Sunday, April 1, 2018
Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day

Prayer of the Day
God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Readings and Psalm
Acts 10:34-43 God raised Jesus on the third day
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Witnesses to the risen Christ
John 20:1-18 Seeing the risen Christ

 Sermon:

 Easter Fools’ Day Rejoicing and Living

Alleluia, Christ is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia.

This day, this unique Easter Day, begs for a “this day” appropriate, light-hearted,  telling of that wonderful story, right?  Oh, come on, everybody is thinking it.  My friend, Daniel Neiden, has been chomping at the bit for today.  Oh, don’t worry, God has a sense of humor.  (In case you haven’t a clue as to what I am talking about because you are very focused on it being Easter and you’ve been busy getting the baskets filled and the eggs hidden, today is April 1st.  Yup, April Fools Day and Easter are sharing the day.  Last time this happened was 1945.  So, we gotta take advantage of this strange pairing, right?)

So what will it be?  Can we imagine some first Easter April Fools antics?  Shall we imagine Mary Magdalene going to the disciples, the distraught and despondent disciples?  She goes into the room where they all sit frightened and she falls to the floor keening, “Jesus is dead.”  And then with a smile, jumps up, and shouts “April Fools!  I just saw him in the garden.  He’s alive!!”  Or maybe it’s a twisted picture from the story of Thomas that we will hear next Sunday as the disciples say to the absent Thomas: “We have seen the Lord.”  And Thomas looks at them with disgust and says: “That is a sick, April Fools joke, you guy. That is really low.”  Or maybe the joke is on all the disciples when Jesus appears to them.  He acts like a terrifying ghost and says “You all abandoned me in my darkest hour.  And Peter you denied me.  Now you will all pay for what you have done.”  And just as they think death is about to come crashing down on them.  Jesus snaps out of the ghostly impersonation and says, “April Fools!  Really.  All is good. I forgive you.  I’m alive!  Come out from under the table guys.”

Whatever April Fool joke you want to imagine on this Easter day, one thing we know is not an April Fool, on this day or any day our cry is –

(Don’t miss your part.)  Alleluia, Christ is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed alleluia.

All joking aside.  These observances on one day – Easter and April Fools Day – are as perfectly paired as that day 56 days ago when we started our Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday.  Remember?  This year, Ash Wednesday was also Valentine’s Day, and on that day, as we reminded ourselves of our mortality, we also heard God sending Valentine’s promises of love everlasting.

Yes, another perfect pairing of days. Perfect because this great, world changing message that the risen Christ brings, this message of resurrection hope and new life in the face of failure and death is seen as foolishness to a world fixated on oppressive power, selfish gain, life-killing fear, and empty peace through violence.

How foolish those first followers must have appeared as they tried to live out the message of Jesus in their post-resurrection lives.  Why didn’t they just go back to fishing and sensibility? What had they seen and experienced that caused them to give up everything, everything sensible, everything that those around them held valuable, held up as wise.  No, they had been turned into fools like that great one who got himself crucified.  They were serving the poor, feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned.  They were living in community in which all things were shared for the good of all, trusting that all would be satisfied.

They were changed by that news that started with Mary Magdalene and quickly spread to his disciples and other followers.  The news that we echo today again and again.

Alleluia, Christ is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia.

This message was not easily received.  In Mark’s gospel, the final image is everyone shaking in fear.  The next verses of John will show the disciples locked away in a room paralyzed by fear.  But by their continued witness of the risen Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, the faith grows, the message spreads.

In our first reading, Peter is speaking to THE PEOPLE.  The people that he is speaking to are not devote Jews like those first followers, or like Jesus himself.  The people that Peter is preaching to are Romans. It is Cornelius and his household.  They are the enemy.  The occupiers.  They are Gentiles.  They are the other.  And Peter is doing the fool-headed thing of telling them, that this message of Jesus, of God’s mercy and grace, of love and peace, is for all people.  There are no obstacles.  And for 2,000 years the followers of Jesus have been challenging themselves to live out this foolish inclusion – challenging old ways of thinking about class, race, gender, sexual identity, emotional orientation.  The world promotes purity, stratification, and exclusivity.  God shows no partiality.  All are welcome. All are included.  All are invited to hear the good news that…

Alleluia, Christ is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia.

Paul, the writer of our second reading heard it.  As he puts it, he came a little late to the party.  He was another level-headed guy who got turned into a fool.  Living out the purity of his religion, the risen Christ appeared to him , and called him to take this inclusive message to all the world.  And Paul new how foolish it was.  He even writes about it.  Paul wrote that the world hears this story of Jesus, this story of the innocent man who dies on the cross for our sake, and the world counts it as foolishness.  But, he reminds them, we see it as life, and when lived, we experience it as peace, when shared we know that it is wisdom beyond message.  Paul would have loved this pairing of days – April Fools and Easter – because he encourages us all to be fools for Christ’s sake.

And this is not a 2,000-year-old call whose expiration date has long since passed.  For we still see it in our time, people living their lives as Fools for Christ sake.  This Wednesday will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  A prophet in our own time.  A man who, regardless of the threats to his own safety and his own life, foolishly continued to live and preach and change the world in accordance with the wisdom of the radical message of God’s love made known in the risen Savior.

We see the work of life that will not let death have the final word in the movements of our day.  Black Lives Matter.  Me too.  The Students of Parkland, Florida.  Gays Against Guns. Trans Justice Funding Project and so many more.  The world calls them foolish because change is never easy.  Never wanted by the power brokers of the world.  But, with bold and brave foolishness, so many, through their word and deed, add more resilience and resistance to this world changing message that is renewed in us this day, as we celebrate.

Alleluia, Christ is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia.

But the most perfect example of this most perfect pairing of days, on this April Fools – Easter, is the foolishness of God.  Our God, Creator rejected by creature from the beginning, most worthy Sovereign displaced by human rulers, Lover spurned for false gods.  In spite of all that, God sends the beloved Son to show and teach the depth of love and the perfection of grace that is ours in God, and we kill the one who saves us.  And still the foolishness of God’s love will not wise up.  On this day, God acts again. Acts for us.  Not only is Jesus raised from the dead, but he shares this victory with us – the rebellious lot that we prove ourselves to be time and time again.

On this double header day, embrace all that the world calls foolish for the sake of new life in the risen Christ.  Not new life that is waiting for you after your last breath, that’s there and that’s good, but we are most wise to make this day about everyday of our living.  As we daily die to all that the foolishness that the world tries to convince us is wisdom, the risen Christ raises us up and leads us to newness of life that is filled with the wisdom of God that the world call foolishness.

So, Fools for Christ sake – this is your day.  Followers of the risen Christ and Children of the Eternal God of Love – this is your day.  For how ever your label it, this is the day that God has acted.  Our joy is complete, for the good news is…

Alleluia, Christ is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia.

The Rev. Mark Erson,
Pastor

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