Because of the funny way things fell on the calendar this year, many of us were describing this year's Lenten journey as the journey from Valentine's Day to April Fool's Day! We began with Ash Wednesday on February 14, and so today we end up celebrating Easter on the day everybody else in the world thinks of as April Fool's Day!
Easter has fallen on April Fool's Day before (but not since 1956), and it will happen again in 2029. So in MY 27 Easters as a Pastor, Easter Sunday has never fallen on April Fool's Day. And at first, that seemed kind of sacrilegious. After all, Easter is the biggest and most important day on the Church calendar. We take this REALLY seriously.
But April Fool's Day is literally a joke. And often, it's celebrated with goofy, stupid and sometimes cruel jokes.
But then I got to thinking: in one sense, maybe this is actually appropriate, in that the Resurrection is sort of God's reverse April Fool's Day joke on the way the world usually works, and the way the world so often wants us to think.
April Fool's Day jokes, after all, are about convincing people that something is true, when it turns out not to be the case. And on that first Easter Sunday morning, the Resurrection itself sounded like the April Fool's Day joke. "Really", Mary Magdalene announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord!"
But rather than rejoice in this good news, most of the disciples thought exactly what we'd think, especially if we were told this news on April first. Right. You expect me to believe that? It's another cruel April Fool's Day joke.
In fact, as the stories continue, even when people see the Risen Jesus, they wonder if he's real; if they're just seeing a ghost; or if they're the victims of some cruel joke.
But as those first disciples came to actually experience the Risen Jesus in their lives, they came to realize that God had reversed the April Fool's Day joke on the world. In a world which constantly told people that:
- death was the end; and
- that resistance was futile; and
- that whatever captured he headlines was the most important thing...
God reversed the April Fool's joke and showed that all of THOSE things really weren't true.
In a sense, the Resurrection of Jesus is God's reverse April Fool's Day joke on the world whenever the world tells us t
here is no hope; that this this life is all there is; and that and death and taxes are the only certain things.
- Just when people were convinced of that cruel joke, Jesus' Resurrection showed that there actually was hope for the future - and it wasn't because life suddenly got easier for the first disciples (in fact, it often got harder!) Like us, they still lived in a world full of threats, war, disease and death. And eventually, they all died. But the Resurrection was a living hope that even their death was not the end. God had much more in store for each of them, as God has much more in store for each of us...
The Resurrection of Jesus is God's reverse April Fool's Day joke on the world whenever the world tells us we should just give up, because you can't really change the calculus of the chaos, evil, terrorism and corruption around us.
- Just when people were convinced of that cruel joke, the Resurrection of Jesus gave the first disciples real strength to live in spite of the mess of the world - and that didn't mean sitting around until Jesus came back, sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring what was going on around them. Instead, because they had experienced new life in Jesus, they actively shared that new life with others. They spoke of their hope. They helped others with their physical needs. And they lived in new ways to give believers and unbelievers alike a foretaste of the coming kingdom of God. The Risen Jesus sent them, as he sends us, to be a present foretaste of the Resurrection in a world which often can't even imagine an alternative to the mess that so many people are caught up in each day...
The Resurrection of Jesus is God's reverse April Fool's Day joke on the world whenever the world tells us that the stress of the moment, and the headlines of the hour, are the most important and compelling things in our lives.
- Just when people were convinced of that cruel joke, the Resurrection of Jesus gave his first disciples a sense of transcendence in the midst of the turmoil of the world - Jesus didn't suddenly fix the problems of the world. But the Resurrection was and is the assurance that more is at work in the world than chaos, evil, intrigue and death. Even more, the Resurrection is the assurance that what God is doing ultimately lasts in ways that evil never can. And that means that the Resurrection of Jesus should change our perspective on life, and condition how we face every day and every challenge in our lives. It doesn't mean our crises and problems aren't important, but it should give us the assurance that crisis of the moment isn't all that's happening, and that the crisis of the moment is never the most important piece of our reality...
So I hope that on this April Fool's Day, nobody tries to play a cruel joke on you. But even if they do, remember that the best April Fool's Day joke of them all is the one God plays on the world in the Resurrection.
But God's joke isn't fake or cruel. It's the reversal of all the cruel and horrible jokes of death, evil and intrigue in the world around us. And that's because the Resurrection is more than just the remembrance of Jesus coming back to life. Instead, the Resurrection is how God gives new life to all of us, each day, by giving us back the hope, strength and perspective that the world is always trying to take away from us.