Daily Readings from the Revised Common Lectionary
Psalm 143; Jeremiah 32:1-9, 36-41; Matthew 22:23-33*
Matthew 22:22-33 Contemporary English Version
23 The Sadducees did not believe that people would rise to life after death. So that same day some of the Sadducees came to Jesus and said: 24“Teacher, Moses wrote that if a married man dies and has no children, his brother should marry the widow. Their first son would then be thought of as the son of the dead brother. 25 Once there were seven brothers who lived here. The first one married, but died without having any children. So, his wife was left to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brothers and finally to all seven of them. 27 At last the woman died. 28 When God raises people from death, whose wife will this woman be? She had been married to all seven brothers.”
29 Jesus answered: “You are completely wrong! You don’t know what the Scriptures teach. And you don’t know anything about the power of God. 30 When God raises people to life, they won’t marry. They will be like the angels in heaven. 31 And as for people being raised to life, God was speaking to you when he said, 32 ‘I am the God worshiped by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ He isn’t the God of the dead, but of the living.”
33 The crowds were surprised to hear what Jesus was teaching.
I had a beautiful moment yesterday evening. I was boiling sap in the yard after a long day. I was also listening to a podcast with my earphones, trying to get a few minutes to myself. Then I heard giggling, none-stop, contagious giggling. Across the yard, my seven-year-old and four-year-old sons were lying on the ground while our new baby goats took turns jumping on them. Obi, Pickles, and Merlin are four-week-old alpine goats that we got from Howdy Russell’s last week. They’ve been a great source of fun, but this was over the top. My sons laughed and laughed as the goats took turns standing on the boys, bleating all the while. For a moment, all my worries took a backseat to joy.
It’s April Fool’s Day, a day associated with pranking and “kidding” around. The tradition was first mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” from 1392. The pandemic has affected this day, and some might say that there’s no place for laughter during such a grievous time. I wonder if finding those places to laugh and moments to enjoy are actually vital to our health and wellbeing as we are all stuck in our homes.
Our gospel story is a humorous one. The Sadducees, an elite, deistic group of religious leaders, confront Jesus with an absurd situation, and Jesus laughs at it. “You’ve got it all wrong!” Here, Jesus uses a local humorous idiom to address the confrontation. He answers the question with some seriousness, but is also playful throughout, something that can get a lost in our translations.
Numerous studies have reported on the role humor plays in combating anxiety, fear, stress, or cynicism. Accordingly, humor is generally known to contribute to higher subjective wellbeing – both physical and psychological.
Perhaps, not so oddly, not all humor has shown to be effective in overall wellbeing. Aggressive humor – racist or sexist jokes, sarcasm, and jokes that disparage others, negatively affect overall health. So does self-defeating humor – these are self-disparaging jokes used for gain social acceptance.
A 1990 study by Yovetich, Dale, and Hudak was designed to test the effects humor might have on relieving anxiety. Study subjects were told that they would be given an electric shock, without specifying when. One group was exposed to humorous content while awaiting, while the other was not. The anxiety levels were measured through self-report measures as well as the heart rate. Subjects that were exposed to humorous content while they waited for the impending shock reported lower anxiety, while those that were not exposed to humorous context reported higher levels. Shocking results…
I think one of the problems we face today is anxiety. The brilliant theologian Paul Tillich described the difference between fear and anxiety. Fear is something you know is dangerous; anxiety is the unknown danger. We fear getting Coronavirus. We are anxious about how long the pandemic and the restrictions will last. We are anxious about what these changes mean for our jobs, our families, our future. We are anxious about running out things to watch on Netflix and not having enough toilet paper.
We have to find ways to laugh during this pandemic. Not at it. Not at the expense of others. But with the confidence that even now, there is enough good in life to enjoy and celebrate.
The Explore Further section today is filled with humorous clips and readings. They’re religious, so they are extra cheesy.