IS THIS SOME BAD APRIL FOOL’S HOAX
April 1, 2018 …. Easter Sunday
Today is Easter Sunday! It is also April Fool’s Day!
The last time this coincidence occurred was in 1956.
The next time it will happen will be in 2029, and then in 2040.
Sharon Kennedy Wynne, a reporter with a Tampa Bay newspaper, says we can’t let this unique opportunity pass us by. We can have a lot of fun messing with our kids in mingling April Fool’s with Easter:
For example, we could stuff their Easter eggs with broccoli, real beans, and carrot chips, explaining that this is what the Easter bunny enjoys eating.
And we could load up their Easter baskets with real grass, band-aids, boxes of mac n cheese, pencils, toothpaste, vitamins. Call it an ABC Basket – Anything But Candy! And make it all gluten-free!
We could have some fun with hot sauce, injecting a squirt of sriracha sauce into their marshmallow peeps.
Wouldn’t it be fun to put candy inside our kids’ plastic eggs, then seal them shut with super glue! And then put a dot of nail polish on a few eggs that aren’t glued shut so you could easily open one and say, “What’s wrong? These are easy to open. Try harder!”
And, last but not least, how about staging a phantom egg hunt…sending the kids out to search for eggs in the tall grass in your back yard, but there aren’t any eggs actually hidden there!
I tell you, that Ms. Wynne must have had a rough childhood! I bet someone once gave her a quarter and told her to go play in the road!
Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at email@example.com. Follow @SharonKWn.
This morning we revisit that glorious, seemingly-incredulous account of our Lord’s resurrection, an event that must have initially seemed like some bad April Fool’s hoax to all involved–ranging from tomb guards to devout women to skeptical disciples. Let’s dig into the gospel-writer Matthew’s take on it all:
1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.
3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
Easter is indeed the ultimate…
Mary Magdalene and her friend approach the tomb in the gray shadows of early morning on that Sunday. Theirs is a somber journey, weighted down with grief. They witnessed the horrific execution of their Lord, and his lifeless body being hastily ripped down from the cross and shoved into a borrowed tomb before sundown at the beginning of the Jewish sabbath on that Friday that was anything but good.
They have returned to the tomb early on this Sunday morning, bringing spices and linens with which to provide their Lord a proper and decent burial.
As they enter the garden area outside the tomb, they spy the huge millstone. In dismay, they realize they will not have the strength to roll this stone away from the entrance to Jesus’ tomb.
However, as they draw closer, a scene that defies description lays before them! The stone has been mysteriously moved, rolled away from the entrance. And as they drop to their knees in utter shock, an angelic being announces the death-defusing surprise!
Yes, it can’t be! But it is! God has chosen to make history rather than be history. God has raised his Son from the dead! Jesus Christ will not be remembered as only some respected teacher, some renowned miracle worker, some revered revolutionary of the past. He is a living reality of the present, the hinge upon which all history now turns! He is alive in the here and the hereafter!
With soaring prose the Apostle Paul would describe what has transpired in this fashion:
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]
Because Christ lives, death has been defused of its power to vanquish us! The crushing stone has been rolled away. We have the promise of life eternal!
Many of us remember the words of the late Billy Graham reiterated at the occasion of his death on February 21, words of testimony he often shared from his pulpit:
Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.
That same testimony is shared by our loved ones as well.
Early each Easter morning I find myself remembering the faces and lives of my parents, my brother, my sister, my aunts and uncles…as well as many beloved church members I have been privileged to serve as pastor of thru my many years of ministry. I ponder the gift of eternal life they now enjoy in the presence of God. I miss them. And yet, in the grief of their absence is peace and even joy, for I know that, because Christ lives, I will one day see them again.
Yes, Easter is the ultimate death-defusing surprise!
And it is also the ultimate…
Let’s read further in Matthew’s account:
5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Do not be afraid??? An angelic being announces to Mary and her friend news that defies reality—Jesus who had the life executed out of his broken, nail-scarred, sin-saturated body is not here! He is risen! This doesn’t make sense! It’s totally off the radar screen! And their response is discombobulated terror mingled with disbelieving joy.
Do not be afraid! What about you and me?
Do we often exist in a state of self-paralyzed anxiety?
In the 1870’s a menacing bandit begin burglarizing the Wells Fargo stage coaches in northern California. He was successful in 30 robberies over the course of a decade. He would wait for the stage coach at a narrow pass, emerge dressed in black with a hood over his head, and would be brandishing a double-barreled shotgun.
To match his appearance, he had a deep, baritone voice, and he would point the gun at the driver and kindly say, “Sir, will you please throw down your treasure box?” This terrifying gentleman bandit came to be known as Black Bart.
Eventually law enforcement tracked Black Bart down. But when they arrested him they couldn’t believe what they found. Black Bart was actually a fellow named Charles Boles. He was not 7 ft. tall, young, rugged and sinister. He was an older, meek and mild gentleman who never fired a shot in his robberies because he never even loaded his gun.
Charles Boles AKA Black Bart used the most crippling weapon in his arsenal – fear. He made a good living dispensing dread. But when unmasked he was nothing people said he was. He was just some deep, shadowy voice behind some dark mask and empty suit. Ronnie McBrayer, May the Road Rise to Meet You, p. 76
Now let’s be real. The world around us can be dangerous. It can be scary. It can hurt us. Some of the things we fear can indeed happen. But because Christ is risen, the world is powerless to finally or completely destroy us. We do not have to exist in a state of self-paralyzed anxiety. Christ is larger than our fears. We can live life with confidence, with gusto, with abandon, with zest!
Easter is the ultimate life-infusing surprise! And because Christ lives, we also do not have to exist in a state of self-analyzed numbness.
Our epitaph does not need to read “Dead at 30, Buried at 70.” We do not have to constantly hum the refrain from John Cougar Mellencamp “Jack and Diane” tune – Life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.”
Speaking of infusion, I will never forget the afternoons I spent with my mother-in-law Ellen at the Hahn Cancer Center here at Sentara RMH as she received chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer.
She and dozens of other patients filled the recliners lining the walls of the infusion lab, connected to IV lines and pumps that pushed the cancer-killing compounds into their bodies. Competent, smiling nurses responded to their needs. Volunteers distributed soft drinks and sandwiches to ward off the nausea.
And I was so amazed to see a room so full of life. My mother-in-law and the other patients traded war stories. They all were like gladiators, fighting for their lives with unwavering grit and grace, fighting with every fiber of their being for what it meant to be human.
And they would share their testimonies of how they had found a whole new perspective on living, learning to slow down and truly appreciate God’s glory and goodness in each and every day, not taking for granted the hug of a child or the blooming of a daffodil or the warmth of sunlight on the face. They were learning to live in the moment…not the past…not the future. They were making today count.
My mother-in-law’s chemotherapy was successful. Her cancer has remained in remission now for nearly three years. At age 83, she says she has never felt more alive. Every day is a new adventure for her. She says what she thinks, does what she wants, eats what she likes, takes care of neighbors many years younger. She does not exist in some state of self-analyzed numbness. She lives, infused with the resilience and joy of the living Lord who proclaims “I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly!” [John 10:10]
Indeed, if it is one thing our faith has always taught us, we can always expect the unexpected from the God. He who surprised us in the raising of his Son from the dead emboldens and enlivens our daily existence with amazing opportunity.
Yes, Easter is the ultimate death-defusing, life-infusing surprise!
And yes, Easter is the ultimate….
At the southernmost point of South Africa there is a cape round which the storms and rough seas are always raging. For a thousand years no one knew what lay beyond that cape, for no ship had ever returned to tell the tale. It was called the Cape of Storms.
In the 16th century, a Portuguese explorer, Vasco Da Gama, successfully sailed around the cape and found beyond it a great calm sea, and beyond that the shores of India. So the name of the cape was changed–from the Cape of Storms-to the Cape of Good Hope.
Until that first Easter morning, death had been the Cape of Storms upon which the hopes of all humankind had been wrecked and no one knew what lay beyond it. But now, in the light of the resurrection of Christ, it has become, for all who believe in him, the Cape of Good Hope! Christ has gone ahead of us, pioneering the way.
In Matthew’s account of the resurrection, we read that Mary and her friend left the empty tomb and were running to find the disciples.
9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and that I will meet them there!”
Yes, when the waters of life embroil us, and when the waters of death engulf us, the outstretched hand of our resurrected Lord reaches down beneath the waves to grab hold of us and never let us go. The resurrection of our Lord unleashes this hope-effusing surprise – nothing can separate us from the eternal force of a loving and living God! Yes, that which is deemed fatefully and forever hopeless can be filled with abiding hope! [Romans 8:38-39]
We are never forsaken or forgotten. Christ goes ahead of us…he is there to meet us….in our journey of life and beyond this life, we are never alone!
Even the most nominal basketball fans have been inspired by Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, the 98-year-old nun who is the chaplain to the Loyola University Ramblers men’s basketball team. Their remarkable run in the NCAA tournament came to a halt last night, but what a joy it was to watch them play!
In a season that has been filled with dirty coaches and sleazy agents and payoffs to players and constant FBI investigations of corruption, she has been a breath of life and hope and fresh air!
Sister Jean was holding court at the NCAA Final Four news conference on Friday, an event normally attended by maybe a dozen reporters. For her appearance the room was packed with hundreds of journalists and cameramen jostling to hear her every word.
She fielded questions on a number of subjects…such as whether God cares about basketball…to which she responded tongue-in-cheek that “God cares more about the NCAA than the NBA.” In her pregame locker room meeting with the players she says she prays for both teams, but maybe a little bit harder for her beloved Ramblers.
And despite her fervency for the game, it’s still a game. She always keeps things in perspective.
She said win-or-lose, Sunday is coming!
And Sunday is Easter – Resurrection Day!
Today is Easter, my friends…the ultimate death-defusing, life-infusing, hope-effusing surprise!