Romans 6:3-11 Mark 16:1-8
EASTER VIGIL SERMON 04-07-12
We receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood. This night is a very special evening for many reasons. It is the first Eucharist of Easter. It is the baptism of two young women who have been a part of our community for some time. It is my first baptisms as a priest. It is the first time Chloe and Elizabeth will receive communion. It is a new day in the life of this parish. The context of baptism is powerful and tonight we sing Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body, the Church. The Rite of Baptism has changed quite a bit over the centuries, but on this night, we intentionally recapture the earliest tradition of the Rite. The baptismal font is located at the door, the entrance into the church, because it is by the waters of Baptism, that we enter into the community. Tonight is especially appropriate for baptism because the first initiates into the Christian faith were prepared for baptism during the long Lenten season, and their preparation culminated in baptism at the Vigil.
What a glorious night for these two and for the entire community who has been baptized in the same waters. In the Church, regardless of the flavor, denomination, or location, we all pass through the waters of baptism and enter the great community of believers. We share a common bond and because of that tie, we share a mutual responsibility to each other.
We each have a great responsibility to new initiates in the faith, and the Church’s new initiates have a great responsibility to the Body of Christ. Each of us has a task ahead of us, which is to help the newly baptized grow in a deeper love and commitment to Christ. Walking in newness of life in the household of God is a communal journey. These two young women, like each of us cannot take this journey on their own. They need our witness to the new life we have received in Christ. They need our love, our support, and our prayers.
Like them, we need each other as we walk in newness of life. The Body of Christ is a new community. We are followers of Jesus and we gather to strengthen our bonds of affection, so that we may proclaim the Risen Lord, to shout that the tomb is empty. Our faith proclamation to the world is “Alleluia, the Lord is Risen, The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!” All of gathered here, and Christians throughout the entire world, have committed to Chloe and Elizabeth and to each other, that we who have witnessed these baptismal vows, will do all in our power to support each other.
We promise to uphold those new to the faith, and they have promised to bring their Spiritual Gifts alongside ours, so that we might together serve the least, lost, and lonely among us and wherever they may be found. We are all gifted by the same Holy Spirit who sealed us in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. That same Spirit equips each of us with gifts of service, leadership, wisdom, giving, and so much more. I believe these two young women and each one of us here are gifted, strengthened, and filled with the Spirit to bring the light of Christ into the world.
On this night, we gathered in darkness into which a new fire, the fire and light of the Crucified one, was once again rekindled and shone brightly in our midst. We carried that light forward and from it, each of us lit a solitary candle representing the light of Christ in us, and our own light that shines in the world. It is this light from which Chloe and Elizabeth lit their baptismal candles. It is this light sparked in them this evening and in each of us at our own baptism, which will be carried out into the world; a world fraught with darkness and despair.
Our lives are to be illuminated by the light of Christ and by its brightness, we will change the world. It is our faith that reflect hope and grace into a world fraught with pain, uncertainty, and despair. Words spoken earlier tonight still ring in our ears as we will soon celebrate this first Eucharist of Easter. These words clearly declare the mission of the Church as she proclaims the Good News of God in Christ, “Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth, bright with a glorious splendor, for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King. Together we are the Church, together we are one Body, and together we are the household of God. Together we are sent out to proclaim the love of God, the reconciliation of creation, the empty tomb, the resurrection of Christ. “Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia.”