Easter Fool’s Day
Yesterday, before any of you got here, and without even asking permission from the Wardens and the Vestry, I collected every last snow shovel I could find, and every last grain of salt in the bags of ice-melt, and dragged the whole lot of them up to the attic. I am just plain sick and tired of having to look at them, standing there by the doors, taunting me with that look that says, “you just know you’re going to need me again.”
Yes, I know, I must be crazy. This is New England. It’s only April 1st. The snow might show up again for another month. It’s snowing today in the north of Old England. Who do I think I am to expect we’d do any better?
But I am not only confident. I am comforted. I am comforted by the thought that I am among friends. Yes, I may be a fool. But I am not the only fool in the place.
In fact, if you are here at this hour on this day in this place, there’s a pretty good chance that you are something of a fool, too. And we may as well face the facts here: There’s a very good chance that most of the people who are not here on this occasion, looking in from out there at all of us in here, are making all of us out to be fools for being here.
It is pretty rare that Easter falls squarely on April Fool’s Day; it will happen only twice more in this century. But the fact of that coincidence gives us something worth thinking about. You can’t fully embrace the meaning of this day, you can’t be a whole-hearted Easter Christian, unless you are at least a little bit of a fool. And what is even more important, you can’t be all of that—you can’t be an all-in follower of the story we are gathered around today—unless you are willing to be thought a fool, as well.
The Christmas crowd is different. Everybody loves the story of the baby in the manger. Even the folks who are just cultural Christians can sign up for that idea. At the very least, all of us were babies once. There’s nothing we have to explain, really, when we talk about it with our friends at our office party.
“So, what’s it’s all about, this holiday for you?” “Well, a baby was born.” “Oh, that’s nice! Babies are nice.” “Right, but this is... this is a really special baby.” “Well, of course! All babies are special...”
But Easter... Easter is different. Easter is the moment that divides the cultural Christians from those of us who dare to be here this morning. It’s harder to explain at that same party.
“So, Easter is this weekend?” “Yes... yup, this weekend.” “Is it always April first?” “Well, no... it moves around a lot on the calendar. It’s usually in April.” “Oh, because of the marathon?” “No...no, because... well... it has something to do with when Passover is...”
And the date is the simple thing. If the conversation turns to what this day is really about, then we have to be prepared to sound a little foolish. Because it is about something that practically demands we choose between what we think we know and what we dare to believe.
You might think that the scandalous claim of Easter, the part of it that really makes us seem like fools, is the part about a man who was dead rising to physical life again.
Or if you consider it a little more, you might think that the really outrageous thing about Easter is that it makes us a faith tradition, a religious idea, gathered around a man who was tried, convicted, and executed for the capital crime of treason.
But actually what lies at the very core of our faith, what turns out to be the central message of this day, is something even more crazy. It is that we are not the end. We—our minds, or imagination, our loves, our hopes, our intellects—we are not the limit of the possible.
That is what we say to the rest of the world on this day. And the rest of the world, which claims to be all that there is and ever could be, thinks we are fools.
For us, this day is a confrontation with the reality that all humans are hard-wired for the same deep search for certainty and knowledge and satisfaction, and that we will never realize those hopes in the frame of the created world.
So when we talk about the things from which we are saved this day, we’re not talking about the misdemeanors—the small hurts we deal out to each other, the unkind words we say about people who aren’t in the room.
We’re not even talking about the felonies—the very hard reality that humans are capable of immense brutality and malice toward each other.
What this day saves us from is much more serious. This day saves us from that moment when we realize we are created in the image and likeness of God, and we look at that image in the mirror and make the mistake of thinking we are God—that all there is to know we can know, and that all we know is the limit of what is.
What this day is about is the simple, humble, powerful, and transformative idea that what we have decided to look for is not actually the certainty and satisfaction that we think we desire, but the source of all that is true and real and loving that lies behind the shadows that surround us and out of our sight.
So we are fools, because we come here not just to proclaim but to celebrate being freed from the prison of thinking that we are all there is to this story.
We are fools, not because we come running to the tomb without a really clear plan for how to move that giant stone—but because we come here certain that we are going to find it empty. And not just the tomb of Jesus—the tombs where those whom we have loved and have lost have been buried, the tombs where our fondest hopes have been buried, the tombs where sometimes even our capacity for belief has been buried. All of them, empty.
We are fools because we come here today to sign up one more time for the dangerously disruptive and unreasonable idea that despite all evidence to the contrary, it won’t be strength, it won’t be might, it won’t be wealth, it won’t be power, it won’t be arrogance by which God is revealed to the world and justice is done; it will be by reconciling, forgiving love, a love that can transform even each one of us into agents of grace.
And we are fools because when it comes right down to it we are not willing to be reconciled to the world as it is, but instead keep longing for the world to be reconciled to that love.
My favorite Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, put this just right. “Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world: unreasonable people persists in trying to adapt the world to themselves. And that is why all progress depends on the unreasonable people.”
Well, that’s us. We are not fools because we are simpleminded. We are not fools because we are not smart enough to be scientists, or because we are not practical to manage our own affairs.
We are fools because we are just a little bit unreasonable. We are the ones who will not adapt ourselves to this world, because we have glimpsed the possibility of a greater love, and a higher purpose, and a more worthy way of living, in the blinding light of grave that is empty.
So yes, this is our day. Happy Easter Fool’s Day. We will own it.
We will proclaim not just the dead man raised, but the possibility that the things in us that have died can be made to live again, too.
We will not just say that God is love, but we will show with the choices we make and the time we spend how that love looks and acts in the world.
We will gather here, again and again, to be in the affirming company of other fools just like us.
And then we will go out and find others who are longing to learn how to be fools, too. Amen.