Easter Vigil - Year B - 2015
I love the Easter Vigil! On this holy night, we celebrate the entirety of all that matters in human history – from beginning to end. We started with God’s plan for us – walked all the way through how humanity messed that up – and saw how God worked over and over again to find a lasting remedy. We started outside in the dark night of sin and despair…and were there as the light of Christ pierced the darkness forever and led us home. And here we sit on the shores of the eternal waters of life ready to be unsealed and win new souls for the Lord Jesus. When we turned toward Easter in our Lenten journey, we pondered together the great images we experience tonight – water, light and life that cure the thirst, blindness, and death we had won for ourselves.
I wish Eucharistic Prayer IV was an option for the Easter Vigil, because it captures what we’re celebrating so well: We give you praise, Father most holy…You formed us in your own image…And when through disobedience we had lost your friendship, you did not abandon us to the domain of death…Time and again you offered us covenants, and through the prophets taught us to look forward to salvation. And you so loved the world, Father most holy, that in the fullness of time you sent your Only Begotten Son to be our Savior… To accomplish your plan, he gave himself up to death…
In just those few sentences we travel the distance from the beginning of time – and the beginning of each of our lives – right up to this night. ‘To accomplish your plan, he gave himself up to death…and rising from the dead, he destroyed death and restored life!’ God created us for life and for love – and we messed it up. But His life and love are so perfect and generous that God provides a way to un-mess-it-up! That’s the Easter message! That’s our Easter Joy! In the darkness of this night, that is what we come to celebrate.
Friends – this isn’t some lofty concept – some high-minded theory – this is reality! This isn’t a myth, its history. This isn’t in the past – it is our present. And it isn’t just the story of ‘humanity’ – it is our story – your story and my story. God created me for life and love; and as soon as I had use of my will I wrecked that plan. And in my brokenness and weakness, I keep wrecking it – or trying to. But Jesus came! He lived and died to fix what our weakness tries over and over to break – and when he rolled that stone away and stepped out of death and darkness into the life and light of eternity, He overcame our weakness one and for all, called us back to His side, looked us in the eye, and called us friend… HE CALLS US FRIEND!!
How can we not stand on our feet and shout Alleluia! Thank you Jesus – THANK YOU!!! Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!
In our celebration, we are also reminded that such love demands a response. I don’t mean the way a boss demands a full day’s work, or a bill collector demands payment. What I mean is that once the reality of that amazing love enters our hearts, it demands a response of love the same way that grief demands a tear, kindness demands gratitude. When we look into the eyes of Jesus on His knees to wash our feet so that we can see Him on our level – when we look into the lifeless eyes of Jesus dead on the cross – when we look into the sparkling eyes of the risen Lord who rolled away the stone – when we look into His eyes and realize deep inside that He did it all for us – it demands a response of love! And we too tie the towel around our waist to serve those around us; we too learn to die to self and desire and preference and sinfulness, so that we too learn to rise and live life free from the power of death!
We who come to celebrate Easter this night – we who are received into the one family of faith this evening and are commissioned in our confirmation to be priest, prophet and king in this world – we who gather to receive the sacred body and blood of the Lord for the first or ten thousandth time – we are all commissioned tonight by Love Himself to go and be Love in this world. The Eucharistic Prayer I mentioned sums it up this way: ‘And that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him who died and rose again for us, he send the Holy Spirit…so that, bringing to perfection his work in the world, he might sanctify creation to the full.’
That’s the work He’s left us. That’s the response of gratitude we are freely compelled to offer once Love Himself comes crashing into our hearts and fills us with the Light and Life of Easter Joy! A response of Love to Love to carry Love and Life into the whole world – no longer living for ourselves but for Him who died and rose again for us – playing our part in sanctifying the whole world. So that the light of this Easter candle might pierce all remaining darkness through us; so that the waters of eternal life might quench the thirst of all as Jesus works in and through us in this world…we who are called to go forth from this place no longer living for ourselves but for Him who died and rose again for us.
Whoever you are this holy night – if you’re gathered here in this place, a share in that work has been assigned to you. Some of you will be assigned that work officially tonight for the first time – but all of us have that charge.
So tonight we celebrate! Jesus is Lord!! He has risen! He is alive!! And He has called us to join Him forever in light and life and love!
And tomorrow…tomorrow we get busy: no longer living for ourselves but for him who died and rose again for us…so that he might sanctify creation to the full.