These Foolish Things by Paul Scott

Published April 3, 2011 by Gail Norris in Articles

The Guardian publishes a seven page supplement about San Serriffe, a small republic said to consist of several semi-colon-shaped islands located in the Indian Ocean. Its main islands are called Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse…

At a time when Swedish television was still in black and white, a technical expert announces that viewers could watch programmes in colour by pulling a nylon stocking over the screen… The British astronomer Patrick Moore tells people that, due to an unusual planetary alignment that would counteract the effect of gravity, if they jumped in the air at precisely 9.47 am, they would experience a strange floating sensation. The BBC receives hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation… And the BBC Panorama programme states that, thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop…

Yes, you’ve guessed it. All of these strange events took place before noon on April 1st. As April Fool pranks go, these were some of the most imaginative. I expect we all enjoy them (provided, of course, that we’re not the ones being fooled by them). Some, of course, can be quite crude, others subtle. At our previous church, an announcement appeared in the pew leaflet (April 1st happened to fall on a Sunday), saying that the church was forming a campanology group. Anyone interested in joining was asked to meet in the Lounge before noon. Several people did turn up, unaware of the fact that, since the church had only one bell, change ringing would have been a problem.

One always hopes that the victims of such jokes will take them in good part. They are usually meant light-heartedly. For the other 364 days of the year, it can be more serious to be taken in by tricksters, as the people who’ve fallen for internet scams can testify. No one likes being made a fool. After all, our word “fool” derives from the Latin follis, which means a bellows or a windbag. Not very complimentary!

We may feel sorry for fools, but they don’t get a very favourable mention in the Bible. Solomon, who has a reputation for wisdom, often hits out at them. “Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs”, he says, “than a fool in his folly”. Or again, he says, “To have a fool for a son brings grief; there is no joy for the father of a fool”. One begins to feel sorry for the fools. But then we read, “Fools despise wisdom and discipline. A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct. Fools mock at making amends for sin.” Ah, now we begin to see it. A fool is not necessarily someone lacking in brain power. Rather it is someone with a brain, who uses it for the wrong purposes. We can do right things or we can do wrong things, and if we do wrong when we know what is right, then the Bible would say we are fools.

But has the Bible nothing good to say about those who are not deliberately fools, but are made to look foolish? Yes, I believe it does. All Fools Day comes at the start of April. This year there is another important landmark towards the end of the month. At Easter, Christians celebrate the fact that God not only came down to earth and lived as a man, but he was prepared to die a fool’s death. For though some people respected him, others treated him as a fool, and ridiculed him. They even did so when he had been arrested, putting a purple cloak on him and a crown (of thorns) upon his head. When he was dying on the cross, they made fun of him. “Look, he’s supposed to be the Messiah, the one come to save us,” they shouted, “and he can’t even save himself!” They didn’t, or
wouldn’t realise that it was precisely because he wouldn’t save himself, but suffered to the end, that he was able to offer peace and freedom to anyone who would accept it.

So enjoy All Fools Day, especially if you’re not at the wrong end of a joke. But remember Easter as well, not just as a time of Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs, but as a time when God became a fool for us so that we might know the joy of his freedom. You can receive or refuse his offer. But to refuse it would be foolish. Wouldn’t it?

Paul Scott

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