You are not going to believe what I heard on the radio as I was driving here this morning. Archaeologists have found Jesus’ bones in a recently unearthed tomb in Jerusalem!!!!
At clergy retreat in February, one of my colleagues asked the bishop what recommendations he had for preaching this year, when Easter and April Fool’s Day coincide. He responded that there is no better day to preach the good news of the Resurrection, as Easter is the Feast of Fools for Christ, and reminded us of what Paul writes in his First Letter to the Corinthians: The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, to those who can’t see beyond death and the grave, to those who believe that Jesus’ death was a sign of his shame and failure. But for those of us who are willing to acknowledge that God acts in ways we cannot imagine, there is the promise of new life.
Mary wasn’t able to see it yet, on that first Easter morning. She finds the tomb empty, but she can’t make sense of it. Her ability to be a Fool for Christ is still under development. She fears that this is all just some horrible, cruel joke. And because she has not adequately developed her faithful foolishness, she doesn’t recognize him when she sees him.
She thinks he’s the gardener. I know I’ve said it before—that just cracks me up. Probably because the image that comes to mind is a good old Maine gardener like my grandfather was—a guy in old ripped overalls, yellow rubber boots, and an oversized hat. I’m sure that is not how Jesus appeared to Mary (but if you hold onto that image, you’ll never be able to sing “In the Garden” with a straight face again!)
It shouldn’t surprise us that the Resurrected Jesus appears to Mary in a garden. He was arrested in a garden, he was buried in a garden…and of course we are to hear in it echoes of the first creation story, the Garden of Eden.
But this is not a return to the old story. God doesn’t work that way. Instead, on that Resurrection morning, God starts a whole new creation. Theologians would later refer to this as the eighth day of creation, a whole new start. It wouldn’t look anything like the old, and we may not recognize this new life as it breaks in, any more than Mary recognized Jesus when she first saw him. In fact, it was only when Mary heard Jesus call her name that she knew who he was. Jesus called her name and claimed her—the first of the Christ’s Holy Fools, believing in the chance to be made new.
There are plenty of people who think we ARE deluded, foolish, to believe this message of new life and new hope. And maybe we are—maybe this is all just a cosmic April Fool’s Joke. But I’m willing to take that risk. I have seen people transformed by the Good News, and I would rather place my trust in a God offering us this new start, because a life driven by the belief that God IS making all things new can make a difference in ways that a life stuck in a cynical Good Friday loop never can.
Being a Fool for Christ led Peter to trust what the Holy Spirit was telling him—even though it broke all the religious rules—and baptize a Gentile into the community of believers, opening the door wider than he could possibly have imagined.
Being a Fool for Christ led Paul to throw aside all the things that gave him status and power, in order to proclaim this Good News—that God saves u, even from ourselves, our self-importance, our fear of leaving behind the old self. God saves us from the mistakes of our past so that we can embrace the new life offered to us—even with all the challenges it will bring.
Being a Food for Christ led me to become a pastor/priest even though I was sure it was God’s biggest joke of all.
Where might being a Fool for Christ lead you?
I invite you to find out. Join me in being a Fool this April morning, trusting that the tomb was empty, that there are no bones to be found—because he is risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!