Year C, Easter Vigil
April 20, 2019
The Reverend Dr. Brent Was
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! <The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!>
Happy Easter everyone! Happy Easter! Finally. Once again, we made it.
I’ll tell you, Lent is always long, but there are different kinds of long. Sometimes Lent is a long focused, disciplined, penitential fast: intentional in its spartan gloominess or at least in its intentionality. Sometimes in Lent you (with God’s help) are able to do what you set out to do: maybe long, probably not fun, but intentional and hence rewarding. As I said a couple of weeks ago, that has notbeen my Lent. I have heard the same from a few people. It has been a hard season, for whatever reason. There has been that Lenten weight there, which is fine, but mostly due to the looming fact that I was not doing what I had set out to do. It has been very clear to me how far from all inI have been feeling and have actually been. I have not measured up to my own expectations let alone God’s. (And while God’s expectations are much higher than ours, God is often more forgiving of us than we are of ourselves).
But that is all over now, left behind in the wake of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is Easter! Alleluia! Christ is Risen! <The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!> It is Easter, and Easter is all about Resurrection.
As is our custom on this, the Great Vigil of Easter, we heard a portion of our salvation history, a “record of God’s saving deeds in history.” The creation. The liberation in the exodus out of Egypt. The breath of God making all things whole. The gathering of God’s people. Key chapters in our spiritual heritage. This holy history culminates in the gospel, this year in St. Luke’s telling of what happened at the dawn of the first day of that week 2000 years ago, the first day of the new creation. On that day, as Lucy prayed for us in the Exsultet, “…earth and heaven are joined and man is reconciled to God.” Alleluia! You can feel that, right? Christ the Morning star that knows no setting. Can you feel the joy in our story, the hope in the promises made? What is most important is that it happened, that resurrection, that salvation happened. But for it to take fruit in our lives, it important to feel it. All of this, the drama of the Triduum, the drama of our evening sacrifice on this night helps us experience the story, to remember it in a holy way, to feel it. Understanding it, though, is important, too. That is what this portion of the Mass, the homily helps (or at least hopes) to do, to unpack the truth, the experience, the feelings and try to make some meaning of it all. What does it all mean?
“Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Those are words of St. Paul from his letter to the Romans. Just like the hookey-pokey – that’s what is it all about. It, all of this, is not just about not dying, or not dying as it were. Immortality, or going to heaven when we die is not the point of Christianity, though popular renditions of Christianity would have us believe that. A rabbi friend of mine wrote an article about this year’s convergence of Easter, Passover and Earth Day. Her description of Easter is that it is a celebration of the fact that death is not the final answer. No, it is not, but that is just the beginning, that is not what Jesus was talking about or teaching us or showing us. What was Jesus up to? What is the final answer? Resurrection. Alleluia! Christ is Risen! <The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!> It is all about Resurrection.
Resurrection is not just about being dead and then being alive. That is only an outward and visible sign of a much deeper and foundation-of-the-world changing grace. Resurrection is the transformation of the perishing to the imperishing. The finite to the infinite. The last to the first. The master to the servant. And yes, the dead into the living; we just need to remember that there are myriad ways to die in our sin sick world. The death of the body is just the most visible.
Resurrection takes that which is corrupt and makes it into something holy. It takes this sin sick world and turns it into the Commonwealth of God right here, right now, in this very moment, in fact. Alleluia! Christ is Risen! <The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!> It is all about Resurrection.
We were lost, and now are found; we were dead, and now we are alive. And that is not just you, and me, individuals, but the whole world. “…buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” The resurrection promised us in the life-giving love of Jesus is resurrection now. It is newness of life, right now. In this very moment. Not so much cleansed of our sins, but rather we are bathed in the love of God. We become one with Christ, and being one with Christ, we are one with His victory over sin and death as our sins, the chasm between us and God, is bridged in His Passion and precious death, and His rising again in glory.
It is a holy night, the holiest of our year. Our fast is broken. Our salvation and the salvation of the entire world is again assured. Our feast commences. Alleluia! Christ is Risen! <The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!> AMEN.