It’s April. And you can’t start the month without a nod to April Fool’s day.
I was a little on edge coming in to work today, unsure of what might happen among one of my more mischievous co-workers. Fortunately, the Keurig and coffee worked in good shape and then I knew I could handle anything the day would bring.
There’s some history to this holiday, and depending on which version you embrace, its origins go back centuries. At the heart of this day, however, is a relationship with jokes, hilarity, teasing, and fictitious stories.
For example, in 1996, Taco Bell, the fast-food restaurant chain, tricked the public when it announced it was going to purchase the Liberty Bell and rename it the “Taco Liberty Bell”.
Also, in 1998, after Burger King advertised the “Left-Handed Whopper,” many unsuspecting customers requested the fake sandwich.
These harmless pranks generated a lot of interest in these companies, and perhaps made some of the more clueless members of our society felt somewhat stupid for their ignorance.
As I look forward to Easter and celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ once again, I’m reminded that the gospel is viewed by large portions of our society as a foolish belief system. Many people do not accept these faith claims and the testimony of those first witnesses to the resurrection.
The Apostle Paul spoke to this reality: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1.18).
I was having a conversation with one of our staff members about how easy it is to get distracted from the “main thing.” And by the main thing I am referring to the resurrection of Christ and how we’re planning on celebrating this through worship services, Holy Week, and Easter Sunday. That should be the number one thing on my radar.
However, I find myself constantly challenged by the things that are urgent, and these urgent things can squeeze out the important. People still get sick, they die, they get upset about things in their lives, and sometimes import their problems into the church. People who can’t control things in their own lives sometimes attempt to do this in their congregation.
These urgent things can diminish the Easter season and distract us from what’s most important in life, and what should definitely be our focal point during the days of Lent.
The apostle Paul didn’t have 21 century type problems to deal with, and I sometimes wonder how he would respond to the challenges of our day. His version of church would definitely be different from what ours looks like. Still, people are basically still people and wrestle with basic needs, anxieties, their hopes, and their fears.
As a pastor, I can appreciate the physical, emotional, and spiritual impact taking on his critics and opposition took on Paul. He went to great lengths to share the hope of Christ; he wanted others to know that if he could be forgiven and have new life, anyone could be forgiven.
Being a pastor around the Easter season brings about a great deal of excitement, in that I am seeking to lead and provide meaningful worship opportunities for our people. This is accomplished through the cooperation and partnership of talented staff members.
Even so, people in the pew still wrestle with day to day problems. I’ve recently performed two funerals in the past two weeks, and the cumulative impact of these losses plus the routine of caring for the sick, troubled, and anxiety ridden takes its toll.
April fool’s day is a good time to reflect upon one’s contributions to family, church, and the world. It’s easy to be discouraged when one sees how the world is going and the difficulties that are present on every cable news channel. And, not everyone appreciates the work of the church, and sometimes with good reason.
Still, the message of Jesus Christ still brings hope to our world. That message still brings hope to individuals. Those of us who are followers of Christ can be labeled along with the Apostle Paul as “fools for Christ’s sake.”
I’m hopeful that these remaining days leading up to the resurrection of Jesus will provide much needed time for reflection, prayer, and being grateful for what I’ve been given.
There may be some things I don’t get done before Easter. It’s possible that, despite all my effort, that things in the church won’t go the way I want them to or have planned. Yet, maybe that’s the point. There’s something much bigger to celebrate, and the resurrection of Christ transcends any of my own plans or expectations of myself or others.
It’s tempting to get distracted and discouraged by the things of this life. We have to navigate through the joys and challenges of each day. But, let us commit ourselves as God’s people to embracing the message of the cross for the remainder of this Lenten season. Let’s slow down long enough to realize that suffering, disappointment, and sometimes death are part of life. Life in Jesus Christ through his resurrection is also possible as well.
It’s pretty much guaranteed that many unbelievers and nominal church members will find their way through the doors of a local church on Easter Sunday. The more faithful attenders may be tempted to succumb to cynicism at this development.
I’ve been through a gambit of emotions on Easter and the days leading up to that special day. What I am seeking to do is live out my faith rather than judge others for how they choose (or not choose) to live out theirs.
Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. The church needs to reflect that hope through what we say and what we do with the remaining time we have on earth.
And that is no joke.