Yesterday, I checked out msn.com and glanced over something that made me look twice. It was a link entitled, "Tell us: What are your best April Fools’ Day pranks?” I clicked on the link, thinking that it would tell me about a number of really good April Fools’ Day shenanigans. Instead, the link took me to a comment box, where I could submit my best prank.
I was a little disappointed. I’m not clever enough to have any good ideas. I wanted some suggestions! (Apparently, some of the people at msn.com feel the same way…) Not that I’m looking to prank anyone. Okay, maybe just a few friends and family members.
But the link did get me to think about many of the April Fools’ Day pranks I’ve heard over the years. Here’s one story I can share.
There was a pastor who liked to play jokes on the members of his flock. Now before I go on, I should mention a couple things. This pastor was well known as a jokester, and could take it as well as dish it out. So pulling pranks on his members wasn’t something that caused offense. (Now that my explanation has built this up too much) Here’s one thing he would do.
If a member would leave their car window down, the pastor would crank up the volume on the radio. Once the member started the car he would give his heart a good start too.
On one occasion, the pastor did this during a potluck. It was a beautiful, sunny day outside, so the pastor was enjoying himself. As is typical for a Lutheran potluck, there was tons of food. After the meal, people began to gather the leftovers--I’m not sure if there were 12 baskets full of leftovers or not.
One couple, fairly new to the Lutheran church, brought mash potatoes and gravy to the potluck. The potatoes and gravy were good, but there was a lot leftover. So the couple carried the surplus back to their car. The mash potatoes went in the back. But not the gravy. The gravy stayed with the Misses on her lap. Then her husband started the car.
A week later, the pastor received a bill for the new dress. Plus, once the word got out, no one in the congregation ever left their car window down again.
Oddly enough, all the thought about past pranks made me think about the Lord. What if God wasn’t serious about his promise to forgive me? What if this was all just some kind of April Fools’ Day joke?
You know, guilt and shame are funny things. They leave you alone one minute, and the next they wrap themselves around you so tight it’s hard to breathe. When I question my forgiveness, it’s really my guilty conscience reminding me that I’m a sinner. Sinners don’t deserve God’s love. Sinners don’t deserve anything. By all accounts, forgiveness should be an April Fools’ joke. I don’t deserve anything better. Neither do you.
But the Bible has much more to tell us. “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:8-10).
When those moments of shame sneak up on me (perhaps some of that comes from past pranks gone bad), I have the Word of God to redirect me. And you do too. The Bible shifts our thoughts away from what we have done, and puts the focus on what Christ has done. Jesus did everything necessary to pay for my sinful behavior. That’s why John could write, “He [Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
Still, how can I trust that? How do I know for sure? Again, the Bible redirects my thoughts. “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19).
God is not a prankster when it comes to forgiveness. Some may say he has a sense of humor. But he doesn’t joke about our forgiveness in Christ.