Laughing in Church: Holy Humor Sunday Resources

By April 28, 2014My Thoughts

Last year I first learned about Holy Humor Sunday when colleagues of mine began sharing pictures of the fun things their congregations had done to celebrate. Even though I think most Christians would agree that joy and laughter are important things, many people grow up worshiping in sanctuaries where laughter is frowned upon. For some reason, many of us have equated devout spirituality with seriousness, which is tragic. Joy and laughter can lead us to healing. Sometimes God’s grace comes to us in the form of humor that helps us make it through another day.

And so, we decided to bring Holy Humor Sunday to our congregation this year. There are all kinds of resources online for planning a Holy Humor service. For liturgical resources, I found the re:Worship listing of Holy Humor Resources to be very helpful. For jokes and for stories of how other congregations have done Holy Humor Sunday, the Joyful Noiseletter has great things, too.

So much planning and creativity goes into Easter Sunday that very little energy is left for the Sunday after. This lack of energy and typically lower attendance has led many pastors to call the Sunday after Easter “Low Sunday.” I found that having Holy Humor Sunday to look forward to after Easter has helped me keep the momentum going, and it works well as a way to teach the joy and excitement of a 50-day period of Easteride.

I wanted to share some of what we did in our congregation for Holy Humor Sunday for anyone who might be interested in doing Holy Humor in their churches as well. The resources and ideas provided here are free for you to use. When possible and appropriate, please make mention of where you found the ideas.

We introduced each piece of the worship service with a joke. We tried to play into things that our congregation could relate to. For example, it’s a running  joke that the guitar is always too loud. No matter how far down we try to turn it, it’s still too loud. Anyway, my husband (co-pastor, and guitar player) started the opening songs with:

J: Hey, April, how do you get a guitar player to play softer?
Me: How?
J: Hand him some sheet music.

In the sermon, I preached on Acts 2:14, 22-32 (from the lectionary for this Sunday) – a portion of Peter’s sermon. I focused on verse 32: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.” The message centered on the mystery of the resurrection, and how it defied logic. This first sermon probably sounded crazy to people who were hearing it for the first time. I also taught three of the main atonement theories and lifted up how these theories can actually work together to give us a fuller picture. Interspersed throughout the sermon, I worked in humorous illustrations that went along with the passage.

For the prayers of the people/congregational prayer, I wrote this prayer:

O Lord, giver of joy and laughter, we thank you for giving us these gifts.

For the moments of laughter and unbridled joy you give to us:
  for opportunities to laugh at ourselves,
  for the belly laughs of children,
  for friends and family who love us because of our quirks,
    and not just in spite of them,
  for artists who give us the opportunity to see the world
    through the surreal,
  for the courage to smile even when difficulties arise,
  for those who have hope even when others think there is
    no hope,
  for saints in the Lord who overflow with laughter and
    spread your joy to all of us.

For the words of Jesus that defy our logical minds;
  for teaching us that we can be born again,
  for the woman who finds a lost coin and calls her
    friends and neighbors to celebrate,
  for the absurdity of a camel trying to fit through the eye
    of a needle,
  for the father of the Prodigal Son who is willing to look
    like a fool as he runs to greet his son,
  for the generosity of the landowner who will pay
    workers a whole day’s wage when they only worked one hour,
  for tiny bits of faith that can move entire mountains,
  for the reality that nothing can live unless it first dies.

For the great reversal of the Gospel:
  that the last shall be made first,
  that the rejected stone became the cornerstone,
  that those who wish to become great must serve,
  that the lost will be found,
  that the small will become great,
  that though you are Wisdom, you choose to forget our
    sins,
  that when we are weak, your strength shines through us.

O Lord, giver of joy and laughter, we thank you for giving us
these gifts.

Thank you for the gift you give us that allows us to enjoy these
things to the full.

We can laugh because of the most amazing thing of all – that
you conquered death, that the tomb is empty, that light shone
so bright that it overcame the darkness.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Amen.

Our closing hymn was an Easter Carol (Easter lyrics, Christmas carol tune). We chose “God Bless You, Merry Sinner,” which went over really well. The only snag we ran into with this one was locating the sheet music for the song. It can be found in many Christmas Carol song books, but it was not in any of the hymnals we had access to.

Following the benediction, as worshipers made their way out of the sanctuary, I offered them a noisemaker. The adults loved that they got to have a noisemaker, too.
IMG_7059
Butterflies are often used in decorating for Holy Humor Sunday because butterflies have often been used as a symbol of the resurrection. We made 16 paper butterflies using pictures from old magazines, and we hung them up all over the sanctuary and narthex. We invited anyone who was interested to find 15 butterflies (the 16th was a bonus) and write down their locations. Anyone who found them all got a smiley face hackey sack.

IMG_7064
We had excellent participation in the hunt for the butterflies. Kids and adults loved it. Plus, they were really pretty to look at.

In the bulletin, we had Holy Humor Sunday at the top of the order for worship. Using the wingdings font, we replaced the Os with smiley faces.

At the top of the order for worship:

Holy Humor Bulletin Funny 1
And right after the closing hymn:

Holy Humor Bulletin Funny 2
Holy Humor Sunday was a lot of fun! And…it ended up being a very dreary day outside. I had to laugh when we sang “There Is Sunshine in My Soul Today.” The unintentional humor of it was as funny as the things we had planned. 🙂

About April Fiet

April is a pastor, wife, mom, and lover of words. She finds inspiration under the big Nebraska skies, in the garden, in the yarn aisle, and in the kitchen. Learn more about April here, and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Pam McGrath

    Love all you did! Thank you! I’ll save it for next year.

    • Wonderful! I hope you find great joy and laughter next year in your Holy Humor service!

      • Devlon Goodman

        I would love to see your sermons for holy humor day. That is always the hardest part of holy humor day to me, but you chose a really cool and challenging topic!

      • Thanks! I will have to try and dig up what we did last year, and perhaps I can share some!

      • Devlon Goodman

        Super, if it’s not a lot of trouble, that would be great!

      • Devlon Goodman

        I was particularly interested in the sermon where you explained the theories of atonement. I’d love to see how you made it “lay person” friendly, and then made it into a Holy Humor sermon! Thanks!

      • I would like to post the sermon on my blog in the near future, but to try and keep things liturgically sensitive, I’ll wait until after Easter. If you don’t mind, I will email you my sermon so you can see what I did. It was my first attempt at a Holy Humor sermon. 🙂

  • We observed Holy Humor Sunday last year and it was well received. This year however during the week after Easter a former pastor who upon retirement had returned to the community and to the church died. He was one of the greatest joke tellers and pranksters around. You would ask him how he was doing and his response would always be “just terrible, just terrible” always with his smile glowing.or in the middle of the summer, you might ask him how he was doing in the heat. He would respond, “I’m freezing. My wife put up my overcoat and I can’t find it anywhere.” Needless to say after his funeral on Saturday when we celebrated his life, it would have been almost impossible to observe Holy Humor when the one who brought some much humor to our lives was not in our midst. Next year I hope to incorporate some of your ideas in our service after Easter. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ben – wow. I can imagine that the joy and laughter of Holy Humor Sunday would have been so difficult when such a joyful and beloved person died. Blessings, peace, and healing upon your congregation!

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  • Laura Hall-Schordje

    The prayers you wrote are wonderful–so Biblical, faithful, and filled with joy! We have celebrated Holy Humor day every year I have been in this (my first) call, so we will be celebrating it for the 4th time this year. It is challenging to put together, but people love this service and start asking if we will do it again right after Christmas.

    If you don’t mind a story: I started investigating these kinds of services many years ago, when my young son told me he didn’t need to go to church any more on the 2nd or 3rd Sunday of Easter. I asked why. He told me that Jesus was dead. I must have looked skeptical, because he added, “I went to his funeral.” I realized then that the imagery and experience of Good Friday made a huge impression on him, but the joy of Easter did not. Maybe it was all too adult– flowers and fancy music and empty grave– but not much for kids to incorporate into their understanding as pure joy? So I happily don a jester hat and be a fool for Christ, and hand out champagne poppers to the congregation to pop on any random Alleluia they like. We take joke breaks in the service, and sing joyful Easter hymns and dance. And everyone, young and old, knows that the “funeral” of Good Friday is not the end of the story.

    And a favor–could I use your prayers in this year’s service? I would, of course, give you credit in our bulletin.

    • Thank you so much, Laura!

      And that story of your son! I love it so much. Kids show us the way so often. When I was young, I remember a little boy being so sad on Easter Sunday. He was sad because Jesus had died. Even though his mother had tried to tell him that Jesus had risen from the dead, he was still grief-stricken. Easter Sunday morning, our pastor had the man who had played Jesus in our passion play return all in white clothing. The little boy saw him at the back of the sanctuary and yelled out, “He DID rise from the dead!” So much joy.

      You may absolutely use anything on this post that is helpful to you. I hope you have an absolutely joy-filled humor Sunday!

      • Laura Hall-Schordje

        Thank you so much! And this little boy sounds like my own–and maybe Thomas–they need to see to believe. Let’s show them joy! God bless you!