by Donald A.G. Burling
Could there be any connection between our April Fool tradition and the festival we call Easter? The idea seems at first thought almost blasphemous. Yet I remember reading somewhere that on April 1st junior clergy used to indulge in foolery that parodied divine service.
The name of Easter is supposed to be derived from a Saxon goddess named Eostre, though little is known about her. It also sounds very like the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, though any connection seems improbable.
What about the Bible itself? Certainly there are things we may be tempted to dismiss as silly. To begin with, why should God want to create a world where so much would go wrong? Having created a beautiful garden, why plant a forbidden tree in the middle of it? We could carry on for a long time on this line – but would it be helpful or worthwhile?
St. Paul in I Corinthians 1 v 21 tells us that “Since in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom did not know God, God is pleased by the foolishness of the preaching to save those who believe . . . . For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men”. Have you ever seen a street preacher, and thought what a fool he looked? There can scarcely be a more foolish looking display of weakness than a man nailed to a cross. Yet that was the means the means God used for the salvation of the world.
The typical April Fool joke involves telling someone something that is more or less obviously untrue, in order to test the other’s credulity. Newspapers and radio programmes sometimes slip such a story into a news report. To be fair, the untrue statement needs to be close to the limit of credibility. Provided it is done without malicious intent, and within the limits of the day, there seems little harm in it.
Nor is there anything wrong with a sense of humour; on the contrary, it can guard us from taking annoying things such as insults too seriously. Occasionally things happen in our lives that suggest that God Himself enjoys a joke. Has this ever happened to you?