Easter on April Fools’: Who’s fooling whom?

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Today’s column is about the second comical confluence of dates this year which happens to fall on tomorrow’s date. Easter Sunday is on April 1 — April Fools’ Day. And like earlier this year when Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day collided, it is an unusual occurrence. The last time Easter fell on April 1 was 1956 and the next time is 2029, so it really is a rare happening!

Now I’m pretty sure agnostics and atheists are going to make great fun of this convergence, taunting people of faith everywhere who live their lives for a bit of grace and hope, for forgiveness, redemption and an afterlife for all those loved ones who have gone before. That group will tarnish the faithful by saying that your faith is hollow, and when you yourself die it will be the true convergence of these two dates as eternity cries to you, “April Fools!”

But I don’t think this confluence is about nihilism. Nor is this column. In fact, it is about the exact opposite. In fact, this confluence is actually the very exclamation point of what the Christian experience is all about!

Now, to understand more fully, you have to go back a couple of days and get “the rest of the story.” You see, the buildup to Easter morning started on Thursday night when Jesus was arrested and put on trial (many churches remembered those events at a Maundy Thursday service). Then on Friday, around 3 p.m., Jesus’ execution on the cross climaxed in his death (probably even more churches remembered these events with Good Friday services).

And then, as far as everyone knew, Jesus was simply dead on Saturday (as you read this) in a tomb, and the story was over. As far as EVERYONE knew — including the main antagonist in the divine drama, the devil, Satan himself.

I have a one-man play that I have done any number of times through the years entitled, “Satan’s Triumph Speech.” At one point, it got loose on the internet, so it might be floating around in cyberspace. The point of that soliloquy was a simple one, on that Friday evening 2,000-plus years ago, Satan had won. It was really as simple as that. And the ramification of having the Father of Lies in charge, someone whose own unabashed selfishness and egotism were at the forefront, whose only desire was the domination and destruction of every other will . . . to have THAT being in control was quite terrifying (my only sermon with a PG-13 rating)!

But then Sunday comes, and it is Jesus, God himself, who cries to Satan and the forces of Death: “April Fools!” It is the one who is the Truth who says to the Father of Lies: “April Fools!” And it is the Savior whose selfless sacrifice wipes away selfish gain who says: “April Fools!”

And rather than an illustration of nihilism, this confluence of days actually reinforces the very message of the Gospel itself, that no matter how bleak this world may appear, redemption, restitution and resurrection are all in the cards because of what Jesus has already done and promised for Creation!

Now, tomorrow will be a grand opportunity once again to proclaim the old, old story of Jesus and his love. Every church will be doors-wide-open with music, flowers and the most profound and uniform message in all of Christianity. But each place will play it out a little differently. So I encourage you not to sit this one out. You have the chance to be in on the joke this year and not be fooled.

And if you want something a little different, I can promise you two oddities at my own place, Ascension Lutheran. Of course, our sunrise service at 7 a.m. has a breakfast to follow, but my 11 a.m. service will have showers of Snickers and a smattering of Deadpool.

And trust me, folks, that’s no April Fools!

Pastor Zach Harris has been an ordained minister for 26 years and currently serves Ascension Lutheran Church in Wilson. His column, “Through a Lutheran Lens: A Pastor’s Perspective,” will appear regularly in The Wilson Times. Previous columns are available at WilsonTimes.com.