Preached at Christ Episcopal Church, Tacoma on March 30, 2013
The Great Vigil of Easter
This is it. Tonight’s the night – the climax of the Christian year. It’s the night when we remember and celebrate the defining event for Christians everywhere: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Empty Tomb. We come together to celebrate, to remember, and to tell the story. But we don’t just tell the story of the women arriving at the empty tomb and hearing the angel tell them he is risen. No, we tell a bunch of stories – a sampling from a long history of stories of salvation that led up to this one.
What sets Literature apart from other writing is that it speaks Truth about Life, about the World, about the human experience, about what it is to be human. HOLY Literature (or Holy Scripture) speaks Truth about all those things, too, but also about God and the connection between God and everything else. We keep telling these stories, not because they were true about a group of people 2,000 years ago, or 4,000 years ago or even millions of years ago, but because they ARE True, even today, even in our own lives. These stories speak of Truths like:
- The Goodness of Creation
- God’s presence and even deliverance in dire circumstances, when it seems impossible
- God’s Providence of an abundance of good things and the invitation to choose them
- The abundance of God’s Pardon
- Hearts of flesh, not of stone, and God’s law written on hearts.
- God’s gracious, generous forgiveness, healing, salvation, and restoration.
These are Truths we find in the Holy Stories – in Holy Scripture; Truths we find in our lives and in our hearts.
And then we come to Luke’s gospel and the story of the empty tomb. The women arrive distraught, ready to do what they know to do. But their world will be turned upside down. Nothing is as they expected. The angel tells them they’re looking in the wrong place, that he is risen. He’s gone! Their story is unbelievable and they are not believed. Peter at least goes to check it out. He finds the tomb just as the women had said it was, but he doesn’t go back and confirm it to the others. NO, he goes home in amazement (and possibly some fear).
Jesus is risen – Resurrected! This is not a story of resuscitation or revival. It’s not like the hospital shows where someone dies and they get out the paddles, shout, “Clear!” and they’re brought back to life, “good as new” – just watch what you eat, exercise, and by the way, here’s a handful of prescriptions to get filled. NO – this was not a return to life as before, but Resurrection into a NEW KIND of life. That’s the Promise; a Resurrection Life.
I recently worked a Kairos Weekend at the prison over at Purdy. I was part of a team that spent four days with about 35 women. There were talks and testimony, prayer and singing, and plenty of time for quiet reflections and for sharing among “table families.” One of the interesting things is that many of the women have known each other on the street or from previous trips through our penal system. They know about one anothers’ past lives. And it’s always interesting, along about the third day, when one will point out how another one has changed, like it’s a different life. Now part of the change is the choice made by the individual. But I believe it is largely because God has made it possible, offering deliverance, freedom – salvation – even within the walls of a prison.
It is Resurrection.
A couple years ago, a new play came out, called “How to Write a New Book for the Bible”written by a Jesuit priest named Bill Cain. His central premise is that the Bible is about people and families – the stories of their lives and their lives in relation with God. And so he goes about telling the story of HIS family, interspersed with the stories of biblical families. In the telling, we see that the Truth we find in Holy Scripture is the same Truth we find in the lives of our own families – and it’s not only the good stuff; it’s the hard stuff, the sinful stuff, the embarrassing stuff too. Change the incidentals – the characters, the time, the place, the details – but the central Truth of the Holy Stories remains; even in our own stories.
If you were to write your family’s book for your Family Bible, what stories would you tell? Where do you find God in the tapestry of your lives?
Tonight, we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus not simply because of something that happened so long ago, but because of the promise it holds out to us; because of the Hope it offers.
What is the Resurrection YOU hope for?
What is the Resurrection you LONG for?
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Promise and Hope of Resurrection are ours.
Thanks be to God!