Sorting by

Skip to main content

So it’s the last day of the CRC’s synod. Much has been decided, but not everything. As of my uploading this at 10:30 last night, we still hadn’t moved into the material regarding discipline.

Last year I had a response – mostly articulate, I think – to what had happened at Synod. This year I’m not sure I have the words…or simply don’t have the capacity right now to wrap my head around it all.

But here’s what’s been holding me in the midst of it.

On Sunday I’m preaching on the birth of Isaac. This crazy story that begins with a laugh of bitterness, and ends with a laugh of delight. All because God does something so startling, so unexpected, so new, that even Sarah, with all her hardened skepticism, was brought to joy.

So, for lack of any capacity to write anything new or articulate about Synod, here’s the end of my sermon…a reminder I myself need that God is yet doing a new thing among us.

In the book Beyond Words, Frederick Buechner writes,

“A good joke is one that catches you by surprise – like God’s, for instance. Who would have guessed that Israel of all nations would be the one God picked or Sarah would have Isaac at the age of ninety or the Messiah would turn up in a manger? The laugh in each case results from astonished delight at the sheer unexpectedness of the thing.

“Satan’s jokes, on the other hand, you can usually spot a mile off. As soon as the serpent came slithering up to Adam and Eve, almost anybody could tell that the laugh was going to be on them. That a person as blameless, upright, and well-heeled as Job was bound to have the rug pulled out from under him before he was through. That Faust, being Faust, was sure to be conned out of his soul. And so on.

“In the last analysis, the only one who gets much of a kick out of Satan’s jokes is Satan himself. With God’s, however, even the most hardened cynics and bitterest pessimists have a hard time repressing an occasional smile. When God really gets going, even the morning stars burst into singing and all the sons of God shout for joy.”

There’s no denying, for Buechner, for Abraham and Sarah, for us, that even in a world where God is in control, we have evil to contend with. Satan still seeks to wreak whatever havoc he can, create unrest and tension, lead us into bitterness and disappointment, convince us that God must have given up on us, so we should probably give up on God. But that, says Buechner, is to be expected. That’s a playbook we’ve read, time and time again. It’s old news.

What’s new, what’s surprising, what’s exciting, what’s hopeful, is the way God interrupts that despair with delight – with laughter. Maybe not exactly when we want him to. Not always according to our plans, or our hopes. But in God’s perfect timing, in God’s perfect manner, with a grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye.

“For is anything,” says the visitor – who is in fact God – “is anything too hard for the Lord?”

The God who created a world where tulips know the exact moment to bloom?

The God who parted the Red Sea?

The God who washed the spots off the leper?

Is anything too hard for the God who raised Lazarus from the dead, who made a shepherd boy to be a king, who caused the apostles to speak languages not their own?

Is it too hard for God to bring forth a child from a barren womb, or a child from a virgin?

Because many years after the visitors told Sarah she would have a child, a visitor showed up to another woman, a much, much younger woman, and told her the same news. And in response to her question, this visitor answered that first visitor’s question. “Nothing,” he says, “will be impossible with God.”

And Mary, filled with the Lord’s blessing, sings a song of laughter.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on
the lowliness of his servant.
Surely from now on all generations
will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he
made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants

Note the tense Mary uses – this is what God has done. And because we know what God has done, we live in hope for what he will do. And what God has done is lived out what is perhaps the greatest joke of all. God himself came and lived with his people, and then died for his people, and in that moment when all seemed lost, pulled a fast one that must have sent the angels spinning, and rose from the dead, death defeated. This the fulfillment of the very first promise God made, that a child of Eve would crush the head of the serpent.

And that child of Eve, the Son of God, is with us, filling our lives with unexpected and surprising delight, giving us the assurance and strength to persevere in hope, as we wait for the final fulfillment, the greatest delight of all, the restoration of all things, the day of the Lord, when our God comes with laughter and is our joy.

Laura de Jong

Laura de Jong is the Pastor of Preaching and Worship at Community Christian Reformed Church in Kitchener, Ontario


  • RZ says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you!
    You give me two focal points for today:
    1 Focus on what God HAS DONE in the
    midst of some pretty hopeless
    circumstances. There is always hope!
    2. Restrict my own sense of humor
    to God’s definition of humor, the kind that
    points to joy rather than scorn, and
    elicits a celebrative laugh rather than a

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    God bless you.

  • Tara Foreman says:

    I am preaching this text too, Laura! I may have to quote you. Thank you for this slice of hope today.

  • Judy Ponstine says:

    Thank you Laura.

  • Paul Kortenhoven says:

    Wonderful words Laura, a poetic reminder that it is not we who are in charge. I picture God smiling as he watches us at this synod and look forward to the future that is coming to the CRC. Mary’s song is an invitation for all of us to join the Lord’s work in bringing justice, love and hope into the world. When we recognize this, who can help but follow him? .

  • Michael Bootsma says:

    From the floor of Synod Friday Morning: thanks.

  • Steve Mulder says:

    I still have the mp3 from when you preached this at Second CRC… one of my favorites! I still get choked up when the Magnificat is framed this way.

  • Claudia Williams says:

    Wow, Laura. Thank you!

Leave a Reply