What do you do when Easter day and April Fool’s day coincide? We thought about the foolishness of God, and what the grime star Stormzy can teach us…
Near the start of the service we listened to Stormzy’s song Blinded by your Grace part 2, which led us into a time of confession. I was helped by articles on the BBC on Stormzy, and one from the Guardian on April Fool’s jokes for Easter. I also made use of the commentaries on 1 Corinthians by Tom Wright and Anthony Thiselton.
For the first time since 1956, Easter Day is also April Fool’s Day . So, there have been all sorts of Easter-related suggestions for April Fool’s jokes. Organise an Easter egg hunt with the prizes being carrots. Say you’ve organised an Easter egg hunt and see how long it takes anyone to realise you haven’t. Or, and this was my personal favourite, buy some small, foil-wrapped, chocolate eggs, like these ones, unwrap them and replace the chocolate with grapes…
We didn’t really go in for April Fool’s jokes when I was growing up. Apart from tricks with foil-wrapped grapes, all the ones I’ve heard about seemed rather too mean to be very funny. Well, including the foil-wrapped grapes to be honest! But, maybe you enjoyed them. Or maybe you got caught out by one or more of them over the years.
But either way that probably isn’t the sort of foolishness that Paul was thinking about in the reading from 1 Corinthians that we heard. Paul is talking about a different sort of foolishness, the foolishness that we’re celebrating this morning. Because the problem with the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection is that it doesn’t fit into people’s usual boxes. It didn’t fit into the Greek and Roman’s boxes of an interesting new idea that they could think about. It wasn’t something that could be slotted in alongside what they were already thinking and doing. It was about the only true God announcing himself through the death of someone they hadn’t heard of in a place they hadn’t been.
It didn’t fit into the Jewish box of the Messiah either. The coming king who would bring God’s kingdom into the world and sweep away injustice and oppression clearly wasn’t going to be caught and killed by their most hated enemy.
And for both the resurrection was just a step too far.
But Paul was foolish enough to take the risk of telling people about Jesus anyway. He took the risk of telling people about God’s love, and showing people God’s love through how he acted, through what he did and what he didn’t do.
And it wasn’t just Paul who risked being thought foolish. The early church grew because the first Christians took the risk of telling their friends and family, neighbours and contacts about God’s love shown through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. And also because people were welcomed to become a part of a caring community where people found status and purpose and belonging. Where people cared for the sick and showed their love in practical support for one another and for those around them.
And that sort of foolishness continues. The foolishness of Christians who are celebrating Easter in countries where persecution, hard labour or even death await if they are caught. The foolishness of Christians who give up time and money to care for others. The foolishness of showing God’s love in our words and actions. The foolishness of coming to church to sit alongside, or at least near, people you’d never ordinarily meet, to think about something that happened 2,000 years ago.
The foolishness of grime star Stormzy, talking about God when it’d be a lot easier for him not to. We listened to Blinded by Your Grace, Part 2 at the start of the service. Last year it reached number 7 in the Singles Chart. One YouTube video of it alone has been watched 5.2 million times. That’s a lot of people hearing about God’s grace. The album that Blinded by Your Grace is on, was the first grime album to reach number 1 in the Album Chart. The album is called Gang Signs and Prayer. And in February, Stormzy won the best album and best British male act at the Brit Awards.
And when he was collecting his awards he said “Firstly always I give all the glory to God. God this is all you. I know that every time I give glory to God, for lots of people, I know that it seems a strange thing to do, but if you know God it’s all him.”
If you know God it’s all him. Or, as Paul said “to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” That’s why we’re here this morning. Because of the only true God announcing himself through the obscure death and puzzling resurrection of, get this, his own Son, God himself.
If you know God it’s all him. That’s what we celebrate at Easter. We celebrate that it’s because of God that we are welcomed into his family. We celebrate that it’s because of God’s love that we forgiven and given a new start. We celebrate that it’s because of God’s power working in us that we can show that love and tell of that love in our lives. We celebrate that it’s because of God’s grace that we can worship him.
And that might involve taking the risk of looking a bit foolish. Of doing some things that don’t make sense unless God, his love and his power, are real. Saying some things that don’t sound very wise unless God, his love and his power, are real.
So, I’d like to invite you to take 2 of the chocolate eggs – one for yourself, and one for someone else. A family member, a friend, a neighbour, whoever. Give it to them saying something like ‘Happy Easter from Hartshorne church’. You don’t have to say anything else, if you don’t want to, or don’t feel that the time is right or whatever. And if that thought is too terrifying for words, or isn’t appropriate, or whatever, then do please still take 2 eggs. And when you eat the second one, you might want to use that as a prompt to pray for someone, or for yourself that you’ll know next year who you might be able give an egg to.
When Stormzy performed as part of his act at the end of the Brit awards he controversially used it as an opportunity to speak out for the ongoing problems that people left homeless by the Grenfell fire are still facing. He was criticised for that, but he said that he didn’t just want it to be the Stormzy show, if he could use his words to say something bigger than him.
Whatever you think about his choice, he’s right that we can use our words and actions to say something bigger than us. What’s that going to look like for us? What is God’s resurrection power, wisdom and love going to look like in our lives?
Just like the rest of us, Stormzy doesn’t always get it right. He’s talked about Gang Signs and Prayer being the two parts of his nature which battle against each other. He said “with the gang signs, that’s obviously something that I try not to feed. And then you got the prayer… that I should maybe be feeding a bit more.” Well, we all need more of the Father’s resurrection power, wisdom, love and grace. We all keep on needing Christ’s forgiveness and the Holy Spirit to keep on working in us. And part of God’s foolishness is that he keeps on giving it to us.
But, we don’t have to be wise or strong or influential to be part of God’s kingdom. We don’t need to make it into the history books to make a difference to the world. We don’t need to have a number 1 album to show and tell people the good news of God’s resurrection love. But we are called to take the risk of looking foolish by showing God’s love in our day to day actions, and to be transformed by God’s love as we do so.
God made the whole world look foolish through Jesus’ death and resurrection. And he calls us to get involved. Because: Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!