Acts 10:34-43; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; John 20:1-18
Today we have woken up to news that:
Coca-cola are producing, for the 'brunch loving superfood millenial' three new flavours of Coke: avacado, sourdough, and charcoal. That Burger King have developed a chololate "Whopper" burger, and that for his Stag do, Prince Harry is spending the weekend in a yurt on a vegan Celtic spirituality retreat.
The kind of stories that we read, and read again, and then check the date, and read again and remember that today is April 1.
Today is that day when well-paid sub-editors from respectable broadsheet newspapers spend far too much time thinking up far too plausible stories that get us thinking just a little too long about whether it was true.
April Fool’s Day that day when children look to swap the sugar and salt around or get much needed use out of that whoopy cushion which has been gathering dust. It is that day when we should all suffer fools gladly.
But today is also Easter Day and there is, perhaps, something of a disconnect between solemn observance of this great day and the silliness of an April fool.
That is not to say that the Church has always been po-faced about silliness.
In the medieval Church, through the twelve days of Christmas, there was what was known as the ‘Feast of Fools’. During this time of feasting and merriment a ‘Lord of Misrule’ would be elected from among the younger members of the community to direct the celebrations. In these days the normal patterns of hierarchy and deference were loosened if not ignored, and for a brief time the world was, the words of the Books of Acts, turned upside down.
But the Lords of Misrule and the Feasts of Fools were condemned by the authorities and condemned to the rubbish tip of history. The Church it appears is, after all, no place for foolishness.
On Friday thirty of so of us stood on Church Street holding an eight-foot wooden cross and sang hymns and read from the bible and prayed with the world carrying on around us – foolishness!
This morning, at the Old Church, about twenty of us stood around a fire, and prayed, and worshipped in the temperatures close to zero – foolishness!
And this morning we gather to celebrate a truth that is pure foolishness which Paul speaks of in our reading from the letter to the Corinthians:
That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.
The truth is that, from the outside, Christianity has always looked like foolishness.
The earliest picture that we have of the Christian faith is a rough wall painting of the crucifixion. On the cross, strapped and nailed, is a man with a donkey’s head. Next to the cross is a slave dressed in a simple tunic with the legend: ‘Alexamenos worshipping his God’ – foolishness!
The truth is that the world has always seen Christianity as foolishness. However rather than reject this truth, the Church in its wisdom has very often leaned into this foolishness.
We see this a little in our Gospel reading this morning.
Through this, and other resurrection accounts in the Gospels, there is a constant process of mistaken identity: Mary sees Jesus as the Gardener; the disciples on the Emmaus road spend hours with Jesus and only see him for who he is at the last minute; disciples who have returned to their fishing boats do not recognise the man cooking on the beach as the same man they left those same boats for three years earlier when he said ‘Follow me’.
Stories of foolishness.
Perhaps not written for cheap laughs, these are stories of human foolishness, that foolishness that comes to see and believe that great truth of what God has done for us in Jesus on this greatest of days.
St Paul, at the beginning of his first letter to the Corinthians, does not so much lean into this foolishness, Paul grabs it with both hands, when he says that:
God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
In the Cross God takes a sign of human strength and power and cruelty and makes it weak through the weakness of his son’s death.
In the Resurrection God overcomes the wisdom that there is certainty only in death with the power and majesty and foolishness of a love which is stronger than death.
Today, it turns out, is exactly the right day for us to be foolish.
The great medieval traditions of misrule were not just an excuse for some fun over the feast of Christmas. They were, in part, an attempt to model and live out in a small way that accusation made by the first persecutors of Christianity that in their foolishness they were turning the world upside down.
But in a world of greed and power and hypocrisy what God shows us today is a foolish promise not so much of the world turned upside down, but a world turned the right way up again.
In a world scarred and marred by sin and death God shows us in Jesus the promise of life in all its fullness.
If a world of power is wise and the promise is God is foolishness then this is a foolishness I am willing to be a fool for.
Because in this great story, in this deep truth we have lived and walked through these past several days we find that the truth that brings us life is the foolishness of love itself.
That in a man kneeling at the feet of his friends, serving them in the most menial task, we see the deepest truth of what is means to lead through love.
That in the Cross we do not find the confirmation of the power of empire, but the deepest and most eloquent description of love and sacrifice we know.
And in the empty tomb we find in the silence of this morning a foolishness that echoes through history. That before all things, and beneath all things, and above all things there is in Jesus a foolish love which is
so amazing, so divine, [it]
demands by soul, my life, my all.
Sermon for Easter Day
- Written by Benjamin Carter
Acts 10:34-43; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; John 20:1-18
Sermons and occasional musings of the Vicar and Curate of all the best bits of Hadrian's Wall.
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