Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Great Vigil of Easter Yr B March 31 2018

Do not be afraid, you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.

We have had quite a journey to get to this place, on this night. We followers of Jesus, along with all of the characters who populate this amazing story of love, Peter, Mary, John, have accompanied Jesus into Jerusalem with the shouting of Hosannas. We have watched with horror as the events turned violent. We have been implicated in the apathy that allowed Jesus to be condemned and killed. We sat in the silence and waited as we believed with those very first followers, that Jesus, the one who stood for love, the one who healed others, was dead. That was the end. It looked like failure. It looked like the light went out. It looked like evil won. 

This evening began with the affirmation that indeed the light did not go out. There was flame enough to kindle the new fire, and together we sang it back into a roaring flame. We took solace and strength in hearing stories of salvation history. Reminding ourselves of God's creativity, reminding ourselves of God's liberation, reminding ourselves that God calls us together to follow Jesus. Reminding ourselves of our baptism, when Jesus claimed us as God's own forever, and we were marked as God's beloved. And here we proclaim the Alleluias. The Alleluias that fill our hearts and our minds with the love of God and each other, the alleluias that ring through eternity, and that shimmer in our own breath and blood. 

With this empty tomb everything changed. This man, whom Jesus’ followers knew in life, has been raised. Jesus defeated death. And Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, who had brought the spices, the frankincense and myrrh, the very same spices that were brought as a gift at Jesus’ birth, were alarmed, they were afraid.  

But they knew. They knew that this man they had known in life, defeated death. They knew that this man that they had loved, was all that had been promised. The temple would be destroyed and raised in three days. They knew what it meant. Jesus, was where the God they had worshipped since they were children, lived now. Jesus, was where God walked, and loved and healed. Jesus, whose body was broken on that cross, now is the one who puts us back together again. Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome suddenly realized that death does not have the final word. They knew that it is in dying that there is new life. And it terrified them.

Our sadness and grief of Holy Week, our brokenness in life, is put back together in this Easter hope. We are Easter people. Our lives sing with the love that creates us, the love that calls us into being, the love that puts us back together when we break apart, when we miss the mark, the love that changes our very hearts and souls into a new creation. And on our hearts, with the cursive of the healed scars, is inscribed the words, you are loved, broken, healed, love one another.  

As Easter people we don't ignore the reality of our lives, in all of the happiness and hurtfulness, in all of the care and chaos, in all of the tenderness and terror. It is never one way or the other, it is always a dance of pain and joy. But we do live this life fully embraced and empowered by this Easter reality, your life matters, it matters now. The reality of the cross and the resurrection shows us that our relationships matter, that dignity and respect matter. 

As Easter people we live in the reality that changed the way we are related to one another. Power doesn't win, love wins. Darkness does not prevail, light shines through. Brokenness doesn't end our lives, it only creates the fissures into which God's love can seep.  

And as Easter people, as people who have been named and claimed, we may well be terrified. Awestruck. Our hearts and our lives are claimed by the love that heals us, the love that puts us back together, the love that wins. And from that love flows the ministry that God calls us to, love one another. And sometimes, following Jesus, and loving one another, is terrifying. Like the women who ran from the tomb, saying nothing to anyone, we often wish to keep our mouths shut about this life of love we lead. It is so very different from the way the world would have us live, some days it seems so very hard to be the person who loves neighbors, who stands up for those whose voices are silenced, who says the things others are afraid to say.

But now Jesus dwells with us, and together we are about the business of  kingdom building. As Jesus builds this kingdom all are loved, all are fed, and mercy and compassion rule. In Jesus’ Kingdom a broken body makes us whole, the body of Christ makes us a body of Christ.

As we walk out of the doors of this church this evening, our work begins. The body of Christ is at work with God's mission of healing and reconciliation in the world. It is our work of bearing God's love to those who, like us are broken, our work of bearing God's love in all places and all times. Our work of feeding those who are hungry, because we have been hungry. Our work of mercy and compassion, because we know what it is like to miss the mark. 

We are Easter people. We walk this journey of life knowing the amazement of resurrection, and the pain and suffering that precedes it. We are Easter people. We are nourished by the bread and the body that is broken for us. We are Easter people, made whole by the love that wins. Alleluia, Christ is risen. 

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