“Mrs. Whatsit” is a rather odd name. But somehow it is fitting for the youngest of the trio of “missuses” who blow into the Murray household and change Meg’s life forever. Years ago I read A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L’Engle. But now that it is a movie, I had to read it again, which I did a week ago. When Mrs. Whatsit first appears in the book, Meg considers:
…Was it the tramp? It seemed small for Meg’s idea of a tramp. The age or sex was impossible to tell, for it was completely bundled up in clothes. Several scarves of assorted colors were tied about the head, and a man’s felt hat perched atop. A shocking pink stole was knotted about a rough overcoat, and black rubber boots covered the feet…. Under all this a sparse quantity of grayish hair was tied in a small but tidy knot on top of her head. Her eyes were bright, her nose a round, soft blob, her mouth puckered like an autumn apple. (Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle In Time, p.16-17)
Mrs. Whatsit’s mixed-up appearance suggests someone who’s gone through the free bin at a thrift store. Underneath her mismatched exterior, however, Mrs. Whatsit looks like everyone’s favorite grandmother. From the twinkle in her eye, one wonders if perhaps she likes looking a little off-kilter. Soon, it becomes eminently clear that she is more than her appearance.
Mrs. Whatsit is “Exactly 2,379,152,497 years, 8 months, and 3 days old” (Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle In Time, p.84). She is able to turn herself into a winged centaur and was once a star. She can travel through space and time, using a “wrinkle,” called a tesseract.
The complete, the true Mrs. Whatsit, Meg realized, was beyond human understanding. What she saw was only the game Mrs. Whatsit was playing; it was an amusing and charming game, a game full of both laughter and comfort, but it was only the tiniest facet of all the things Mrs. Whatsit could be (Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle In Time, p. 93).
It was, actually, the very oddness of Mrs. Whatsit’s get up which made her so comforting. In her plainness, she is approachable. But Meg soon learns that Mrs. Whatsit is a creature of infinite possibility. The fact that she, and the other Mrs. Ws – Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which – play their little fashion games in the midst of an epic battle of good vs. evil suggests that it’s when you lose your sense of fun that evil truly wins.
This brings us to April Fools. Mrs. Whatsit, certainly came disguised as a fool. Sort of like a court jester, also called a fool. But only the jester could make fun of the king or queen, and a wise jester did so with skill and purpose. The clowns could bring laughter, break tension, and even let the truth out, at times, in the lightness of human laughter.
I wonder how many people, when they noticed that Easter this year falls on April Fool’s Day, grinned and said, “How appropriate!” I thought it…, and I am pretty sure I am not the only one!
Then, when I looked at the resurrection narrative given us to read this year – “it figures!,” I thought. This year we have the story from Mark, the last 8 verses of his gospel, which concludes with the women running away from the garden in fear, telling no one about the empty tomb. It seems the most foolish of endings! The women seem like silly fools, running. Telling no one anything. In later years, someone added another ending, to soften the final question.
Why is it that when something really strange happens, we hide it? Something really awful, we usually tell. But something really wonderful? That seems harder to tell. No one will believe the good stuff! The horrible, the chaotic, the disastrous – those things we hear every day on the news. We know those things happen all the time. These are part of our framework.
But resurrection? Hmmm. We just might not tell our neighbor that we are going to church on Easter. We don’t want to look like the fool to hope such a thing. Even my family – they won’t ridicule me for going to church on Easter. After all, it is my job! But believing that Jesus rose from the dead? Well, that is kind of foolish, and so we don’t talk about it.
Same for Mary and Mary and Salome. They didn’t talk about it. They were in shock, and who could blame them? Don’t the dead stay dead? Of course they do! That is the way it always has been and the way it always will be! This is our human framework. We don’t believe what falls outside our experience.
People think inside their frames. FrameWorks Institue, through the study of human communication, observes that facts do not change frameworks. “If the facts don’t fit the frame, it’s the facts people reject, not the frame.” [https://conversations.marketing-partners.com/2010/08/changing-minds-and-confirmation-bias-when-facts-don’t-fit-the-frame/]
Easter is the day we venture outside our human frames and hope that the foolish is true! The facts of science do not dash our hope. History does not determine our future. The stone of death rolls away from the path open to life. Today on Easter-April Fool’s Day, let them call us fools. For like Mrs. Whatsit, the court jester, even the women who ran from the tomb, something has happened which changes everything. Beyond our understanding? Perhaps. But somehow, in the ways of God, life out-does death.
And how do we change our frame of reference? With hope! Rubem Alves, in the poem Peg read earlier says it about as well as anyone could:
Hold… “the hunch that the overwhelming brutality of facts
that oppress and repress is not the last word.
Hold… “the suspicion that reality is more complex
than realism wants us to believe
and that the frontiers of the possible
are not determined by the limits of the actual”
[What is Hope?, by Rubem Alves]
Foolish! But that is why we gather today and every Sunday. We gather to remind ourselves and each other that there is more here than meets the eye. It can happen on the top of Mt. Tabor. It can happen in the red, rocky expanses of desert. But most often it happens when we gather. When we sit with those we have come to love and open our souls to divine love. Where two or three are gathered, Christ comes, the Spirit breathes, and God creates life.
Today, in this place, we can be April Fools. Just like Mary, Mary and Salome in the garden. Just like Mrs. Whatsit. Near the end of A Wrinkle In Time, Mrs. Who uses these words of Paul from 1 Corinthians to prepare Meg for her foolhardy task:
The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to bring to nothing the things that are… (1 Corinthians 1:25-28, in Wrinkle in Time, p.201-2).
There is so much more beyond, below the surface of facts. In this our hope lies. For somewhere, under and around the foolish, the illogical, there is God, there is life. Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed!