Vicar's Blog ~ April 2018
It’s not every year that the magazine is published on Easter Day. And certainly not every year that the first Sunday of April is not only Easter Day but April 1st, All Fools’ Day! In fact that hasn’t happened since 1327*. That was the year Elizabeth de Burgh died. She was the wife - Queen - of Robert the Bruce. No relation to Chris de Burgh incidentally. And that was also the year the potato tax was introduced.** All Fools’ or April Fools’ Day goes back as far as Chaucer’s time (he died in 1400), when some say it was jokingly referred to as ‘32nd March’. The first recorded ‘April Fool’s prank’ was on April 1, 1698, when several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the lions washed”! It was unlikely that many of those people could remember the years 1646 and 1658 and 1668 when Easter Day had been on April 1st. Meanwhile, the last three occurrences of this coincidence are 1923, 1945 and 1956. So it is a while since we last this juxtaposition. The next time will be in 2029. Meanwhile in 1769 it was believed that the origin of April Fools’ Day was biblical, it being the day on which Noah, foolishly, sent out the first dove to search for land, far too soon. Unlikely as that is, we can turn to the New Testament to find more useful Biblical resonances. For as St Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians:
‘Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength’.
This all reminds us that foolishness and faith are connected, not only in the minds of the faithful but also in the faithless. For those of no faith, the idea that we believe in a human being who was also divine, who sent by God to live and teach peace and goodwill, was betrayed, and executed only to rise again on the third day to show the created world that what they see isn’t all they get, is absurd. It is foolish, they say to put hope and trust in an impossible and implausible event that took place 2000 years ago in a primitive time and volatile part of the world. And yet, those of us who do put our faith in this God-man Jesus, sent by our Father Creator to save us from the sins that damage all of us and open up new hope for the living and the departed - we accept the foolishness of such an idea.
Yes we accept it is foolish. Insane, nonsensical. Implausible and inconceivable, defying every reasonable thought and emotion. But we also realise that foolishness is a form of vulnerability. To act the clown, or tell a joke is to risk rejection. It is awful to tell a joke that no-one laughs at, or to be laughed at for the wrong reasons. And yet this is exactly what Jesus did and what happened to him. Mocked with a purple robe and crown of thorns and laughed at while bleeding on the cross, his ignominy truly is pathetic - and most of the ancient world thought so at the time and many people still do. How can God be crucified? Or rather, how can someone who is God be crucified, surely God cannot be defeated in this way! Death cannot have dominion over a humiliated, lacerated, mocked deity. It must be some kind of pathetic joke.
And yet, while attitudes barely change, we are still talking about it 2000 years later. The old joke still has life in it. Eternal life, in fact. Because the story - the shaggy God story - does not end with the ridicule of the cross, the foolish end to a story told by an idiot, signifying nothing. No, there is resolution to the divine humiliation and a punchline to what looks like a human joke.
For after humiliation comes glory. The sombre cross dawns into joyful resolution on Easter Day. Death is mocked by resurrection, the joke is in us and the last laugh is God’s. Or rather the first laugh of the New Creation, the relief and renewal of resurrection brings a joy that is not foolish but wise. For it is wise to welcome and embrace God’s unexpected ending, and join in with what he did on that Easter Day and continues to do in and with us each and every morning. April Fools’ Day comes but once a year. But Easter Day is every day. Alleluia - Christ is risen - he is risen indeed - Alleluia!
* just joking, it’s 1956 actually.
** Also not true. Potatoes hadn’t been invented then.