Editor’s Note: The following letter to his grandchildren is scheduled for publication by Rev. Paul Graves in the April 1, 2018 edition of the Spokesman-Review.
Dear Katie, Claire, and Andy,
We all know what today is, so I’m not going to miss my chance! You see, for over 30 years, I’ve been on a singular mission to get people to celebrate Easter on April 1. My view of Easter has been expanded by the radical hospitality of God’s outrageous sense of humor.
And now, after 62 years since the last April 1 Easter, I get my chance! The next April 1 Easter isn’t until 2029, and then 2040. I’m not likely to be writing columns then!
When it comes to Easter, there are two kinds of Christians in the world: those who giggle, even laugh; and those who don’t get the joke! I’m serious, folks.
One of the most cherished beliefs we have is the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. God’s incarnation as Jesus embraces the essence of God’s radical effort to show us, in human terms we might understand, just how much God loves us.
Death is a natural consequence of being human. But God doesn’t just leave us there. Humanity is only a taste of Life at its fullest. So death mustn’t, and doesn’t have the last word! Humor is an important way God helps us understand that truth.
Twenty years ago, “B.C.” was my favorite cartoon strip for the theologically adventurous. In one strip, we see the reflective poet beneath his tree. He writes,
“Man, man, magnificent man– creates forces that outshine the stars.
He can shoot himself up and tap dance on the moon,
or hurl himself clear out to Mars!
He can unleash a force that evaporates steel
since he’s learned how an atom behaves.
Yet he has no recourse but to bow to the force
that summons the dead from the graves.”
(The Joyful Noiseletter: an Epistle of the Fellowship of Merry Christians, April 1996)
It’s impossible to avoid death, though we try ridiculously hard to do just that. So what’s the most unexpected response we could make to death? Embrace it. By embracing it, we transform its fearful power over us into loving power through us. We can’t do that all by ourselves. Of course, God knows that, infinitely better than we do ourselves.
So God has a little cosmic fun with us. How? By embracing death in a way we could never do. God’s embrace transforms death from “the end” into a channel of new beginning.
We must still have trouble believing that, though.
Or else why would we fall all over ourselves in foolish efforts to pretend that 1) death isn’t real, and 2) if it is, death won’t happen to us. God knows the difficulties we have in understanding and accepting death. God also knows we may not fully believe that death isn’t the last word.
Could it be that God invented the Resurrection of Jesus as a dramatic reminder for us that death, for all of its power to imprison us in our fears, will not be the end of Life? God knows it helps when we can laugh away the closet-monsters that death can conjure up in our minds. Humor helps us see our human fears for what they are: foolish.
You know, I think God waits for us to do things that suggest we get the joke Life is always playing on Death. So here’s my contribution: Since the Resurrection is God’s joke on death as we understand death, let’s always celebrate Easter on April 1, April Fool’s Day.
Because, you see, the joke is not on death alone. It’s also on us. Life has the last word!
The Rev. Paul Graves serves as the chair for the Commission on Older Adult Ministries for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.