Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Great Vigil of Easter

Easter Vigil 2008 – Matthew 28:1-10

The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, St. Peter’s at Ellicott Mills, MD

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

On this night we move from the cross to the empty tomb to an encounter with our Risen Lord on the road – the road of our journey with Christ. Together we experience the transition from darkness to light, from death to life. This is our Passover.

Most of all on this night we locate ourselves within a story – the story of God’s salvation for the whole world, a story that begins in Creation and extends far into the future, because the story of God’s Creation and Covenant and Redemption and Salvation is not ended. These Old Testament texts along with the epistle and gospel remind us that this is our story – they remind us that we are a part of this story and partners with God in God’s story. It is only just begun!

Our God creates (Genesis 1:1-2:2), limits darkness (Genesis), delivers us to freedom (Exodus 14:10-15:1), gives us daily bread (Isaiah 55:1-11), breathes new life into tired, lifeless, dry bones(Ezekiel 37:1-14), even opening up the graves of those who have died waiting upon the Lord, raising them to new life again!

Matthew, of course, echoes Ezekiel in last Sunday’s Passion when we heard that at the moment Jesus gave up his Spirit, an earthquake opened up the graves of many who had died, and on the day of Resurrection those who had “fallen asleep” began wandering through the streets of the city and “appeared to many!”

When we try to picture this in our minds we know why it is we heard that an entire cohort of Roman soldiers were terrified and declared, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

We are those people who recall that just as Matthew’s story of Jesus ends with violence, so it began with violence. It is the story of how the powers of Empire conspire to kill one baby who would be king, and how the machinery of Empire sets out and kills all baby boys so as to eliminate the one single threat to the Empire. The slaughter of the Innocents: an Empire that sees a new born baby as threat. And we remember how it is that one baby boy escaped to Egypt.

Nevertheless the machinery of Empire continues to grind away, day after day, year after year, until finally the Empire in the person of Pilate succeeds in the murder of that one last baby boy who got away – the one they were after all along. Behold the hard wood of the cross on which was hung the world’s salvation!

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

Matthew’s is also a story that begins and ends with the courage and faithfulness of women! From the genealogy forward, Matthew says the durability of God’s people depends always on the durability and courage of women like Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, Rachel and Mary!

Now women are at the tomb. They are many, including Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Their witness puts us there as well. We experience the great earthquake. We see the angel roll back the stone and sit upon it. We hear the words, “Do not be afraid.” The guards protecting the interests of the Empire we are told are like dead men, but Jesus is alive! With all those witnesses, women and guards, no one sees him leave, but he is no longer there. Jesus is nowhere to be seen. The dead one is on the loose!

So we run back up the road to find the others, to tell them what we have seen and heard. With fear and great joy we run - with tears of grief and joy mingled with dust in the rising sunlight of the new day, the first day of the week, the first day of a new life, the first day of a new world. We run, racing, already with a mission, already with a Gospel, already with Good News for the world – he is risen, he is on the loose, he is going before us, he will meet us back at home in Galilee, there we will see him, when all of a sudden in the middle of the road, in the midst of the dust and tears and laughter and fear and joy, He appears and cries out, “Hail!”

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

We fall to the ground, we grab onto his feet, we worship him. We hold onto him as if we have the power and the strength to hold him there, to keep him still, never to let him out of our sight ever again. We hold on for dear life to his feet, the feet of him who just two nights before washed our feet. We whose feet had been racing now have hearts racing, leaping, pounding in the excitement of seeing our Lord Jesus before us, our hands grasping his feet.

This is no “spiritual” resurrection – make no mistake about it, this is the resurrection of a whole person, body, mind and spirit! This is a demonstration of God’s commitment to life after death – that the physical reality of a future world after death shows the created order matters to God. Matter matters. Jesus is the demonstration project for the renewal of the whole world and everyone and every thing therein.

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

Then Jesus repeats the angel’s words, “Do not be afraid.” He calms our racing hearts and minds. All becomes still He repeats the mission – Go and tell others what you have seen and heard. Worship leads to mission, mission leads to living encounters with Christ. According to the gifts that have been given us we are to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world. He sends us to do this work, his work. He trusts us to keep his work alive!

Jesus says, “Do not stay here, do not hold onto me, do not simply worship me, you must go out into the world and tell others what you have seen and heard. Behold, I am making all things new!” And when they get to Galilee he is there, as he promises. And he says, “Behold, I am with you always to the end of the age!” You do not need to search or to inquire or to carry on all sorts of hocus-pocus, for I am here. I am in the bread, I am in the wine, I am in your heart. That is Jesus. He does not say that he will someday come, nor is he prescribing ways one might get to see him more clearly. Rather he says quite simply, “I am here –Always - Now and For Ever.”

Know, my sisters, my brothers, Jesus calls you to be with him.

He calls you to know he is here, even now.

He calls you to do something beautiful with your life and bear much fruit.

The world needs you, the church needs you, Jesus needs you,

They need your love and your light.

There is a hidden place in your heart where Jesus lives,

Where Jesus is already and will be always to the end of the age!

This is a deep secret you are called to live.

Let Jesus live in you! Go forward with him!

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

And so are we, so are we! Amen.

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