From where does the laughter come?
JANUARY 24, 2023
From where does the laughter come? Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
This is Key Life with our host, author, and seminary professor Steve Brown. He’s nobody’s guru. He’s just one beggar telling other beggars where he found bread. If you’re hungry for God, the real God behind all the lies, you’ve come to the right place.
If you’re just joining us, we’ve set aside our study in the Book of Acts for a while, and we’re looking at a book that was just released that I wrote. It’s called Laughter in Lament: The Radical Freedom of Joy and Sorrow. And as we often do, in fact, we always do, when I do a book and the publisher finally gets it published, we spend some time on that book. It’s a shame to waste all that work on these broadcasts on Key Life. You know, something that happened in this book that’s never happened, I forgot to put in an acknowledgement page. And I was watching through, I have a, I’m sitting in a studio and there’s a glass, a big glass window, and I can look into the control room where Jeremy, the producer of this broadcast works all the controls, gives me advice, and tells me what to do. And I noticed that while I was talking to you yesterday that Robin DeMurga came in and was talking to him. And if I had put an acknowledgement page in this book, which I forgot to do, I would’ve included Robin DeMurga. The reason she was talking to Jeremy, our producer, is because this book is sort of her baby. She spent hours and hours and hours on it. And if I had an acknowledgement page, I would say that cause she’s amazing. And I would also mention Barbara Giuliani, who’s the editor at New Growth Press. She is incredible. And by the way, as an aside, she’s not only my friend, she’s the daughter of a man I loved more than I can tell you. His name was Jack Miller. And Jack Miller, by the way, wrote a book called Comeback Barbara, about Barbara, my editor, back in the days when she was in a far country and they were praying for her. She eventually came back, her husband is now a pastor and a missionary, and she’s the editor, the big editor at New Growth Press. And she has been patient with me and kind with me, and I would mention her in an acknowledgement page. Well, enough chit chat. Let’s get back to what we were talking about. Yesterday, I talked about how it’s a puzzle when you see laughter at a funeral. And I’ve never been to a Christian funeral when there wasn’t laughter. And, in the middle of the laughter there is tears and you begin to see that laughter and lament go together. It is said that at parties in ancient Egyptian cultures, this is weird, a mummified corpse was placed at the head table. It was there, I suppose, to remind the party goers of their mortality, but it should have been more than that. Those who were wise, who saw that at a party, should never forget that every day the world rolls over on top of somebody who was just sitting on top of it. And in the worst of times, there is always a motivation to party. The awareness of tragedy and the desire to have a party are often a form of denial. Kind of like dancing on the, I guess, the deck of the Titanic. But listen to this. What if, what if laughter in lament aren’t denial? What if the laughter and the lament are embraced with a full awareness of the darkness of the lament and the light of the laughter? What if there is a mystery that is both transformative and powerful? What if God participates in both? Could it be, do you think that this is the witness Christians give to the world where pain is almost always cursed. And laughter is almost always cynical. As I looked at the subject of laughter in lament, when I first started working on this book, I discovered perhaps an even more important truth about a scandalous freedom, a freedom that is a believer’s heritage. A number of contemporary Christian worship songs speak of how God breaks every chain. And he does. But the way he does that, and this is kind of surprising to me, is by using laughter and lament, tragedy and joy. I want to share with you guys, and as I did in the book, some things that I’ve learned. The short version is that everything we receive comes from God and is meant to be shared with others. We forgive, for instance because we’ve been forgiven. We love because we’ve been loved. Freedom isn’t the exception. It happens in God’s presence too, and it grow from the soil of laughter and lament. You can tell how guilty someone feels by how guilty you feel in their presence. Just so, you can tell how free and loved and forgiven someone is by how free and loved and forgiven you feel in their presence. That freedom is not only the believers’ heritage, it’s our witness., The gift we give to others, to the world. I want to suggest that you can’t get from here to there without laughter and lament, light and darkness, crucifixions and resurrections. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started saying things that I probably wouldn’t have said when I was younger. A career doesn’t matter when you’re old. There’s no ladder to climb and no world to conquer. I have enough money to pay my mortgage and to take my wife to dinner. I’m pretty much, even if emeritus in charge of the ministry God has given me. I’m not looking for a bigger church, criticism and praise, and I’ve received a whole lot of both, just don’t matter much any more. So, I often say, listen to the old guy. I’ll tell you the truth cause I don’t give a rip. I’ll tell you the truth cause I don’t care. If you can find someone who doesn’t want power or sex or money or leverage or whatever. Someone who doesn’t give a fig about affirmation or criticism, you listen to him or her. More often than not, you’re going to hear the truth. Or at least the truth as that person sees it. Jesus was always at that place because he doesn’t need anything. It’s all his. He will also tell you the truth, but in the case of Jesus, he will tell you the truth because he does care. Jesus is the creative word, and everything you experience, see or perceive was created by him. He was in the beginning the Scripture says, with God. All things were made through him and without him was not anything that was made, made. In him was life. And the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
That’s in John 1:2 through 5. You’ve probably heard it said, and it does give a degree of comfort that it is what it is. The problem is that we believe so many lies that we don’t often know what it is anymore. Remember how Jesus turned the religious world upside down by repeating, you’ve heard that it was said, but I tell you. Jesus is saying that there are a lot of lies around, and he’s going to tell you the truth. He still does that, by the way. Even if you don’t trust this old guy, you can trust Jesus. He always speaks the truth. And then what’s going to happen on this broadcast and what I tried to do in the book, we’re going to visit some very dark places. Before, as it were, the truth shines and the light shines, and we start laughing. Jesus meets his people in those dark places. When my late friend and I mentioned him to you earlier, Jack Miller, Westminster professor, author, founder of the mission agency Surge and one of the fathers of the grace movement. He often said.
That the whole of Biblical truth could be summed up in two sentences. Cheer up, you’re a lot worse than you think you are. And secondly, cheer up, God’s grace is a lot bigger than you think it is.
He was referencing both laughter and lament. With apologies to Jack, who I don’t think would mind, let me play off his words. Cheer up, the world, you and everybody else are a lot worse and bent than you think they are. Once you get there, lament becomes Biblical, deep and profound. And the laughter follows. You think about that. Amen.
Thank you Steve. That was Steve Brown continuing to read passages from and speak to the themes of his latest book, Laughter and Lament. More good stuff tomorrow. Hope you will join us again then. Well, if you’ve been around Key Life for a while, then you’ll know the name Jenni Young. She’s a good friend and one of our regular contributors on keylife.org. Well, she shared an amazing story about the time her two-year-old Gabriel was pushing a little kiddie grocery cart through the aisles at the grocery store. So, as they approach a woman, Jenni says, now move your card over so this nice lady can get past you. And then the woman looks at Jenni and says something that Jenni would think about for months to come. The lady says, You know what? I wouldn’t do it justice here, but you can find that story in the new 2023 edition of Key Life Magazine, along with other great pieces by Kendra Fletcher, Chad West, and Steve. Claim your copy now by calling us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for the magazine. And if you’d like to mail your request, just go to keylife.org/contact to find our mailing addresses. Again, just ask for your free copy of the Key Life Magazine. And finally, would you prayerfully consider partnering in the work of Key Life through your giving? You can charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950. That’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter. Just text that to 28950. Then follow the instructions. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.