Dear Friends

Much was made this year, of the fact that Lent began on Valentine’s Day, with the common theme of love. The passion of the Valentine and the compassion of God for us, his wayward children. But if Lent begins on February 14th then it is bound to end with Easter on April 1st, or April Fools’ Day. Perhaps this too is a happy coincidence.

April Fools’ Day derives from Chaucer’s 14th century ‘’Canterbury Tales’’, where a cockerel is tricked by a fox on March 32nd but foolishness and faith have been linked in the Christian gospel from the start. St Paul writes to the Corinthians of the foolishness of the cross and yet he says God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.
I recall the childish delight of shouting ‘’April Fool’’ after attempting some implausible hoax and there have always been those who have seen the Easter story, as the greatest hoax of all. Matthew’s Gospel records the posting of a guard at the tomb to prevent false claims. Of course, for the first disciples, Easter is no hoax but it is undoubtedly an incredible, life changing surprise. It is sometimes hard to recapture that sense of surprise, as we relive a story, whose outcome we think we know. Yet I do believe in a God of Surprises who constantly breaks into our lives in new and exciting ways.

There is one final way in which the April Fool resonates with Easter, for St Paul reminds us, ‘’God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise’’ (1Corinthians 1 v 27). The clown, the jester, the holy fool has a long history, that I believe has much to teach us about the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. The holy fool is vulnerable and laid bare and yet through disaster and tears, gives insight on the human condition, emerging from failure to bring
renewed hope, love and laughter. ‘’They cut me down and I leapt up high. I am the life that will never, never die’’ says the final verse of Sydney Carter’s hymn ‘’The Lord of the dance’’. As one prone to excessive exuberance on the dance floor – much to my wife’s embarrassment - I picture not the ballet or the ballroom dancer but the clown, the holy fool, triumphant in the end, with tears in his eyes and a grin from ear to ear.

A hope you had a Happy Easter and a Blessed April Fools’ Day. Though April Fool tricks must cease at noon on April 1st, the Easter season takes up the whole of the month, as we continue to explore the incredible reversal of expectation, the transformation brought about by the resurrection. We can’t claim the credit and we didn’t earn our reward; sometimes, like the clown the holy fool we can only laugh in the face of our outrageous good fortune and the continual blessings of God.

Martin Keighley

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