“Laugh in the Face of the Devil”

As our days of social distancing continue, how and on what are we to focus our daily journeys?

God will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.

Job 8:21

risus paschalis: when dust laughs

spring has ambushed winter,
and the dust of the earth is, yet again,
transfigured into wind-dancing laughter.

laughing dust? not here
in this graveyard of abandoned joys
where dead-ended dreams whisper
like violated ghosts among tombs of those
too-soon returned to the earth.

you just smile and sink your spade
into the sun-warmed sod, costly
corruptions composted, turned, turned
again until soil recognizes soil.

then you wink, just once, and the
remembered dust, tantalized by the
tickle of a new feast’s first thin blade,
laughs.

Bright Week

This week is known in some Christian traditions as “Bright Week.” The week is considered “bright” because faith communities around the world have awakened on Easter Monday to continue to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection light.

In the Bright Week tradition, each day of the week following Easter Sunday carries the adjective “bright.” Bright Monday holds the additional distinction of being referred to by some as Risus Paschalis—Easter Laugh.

Early orthodox communities began a tradition of gathering on the Monday following Resurrection Sunday to tell jokes as a way of marking Easter as the ultimate joke God played on Satan by defeating death with life. Some observe the Easter Laugh by including jokes or humorous anecdotes in their Easter Sunday sermons. Others emphasize laughter on the second Sunday of Easter, sometimes called Holy Humor or Hilarity Sunday.

Now What?

In the wee hours of this particular Bright Monday, I pondered what may seem a mundane or even inappropriate (to some) question: “Now what?”

We in Christian communities have traveled Lenten roads by staying in place. These unexpected and unfamiliar Lenten traveling conditions have prompted impressive (to me) creativity. Theologies have been energized and deepened by religious leaders’ efforts to weave Lenten texts and liturgies together within the context of a pandemic.

I have listened to more Easter sermons and prayers than ever before in my life. These live-streamed and podcasted and Zoomed worship offerings have sparked for me new spiritual insights and invited renewed commitments to Gospel justice- and peace-making.

Yes, even in the midst of a pandemic, the Lenten journey has brought us to an empty tomb.

Still Journeying in Place

But the coronavirus crisis continues. We are still staying in place. And I wonder—now what? I hope to write a more extended blog about this in coming days.

For now, I invite us to ponder together. As our days of social distancing continue and with them uncertainties about jobs, stresses about illness, pressures to work and care for children—how and on what are we to focus our daily journeys?

What I hope is that Easter’s surprise—Easter’s reversal of all that we thought we knew and understood about life and faith and God and humanity—will keep dancing around and within us and motivating our thoughts and actions toward God’s love and grace.

The coronavirus has thrown into stark relief the realities of human fragility—the fragility of our bodies and the fragility and brokenness of many of our political, economic, and health institutions.

Coinciding with this, Easter reminds us—life has defeated and will continue to defeat death. This is the Gospel promise, a cosmic, beyond-human understanding promise that infuses even the most mundane dimensions of human life with radical hope.

This radical Resurrection hope that at times seems so absurd given the realities we witness all around us—this radical hope ignites laughter, the Easter laugh.

Let’s Laugh in the Face of the Devil

Sheila Hunter wrote a song about radical resurrection hope—“Laugh in the Face of the Devil.”

Is there a place deep inside you
that’s closed up like a tomb?

No light can get through to that dark place
for the Healer there is no room.

There’s no rock too big for God to move,
no night to dark to see God’s light.

So let’s join together and with God’s help
let’s push all our might—

Sheila Hunter—“Laugh in the Face of the Devil”

Resurrection life has defeated and will continue to defeat death. The promise is cosmic but infuses even the most mundane dimensions of human life. Together, empowered by God’s Spirit, we can roll away even the heaviest stones.

One of the most certain things about these days is that uncertainties will arise. When they do—when everyday trials make us want to give up, or when the going is tough and we are tempted to think the joke of life is on us, perhaps we can remember the contagious, life-giving gift of the Easter laugh.

So—on this Monday that may or may not seem bright to us, perhaps we can listen for the Easter laugh. Perhaps we can even join in—just a little—with Sarah who all of those years ago announced:

God has made me laugh. Everyone who hears will laugh with me.

Genesis 21:6

Author: Jill Crainshaw

I am a professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity and an ordained PCUSA minister.

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