Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Vigil

Why are you here?
Could you not think of anything better to do 
on a Saturday night
than to come to church for two-and-a-half hours
and light candles and listen to huge chunks of Scripture
and bless water and remember you baptism
and celebrate the Eucharist late in the night?
Why would you do such a strange thing?
What have you come looking for?

Maybe you came because your life is going well
and you want celebrate the joy that you feel in you heart.
Maybe you came because you seek solace 
for the sorrow you carry 
and cannot seem to  put down.
Maybe you came because you always come,
because at some point you fell hopelessly in love
with the liturgy and lore of Christ’s Church,
and despite the ups and downs of your faith
you simply cannot imagine Easter without the Vigil.
Maybe you came because of all three.

I know that our parish as a community 
and we as individuals
have in the past year celebrated 
new births, new jobs, new homes, new friendships:
all of which we come to celebrate in the joy of this night.
I also know the some of us have suffered losses:
frustrations at work, financial troubles,
illnesses, anxiety, disappointments, deaths.
We bring these things too to this night.

For “this is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death 
and rose victorious from the underworld.
This is the night 
in which the stone that sealed the tomb 
where hope was buried
is rolled away.
If you brought joy with you,
let this night increase your joy a thousand-fold.
If you brought sorrow,
let this night drown those sorrows
in the flood of new life 
that has burst forth from the tomb.
Alleluia, Christ is risen!

But what about tomorrow?
What about the next day?
What about when Easter is over 
and we are back in the midst of our daily lives,
back in the midst of our everyday joys and sorrows? 

Notice that in Mark’s account of the resurrection
the women do not see the risen Jesus –
rather they see only the empty tomb 
and the stone rolled away,
a sign of hope.
Remember the message 
that the women who find the empty tomb
are given to carry back to the disciples:
“He is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him as he told you.”

the obscure province 
where they first encountered Jesus;
the place of their daily lives 
as fishermen and tax collectors;
the place that they left 
to follow Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem
where the great drama of death and resurrection 
would be played out.
Back to Galilee,
back to daily life,
back to their everyday joys and sorrows.

This is the night, 
in which we have been given a sign of hope,
a tomb burst open.
But when you leave here tonight
you will return to your own Galilees,
your own daily lives,
your own joys and sorrows.
The message of this night is that, 
“there you will see him, as he told you.”

Why are you here?
Because this is the night:
the night of the great drama of death and resurrection,
the night when we are given a sign of hope
that we cannot live without.
But tomorrow, 
and the next day, 
and the day after that –
as you celebrate your daily joys
and struggle with your daily sorrows –
in that place of your daily life,
“there you will see him, as he has told you.”
On this night of nights
may God bless you 
as you go forth to Galilee
to meet the risen Jesus.