Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
April 1, 2018
Mark 16: 1-8 – Common English Bible
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. 3 They were saying to each other, “Who’s going to roll the stone away from the entrance for us?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. (And it was a very large stone!) 5 Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled. 6 But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. 7 Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.” 8 Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
Surely it has escaped no one that today is not only Easter Sunday but also April Fool’s Day. So perhaps some of you have already played tricks on your children by filling Easter eggs with broccoli and brussels sprouts. Or telling your kids the eggs are all hid but after 15 minutes of fruitless searching yelling, “April Fools!” And then watch the Jimmy Kimmel-style Halloween candy melt down.
Some of the suggestions for these kinds of tricks online sounded a little too mean-spirited for me. Like, freezing the jelly beans before putting them in the eggs and watching kids try to chomp down. I can’t imagine getting a bill from the dentist’s office would be very humorous. Or biting into a caramel “apple” onion. Filling chocolate bunnies with mustard. C’mon now, that’s just not right. Ruining chocolate is not funny!
So, today is April Fool’s Day and Ash Wednesday this year was on Valentine’s Day. What does it say that Lent began with a day for lovers and ends on a day for fools.
The Bible has a few things to say about fools. Proverbs, the Book of Wisdom, is full of quips, such as:
Foolishness is also a virtue in the Bible. In fact, Paul calls us to be Fools for Christ. What does that mean? In First Corinthians, he explains, “When we are insulted, we respond with a blessing; when we are harassed, we endure; when our reputation is attacked, we are encouraging.” Yes, to those who are perishing, the message of the cross will seem foolish.
Those statements are like other sayings of Jesus, although not quite as clever. You may recall that Jesus said, “turn the other cheek” but not recognize the absurdity underneath the statement “as well.” Or telling the poor, when you’re sued, give your undergarment as well as your coat, about which we miss the humor of a naked man standing in front of a judge. Or the instruction to walk a “second” mile. As I’ve said before, they were all subversive tactics to confuse the Roman soldiers, to confound the Empire, not simply to sit back and take it. Just like the non-violence taught by Ghandi and King was not to enable subservience but to force change by exposing the absurdity of such oppression as colonialism and white supremacy.
Many of us were at the March for Our Lives last weekend. Despite the sober reason for the occasion, many of the signs were funny and very clever, like “Tweet others the way you want to be tweeted.”
But following the march my favorite headline was this: “The Young Lead the Foolish.” It was meant as an insult. “Mature bubbleheads supporting misdirected young marchers, who [as just teenagers] are biologically impulsive and notoriously shortsighted as to life’s consequences. It’s pure folly to believe these kids will save us from ourselves.”
But I say, let’s hear it for that kind of bubbleheaded foolishness and folly. Hip, hip, hooray. Except, of course, that gun violence is not funny. But the point is made. That which will save us will seem silly, like Easter. A Savior who dies?
Logic declares scared people are supposed to stay silent. Hide. Rome attempted to silence Jesus and scare off his followers by hanging him on a cross. To send a message to other would-be messiahs. The women were the first to defy this logic by coming to the tomb the morning after the Sabbath. Others followed. In fact, God turned Rome’s actions upside down and unleashed a movement born 50 days later on Pentecost that continues to this very morning, a gathering of fools who believe that hate doesn’t defeat hate, love defeats hate, darkness doesn’t win because light defeats darkness, and goodness defeats evil. And how kids will defeat the NRA.
The best sign of all at the March said exactly how: “This how we’re going to win. Not fighting what we hate but saving what we love.” It’s very theological. It’s very much who God is. God didn’t smite all her enemies, striking them dead with bolts of lightning from on high. God sent Jesus to teach us how to love our enemies. Sounds ridiculous, right? That’s exactly why it will save us and our country. The love of Christ and the foolishness of his followers.
Speaking of the March, did you notice the irony that the most powerful and memorable speech was silence? And how comical is it that the man who attempted to insult Emma Gonzales by calling her a skinhead lesbian was forced off the ballot in Maine? That’s resurrection-style subversion. That’s the kind of thing God used to defeat death. Expect one thing and get the opposite result. Like, God’s ultimate victory of love over hate, life over death, goodness over evil.
In addition to linking love and foolishness, starting on Valentine’s Day and ending on April Fool’s Day, we can’t forget that Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who, I must say, often said very similar things. For example, “Love is not a weak, spineless emotion; it is a powerful, moral force on the side of justice” and how he called for us to act in ways that might seem foolish. Non-violence seems illogical. But to that Dr. King said, “Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”
That’s all those Parkland kids are trying to do. To expose the absurdity. To stop our country from adjusting to, or giving in to, the inevitability of more mass shootings at elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities, shopping malls, churches, country music festivals, military bases, and on and on.
We lament, what can we do? But young people are calling the bluff. Unless the NRA comes to its senses and loves children more than guns, the Roman Empire fell and so will it. Bubbleheaded foolishness? Let’s hope so.
Perhaps it’s true that only children can accomplish this. For as the prophet Isaiah said, when the wolf lies down with the lamb, it will be because a little child has led them.
I am hopeful because we are reminded that with the resurrection of Jesus, God reversed what seemed inevitable. It’s not an April Fool’s joke. God changed what couldn’t be changed. And God will do so for you too. What are you dealing with this morning? We are not saved by adjusting to the darkness, but by becoming a force of light.
To what kind of bubbleheaded foolishness is God calling you?
One: Where hatred roars, we will sing of love.
All: Where fear stalks, we will stand with courage.
One: Where bigotry rages, we will call for justice.
All: Where pain overwhelms, we will extend comfort.
One: Where systems oppress, we will work for change.
All: Now and ever, now and ever, now and evermore.
 All three quotes are from Chapter 26 – The Message
 How about a tweet?
 I wonder, though, not just smart; how about a stable genius? Oops, I’m sorry. A “very stable genius.”
 1st Corinthians 4:12b-13a – Common English Bible
 Luke 6: 27-31
 Isaiah 11:6
 Carol White, Mennonite