Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter Vigil Sermon

Given by Deacon Christopher:
As I sit here, huddled in the silence of an upper room at a secret location, the sounds of my brothers breathing echoes through utter darkness where no candle dares be burnt. My life has changed. In the matter of hours everything that I had come to know, everything that I had come to see so clearly has been erased and now my existence is smothered in darkness.

I left my home three years ago. I left behind my family, my wife and my children I said good bye to them and that I would return a better man. I left behind a job which gave me security. I left behind an entire lifetime of who I thought I was supposed to be.

I followed you for three years and in that time your words that were at first pleasing to me took life in the form of miracles that I could not explain, and the wisdom that you taught me had become truer than any truth I had ever thought possible.

Then, we arrived into Jerusalem. I rejoiced with thousands of followers and strangers as you entered the city gates and I knew without a doubt that you were the Messiah, the Annointed One, the Christos of my people’s prayers come to life. But, everything changed so fast. I saw you crying in the garden. I saw you beaten by Herod’s men like a dog. From far away, I heard your conviction like a criminal and then watched as you died like any other man.

What was once so profound and what impossibilities had become so plausible, had within one week’s time become obliterated before my very eyes and my life was over.

So, I hide. I hide in the shadows of my fear, my shame and my confusion. The other men hide with me, for we know that if we are seen by the Romans or the Temple Guards that we will be arrested. The women had left. They said that they were bringing spices and clean linen to the Master’s body. They wept at his feet. I was hiding behind the crowd.

Now, where can I go? Back to Galilee? Back to my wife? My job? I can no longer look into the eyes of my children. How does a broken man who left on the promise of Salvation return to those he abandoned? Jesus gave me the way. He gave me the path to walk on and walk on it I did with my head held high, but it is so dark that the path has disappeared.

Then, my heart stopped and I suck in one last breath as someone bangs on the door. My life is over and I will die here as a coward. No, it is the women returned. They come in with tears in their eyes and words caught in their throats. They tell me everything that I had once desperately wanted to hear; words that I expected to hear; the story that the Master told me to believe.

But, I am so tired now. I have not the stomach to be let down again. I have not the strength to find my way out of the darkness of this room. This night is darker than any other night I can remember and no light seems to pierce it.

As the women talk, as they plead to my brothers who don’t believe, can’t believe, wish with all of their hearts that they could believe, I sit in my loneliness of one whose way has been taken from him. I remember someone else’s words that seem so faint. The truth that appears so small, so insignificant in my mind; yet, my heart begs to be heard.

“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”

For what is hope if not to believe in the impossible? That speck of light at the end of the tunnel which we claw ourselves towards over the uneven ground. Reaching out to steady ourselves against empty spaces as the light illuminates just a little more, and a little more.

If I ask myself truthfully, while the women retell their stories of the empty tomb and the stranger with whom they spoke, what terrifies me more? That alone in the darkness I sit without direction because my Lord is not here to direct me anymore? Or, is it that if I follow that distant point of light and it leads me to the empty tomb that I now take on the responsibility of the Master and that it is now my turn to lead others in His name?

What do I owe this man who had put his life on the line so that I may know how to live my own? Does the man who proved the impossible time and again deserve for me to give him at least the chance to prove the impossibility of returning to life like he prophesied? So, I run. I run to the tomb
struggling against the darkness of this night and holding back my hope that the women are wrong. All the while focusing on that still, small light within me; praying to God with all my might that the women are correct.

This is the night of which the Hope of Lent has come to an end. Hope must now be replaced by Faith. Hope is what got us through these forty days. In the darkness of this night we must take action through Faith and step out of the darkness and once again bask in the light. Faith is hope taking action. Hope gets us to the fire; Faith pushes us through it.

It is now 2,000 years later. Tonight, we come in darkness as a community of Faithful friends and family, but also as Disciples of Christ. Upon our journey to the tomb still, we are still wondering what it is that we may find, or not find, upon our arrival. Asking ourselves, what will happen to me when I get there?

The stone has been rolled away. The linen neatly folded and left behind. What then is our responsibility as we walk away from the barren rock to the others who did not follow? What does it mean that Jesus was not satisfied with his rest in the grave? That he returned after descending into Hell and releasing the souls that had no advocate so that they may have peace? What does it mean that Jesus appeared to the women who loved him, the men who wanted to emulate him, and instructed them one last time?

As we pull ourselves out of the darkness of this night and exchange our hope for ourselves as a manifestation of faith, a mantle in the form of this Easter Candle is given to each one of us. It shines forth as a beacon so that we may lead others through the darkness. Our Easter Candle burns so that others may see our light and be comforted on their own journeys of faith. At Baptism, we are given the flame of tonight’s light. We are commissioned to not remain in a locked room but to enter into the world as a disciple of Christ. Let this flame be a reminder to you that in the darkest times of our lives, and even in the what may seem the brightest of times, that the truth you received in the happy hours of the day do not lose their veracity because of the twilight of just another night.

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