I KNOW HOW LAZARUS FELT
when he walked forth from the tomb, alive, after being dead and was unwrapped from his burial cloths. It happened last night.
For 15 years, I have collected jokes, Joyful Noiseletters, several sermons and a couple of joke books that I stored in a W-Mart plastic bag (double-bagged). For most of the last ten years I have celebrated Holy Humor Sunday the Sunday after Easter at most of the churches I served. I thought that at the last church-of-another-denomination I served, would truly benefit from celebrating Holy Humor or Bright Sunday earlier this year. However, they were too raw and fresh in the struggles they were having as well as being somewhat straight-laced formal Lutherans, and I after prayerful consideration deemed it unwise to introduce them to this. Although I know, in my heart and soul that they really needed to do engage in this. I remember going
out to make pastoral visits, running a wee bit late, and having my hands full and leaving the bag at the church. I also remember, the voice within saying I should make a second trip and put the bag in my van. I ignored the voice. (I should never ignore that voice - I know it is God's Spirit talking to me)
Things got busy and several weeks later, the bag was no longer in the office. I asked the custodian if he had inadvertantly placed it in the recycle dumpsters. No, he insisted, he hadn't seen the bags. Since the secretary also has access to the pastor's office, and she often did things without asking questions, although I had from the beginning of my time there and on several occasions, given her permission to ask questions if she was unsure of anything regarding the liturgy, etc. Sad, to say, she never did follow that advice and permission. I felt that she had seen the bag full of papers and put in the recycle bins.
I was heartbroken when LH asked about my file since the church he was serving at the time were going to celebrate a Holy Humor Sunday in the summer with a church picnic.
I did an archaeological dig through the basement, searching everywhere for that bag, I went through my study upstairs (which is filled with stacks of books and clothes that fit and no longer fit) and couldn't find it anywhere. I even searched in places I knew it couldn'te. All to no avail.
I was convinced that someone at the church had thrown it out and it was as though a part of me died. All those years of collecting tidbits, quotes, Reader's Digest pages of funnies, my sermons that didn't all make it to flashdrive, my bulletin covers and copies - all gone, forever destroyed. I was angry. I was bereft.
It grieved me so that whenever I thought about it, I was inconsoleable and my spirit hurt. Joy had left my very being. I was simply not the same any more.
With the knee surgery, healing and therapy, I was occupied elsewhere. But from
time to time, I remembered my loss and grieved the joy, the light that had left my life. I started a new file, but knew I'd never recapture all the funny stuff I had printed out from the internet. It would take years to make a new file. I could remember a few things but certainly not all from the services I had crafted.
With losing that Humor file, humor and joy had left me. Oh, I could still laugh at some funny things, but it was no longer the same - there was a unfilled void.
On my way to bed last night, I put my cardigan in my study, and wanted to find a pair of brown knit pants for Thanksgiving Day. I dug through a pile on a collapseable hamper - not there. I dig through two piles on the futuon and the cardboard box of
turtlenecks. I did find the brown pants buried under a pile between the hamper and the box of turtlenecks and I uncovered a plastic bag - and wondered, what was this plastic bag doing there tucked between the hamper and turtleneck box.
And glory be! It was none other than my humor file - all the jokes, funnies, sermons, bulletin covers and I hugged it to me. I was alive once more. My humor file was not lost or gone forever. I could die happy now.
Of course, when I told LH, he chided me for my mess! I took the bag with me to bed and marveled at all it contained as I looked through it and reacquainted myself with all its bits and pieces. I was ALIVE!!!! I who was dead, suddenly, unexpectedly, roared back to life. A Resurrection, of sorts. And I couldn't have been happier.
And it happened, just a day after I started a new bag - this time a green cloth grocery bag, with the latest Reader's Digest clippings (from the past 5 months) and a couple other funnies.
Just when you least expect it, when you aren't looking for it, when all hope has been exhausted, God steps in with one last laugh and surprise! "Here I am and I bring life - new, abundant, and eternal." "Come back to life, my child." "You died and now you are alive once more!" What a gift, what a grace, all I could say was, "Thank You, Thank You, Thank You." God has not forgotten me. God has come back into my soul like a Tsunami and overwhelmed me. How glorious to be swept into life!
I did pause to ask forgiveness for blaming the secretary and to ask God's blessing on her. I never did outright accuse her or confront about this.
I am alive this Thanksgiving. And when I die, I will die happy, for my joy has been recovered and lives within me once again. I know now how Lazarus felt.