It's A Joke?
By Fred Pruitt
Those who spent much time with Norman Grubb will certainly remember that here and there, from time to time, suddenly, in the midst of some great seriousness, he would pipe in with: "It's all a joke you know. It's God's big joke!" Then he'd scrunch his face up with this sort of impish smile and squint his eyes and hold up one finger while he made his joke. It would then hit you, too -- you knew he was right -- it IS all a big joke.
"Joke" can be taken many ways, but what we are talking about here is that behind everything, behind the night and day, the sun and moon, behind the tragedy and triumph, behind the winning and losing, the pain and pleasure, there is a Great Big Laughter, an Unbridled Joy gushing out of the heart of the Universe.
Revelation 21:4 says: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
How can this possibly be? After all this, after all the horror, the death, the apparent senselessness that genders almost universal violence rending the heavens and scorching the earth, after the Holocaust, after the Twin Towers, and after whatever comes on our earth from hereon, still, at the "end" of the Road, there are no more tears, no more death (O death how cruel thy sting!). In the face of all that has gone before sorrow is not, and crying from sorrow is not known.
How can it be we could remember what went before and not weep for eternity?
Will it be because it was SO hard, and we are SO GLAD to be done with it, and SO GLAD to have come out of it all unscathed and robed in Grace? Certainly, there is joy in rest from our labors, from the completion of a great task, and tears of unceasing joy at having been given the wellspring of Eternal Life, an unending Love Affair in the heavens and earth of Passion and Truth and Beauty and Clarity in an innumerable company of fellow-lovers who find nothing but Joy in each other and in the One of Whom we all are. O Blessed Day!
But it is even more than that. All will be revealed, nothing shall be hidden, and what is revealed is this: everything that is, everything that has been, and everything that will be, has been, will be, and IS forever nothing but the ongoing River of the Love of the Living God. All the forms will be seen for what they are, for what part they've played, and GOD will be seen as ALL in all. All the depths of sorrow and tragedy are swallowed up in the sacrifice of the Holy Lamb. All that which is wicked, evil, totally senseless, the base, the crude, the pride of life, all are swallowed up and made right in Him. Scales fall from our eyes as we see the whole panorama of history from our new vantage point; we see Only One: I AM. The dissonance we thought we were hearing resolves into the most glorious harmonies there ever could be. Gray skies and dull landscapes are suddenly bathed with a Light that bursts into Glorious Heavenly Colors, and we realize, "Hey, it's been like that the WHOLE TIME!" (2 Kings 6:15-17)
But I am not speaking of a future time, and that is the joke. The Laughter comes rising up from beyond your own depths within you, because though you walk now in the midst of Suffering and Death, Unspeakable Divine Joy dwells hidden in the very heart of that Suffering and Death. You can Rise and Laugh, deep from your belly, NOW, for YOU ARE the Joy of the Father, the Beloved in the Bosom of God. YOU ARE the Presence. Where YOU ARE, there is the Presence of God, and where God is, is fulness of joy. (Ps 16:11)
"Fear not, little flock," says the Shepherd, "for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
And again, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you."
Do not think that the words "within you" refer only to a locality encased somewhere inside your skin. What it means is that the "kingdom of God," which cannot be "seen with observation," is everywhere in its fulness NOW, for eyes that see. And seeing that, this is where the laughter comes bubbling up, holy laughter, uncontrolled laughter, a laughter and a joy out of Heaven itself, too much for our human senses, but nevertheless undergirds all that we are.
Jesus "for the joy that was set before him endured the cross." (Heb 12:2b). Travail is hard, birth is pain, but even in the midst of it, in the worst of the pain and the crying, the sweat and the tears, deep joy is set before us. And when the joy comes in the morning, the travail is forgotten, the pains become insignificant, because Life has come forth into the world, a new holy expression of the Living God.
For the moment the world is in travail. Great suffering abounds. Sorrow holds sway. Yet we who are in Him are the Joy-Bringers. The Reconcilers. The Deliverers. Because God by us has not left the world alone. He has left us in the world, where there is tribulation, anguish, and oceans of tears, to "fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ in our bodies." Our Cross is to take the world into ourselves and to resolve it into His Joy. And thus we bring "many sons to glory."
From: Sonnets from the Portuguese
By: Elizabeth Barrett Browning
I thought once how Theocritus had sung
Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years,
Who each one in a gracious hand appears
To bear a gift for mortals, old or young:
And, as I mused it in his ancient tongue,
I saw, in gradual vision through my tears,
The sweet sad years, the melancholy years,
Those of my own life, who by turn had flung,
A shadow across me. Straitway I was 'ware
So weeping, how a mystic shape did move
Behind me, and drew me by the hair,
And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,
"Guess now who holds thee," - "Death," I said.
The Silver answer rang, "Not Death, but Love."