Seeing God Differently: God Laughs

by Rev. Doug Gray

I have been thinking and reading a lot about laughing and God this week…and I just have to start with this video clip.

[Show video clip of baby laughing at the ripping paper.]

 love the way the baby just…laughs. Why? We don’t know, but something about that moment when the paper is ripped just tickles the baby’s funny bone. What tickles God’s funny bone? What are the things that make God laugh?

First, God laughs at our limitations. So there are lots of kinds of laughter, right? What are some other words or sounds we use to describe laughter?

[Take some responses from the congregation.]

So those are some fun, sometimes subtle differences. So what would words would you use to describe how the baby laughs in our opening video?

[Take some responses from the congregation.]

Now let’s think for a moment about Sarah in our passage from Genesis. What would you say about her first laughter, as she stands behind the tent listening in? Is it a rueful chuckle as she shakes her head? Like she wishes more than anything else that it could be happen but knows how impossible it is! Or maybe she’s laughing at herself, at her dried-up inward parts that God says will carry a son. Lauren Winner writes, “Sarah had just performed dazzling hospitality, whipping up cakes for three visitors she hadn’t been expecting, but her womb, she thought was inhospitable, and she laughed at it scornfully.”[1] Instead of laughing with Sarah, or at Sarah, “The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?’” What seems not quite right with Sarah’s laughing is that she is selling God short, accepting limitations that God clearly doesn’t share. What I love about Sarah is that by the time the baby is born, she names him Isaac, which means laughter. “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.”  And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”[2] Woody Allen once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about Your plans.” What I love about Abraham and Sarah is that it gets flipped around. God tells them His plan—they are going to have a baby and Abraham is a hundred and Sarah is ninety—and Sarah laughs. That’s hilarious! And as she laughs she is transformed. God laughs at our limitations!

Second, God laughs at the unjust. In our reading from Psalm 59,

Psa. 59:6 Each evening they come back,
              howling like dogs
              and prowling about the city.
7     There they are, bellowing with their mouths,
             with sharp words on their lips—
             for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”
Psa. 59:8 But you laugh at them, O LORD;
             you hold all the nations in derision.

Sometimes people think they are so clever. They think they have found a way to get ahead that no one else has found. And so they take it. Who cares what it costs someone else? Who cares if other people’s needs are trampled? Or people think they have the right to say any hurtful or ugly thing that comes to mind. Wh0 cares what it does to the people around them? Who cares if it makes everyone’s life harder? And God just laughs [laughing…] ah, no. Why laugh? Because God knows how the universe works! All that stuff about the 10 Commandments, the Golden Rule, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you—they are all baked into the universe. Don’t believe in God? That’s fine—but just because you don’t believe in reality doesn’t mean it goes away! [3] So when people put themselves on the wrong side of justice—payback is coming. God knows it! And God laughs at how our

[1]Lauren Winner, Wearing God (2015), p. 183.

[2]Genesis 21:5–7.

[3] Philip K. Dick said, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”