Fools for Christ

“Fools for Christ”
John 20: 1 -18
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
April 1, 2018

Today the secular and the sacred meet. It is Easter, but it is also April Fools’ Day. Easter has not landed on April Fools Day in 62 years. And so with this fun coincidence of holidays merging, parents are planning all kinds of Easter pranks on their kids. Here are some of the ideas I have heard:
• Fill a hollow chocolate bunny up with mustard. Just like it says. You take a hollow bunny, make a discrete little hole in the bottom under the foil, and fill it up with mustard.
• Dye an uncooked Easter egg. As the children peel the egg, picture them freaking out as egg goo covers their fingers.
• Hold an Easter egg hunt and instead of filling the eggs with candy, fill the eggs with broccoli, carrots, frozen peace, brussel sprouts. You know rabbit food.
• Hold an Easter Egg hunt but don’t hide any eggs at all.
• Hided peeps. Just peeps. No one will expect to find peeps in their closet, their shoes, their Easter bonnet.
• No Easter dinner is complete without dessert. Sponge cake is the perfect spring dessert because it’s so light and airy. This sponge cake will take it to a whole new level because it will be made with actual sponges.
• Give your kids an Easter basket full of cleaning supplies this year.

But my favorite Easter prank is replacing jelly beans with beanboozled jelly beans. Do you know beanboozled? There are 20 jelly flavors – 10 classic flavors and 10 weird ones. Two of the jelly beans are the same color – but the catch is that you won’t know which one you are getting – the tastiest or the craziest. And they don’t smell like anything. A white jelly bean may taste like coconut or spoiled milk. A brown one may taste like chocolate pudding or canned dog food. A black one may taste like licorice or skunk spray. Yellow may taste like buttered popcorn or rotten eggs. The red one with spots on it may taste like strawberry and banana smoothie or a dead fish. The blue one – tuttie fruity or stinky socks. Anyone here who would like to take the Beanboozled challenge? I dare you.
It is a fun day when Easter Sunday falls on April Fools’ Day! But, of course, the greatest joke of all was the resurrection. We thought Jesus was dead, buried, sealed in a tomb. But today we declare that he is alive! Human wisdom says, “In the midst of life, we die.” But God’s folly says, “In the midst of death, we live.” How fitting that Easter Sunday falls on April Fools’ Day this year.
Our Lenten theme is “Lovers and Fools”. The beginning of the Lenten season, Ash Wednesday, fell on Valentine’s Day this year. The end of the Lenten season, Easter Sunday, falls on April Fools’ Day. Thus, “Lovers and Fools” are the book ends to the Lenten season.
In the book of Corinthians, Paul writes, “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.” The Jesus story turns common wisdom on its head. It is not the story of a child born in a palace to rich powerful parents, but to a child born in a stable to a poor carpenter and his wife. And when he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he does not come with a chariot or a gallant stallion, but enters on a female nursing donkey with a colt trotting beside her, symbolic of Jesus’ solidarity with the poor and the oppressed in the city. And when “he was betrayed, he chose to love the betrayer. He He was forsaken but he loved those who forsook him. Even when he was mocked and tormented, he loved his mockers and tormenters. He was scourged and he loved his scourgers. He was crucified and he loved his killers” (Bishop John Shelby Spong, pg 288, Jesus for the Non-Religious). “Foolishness,” we say, “complete foolishness.”
He calls us to be fools, too. “Lovers and Fools”. On this April Fools’ Day, we are called to the journey of love and be fools for Christ, too. Jesus calls us to some pretty foolish things: love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, do good to those who hate you. If someone asks you to walk a mile with them, go two. If someone asks you for your shirt, give them your jacket too. Forgive someone not seven times, but seventy times seven. The stuff that Jesus speaks about is outlandish. The world would call this foolish, but Jesus calls it faithful.
Frederick Buechner says, “In terms of the world’s sanity, Jesus is as crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks they can follow him without being a little crazy too is delusional.” Crazy, delusional, foolish – those are the words that Buechner uses to describe you and me!
As fools for Christ, we have faith in possibilities, when others are convinced of inevitability. It is the courage to love others when they don’t love us in return. We show compassion when others are heaping judgment. We live by peace, when others are being violent. We work for justice when others are working for wealth. We respond with gentleness when others are reacting with rage. We believe in new life even when death seems permanent. We won’t remain caterpillars when we can become butterflies.
There is a great story I heard about the foolishness of the Christian faith.
There is a minister by the name of Doug Cogue and he had a friend named Bob. And Bob and Doug were having breakfast together one morning and Bob said to Doug, “Ya know, I just came across this verse in the Bible that says, ‘Seek and ye shall find, ask and it will be given to you, knock and the door will open. Do you really believe all of that foolishness?”
Doug said, “Sure, I believe it. Why don’t you give it a try. Why don’t you pray for something and see what happens.
Bob had never prayed for anything before. Prayer seemed a bit foolish to him. Doug said, “All right, what do you want to pray for?” Bob said, “I think that I will pray for Africa.” Doug said, “Well, that’s kind of big, could you narrow it down a little bit.” Bob said, “All right, I will pray for Kenya.”
Doug said, “Have you ever been to Kenya?” No. “Do you know people in Kenya?” “No, I just want to pray for Kenya.” So Doug said, “All right Bob I will make you a deal — you pray for Kenya everyday for 6 months and if nothing remarkable happens, if God doesn’t clearly answer your prayer, I will pay you $500. BUT if something remarkable happens; if God answers your prayer, then you pay me $500. If you don’t pray everyday for 6 months then the whole deal is off.” It’s kind of an unusual approach to prayer and spiritual direction and I don’t recommend or practice that approach, but Doug is an unusual kind of pastor.
For months Bob prays for Kenya and nothing happens. He’s at a dinner in Washington one night and people are sitting around a banquet table telling each other what they do for a living. One of the women at the table tells the folks that she helps to oversee the largest medical facility slash orphanage of its kind in Kenya. And Bob who has been sitting there like a bump on a log to this point in time, roars to life and begins pounding her with question after question and finally just catching her breath says to him, “You’re obviously very interested in what I am doing in my country. Have you been to Kenya?” No. “Well, do you know people in Kenya?” No. “Well, would you like to come and visit?” And Bob says “Yeah!”
Bob gets on a plane and flies from Washington to Kenya and tours the facility and is appalled by the suffering and pain. He comes back to the states and writes letters to multi-million dollar pharmaceutical companies. And he says to them, “You know, every year you throw away millions of dollars of unsold products and here’s this place in Kenya where there’s this tremendous suffering and they need it desperately. You ought to send some of your stuff to them.” And some of them do! And this facility gets over a million dollars worth of medical supplies because of Bob.
The head of the facility calls Bob and says we are going to have a big party to celebrate and asks, “Bob, would you come back again?” And Bob says, “Sure!” He says we want you to be the guest of honor. Bob gets on a plane and flies back to Kenya. They have this big party and because this facility is the biggest of its kind, the President of Kenya comes to the party, meets Bob, and offers to take him on a little tour of the capital.
So they do. Among other things they go past a prison, Bob asks about a particular group of prisoners and the president explains that they are political prisoners. And Bob says, “Oh, that’s not a good idea — you ought to let these guys out.” Bob flies back to the states. Several weeks later, he gets a phone call from an official of the state department of the U.S. government. “Is this Bob?” Yeah. “Bob, have you been to Kenya lately?” Yeah. “Did you meet with the president while you were there, Bob?” Yeah. “Bob, did you say anything about political prisoners?” Yeah. “What did you say?” I said that he ought to let them out. The guy from the State Department said, “I am calling to tell you that we have been working for years for the release of those prisoners to no avail, they have now been released, and we are told by the Kenya gov’t partly it was because of Bob.” (Story told at the 2002 National Pastors’ Conference)
“God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.”
On this April Fools’ Day in the midst of mustard filled chocolate bunnies and beanboozeld jelly beans and plastic eggs filled with brussel sprouts, may we also take time to be fools for Christ.