Year B, The Great Vigil of Easter March 31, 2018 The Reverend Dr. Brent Was
“He has been raised; he is not here.”
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! <The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!>
Happy Easter, everyone! Here we are, on the holiest night of the year. We are gathered together in the new light of Jesus Christ. We are gathered as Christians, renewed, reborn in the fasts we have made, cleansed through the grace God offers. There are five more of us tonight, five of our brothers and sisters have been taken up into the heart of God the Creator, God the Redeemer and God the Sanctifier, this night, this holy night! Alleluia, Christ is Risen. <The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!>
Tonight, we’ve heard the whole story. From the beginning, through the Red Sea and the valley of the Dry Bones, through the clouds and smoke and flame over Mount Zion, we heard about the waters downstairs, and then the tomb. The End. That’s where stories end, right? In tombs. It is a pretty definitive literary device? That’s where each of our stories will end, right?
In the flame we kindled outside, a story ended, and then, a new story began: Christ is back anew! In these friends of ours being baptized, a story ended and a new story began: a new life in Christ and His Body the Church! And the gospel ends in the tomb. “He has been raised; he is not here,” says the young man they found where they expected Jesus to be. “He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
Then St. Mark’s gospel slips into its unsettling ending. Or endings, there are actually three different endings, but that is a long story. In tonight’s version, the short one, they hear that he is going ahead of them, “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” That’s how it ends, well, thast’s how the story in St. Mark’s Gospel ends; the story of Jesus does not. (Obviously, or we wouldn’t have ham waiting for us downstairs)! The story of Jesus did not end with and empty tomb, His story ends here. You are the end of the story. We are the end of the story. The five of you still wet behind the ears, you are the latest twist in the long and winding plot that is God’s ever unfurling creation.
The Good News of Jesus Christ begins in the story, and we need that story, the heavy lifting we have to do starts in the firm foundation of the scriptures. We can’t do this on our own. Then it is carried by the weight of that great cloud of witnesses, our ancestors, in centuries upon centuries of tradition. We can’t do this on our own. And then the story ends here, it ends in the Word made flesh again and again and again in us. It ends as we, the faithful, Christians, take up our crosses, small and large, and do Christ’s work in the world, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, befriending the lonely, being patient, showing kindness to those who don’t deserve it, in loving God with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and all our strength, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. The Gospel, like the buck, stops here, in the mind, body, spirit and strength of those who follow the way of Jesus Christ.
You want some this living water? You want to taste and see that the Lord is good? Do you want to be buried with Christ in baptism so that you too might experience the newness of life? “Follow me,” Jesus says to you. Follow Him from that empty tomb, up through Galilee and to a night at Egan here, or to serve breakfast, or help form our children, or vote, or march, or resist the evil that seems to be enveloping the land. The sky has always been falling, but it is picking up speed!
Thankfully, in Jesus Christ, we have the answer to falling skies. Him! Well, Him + Us. The answer to the ills of the world aren’t in some think tank, or representative body, it is you, it is us. And it is pretty simple. We are supposed to follow Jesus. Like we renewed our baptismal covenant. And how do we follow Jesus? Live as He lived. Love as He loved. Forgive as He forgave. Believe as He believed. If you do this, you will suffer, you will feel pain, and loss, acutely, more acutely and more acutely as you become more and more alive. But you will be alive, very alive and in a wholly, holy new way, and each breath in this new life is sweet and free and flows directly from the heart of Jesus Christ, and from His heart through your neighbor’s heart and right on into yours. Now that is an ending to a story that we all can get on board with, and it is freely offered to all. That’s where the story of our Risen Lord ends. This is God’s story. All are welcome here!
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! <The Lord is Risen indeed. Alleluia!> Happy Easter, everyone! AMEN