Holy Hilarity Sunday

Follow God’s Example—Laugh More
Our human ability to laugh at jokes, funny situations, stories and pranks is one of the characteristics that sets us apart from all the rest of God’s creation. It is part of being “made in the image of God.” God, too, laughs. “He that sits in the heavens shall laugh . . .” (Psalm 2:4).

Follow Children’s Example—Have More Fun
Have you ever noticed how much babies love to laugh? Jo sometimes comes across a YouTube posting of someone playing Peek-a-Boo with a baby or doing something ordinary like tearing a piece of paper, both of us can’t help laughing aloud along with the baby. No wonder Jesus, whom His enemies accused of being a party animal, said that we who are adults must become like little children or we will never see the kingdom of God. (Matthew 18:3).

Follow the example of people “under the influence”—Have a Good Time
In addition to children, we all know of people who are free of inhibitions and full of fun. Some sports like running or sky diving bring on a rush, a high feeling of well being, much like that felt by people who consume a moderate amount of alcohol or some other drug.  So are people who are under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul counsels us to get our uninhibited feeling by putting ourselves under the control of the Spirit because there is no danger of the excess and debauchery that results from drinking too much wine. (Ephesians 5:18). There is no way to overdose on the Spirit of God.

Paul often connects God’s Spirit with joy. During a serious explanation about the Jewish people’s inability to understand the Good News, he throws in an aside, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:12) The Greek term elutheria, usually translated as “liberty” or “freedom,” carries the meaning of “being without restraint to enjoy, to be released from inhibition and constraint to enjoy pleasure.” In other words, Paul says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is good, clean fun.” That fits right in with Paul’s comment on being drunk on the Spirit.

The Reason for Being Deliriously Happy
Easter time underlines the fact that Christians have good reasons to be happy. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the most deliriously joyful event in the history of the world. It proved without a doubt that Jesus is God and victorious over death, hell, Satan and all his forces of evil.

That is why some denominations celebrate the Sunday after Easter as Holy Hilarity Sunday. It comes from the ancient tradition of celebrating several weeks of Risus Paschalis—the Easter laugh, God’s Holy Joke. From Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, all through the trial, torture, crucifixion and burial, things had been going Satan’s way. Then, suddenly Jesus’s scarred corpse rose to glorious life again.

Celebrate God Playing a Cosmic Joke on Satan
On Easter morning, God suddenly turned the tables and revealed that Satan had played into God’s hands. Satan’s plan to destroy Jesus was God’s plan to reveal Him as King of the universe. What a horrible surprise for Satan as he and his forces suddenly realized God had defeated them. No doubt they smacked their infernal foreheads and groaned, “If only we had known!” But they hadn’t. God in His wisdom had kept His age-old plan of redemption hidden from Satan. Paul says, “If they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:8)

Three Cheers for Holy Hilarity Sundays
April Fool’s pranks are about the only thing left of this post-Easter celebration of God’s Cosmic Joke on Satan. Too bad. In the weeks following Easter, wouldn’t it be great if all around the world, hundreds of thousands of church services resounded with waves of laughter at the pastors’ funny stories, and congregations sang every glad, joyful, happy song in their repertoire? Maybe organizers for these hilarity-filled church services should get advice from fun-loving little kids.

Here’s One to Get Us Started
And here is a story that may give you the option to be amused: Back in the pre-Covid years a pastor was greeting people as they left the Easter morning church service when he stopped one man and said, “Hey I haven’t seen you since Christmas, brother. You need to join the Army of the Lord and come to church weekly.” The man leaned over to the pastor and whispered, “I am in the Army of the Lord, but active in the Secret Service.”

A link to my book of funny stories: A Tickle in the Funny Bone. https://www.amazon.ca/Tickle-Funny-Bone-Jack-Popjes/dp/1543116825

From Depression to Joy

I was feeling so depressed and sad early this week; I had to stop what I was working on and switch to working on something else for a while. Here’s what happened:

Intensive Writing Get-Away
For the past nearly three weeks, I have been holed up alone in a friend’s house working ten hours a day, seven days a week on the next book. Although I write only a few thousand words a day, I dictate 25,000 words a day from diaries into a speech-to-text program. The journals were handwritten during our decades of work among the Canela, the subject of the next memoir book.

Memories: Some Pleasant, Others Depressing
As I dictated my way through one notebook after another, I found myself reliving the events of 35 to 40 years ago. Some of those brought back pleasant memories, of progress in research and translation, Canelas learning to read, family holidays, etc. But there were also many years in which we suffered setbacks, blocks, satanic opposition, resulting in strained relationships, depression and spiritual confusion.
When government opposition to Bible translation forced us, and many other translators, to leave the villages where we had served as health workers, teachers, and translators, both Jo and I went into a deep depression.

“God Has Let Me Down”
When we went on furlough, I told my Wycliffe director, “I feel God has let me down. I have nothing to say to churches.” In the first six months in Canada, I turned down more than fifty invitations to speak. I was “done with God,” but fortunately, He was not “done with Jack.” He brought a godly pastor into my life who listened to my outpouring of grief and frustration with God and for many months counselled with me over breakfasts and lunches.

My Wrong View of God
As we talked, we analyzed why I felt the way I did. It turned out that I had a firm conviction that God was in a hurry to save the Canelas and all the rest of the world and that therefore I should be too.

I probably got this “God is in a hurry” concept from my Bible school training in the 1950s, which, driven by the “imminent return of Jesus,” pushed for immediate results-based personal evangelism and foreign missions. I vividly remember a slogan “Each day 100,000 people go into a Christ-less eternity!” on a prominently displayed painting of a crowd of people stampeding over the edge of a precipice into a burning pit of fire. The unspoken question was, “What are you doing about that today?”

So naturally, since we were experiencing the power of the Brazilian government to stop God’s Bible translation work, I couldn’t square that with God’s unlimited power that I read about in the Bible we were translating.

Because Jo and I loved the Canelas and wanted them to meet their Saviour Jesus, we had suffered all sorts of physical hardships and sacrifices, such as the emotional strain of being separated from and out of touch with our young children for months at a time. We read about God’s great love in the Bible, but it seemed to us that He did not care about the Canelas as much as we did.

Rewiring my Theology
It took much study, thought and prayer to rewire my theology to get rid of that unbiblical “God is in a hurry” concept. I learned that this is a humanistic view of world evangelization. It sees God as putting all the responsibility on people to do this massive task. Then, He helps His people to use every resource possible, money, time, education, communication technology, to get the message out to unbelievers as soon as possible. At the same time, His Holy Spirit brings conviction and leads them to make a decision. The underlying idea is that God can’t do the job without us. Not so!

Jo and I finally concluded that the only Person indispensable to the Canela Bible translation program and their salvation was God. Everyone else could be replaced, even Jack and Jo. What’s more, God was in charge of the timeline!

God Reopens the Door
After we had corrected our view and saw God as entirely in charge, being all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving, He opened the door to return for us to work among the Canela. But even then, nothing went smoothly. If anything, the aggravations of sickness, surgeries, mechanical breakdowns, equipment failures, a scattered family, strained relationships and sudden deaths intensified during the final five years.

Keeping the End in View
It was when I was dictating events of those long-ago years; I started feeling depressed again. So I did what Jesus did, “who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross.” As I was reading, I stopped and jumped ahead to dictating the events at the end of our ministry. August 10, 1990, “the greatest day of my life” when we dedicated and distributed the completed Canela Bible to scores of impatiently waiting literate Canelas. That was our greatest joy.

After working through those months for a few hours, I was refreshed and could return to dictating and reliving some of those earlier stressful years.