Salal + Cedar community gathers for worship on Saturday afternoon rather than Sunday morning. This year the calendar offered us the opportunity to reflect on the tradition of the Holy Fool as we celebrated Palm Sunday, The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem -or street theatre that makes a joke of all our messianic, redemptive violence expectations- on April Fools’ Day.
This mash-up of readings and art highlights some themes that hopefully keep us from taking ourselves too seriously as we cram ourselves into the the clown car of holy week.
The theme of this art work, JESTER, developed from my earlier drawings and paintings of the Dream of Jacob. I wanted to give the feelings of dreams and imagination a visual form, apart from a traditional representation of the Dream of Jacob. I wanted to include in this the spiritual theme of the fool or jester, which is seen in many traditions. It reflects on the scriptural passage “God has chosen what the world holds foolish so as to embarrass the wise.” -John August Swanson
Within Christianity there is a strange subset of the prophet called the Holy Fool – a figure who defies social conditions in bizarre ways, provoking deep reflection, challenging social sensibilities and cultural assumptions, exposing what lie beneath. -Ashe Van Steenwyk
Jesus Ben Joseph fit right in, preaching to the poor, the prostitutes, the scum, scratching his lice and calling himself the son of God—and the ultimate absurdity, God’s only son strung up and executed with the other criminals: a royal diadem made from a branch of thorns, his only public mourners a few outcast women with nothing left to lose. Then, to cap it off, Christ the original fool is decently clothed in purple, his crown traded for one of gold, he is restored to the head of his Church, and the transformation is complete.
But what consequences, when the jester assumes the throne? Someone must take his place in the hall, lest the people forget that the essence of Christianity is humility, not magnificence, that in weakness lies our strength. -Laurie King
In pondering a few words for this occasion, I happened on Paul’s First Letter to the Church at Corinth….”We are fools on Christ’s account” (1 Cor. 4:10). In a modest fashion, I have sought membership in this company of fools….Through over 39 months in prison, through long fasts and bouts of solitary confinement, through two indictments while in jail, I have been reckoned a fool, by pharaohs and friends alike…. Let no one find our foolishness puzzling. It is as simple as honoring the 5th commandment, and rejecting official legitimations of murder. It is obedience to the truth and compassion of Christ; or recognizing no enemy in the world….It is as simple as respecting the planet as common property, as common gift and heritage. That is the idiot vision – that is the summons and task. For that, as Paul promised, one risks becoming the world’s refuse, the scum of all (1 Cor. 4:13)…. [T]he fools will never abandon hope, nor cease to live it.
-Phil Berrigan pre-sentencing statement (1976)
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.’ This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
‘Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’