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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Fools

My favorite time period in the church used to be the Middle Ages. Perhaps the love of King Arthur and shiny knights fueled it. Certainly, the marvelous philosophical expertise was a draw. It was a time of great (and often not so great) imagination and theological inquiry. Without remembering the particulars, I do recall being especially taken aback by one theory which basically seemed to say that the crucifixion was God's trick played on Satan.

In our day, the word comedy means funny. If my memory serves me right from my college literature days, the more ancient understanding of the word is that comedies "turn out well in the end." (Tragedies turn out badly) So, in that sense, the passion and death of Jesus is a comedy, i.e., a story with a happy ending.

Today, April Fools Day, is a traditional day of joking and fooling people. The day brings back memories of things that I did in the past, some of them things which still make me smile or laugh. The humor, however, is always more apparent to the trickster than the trick-ee! 

When Jesus dies on Friday, we will recall what appears to be a desperate day for God. His Man, His Messiah, His Son, His Beloved, His Chosen One--Jesus is tortured, crucified and dead. It appears that "the Prince of this world" has won a victory. Evil has the day. The Healer and Forgiver, the Reconciler and Truth Teller is silenced and dies alone (or near alone). Jesus even cries out Psalm 22, declaring God has abandoned Him (though reading the Psalm reveals there is more to that story). From Hell's perspective it had to seem like a great day. Insidious happiness (can Satan and demons experience the purity of joy?) with evil's victory over good made the earth dark and quake. It had the feel of a terrible tragedy.

Yet, in the end, "April Fools"! Jesus rises. "Gotcha!" We imagine the befuddled Prince of this world looking at an empty tomb and wondering how this happened.

I do not use this language to desecrate the sacred sacrifice or belittle the Divine work of salvation. But know that at one angle (Thursday and Friday) the death has a different meaning than it does in the end (Sunday). Tears turn to laughter, sorrow to joy. In the end, isn't that what the tricking is all about? Isn't it a chance to think things are bad and then, relieved and energized, to celebrate that it is all worked out?

There is something pleasing to think of a God who deals with the hostile rebels in such a way. There is a delight in knowing that they were played, that their efforts to thwart God's plan was actually a scam which accomplished the very thing they wanted to avoid. I love a good joke and I love April Fooling. Perhaps, at the heart of the universe, is a Creator with a sense of humor. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing funny about the horrors we will be remembering tomorrow night into Friday. There is nothing funny about the passion and death. But the resurrection, now there is something to make us laugh and sing and clap our hands. The grinning Jesus telling the sputtering devil, "yes, I guess you did not see that one coming!"

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