How many of you out there would say that you enjoy a good joke? How about a practical joke? How about a prank?
You may be aware that in addition to being Easter, today is April Fools’ Day. April Fools’ Day is not a day I typically observe or even like to acknowledge, but thought it worth mentioning given that “The last time Easter fell on April Fools’ Day was in 1956. Due to the quirks involved in dating Easter against the Gregorian calendar, the two coincide only intermittently. After 2018, the next one is 2029, and then again in 2040—but after that, not again in this century” (https://www.christiancentury.org/article/critical-essay/when-easter-sunday-falls-april-fools-day).
I grew up in a household of pranksters. I am the youngest of four children and my two brothers LOVED to play jokes on us. Every day was April Fool’s Day to them. There was the day that we got our first TV that had a remote control- they had my father convinced that if he just spoke to the TV the channel would change while they controlled it from one of their pockets. There was the time that they put tabasco sauce in my orange juice- yeah- that was fun! To this day, I still cannot stomach orange juice. I am sure there were others that I have blocked out.
There is something unnerving to me about the unexpected pranking that goes on around April Fool’s Day. Unexpected surprises, for the most part I can handle, but unexpected pranking- I just do not have the stomach for it.
The fact that Easter coincides with April Fool’s Day this year is a nice surprise. It is something that happens very rarely but it allows us to explore Easter from a different angle this year. When you think about it, Easter is one of the most unexpected surprises that one can experience.
Look at Mary Magdalene, she goes to the tomb on that Sunday morning expecting to find Jesus’ body lying inside and instead she is surprised by an empty tomb. Further still, she is in such shock that she stands there weeping, not able to comprehend what is going on. Even when the risen Jesus speaks to her, it takes her a moment to realize who it is. I can completely relate to Mary in this instance, after everything she and the disciples have lived through over the past few days, it is no wonder she cannot grapple with this unexpected happening.
It is the ultimate April fools prank- only, this is no prank!
“Jesus commissioned Mary to become the first herald of His Resurrection. She had to go and announce the greatest good news ever proclaimed, “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God.” We can imagine with what speed Mary ran back through the gates of Jerusalem to tell the disciples that their Lord who had died was alive forevermore. Mary had stayed near to Christ in His journeyings, and had cared for many of His human needs until His corpse was laid in the tomb. He now rewarded her with a closer knowledge of things divine, and she was given an honor that cannot be taken away from her, namely, that of being the first among men or women to see the Risen Lord, and to receive the first message from His lips (John 20:18)” (https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/all-women-bible/Mary-Magdalene).
The other disciples have a bit of a different reaction to the unexpected surprise of Jesus’ body not being in the tomb, they turn around and go back to their homes. They are done. This is unimaginable and they have a hard time wrapping their brains around what is happening.
Maybe we can relate to this? Have you ever had an instance where words fail and silence comes in?
Maybe at the death of a loved one?
Or seeing the Grand Canyon or Arches National Park?
Or holding a baby for the first time?
Or maybe watching the sun rise?
But here’s the thing, we stay in those silences for as long as we need. God is there with us, patiently waiting just as God was with the disciples every step of the way. God is with us in our disbelief and grief and stunned silence. Eventually prodding us, encouraging us, even commanding us as
we come to and
we shake our head and
we clear our throat and
we, like Mary, find a way to share with those around us what we have experienced. We try to put into words how it has broken our hearts and blown our minds and we come up with a plan of what we will do next.
It may take us a while, but that is what we do.
That is what Jesus told Mary to do when he said, “go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” and that is exactly what we are asked to do in this moment and in the coming moments after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We are told in Acts that God “commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that Jesus is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets, (that is all of us), are to testify about Jesus, (to share the Good News)”
God is asking us to pick up where those wonderful folks left off so many years ago. We are invited to share this story with other people, now!
We may not have all the right words or even know what to say, but we can tell people that God loves them! We can tell people about our experience of love and struggle and death and hope –we can share the stories of our faith journeys.
As Easter people, we have the opportunity to show others what it means to live into the hope that this miracle offers. We are encouraged to let people know that when the unexpected or the tough stuff happens, the stuff that leaves us silent or awe-struck- that God is there in that moment, carrying us through it.
Friends, here is the thing about Easter, whether we are faith-filled like Mary or tongue-tied like the disciples, whether we can wrap our hearts and brains around the resurrection or are wrestling with it, as William Sloan Coffin says, the mystery that is Easter is “less about one person’s escape from the grave and more about the victory of seemingly powerless love over loveless power” (http://pres-outlook.org/2006/04/an-easter-tribute-to-william-sloane-coffin-in-his-own-words/).
Easter is about the victory of seemingly powerless love over loveless power.
God is commanding us to go and tell our friends and neighbors and even our enemies that today life beat death,
life wins today,
love wins today,
love wins always.
Friends, love always wins, go and share it, friends, go and tell it!