For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (I Corinthians 1:18, The New Revised Standard Bible)
I have talked to a number of pastors, some of whom have been at this a lot longer than I, and no one can remember Easter falling on April Fools’ Day before. I am sure it must have, but it must have been a long time ago. This is partly because the date of Easter is a combination of lunar and solar calendars,(It is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring equinox) and partly because the days of the month rotate through the days of the week, so while Easter frequently falls on the first Sunday of April, the first Sunday of April is not often April first. So for the two to coincide, the stars have to align (Well, a star and a moon anyway). Given that this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity, I can tell you that the temptation to make hay out of this co-incidence of the sacred and secular significance of the day is enormous! I imagine opening my sermon with a reference to Jesus being in the tomb and then a hearty, “April Fools!” I picture myself coming in to the sanctuary wearing one of my Jester hats (I have two…long story) and gamboling about the place making wise cracks. Or maybe we can sing the song, Barney Google, a classic from the roaring twenties about a hapless character and his horse, Sparkplug, who could never get anything right. But I worry that any of these options will keep people from appropriating the really important message about the day (Easter, not April Fools).
The message about the cross, as I see it, is that what the world sees as defeat and death, God undoes with grace and new life. By conventional wisdom, we should do everything we can to avoid death and destruction, but the consequences of buying in to that logic is that we are often undone by our own fears, either frozen in the face of threats, or fooled into taking a course of action that is not going to lead us to what we know is the right path.
The foolishness, from the world’s perspective, is that those who follow Jesus would embrace what seems to be the worst possible course of action – that we would take the side of those who have no power, no voice, no resources, and no chance of success. How can we hope to make a difference in the world unless we adopt the world’s ways of dealing with problems? But our witness is that power comes in many forms and from many quarters. There is power in the testimony of a parent who loves their child. There is power in the example of someone who makes a great sacrifice for someone they barely know. There is power in a lot of people pooling their resource to accomplish an enormous task. In John’s Gospel, after Jesus raises Lazarus and then rides in procession into Jerusalem, to the adulation of great crowds, the Pharisees realize that their power has evaporated. “You see, you can do nothing,” they say to each other. “The world has gone after him.” (John 12:19)
Maybe it’s a good thing to have Easter on April Fools’ Day once in a while. It will keep us from thinking that the power of resurrection conforms to the world’s idea of what power is. It can be a reminder for us, that sometimes, the way to new life is a path that is utterly ridiculous and completely foolhardy. May we all be so foolish!
-Rev. David Sickelka