Lectionary Reflection for the Second Sunday of Easter, Year C
April 3, 2016
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Psalm 150:6
The “alleluias” are back, and are they ever plentiful! They sound pretty good at the Easter festival services, but have you ever noticed how they tend to lose their vim and vigor the further we journey from the empty tomb? Why is that? Could it be that life gets in the way? Maybe we just settle back into a comfortable routine or feel a little bit silly or overly enthusiastic hollering “alleluia” at the top of our lungs week after week. Do we fall away from the wonder and mystery of the faith we proclaim in our risen Lord?
In my Lutheran tradition (ELCA) we’re pretty sedate most of the time anyway–modest, not given to grand shows of emotion, excessive “amens,” or unwarranted “alleluias.” Don’t get me wrong; our liturgy (when it’s done well and with great care) is a thing to behold. We just tend not to get overly excited. And this, I think, can be problematic, especially when we really do need to lighten up, leave our worries and cares at the door, and bask in the glorious and praiseworthy presence of our Creator.
What if, on this day when we retell the story of Thomas doubting the words of his fellow disciples, we celebrate that we have a God who is big enough to push past our doubts and fears? I encourage you, fellow preacher and teacher, to take the risk to inject a little holy humor into this day because we do have reason to laugh at this audacious claim/truth/promise we have in Christ–that neither evil, nor the forces and principalities of this world, not even death has dominion over us. There’s a fine thread of defiance woven throughout this week’s lessons, too. It’s a righteous defiance that stands in the face of the world’s way of doing things. May it embolden us to be faithfully focused on whose we are and what we are called to do!
Yes, this Sunday let’s lighten up, laugh, give our most lavish praise, and fill our houses of worship with glad hearts and lots of hopeful, neighborly love. Whether you choose to go all out and celebrate some variation of “Holy Humor” Sunday or simply try to get folks in the pews to let down their guard and really praise God, do something that defies expectations and routine, something that is life-giving and hopeful, something that is worthy of this amazing God we serve.
Perhaps that something is giving people permission to take their doubts, their fears, and their misgivings and name them. What does it take for us to believe? Where did Jesus meet each one of us? How does Jesus continue to meet us at our place of deepest need? Can we see our Lord Christ as “Alpha and Omega”–enough and then some, our all in all?
If we can see just a glimpse of that reality, even though a dark and foggy lens, we can justify some lusty and loud alleluias and some real praise in our worship. Did you happen to count the number of times the psalmist uses the word “praise” in Psalm 150? Hint: It’s 12. The number “twelve” in scripture is laden with meaning and symbolism, signifying perfection, perfect authority, and completeness. Sounds like our praise and worship are important in God’s eyes, no matter how imperfect or confused or fragile we may feel in our faith and discipleship.
Could it be that our worship and praise help strengthen our faith and equip us to be sent into the world? If so (and I definitely believe that), then bring on those “alleluias” and lighten up a little bit. Go ahead. What do you have to lose?
Considering incorporating Holy Humor Sunday in your worship? Click here for some good ideas from blogger April Fiet.
Consider the first reading (Acts 5:27-32), especially verse 29: “But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” Invite a conversation about what it means to obey God’s authority over human authority. What are the limits? How might following God’s way put us at odds in our relationships, at school, at work, even in our faith communities? If you’re feeling especially motivated and bold, enter the civic realm and discuss the current election climate, the refugee crisis, and/or the environment.
Consider having the children do an “active” rendition of Psalm 150. Have them sit down and give each one a pom-pom, streamer, shaker, cymbal, or other small rhythm instrument (be careful that nothing can be poked in eyes or cause injury). Instruct them that when you read the psalm (with great dramatic affect, of course) and say the word “praise” they are to stand up and make some noise and then sit quickly back down. You might practice with one verse. You can invite congregants in the pews to join you. Trust me, everyone will be awake when you are finished! Tell the children that today is a good day to be lively and active in praising God and that God is pleased when we bring our best offering of worship and thanksgiving. Finish with a simple prayer giving thanks for the ability to move, make noise, and praise God.
(Photos: Fernando Mafra, SDA, and St. Paul Lutheran Church, Stoverstown, Creative Commons)