Minister's letters

The weather this year seems to be playing tricks on us. Normally as I write the April newsletter I am writing about spring having arrived, the gardens being full of spring bulbs and other flowers, birds building nests and new life being all around us. This year I have been looking out of the window at snow, the news and weather reports speak of roads being closed, and trains, ferries and flights being cancelled, and amber or even red warnings issued with official advice not to travel. Is nature playing April Fools tricks on us?

April Fool’s Day is observed throughout Europe on the 1st April and there have been many different explanations of its origins, some of which are as ridiculous as the April Fool tricks themselves, but it does seem certain that it originated in France where the practice is called poisson d’Avril (or April Fish) and where attaching a cardboard fish to an unsuspecting victim’s back to make them look ridiculous is still a popular joke. The popularity of April Fool is such that even reputable newspapers and broadcasting companies cannot resist perpetrating hoaxes on their readers or audiences. Probably the most famous April Fool ever was that played by the BBC in its documentary programme ‘Panorama’ presented by its most senior and respected television journalist Richard Dimbleby, which reported on the Italian spaghetti harvest. The programme showed him strolling among trees festooned with strings of spaghetti supposedly ready to harvest and was one of the most successful April Fools ever.

In the church we often talk about God’s wisdom being different from, or even opposite to, the wisdom of the world and in his first letter to them Paul tells the Corinthians that he and Apollos are ‘fools for Christ,’ (1 Corinthians 4:10). It seems quite appropriate then, that this year Easter Day falls on April 1st! To the Jews it appeared utter folly to believe in a saviour who not only could be killed but actually did die, and totally incredible that an almighty God would sacrifice himself or his only son for his people. When Jesus speaks about his death to the crowds in Jerusalem they protest, ‘Our Law tells us that the Messiah will live forever.’ (John 12:34). Even Jesus’ own disciples found it impossible to believe that Jesus was actually going to die and we can’t imagine how they must have felt when Jesus was arrested and crucified.

With the benefit of hindsight we can read all the signs and interpret the hints that Jesus gave and knowing the end of the story it is easy for us to say that Jesus told them what was going to happen, that they should have had more faith that it was part of God’s plan and would work out alright in the end. But can we honestly say we would have done any better? There was absolutely no precedence for such events, God was doing a completely new thing! Who could understand such foolishness?

Even when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Day it still seemed incredible. For Jesus’ disciples this must have been a time of uncertainty, of mixed feelings and emotions. It was a time of joy that Jesus was alive but also of fear, hiding from the authorities in case they too were arrested, and wondering what was going to happen. Jesus was no longer with them all the time to reassure them, they didn’t know when he would appear or how long he would stay with them. Should they go back to their families and their previous lives and jobs or stay together and try to carry on as Jesus did? Then, as if to make things even more difficult, Jesus left them! But he left them with a promise – that he would send the Holy Spirit to fill them with power and to enable them to carry out the mission that he gave them to spread the good news to the ends of the earth.

For us too, the time after Easter can sometimes be one of uncertainty. After the joy of Easter day it is often a bit of an anti-climax. The Sunday after Easter is even called Low Sunday. But we also have something to look forward to and we already have the Holy Spirit in our lives, helping us to move forward in faith and to carry on Christ’s mission today. So no matter how foolish it may seem let us embrace Christ crucified and risen, and rejoice that we are Easter people and ‘fools for Christ.’