Year B; Easter Sunday; 4.1.2018
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
My late father was a prankster. He had a great sense of humor.
Every Valentine’s Day my siblings, my mother and I would receive in the mail a large Valentine card postmarked from “Valentine, Nebraska” or “Loveland, Colorado.” On the inside of the card was signed, “Cupid.” As a kid, it took me some years to figure out that Dad was the one who sent these cards! He knew that the post offices in Loveland and Valentine were only too happy to stamp a heart-shaped postmark from their post office for Valentine’s Day.
And then there was April Fool’s Day: Dad never let April Fool’s Day go by without playing some kind of prank. One year, though, his prank didn’t go over so well. At our corner neighborhood drugstore in Kansas City, Kansas, there was a deep freeze in the front of the store where Dad kept ice cream treats to sell to the neighborhood school kids.
During the winter months that year, Dad made snow balls and stored them in the drugstore’s freezer. His plan was to throw snowballs at his friends on April Fool’s Day.
Dad was friends with most of the cops in town. John Novosel was the cop that walked the beat around the neighborhood where the drugstore was. Dad knew Officer Novosel very well. They were friends.
On April Fool’s Day that year, as was his custom each day, Officer Novosel walked his beat toward the drugstore. Dad saw him coming, filled his white, starched pharmacy coat pockets with a couple of snowballs, came out onto the sidewalk and pelted his cop friend.
It did not go well. Boy! Was he angry! The prank fell flat. Officer Novosel made Dad pay for the cleaning bill of his messed up uniform. Mom was humiliated saying, “A grown man throwing snowballs on April Fool’s Day!” But I thought the prank was clever and humorous.
There is a legend associated with April Fool’s Day that says, “Those who fail to respond with good humor to tricks played upon them are said to attract bad luck themselves.” (Snopes website)
I don’t know how rare it is for April Fool’s Day and Easter to fall on the same day like today. But I don’t believe in bad luck or good luck. I believe that light-hearted pranks can be humorous. But I don’t worry about whether my life is steeped in good luck or bad luck.
What I DO believe in is the story of the resurrection, and that God’s power raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and that it is not a prank. It is NOT a story of nonsense or even and “idle tale.”
I believe what it says in Mark’s gospel, that “When Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome came to the tomb with their spices, they saw the stone rolled away and Jesus’ body was gone.” I believe that this caused them quite a bit of fear and confusion. Perhaps at first, they even thought it was an ugly prank played on them by some Roman officers or some members of the Sanhedrin.
But it was the “white-robed” young man who grounded them in the truth of what had happened. He met them at the tomb and said, “Do not be alarmed! Do not be alarmed! I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth. You came to clean and anoint his body because he was crucified. He has been raised. He is not here.”
He was saying, “This is the truth. This is no joke. He is not here. And here is what he wants you to do….Go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you…”
As if this would be something easy for the to do. As if the women could easily find the men after they had scattered and hid long before Jesus died on the cross. As if once they found the disciples, who in the world would believe them?
Luke’s gospel, describes the women finding the disciples and telling them that Jesus is risen. What was the result? The disciples didn’t believe them. “…these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” Other translations call the words of the women, “nonsense.”
The patron of this parish, St. Paul teaches that “Christ crucified is anything, ANYTHING but a prank, and his resurrection is ANYTHING but nonsense. Paul writes, “Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” (I Corinthians 1:23)
EVEN on a day set aside for human foolishness and pranks, God’s powerful Spirit blows through a musty tomb, a ten-ton stone, the fragile souls of the betraying disciples and the confusion of the women. Christ is risen by the power of God! Call it inexplicable and perplexing – But don’t it a prank.
And please don’t call it “fake news.” I worry about the variety of ways information is distributed to people nowadays. Some of it’s true. Some of it’s “fake.” Even photos are altered to present a lie in order to influence public opinion. For example, recently, there was a photo of one of the students leading the “common sense gun legislation” movement standing in front of a fake background tearing up a Constitution. It was discovered that every bit of that photo was “photo-shopped.” It was a lie by her enemies to discredit her. “Fake news” has gotten so bad that even the information that is exposed as fake information is called into question, “Is the report of ‘fake news’ itself, fake?” we might think to ourselves.
But this isn’t just a modern day problem. The members of the Sanhedrin who asked Pontius Pilate to send Jesus to his death were worried about “fake news.” They said, “We must seal the tomb and set guards there to insure that no one can sneak in, remove the body and claim resurrection.” They were guarding against another kind of “news” – the Good News that God’s Kingdom has come and that even an empire like Rome is powerless against it.
The fact is: God acted on this day for love’s sake, for your sake, for my sake and for the sake of the world. The words of my favorite Good Friday hymn tell us the truth: “…though empires rise and fall, God’s Kingdom shall not cease to grow till love embraces all.” (Hymnal #170)
And look at how God’s love is made manifest through the waters of baptism and in Olivia Jane Rivera! On this Easter Sunday, she will receive the gift of Holy Baptism, a once-in-a-lifetime Sacrament of love and initiation into Christ’s Body the Church. We will make the sign of the cross on her forehead in holy oil that symbolizes Christ’s love for her for life. “Nothing, not even death will separate her from the love of Christ Jesus.”
And now, I invite Olivia’s family and godparents to please come forward as we bring her into the household of God and the joy of Christ’s resurrection.