The church season of Lent for those of you who are unfamiliar with these things runs from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. Calculating when Easter Sunday is very complex. In one sentence Easter day is the first Sunday after the 14th day of the lunar month (the nominal full moon) that falls on or after 21 March (nominally the day of the vernal equinox). Ash Wednesday is a lot easier to work out – simply count back 6 Sundays from Easter and it is then the Wednesday before that particular Sunday. Shrove or Pancake Tuesday is even easier – it is the day before Ash Wednesday.
Now why do I mention all these complicated calculations? Good question! I mention it because it results in the date for Easter, and therefore Ash Wednesday, being different every year. It is not like Christmas Day. And it is that variation that has resulted in an ironic and somewhat prophetic clash of dates. For this year Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day and Easter Sunday falls on April Fools’ Day.
Traditionally Valentine’s Day is that day we think of all things related to love. How appropriate it is that at the beginning of Lent when we turn our attention to Easter and the love of God that it begins with a celebration recognised in society to be about love. We know that the death of Jesus on the cross is about love – a love for all humanity and a desire to bridge the divide between God and humanity that drives Jesus to serve us in this way.
So where is the connection with April Fools’ Day? Am I suggesting that the rescue plan of God is foolish? May it never be! Michael Card summed up beautifully years ago in a song call ‘God’s Own Fool’ how the world sees the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus as foolishness. Using the argument of Paul from 1 Corinthians 1 Michael Card sings:
We in our foolishness thought we were wise
He (Jesus) played the fool and He opened our eyes
And we in our weakness believed we were strong
He became helpless to show we were wrong
And so we follow God’s own fool
For only the foolish can tell
Believe the unbelievable
Come be a fool as well
God’s rescue plan is not foolish in any sense but may appear to be to those who cannot see. Furthermore those who would follow ‘God’s own fool’ (Jesus) should not be surprised if we are subsequently called fools.
There is an element of ‘foolishness’ central to the gospel and I find it ironic that the high point of the church year – Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead – coincides with a day the rest of society focuses on foolishness.
Jesus shows me true love – not only eternal love but love far more precious than the commercial aspects of Valentine’s Day. And after that love led him to the cross I will this year on April Fools’ Day celebrate the apparent foolish message that he has risen from the dead and defeated death. And if casting my lot in with him classifies me as a fool too – then let it be – let me be a ‘fool for God’s own fool!’
PS – some fun facts. The last time Easter fell on April 1st was 1956. However Ash Wednesday was February 15th that year because it was a leap year. In 2029 the dates will line up again but that will be the last time this century.
Greg Harris – Rector and Senior Minister at Holy Trinity Bendigo