Daily Devotional – April 13, 2020

To the Church in Exile,

​The peace of Christ be with you. How about that virtual rendition of the Hallelujah chorus yesterday! He is risen, indeed!  ​

Our lectionary reading for today is from Psalm 97:

1   The LORD is king! Let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!

2   Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

3   Fire goes before him, and consumes his adversaries on every side.

4   His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.

5   The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth….

8   Zion hears and is glad, and the towns of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments, O God.

9   For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.

In Greece, Christians have a tradition on Easter Monday of telling jokes. Now, that’s a great liturgical calendar tradition! In my mind there are two kinds of Easter Monday laughter. The first is the pure joy of the unexpected and comical surprise. It’s the unbridled laughter Frederick Buechner names in his wonderful book Telling the Good News: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale. The good news of crazy grace, mercy, and forgiveness. The prodigal gets the fatted calf; Sarah despite her laughter gets a child after-all and named “he laughs” of all things; and, of course, the intimidating joy of Easter resurrection. Our psalm reflects this kind of joy in verses 1 and 8: ”The Lord is King! Let the earth rejoice; let the coastlands be glad.” You can just imagine the first Easter Monday as the fear of those disciples in the upper room is eroded by joy at a savior alive and laughter at the shocker of the victory over death.

Which leads me to the other kind of laughter which is less pure triumphant joy and more of a boasting with overtones of sarcasm. We see it in verse 4: “His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.” And again in 5: “The mountains take one look at GOD and melt, melt like wax before earth’s Lord” (the MESSAGE). But with Easter Monday, victory sarcasm turns into outright mockery, jeering that when it comes to the battle with death, evil, and Satan, it’s Jesus who gets the last laugh.   

I’m thinking of the apostle Paul with his resurrection taunt in 1 Corinthians 15, “Death where is thy sting; O Grave they victory?”  (Johannes Brahms, in his Requiem, set this verse to a waltzing meter mimicking a taunting dance on top of death’s grave.) I’m thinking of Paul’s jeering comment in Colossians 2:14-15, where he declares how God has freed us from our debts having canceled our old arrest warrants and nailing them to Christ’s cross. “He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.” It is defiant derision; what we called being a lousy winner when playing sports as kids, but when it comes to salvation it seems is so right. My ears ring with these verses during every funeral I lead. Death never gets the last word. 

I say let the laughter begin. In honor of this grand Greek tradition I wanted to share, not jokes, but some mixed metaphors that make me laugh. In my family, I’m famous for uttering these. One time, reading a newspaper article, I was so irate with some injustice perpetrated by some official I erupted, “How do they sleep with themselves?!!”   Jean doubled over in silent laughter and started walking upstairs to which I declared, “You’re going to email our children and tell them what I just said aren’t you?” Seeing her stumbling nod, I stammered, “I forbid it; be nice!” (It didn’t work.)

Below are some more mixed metaphors: some off my lips and a lot from a friend of mine – his own family collection of actual utterances.  I hope they make you smile the way they do with me. 

That was a real knuckle biter
Too many lines in the fire
Two peas in a poke
Irons in too many fires
Smokes like a fish
Laid it on the law
Deaf as a doornail
Fly off the cuff
Tickled as punch
Lay my foot down
Throw my name into the ring
You swallowed that lock, stock and barrel
Flaked over the carpet
Far ago and long away
Melt into a ball and curl up in a puddle  

Lord, in this time of true darkness and peril, we rejoice that you get the last word. We rejoice that Christ is victorious and are glad beyond measure at Christ’s amazing victory over death. Free us for joy in Christ in these trying times that we may be armed even more with his courage and strength.  In the name of the Victorious Lamb who gets the last laugh.  Amen.

Peace in Christ, 


Doug Kelly, Senior Pastor
Bethany Presbyterian Church
(206) 284-2222, x11

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