Easter Day Open Air Service at St Serf’s
Easter Day 8.30am
Open Air Service at St Serf’s 1/4/18
I was wondering if any of you knew the origins of April Fools. Here’s the thing. Because today is April Fool’s Day then if I was to tell you the origins of Aprils fool then you wouldn't know if it was an April Fool or not. So the real thing here is whether you trust me, or not, to tell the truth. So here’s what Wikipedia says anyway. (or maybe it doesn’t and I am just making this up). They think it may have started in the Middle Ages. It is France 1564. Anyone know what happened in France 1564? That’s when 1st January was officially adopted as New Years day.
Up until then it was possible for people to think New Years Day was at another time. Supposedly in the Middle Ages New Years Day was celebrated on March 25th in most European countries. Not in the middle of winter when we have it, but as winter ended and a new spring, a new growing year started. And that kind of makes sense. In some areas of France this celebration of the winter ending lasted a week and finished on April 1st. So some writers believe that April Fools started when people who celebrated New Years day on January 1st made fun of those who celebrated New Years day on other days. They were fools, idiots to celebrate New Year’s Day away in April.
So an April Fool was someone who hadn’t seen that what they were doing was wrong. And they needed to understand that what they thought was right, was just wrong. Which fits in with Easter Sunday, because of all days this was a day when things had changed, and people had to see that what they thought was right, was just wrong.
So here is what they thought was right. The priests and the religious leaders had a system. That system told people that they were far away from God, and that they had to do lots and lots of things to get themselves closer to God. They had to be good people, they had to be respectable people, they had to do lots of religious things like pray and give sacrifices. And if they did all those things, for a very long time, then maybe they could get closer to God. Some people, in fact a lot of people, felt that they were so far away from God that they would never get close to God, so what was the point of trying.
But that’s not what Jesus said. Jesus would tell people that although they had done bad things that God was close to them, so they could be forgiven. Jesus told people who weren't even Jews, weren’t one of God’s chosen people, that they were kind of chosen as well because God was choosing to be close to them, so they could be happy. Jesus told people who were ill (which was a sign that God was punishing you, a sign that God was very far from you) that God wanted to heal them, because God was close to them and really cared for them. The religious leaders didn't like that. So they killed him, crucified him.
Crucifixion was a very clear sign to everyone that God was far from you. Because if God loved you he wouldn't let you die such a horrible and painful death. And that was the end of that...or so they thought.
So the first people we have are a few women called Mary. They had seen Jesus die. They had seen him hang on the cross for hours, and then they had seen him stabbed in the side with a spear. One of their friends called Joseph of Arimathea had a tomb and so they had carried the dead body to the tomb and put him in the tomb. Now normally when people die they begin to smell very quickly so they would put lots of perfume on the body to hide the smell. But they didn't have time for that so they had come along later to do that. Now the religious leaders were worried that some of Jesus’ followers would try to steal the dead body, so they put a huge stone in front of the tomb and put guards there as well. So there was the two Mary's, they thought they knew the truth. They knew that Jesus was dead. They knew that the guards might stop them from covering Jesus' body with perfume. They knew that even if they said it was alright they might never be able to get that stone moved. That’s what they knew...and they were wrong.
Matthew 28: 1-10. After the Sabbath, as Sunday morning was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake; an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled the stone away, and sat on it. His appearance was like lightening, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid that they trembled and became like dead men. The angel spoke to the women. “You must not be afraid,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has been raised, just as he said. Come here and see the place where he was lying. Go quickly now and tell the disciples. ‘He has been raised from death, and now he is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him!’ Remember what I have told you.”
Everything they thought was right, was wrong, so what would they do now?
The next lot of people were the guards. They had no idea who Jesus was. As far as they were concerned Jesus was just another criminal who was going to be crucified. Their job was to make sure that he died and stayed dead. If they failed in their task, if there was a rescue attempt before he was crucified, if they allowed him to escape, then they would take his place. That was the way the Roman authorities made sure that the Roman soldiers couldn't be bribed. So the Roman soldiers thought they knew the truth. Jesus was a criminal that deserved to die. Jesus had been crucified and was dead. And they were guarding the tomb to make sure that his disciples didn’t steal the body.
Then there is an earthquake and an angel and they have fainted and when they come to there is no women, no body and they are in big trouble. Everything they thought was simple was now a mess. What to do? They should go to their captain but if they go to him then they might be crucified themselves. So they go to the religious leaders. They would understand this stuff a lot better. They could explain what had happened.
Matthew 28: 11-15. While the women went on their way, some of the soldiers guarding the tomb went back to the city and told the chief priest everything that had happened. The chief priests met with the elders and made their plan; they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers and said, “‘You are to say that the disciples came during the night and stole his body while you were asleep’. And if the Governor should hear of this, we will convince him that you are innocent, and you will have nothing to worry about.” The guards took the money and did what they were told to do.
Here’s the thing. The soldiers knew that the priests and the elders were lying. They knew what had happened. The things they had seen disproved what the elders were saying. They thought that the religious leaders did things to get people closer to God, but you can’t get closer to God by living lies. So what would they do now?
And finally, that brings me to you this April Fool’s day. An April Fool is someone who hadn’t seen that what they were doing was wrong. And they need to understand that what they thought was right, was just wrong. So if you think God is far away from you, if you think that God can’t help, if you think that God is a dead and buried mythology, then what you think is right is just wrong. But what are you going to do about it? The women changed, the soldiers kept on living the lie. But what about us...
Prayer We leave this place with a hope. The earth that seemed dead is now bring forth new life. Trees that seemed dead over the winter new bring forth new buds of life. May we see the truth around us. May we see that you are close. The father’s love is close. The Son’s resurrection truth is close. The Holy Spirits strength and vision are close. May we leave with this truth inspiring our life for ever more...