Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, April 15, 2017, The Great Vigil of Easter, Year A, Matthew 28:1-10
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… Amen.
Friends… it is good to be with you on this night. On this night that is cold and damp… this night that is dark and somber. It is good to be with you on this night in which we remember and reflect on what God has done for us. As we remember the life and death of Jesus.
That’s what humans do when there is death.
We gather together and we remember. We tell stories… we pray. We try to give thanks for the time we had with the loved one who is gone.
I’m sure you have very vivid memories of these types of gatherings. I’m sure you can remember the location of the gathering. Was it at a funeral home? Maybe a friend’s house or the house of a family member? Maybe it was at your own house.
Depending on the relationship you may have very vivid memories of the gathering. Can you remember what kind of food was present? Can you remember any smells that were present? Perhaps music that was playing in the background?
Perhaps there was someone at the gathering that you wished wasn’t there… perhaps someone was absent that you desperately wished had been there. Were there words of comfort that were said that comforted you or someone else? Was something said that can’t be taken back? Was there a warm feeling or an awkward chill in the air?
Was it too dark? Too light?
Humans are an odd group, aren’t we? For the most part, we are taught how to grieve. How did your family grieve? Did they cry much? Did they wail? Did they compartmentalize their feelings? How has that impacted you? How do you grieve?
In every culture, I know of, people gather together after death. We laugh we cry. We memorialize the individual. We make food and we eat. We comfort the family. We console those most impacted by death. And… many of us, are incredibly uncomfortable.
This is the case for those who Jesus left behind. The gathered… maybe they ate. They were uncomfortable. Would the Romans be after them too? They certainly had no problem squashing any perceived threat. Jesus was a big enough threat that they killed him. He was a threat to the Roman and religious authorities. His love was overpowering… his inclusion would not be compromised. He was like no other man that this world had ever seen. His disciples now knew how others responded to that kind of love. They witnessed where the teachings of this rabbi would lead. And so they huddled together in fear.
Maybe this would all blow over. Maybe things would die down. Maybe they could go back to fishing. Or collections… or whatever they had known before. Maybe they could back to the old reality… The reality that Jesus had called them away from. Maybe they could find success someday after they pick up all these pieces. After they just get over it. After they forget about Jesus.
I wonder if there was anger as the disciples gathered after the death of their friend… Was there anger or just sadness? Just remorse. Just shame because of betrayal. I wonder…
I wonder if there was any hope left… Was there any hope left?
I wonder if they thought about the scriptures that they had learned as children.
Did anybody mention the very beginning of creation? About the care that the Divine had taken as things were shaped into existence. As the light came into existence so that everything could be seen and known? Did anybody mention the care that God took to shape humans… and to have them bear the image of the one who had initiated creation?
Was there any memory of God’s divine intervention with the Egyptians and how they escaped death via the Red Sea?
Any memory of God’s promise and covenant?
Any memory that Jesus had said he would not be beaten by death?
I doubt it. I doubt that any of them were remembering these things. Because when we are immersed in death… we tend to not dwell on life.
When we are immersed in death it takes a great deal of courage and intentionality to remember life. When we are immersed in death it is tough to think about what life might be like now.
I doubt that any of the disciples were able to see the light in the midst of the Night. I doubt that I would have been any different. But I’m kind of a pessimist… Often times I need to be surprised by goodness… I need to be surprised in the darkness by the light of the morning…
How about you? Are you expecting light or are you immersed in the darkness? When it is dark, are you able to remember that Easter is coming?
Is it difficult for you to remember God’s love story as we gather together after the death of Jesus?
That’s what the renewal of our baptismal vows does for us, it points us to the deep memory of what we believe and acknowledges our dependence upon God to accomplish it. It is an intentional act that declares life in the midst of death. It is what we do when to remind one another what life looks like. What we have bought into.
It reminds us of what our job is, as baptized followers of this Jesus we gather in Vigil for. To resist evil and repent, to proclaim by word and example the Good News, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor…all of our neighbors. To strive for justice. To dwell on life.
These liturgical acts that we have been participating in this week culminated with the proclamation that God refuses to let us dwell in death. That God refuses to leave us alone. So take comfort. God will not abandon us tonight. Huddle together. Expect Resurrection. Amen.