighten Up Sunday". While this day is not listed on the list of approved feast days of the major liturgical denominations, and while there is no mention of it in the "Revised Common Lectionary", there is an ancient history to what we call "Laughter Sunday" - whether it is celebrated on the Fourth Sunday of Lent (as suggested by the "rejoice" theme of the original collect of the day), or as it has been in the past, on Easter Monday.
Early Orthodox churches gathered on the Monday after Easter to tell stories, jokes and anecdotes. To this day in Slavic regions Christians gather the day after Easter for folk dancing and feasting in the churchyard. This was a time of celebrating the big joke that God pulled on Satan. It is known as Bright Monday, White Monday, Dyngus Day, and Emmaus Day in various countries. The Latins call it ‘Risus Paschalis' - God's Joke, the Easter Laugh. (www.newcelebrations.com)
Whenever "Laugher Sunday" it is celebrated, and by whatever name, it is characterised by joking around, singing, dancing, and merry-making. And it reminds us that God is a God of laughter as well as of sorrow - much as God is Lord of the valleys as well as the mountain tops.
The first and most important is that you explain the tradition and invite the congregation to take part by bringing clean, good, humour to church. Do this three or so weeks before the Sunday you have chosen for "Laughter Sunday". Sometimes you might want to issue a invitation for the congregation bring humour or cute stories that fits a theme (children's comments, pet stories, church bulletin bloopers, etc), other times you might want to open the door wide to anything that strikes the fancy of the congregation. I find this latter works best. Our very first Laughter or Holy Humour Sunday invited people to "bring some stuff" to church - for "Stuff Sunday". Part of the fun was having people ask what kind of stuff - and replying, "you know. Everyones got stuff. Just bring some."
The second detail is is that the worship leader or liturgist compile a sufficient number of teasers and stories with which he or she might introduce and/or close the various humourous interludes of the day. When building the liturgy you might choose, as we have, to alternate readings and slightly more serious stuff with interludes where the worship leader and the congregation share the material that they have brought.
The final detail is a simple one: Enjoy!
The following are our Holy Humour Sunday services. Some are free floating (non-lectionary services), others are lectionary related. The list will be added to year by year and/or when we can get around it.
A Final Note:
We would very much appreciate hearing from you about alternative formats and innovative ideas for Holy Humour Sunday - or for services like "Stuff Sunday". You might want to check out www.newcelebrations.com regarding Holy Humour Sunday and other "new" celebrations. You will find there various links, including one to the "The Fellowship of Merry Christians" which provides mailing lists for humour and other items related to being a light (rather than heavy) follower of Christ.
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks 2002 - 2006
please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.