Easter Vigil

Easter Vigil

We have gathered this night to hear again some of the Scripture the church has meditated on for centuries, Scripture that helped give voice and meaning to what came after  - what came after that terrible day when Jesus was betrayed by his own, executed by the overlords, and died on the cross, abandoned by all but one disciple and some women.  We have gathered to make some sense yet again of the mystery we have entered into over these past three days.

 Christ entombed.  Darkness.  Confusion.  Fear.  

The Jewish authorities feared.  They were convinced Jesus’ disciples would steal the body and proclaim an impossibility.  The Romans were afraid.  Common soldiers afraid of a rowdy crowd and zealots; Roman authorities afraid of the instability of the region, of mobs and their violence, and of the censure of the Emperor; and even the Emperor, afraid of the next opponent who would challenge him, perhaps hidden in the shadows like Brutus – who killed Julius -- and afraid of that ultimate opponent, Death.  

The disciples were afraid.  They feared the authorities would find them, punish them and torture them, maybe even kill them.  They were afraid of tomorrow – what would they do, where would they go?  Would they be the laughingstock of their families, friends and neighbours?  Of their poor, conquered nation?  Would they be able to look each other in the eye knowing they left him to die and hid?  Could they face themselves in a looking glass or the mirror of still water?

Christ entombed.  Sabbath.  Uneasy rest.  The Exodus celebrated as the slaves freed from Egypt begin the journey of becoming Gd’s people, Israel, while the conquered people of the Promised Land remember, and live under a new slavery, keeping Passover and watching for Gd’s salvation with anxious eyes - when would the Messiah, son of David, come with power and might?  Some maybe whispering, “He raised the dead, exorcised demons, calmed stormy waters – he did amazing things for others . . . why didn’t he stop it?  Why didn’t he walk away?  How could this have happened?”  

Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who put their trust in Gd. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,  but we proclaim Christ crucified … to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.  (I Cor 1:21-25)  

Christ entombed, but  . . . The rising sun of the third day casts colour across the sky and in a lonely cemetery weeping women come; an earthquake rocking, bright light blinding, angel wings like thunder;  

The stone rolled away stupefied soldiers -- An empty tomb the world turned upside down.  

And here is: The power of Gd:  a crucified Messiah raised from the dead The wisdom of Gd:  it is not the Roman Empire that must be changed but the hearts of all people, they eyes of all people, the understanding of all people, the will of all people  

Gd’s beloved people don’t need to be saved:  they need a new heart. The children of Gd don’t need to be saved:  they need to see with new eyes The mind and will of those made in the image of Gd don’t need to be saved but to be turned back to the One who created them so that they can become what they were always meant to be.  

Here – both Cross and empty Tomb – the power of Gd. Here – both Cross and empty Tomb – the wisdom of Gd.  

Here, in the Garden, speaking to the women (who, by the way, couldn’t be counted as legal witnesses in a court of law) is the power and wisdom of Gd Look:  it is Jesus:  he is Risen!  

We are here, reminded by Scripture, prayer and song, that Christ Jesus is where the power and wisdom of Gd continue to be shown to us, and continue to abide with us, centuries apart from that day though we may be.  Here we are, proclaiming “Christ is risen!”  

Have our hearts been changed?  Are they soft enough to bear the touch of Gd’s finger as the Spirit writes the law of love upon them?  

Has our sight been cleared?  Do we remember that all people Gd’s family?  That all people are our kin -- our divisions are false?  Shall we go out of this place remembering then giving of our own energy and time so that Gd’s family may be healed, wars might be ended, despair addressed, difference reconciled?  

How does this night, how has this week, transformed and renewed and strengthened our minds and wills so that we, like Jesus, act depending on Gd, out of compassion and solidarity, laying aside control and power, trusting that in our weakness Gd is strong?  

For this Christ Jesus came to us -  Ezekiel said:  I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you will be clean . . . a new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you . . . and make you follow my statutes . . . and you shall be my people and I will be your Gd . . . (Vigil reading:  Ezek. 36:25-27)  

and Paul said: We have been buried with him by baptism, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Holy One, so we too might walk in newness of life. … you must consider yourselves dead to sin – that is, your old selves that believed in the way of power and self interest – and now believe you are alive to Gd in Christ Jesus                       (Vigil Reading: Romans 6:3-11)  

who, though he was in the form of God,    did not regard equality with God    as something to be exploited,  but emptied himself,    taking the form of a slave,    being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,     he humbled himself    and became obedient to the point of death—    even death on a cross.                                                         (Phil 2:5-8)  

Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.     

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!