April 3, 2016


          Two days ago was 'April Fools Day'.  Also called All Fools' Day, it has been celebrated for several centuries by different cultures, but its exact origins remain a mystery. Some historians speculate that April Fools' Day dates all the way back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.  People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes.  There's also speculation that April Fools' Day was tied to the vernal equinox, or first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when Mother Nature fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather.  April Fools' Day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with "hunting the gowk", in which people were sent on phony errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) and followed by Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people's derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or "kick me" signs on them.  In modern times, people have gone to great lengths to create elaborate April Fools' Day hoaxes. Newspapers, radio and TV stations and web sites have participated in the April 1 tradition of reporting outrageous fictional claims that have fooled their audiences. In 1957, the BBC reported that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees; numerous viewers were fooled. In 1985, Sports Illustrated tricked many of its readers when it ran a made-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour. In 1996, Taco Bell, the fast-food restaurant chain, duped people when it announced it had agreed to purchase Philadelphia's Liberty Bell and intended to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. In 1998, after Burger King advertised a "Left-Handed Whopper", scores of clueless customers requested the fake sandwich.*

*facts about April Fools Day from History.com

          But do you know who is the reigning king of April Fool's jokes?  I'll give you a clue... he was around even before the first man on earth was created by God.  And his favorite three 'jokes' are the ones we read in our three Scripture readings today.  The problem is, that these 'jokes' are far from harmless pranks.  Your eternity rests on not falling for any of them!

          The first (Psalm 14:1-3) is getting you to believe that there is no God.  And he has a lot of help with this one.  The atheists have become militant in their desire to do away with belief in God.  Satan has deceived them, and now uses them to try and deceive the rest of the world.  And he offers a lot of perks in his efforts to convince you...  just think, if there is no God, then it is possible humans are the most advanced and intelligent creatures in existence.  This appeals to our pride (which also is what caused Satan's downfall in the first place).  Also, if there is no God, there is no accountability to God.  This appeals to our sin nature, for if there is no judgment day or eternal punishment, then we can do whatever we please!  But as the Bible says in Romans 1:22, "Professing to be wise, they became fools."  Fools because believing what you want to believe doesn't make it true.  There is a God, and there is accountability to God, and there is eternal punishment for those that refuse to submit to God's authority and accept His plan for their salvation.  Which brings us to the second of Satan's 'jokes'...

          For those whom Satan couldn't convince that God does not exist, the next step is to get them to believe that Jesus is not the only way to an eternity in heaven.  He might try to lure you in a grand way, with a religion that's far from Christianity, and worships other 'gods' or is merely some sort of spiritual path to a higher power.   Or he might try to trip you up in a more subtle way, by mixing some Christianity with false doctrines.  Adding salvation through works to the mix; or by saying other religions worship the same God, or that Jesus is good, but not God.  Or maybe even saying Jesus is God's Son but not equal to God.  And these are just a few.  There are so many variations that he can pull out of his hat.   But over and over again the Bible tells us that Jesus is indeed God's Son - always has been and always will be.   He is everything that God the Father is, because the Bible even says that Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30).  And Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven (John 14:6)!  This is why the most beloved verse in the Bible is John 3:16, "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life"  For it is only through faith in Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, and His resurrection, that we can be cleansed of our sin and enter the gates of heaven.

          OK, so maybe Satan hasn't been able to fool you with no. 1 or no. 2.  You believe in God, and you believe in Jesus.  What trick is left for him to use?  Like our Gospel reading (Matthew 25:1-13), it is to be unprepared.  He will try to convince you to delay being ready to meet God, whether it be through your passing from this life through death, or through Jesus return.   So maybe you initially thought it wise to make Jesus your Savior and Lord, and the thought of actually getting to meet Him even sounding kind of exciting.  But you never really turned your life over to Him.  You put it off.  You thought to yourself, 'I am not going waste my life following Jesus.  There is so much the world has to offer, and I'm not ready to give any of that up.  I am going to indulge and enjoy, and I'll worry about my eternity later'.  Then when you realize your time is almost up, you find you don't have real faith (oil in your lamp) and somehow you have to acquire it.  Your heart has become so hard over the years that now it rejects the Holy Spirit's pleadings.  You knew all along what you needed to do, but it is like trying to plant a crop in October.  It is too late.  The ground is cold and the seed cannot sprout.  And while there are occasional deathbed conversions, do you really want to take that chance?  Satan has greatly added to the population of hell by tricking people with this one.  And as Christ warned, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour"  (Matthew 25:13) And as we will sing in our last hymn, after we celebrate the Lord's Supper, "Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour".  (Hymn #577 UMH)  Amen!

CHILDREN'S MESSAGE:  Don't be fooled!  

Photo is Cole's reaction to my question, "What if I told you there was a monster under Marjorie's pew?"