Those who know me know that I love to laugh.
I will laugh at just about anything,
even the things I probably shouldn’t.
I try to find the humor in every situation
because I believe, in my heart,
that when God spoke the universe into creation
the sound, the language,
that came from God’s lips… was laughter.
So I was overjoyed to discover
that Easter fell on April Fool’s day this year.
I mean its awesome enough when April first falls on a Sunday
but to also have it fall on the highest of Holy Days,
on the day we celebrate Jesus turning the tables on death itself,
I can hardly contain my excitement.
My pathological need to laugh,
to find the humor in any given situation, is genetic,
I come by it honestly,
I get it from my father, who is, without a doubt,
one of the greatest pranksters of modern times.
As a kid, his first prank was a classic;
kids this might be a good place to take some notes.
While over at his grandmother’s house
he wrapped a rubber band
around the handle of the spray nozzle on the kitchen sink.
The next time his Grandma went to use the sink…
she got soaked. Baptism by practical joke.
After I was born,
my dad started working for a local tv station
where he honed and perfected his craft.
He learned to impersonate
the General Manager of the station’s voice
and would then call other producers or reporters
as the General Manager
demanding that they come up to his office right away.
When they arrived all they found
was a confused General Manager
who told them to quit goofing around and get back to work.
In the early 2000’s
he started leaving hand written messages for people.
They would simply read “Call George” along with a phone number. Of course the phone number
was for the White House in Washington D.C.
and “George” was President Bush.
But he reached his peak
when he began writing for our hometown news paper.
Every year he wrote a completely made up article for April Fools Day. And every year it was a front page story.
One year he wrote about
how the wind had been so bad over the weekend
that the lighthouse, iconic in our hometown,
had been shorn in half.
There was even, a very clearly photoshopped picture,
to go along with it.
But people believed it.
Hundreds of people hopped in their cars
and drove down to see the lighthouse
only to discover it completely intact.
Even after he retired
the paper still asked him to do the April Fools stories,
and it was in his retirement, a couple of years ago,
that the best prank ever happened.
It was a bit involved, and took a lot of set up,
but it was amazing.
He had my little brother create a website
in order to lend some credibility to the story,
and then he published a story
about how a local couple had started charity
where people could adopt the potholes in the city streets.
It was ludicrous.
No one should have believed it,
but there was a website people could go to so, some believed.
And when they went to the website
and clicked on the “Adopt” button
they were treated to the lyric stylings
of Rick Astley singing about how he is never going to give them up.
But the Rick Roll friends
is not the punchline of this particular prank.
No. A big time TV news station
from the nearest big city, about an hour away
from our hometown.
Sent a news crew.
A photographer, a reporter, and a field producer
up to our little home town to cover the story.
Not the story of a great practical joke mind you,
but of the couple who was helping people adopt potholes.
When they got to town,
the reporter called the newspaper
asking for information about the people running the charity,
and the slightly confused secretary
simply directed them to the website
and then listened to the groans and laughter
on the other end of the phone
as they realized they had been fooled by the master.
that when the women returned from the empty tomb
that first Easter morning
with a story the disciples called an “idle tale,”
these were the kinds of stories they were thinking of. Stories that are there to provoke a response.
Perhaps the disciples thought the women
were trying to play a joke on them.
Get them to race off down to the tomb,
anything to get them out of that stuffy upper room.
Or perhaps they thought the women
were making up the tale as a way to comfort their grieving souls.
Whatever the case,
in our reading for this morning,
it appears that perhaps Peter
was the only one to consider for a moment
that the women were not playing a practical joke,
they were not telling idle tales,
he was the only one to consider
that he had just heard the climax to the greatest story ever told.
We are told that after Peter heard the story from the women,
he got up, ran to the empty tomb,
looked inside, and saw the linen cloths lying by themselves.
And then he went home amazed at what had happened.
And I think that is the challenge for us, here today,
to be able to hear the story,
the story some still call an “idle tale”,
to hear it, to believe it,
and to truly be amazed by what happened.
I am 38 years old.
I have been to church on Easter
and heard this story at least 38 times.
For some of you that number is a bit higher.
For others a bit lower.
But we come back to this place year after year,
to this story, and its so that we can be amazed,
once again, by what has happened.
Now, we can’t hear the story
and jump up and run and see the empty tomb;
geography and time do not allow for that this morning.
But back in November,
I actually visited the tomb,
the burial site in Jerusalem,
and I can tell you, the tomb my friends
is still very much empty.
But that empty tomb,
is so much more than an empty tomb.
There is a lot of theological significance to the resurrection.
We can talk about it proving that Jesus was the son of God,
or that prophecy has been fulfilled,
or even that resurrection is our hope
that there is more beyond this life.
But what should amaze us,
what should have us hear this tale today
and leave amazed at what happened
is that Jesus’ resurrection is a promise of resurrection for us,
not merely some day far off in the future
when our mortal bodies give out, but now.
You, disciples of Jesus Christ,
you who trust in his grace, are resurrected now.
You have eternal life now.
Sure, one day we shed our bodies,
but we will still go on.
And because of that,
because our spirits are resurrected now,
we don’t have to be afraid.
The story that we tell is not an idle tale.
It is truth. It is life. It is salvation.
And people can mock the story and call it false but we know better.
We know better because the disciples,
shaking and scared,
came out from hiding with boldness proclaiming the truth.
They went from cowering in fear behind locked doors
to proclaiming the good news of the resurrection
to all who would hear,
risking everything, even death,
because they knew that tomb was empty,
and death was no longer the end.
As we endeavor to leave here today,
amazed at what has happened,
how are we going to let this story,
this promise of the empty tomb change us?
Will it free us from our fear?
Will it empower us to speak truth to all who would hear?
Will you let the truth of the empty tomb
free you to go deeper in your faith?
To turn away from the things that get between you and God.
To begin to walk a path where your faith,
your relationship with Jesus Christ, is what comes first.
Not an after thought,
not something you do for an hour on the weekend,
but first on every day that you draw breath.
Will the truth of what happened
amaze you and allow you
to walk out into the world and make Christ’s love visible?
Will it make you laugh?
Will you join in God’s laughter,
and risk being called a fool –
because you know that his foolishness is wisdom,
and its worth building your life on and risking your life for?
This is no joke, no idle tale, no clever hoax:
Christ is risen indeed, and everything has changed –
and that includes you and me.
So may we be renewed in our faith,
in our hope, and in our love,
May we hear this story,
may we tell this story,
and may we leave here amazed at all that has happened.