Easter Vigil 4-19-2014 St. John’s Haw Creek
“Alleluia! Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed, Alleluia” And then . .
The take home is at the end of the Epistle reading, St. Paul to the Christians at Rome, “The death Jesus died, he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
We’ve heard a lot of Scripture tonight. We began with the story of Creation. The constant refrain is “And God saw that it was good. . . . God saw everything he had made, and indeed, it was very good. ” As created, the world was good.
But in a good world Korean ferries wouldn’t capsize and high school students wouldn’t be trapped and drown. The world as we experience it does not seem to be the good world God intended. Theology calls it “the problem of evil” and particularly since the Holocaust the problem of evil has troubled our society. It is not new. The great Lisbon earthquake of November 1, 1755 troubled the easy optimism of the Enlightment.
One response is to deny the goodness of creation. In 1651, over 100 years before the Lisbon earthquake, Thomas Hobbes wrote that the natural situation of humanity was to live in “continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” But we are Christians, Easter people, and like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the empty tomb we meet the risen Jesus and hear his voice, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers . . . they will see me.” We have seen the Lord; we have tasted his goodness; we know that as created, the world is good.
Another response to our experience of evil is to look for someone to blame. We see lots of that in our political life. But the truth is that we are all to blame. We live in what St. Paul calls “the body of sin.” We are enslaved by our willing participation in a sinful and corrupt society.
But when Jesus died on the cross the body of sin was destroyed, and we are baptized into that death. Jesus’ resurrection sets us free, free in Christ, forgiven sinners, free to do what we can to live to God.
The first reading was about Creation. As created, the world was good. God continues to work in his creation. He works to restore his creation, not by coercion and violence, but by the exercise of our free will as we seek to know and do God’s will.
God called Abraham, blessed him with Sarah as his wife, with Isaac as his son. Abraham’s descendants were invited to Egypt and there fell into slavery to Pharaoh. And God called Moses to lead the people into freedom through the Red Sea waters. With Miriam we also “Sing to the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously.” We pass through the water of baptism into new life in God.
The people came to the promised land and eventually were taken prisoner to Babylon. There they heard the prophet Ezekiel’s vision that the dry bones would live, that the people would receive God’s spirit and live.
When we are baptized not only is the body of sin destroyed, but we also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth and power, to know and do the will of God.
Jesus’ resurrection was a great work of God, not just then, but now. “The death Jesus died, he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God.” Our yearly celebration remembers the past event. But Easter is not a past event; it is a present reality and a continuing reality.
The Paschal candle we lit tonight continues to be lit for the great 50 days of Easter until Pentecost, when we celebrate the fire of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in all who “profess and call themselves” Christians. The new fire dwells in each of us, fueled by Christ’s body and blood received in the Eucharist.
“The death Jesus died, he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Amen.
Will you stand and turn with me to page 292 in the red Prayer Book for the renewal of baptismal vows.