Easter Festival  – April 1, 2018

Rev. Lyle McKenzie            Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria
Acts 10:34-43; Ps.118:1-2,14-24; 1Corin.15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8

– Christ is risen!. April Fools! The order might be important.

– April Fools, Christ is risen! Maybe it doesn’t make a difference.

– Which is it? Christ is risen, indeed! Forget the fools, April or otherwise. Right? Or do they kind of belong together?

– By God’s foolish wisdom, do Easter Day, and April Fools, fit?

What’s your best April fool’s joke ever? Either pulled on you or by you? What’s the best?

(A “banner group” in a previous parish were preparing a new Easter banner, to which I made some joke about no Easter bunnies or eggs please… I walked into the church to witness their hanging this beautiful banner proclaiming the resurrection with Alleluias… as I got closer, I noticed a small figure in the corner, it was an Easter bunny, holding an Easter egg, my dismay was the delight of all of them watching for my reaction… I still have that Easter Bunny and egg, made to easily be removed after it had made its impact… not on Easter morning! April fools…

At Multifaith services… a request for a small religious group to be given status… a formal letter with supporting documentation (was it the Raeliens) identifying a particular need to alter the skylight in the Multifaith Chapel, so it could be opened to allow celestial beings to freely enter and exit the Chapel during certain rituals and ceremonies… one of our more gracious and open Chaplains took this to heart but struggled somewhat with the possible expense and willingness of the rest of the chaplaincy team to accept this group and their particular needs…. April fools)

And there was this person, not particularly well known, but well loved by those close to them. Not of significant background or status, actually of quite humble beginnings. They gained some notoriety and some criticism, even judgement for their actions, including the attention of some in authority. Fearing growing popularity, or just annoyed with the disturbance, the authorities had them arrested, convicted and killed. That should have been the end of it. It was for them, it was for most. But some women, they were said to have seen evidence, only circumstantial evidence, that they were alive. Not dead, as clearly witnessed by any number of those involved; but out of the grave, and alive. Who’s going to believe that?! It’s April 1. It must be April fools!

Resurrection; it’s in the realm of the too foolish to believe. It must be April Fools. Whether it is Peter’s account from Acts, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him… they put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead…” Or from Paul, “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time… Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” Foolishness or truth…

And when is a resurrection story almost not a resurrection story? When it is the Gospel of Mark, and we have three women who very early on the first day of the week, at sunrise, are going with spices to anoint the body of the dead Jesus, who worry who will roll away the large grave stone. But finding the stone already rolled back, “as they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.” (Alarmed!, Just alarmed!) But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” That’s it? That’s what we get this morning. Christ is risen? Or April Fools? Foolishness or truth?

Martin Luther said of Easter Day, “we take hold of eternal life by faith today, although we do not really understand what it is. We believe that one day we will partake of it.”

The poet, author, farmer, and activist, Wendell Berry, in his poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” concludes with the exhortation to, “Practise Resurrection.” And to, “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”

Like for two days in August of 2017, when four Mexican employees at El Bolillo Bakery were trapped inside the store while the worst of tropical storm Harvey hit Houston, Texas. They were worried about being separated from their families and wondering when they’d be able to go home; they were worried about whether or not the floodwater would come into the bakery and they’d lose power. When the owner of the store was able to reach them after two days, he found they’d turned their worry into about four thousand bread items: pan dulce, kolaches, and bolillos, all ready to be given to those in need. August fools in the midst of a flood? No. Practise resurrection. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. Take hold of eternal life by faith today, although we don’t really understand what it is. We believe, that one day, maybe today, we will partake in it. April Fools, Yes!

Preaching at sunrise on the Mount of Olives, Rev. Carrie Ballenger Smith, eight months after her arrival in Israel/Palestine, and receiving contrasting advice from friends and family to “keep your head up,” and “keep your head down,” reflecting on doing both like the three women on their way to Jesus’ tomb, downcast in grief and worried who will roll away the stone, and looking up to see the stone had already been rolled back; reflects on the Easter account from Mark: “As people of the cross, we are called to continue on the path to peace, justice, and reconciliation—even when it is difficult; Even when it is dangerous; Even when others call us foolish. Even when the world insists the stone is too large, too heavy, too complicated to be moved. But on Easter morning, we are reminded of the good news that the stone has already been rolled back! Therefore, as people of the resurrection, we walk not with heads down and backs bent with grief, but with eyes on the empty tomb. As people of the resurrection, we lift our eyes to the hills and mountains of Jerusalem, the city of resurrection, from which we draw our help and strength. As people of the resurrection, we have nothing to fear: no stone, no terror group, no extremist rhetoric, no unjust policy, no racist agenda, no diagnosis, no wall.” Practising resurrection. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. Taking hold of eternal life by faith today, although we don’t really understand what it is, believing, that one day, maybe today, we will partake in it. April Fools, Yes!

On Mount Tolmie this morning I read the Paschal/Easter sermon of John Chrysostom. Born about 347 in Antioch, he became the Bishop of Constantinople in 397.  Enjoy all of you the feast of faith: Receive all of you the riches of loving-kindness. Let no one bewail their poverty, for the universal dominion has been revealed. Let no one weep for their iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. The one that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, Jesus made Hell captive. Jesus embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, it says, was embittered, when it encountered God’s own in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Christ be glory and dominion unto ages of ages.

Practising resurrection. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. Taking hold of eternal life by faith today, although we don’t really understand what it is, believing, that one day, maybe today, we will partake in it. April Fools Easter, Yes!

On this first Sunday after the first full moon after the northern hemisphere’s spring equinox, it’s Easter Sunday, and this year it’s April Fool’s day, and we are happy to line up with the fools, believing and trusting and practising this resurrection of Christ Jesus, being joyful though we have considered all the facts, taking hold of eternal life by faith today, although we don’t really understand what it is, believing, that one day, and today, we will partake in it. Christ is risen!, Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.