April is National Humor Month and the first of the month is All Fool’s Day. According to the website of humorist Larry Wilde, author of 53 books on humor, National Humor Month “is designed to heighten public awareness on how the joy and therapeutic value of laughter can improve health, boost morale, increase communication skills and enrich the quality of one’s life.”
Given that taxes are due on April 15, the month can be most stressful. Good thing the month begins with All Fool’s Day. Wilde says this day “has sanctioned frivolity and pranks ever since the 1500s.”
All Fool’s Day was not always on April 1. An old tradition in the Church designated the Sunday after Easter as Bright Sunday—to be observed as a day of joy and laughter, with parties and picnics to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Parishioners and pastors even played practical jokes to fool each other.
Early Church theologians—such as Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Chrysostom—made something of this foolish “Bright Sunday.” They note that on Easter, God played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead. Easter was “God’s supreme joke played on Death.” God’s belly laugh at death—or “the Easter laugh,” as it was called—belied the mistaken belief that the Christian religion is always dead serious. I like to think of our faith as full of joy and merriment.
I will never make it as a standup comic, but I do stand up to proclaim the joyous good news that Christ defeated death. I suspect that God continues to have a good laugh about it. Psalm 2:4 declares, “The one enthroned in heaven laughs.”
Laughter is good medicine, and we regularly dole it out at First Presbyterian. Maybe more people would come if they thought of church as a place to get a good laugh. We serve cups of joy, full to overflowing for sharing with others. Hence, I shall retell here in this space the one about the fictional court case in Florida. This joke has been circulating on the Internet for years.
Florida Court sets atheist holy day
In Florida, an atheist brought a case against the upcoming Easter and Passover holy days. He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians, Jews and observances of their holy days. He argued that it was unfair that atheists had no such recognized days.
The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the passionate presentation by the lawyer, the judge banged his gavel declaring, “Case dismissed!”
The lawyer immediately stood, objecting to the ruling: “Your Honor, how can you dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and others. The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah. Yet my client and all other atheists have no such holiday.”
The judge leaned forward, saying, “But you do, Counselor. Your client is woefully ignorant.”
The lawyer: “Your Honor, we are unaware of any special observance or holiday for atheists.”
The judge: “The calendar says April 1 is April Fools’ Day. Psalms 14:1 and 53:1 state, ‘The fool says in his heart, there is no God.’ Thus, it is the opinion of this court that, if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1 is his day. Court adjourned.”
When someone tells you, “I don’t believe in God” or “There is no God,” be quick to agree. In fact, you may cite the two verses from the Psalms to bolster your side. No joke, the Bible does say, “There is no God!” (as noted by the imaginary judge in the “case” above).
So much for April Fools’ jokes. We who believe in Jesus are “fools” (I Corinthians 4:10). Not that we are foolish or stupid for holding onto traditional beliefs, but that authentic biblical faith—based as it is on a personal encounter with the risen Lord who makes all things new—will always be out of step with the “pragmatic” view of the natural world as a closed-off system where the Divine cannot get his foot in the door. Faith in the supernatural will always appear foolish. But those who truly believe get the last laugh.