SERMON EASTER VIGIL 4-11-20 St. Monica’s Episcopal Church, Naples, FL
Romans 6:3-11; Matthew 28:1-10
Renewal of Baptismal Vows
I still recall the first Easter Vigil at my alma mater, my seminary Sewanee, The University of the South. In that stained-glass chapel that resembled a cathedral more than a mere chapel, in darkness that night, there were multiple baptisms. The Easter Vigil is one of the few liturgical feasts at which, baptisms can occur, and it is the most appropriate.
In ancient times, candidates for baptism would be prepared by the community through teaching, acts of service, and through examination. On the Great Vigil of Easter, the candidate would experience the initiation rite of baptism, be welcomed into the Body of Christ, and receive the Blessed sacrament for the first time.
Tonight, is the first celebrated Eucharist of Easter and it is appropriate for us to focus on baptism. The sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist are what tie us together as a community, and I am not merely speaking of St. Monica’s, I am referring to the Church, the Body of Christ of which, were a mere local chapter. We are members individually and corporately of Christ and as such, we are witnesses of the Good News of God’s promises of grace, mercy, reconciliation, and resurrection. We are a community that gathers around the Great Thanksgiving as the power and energy and grace we need to go out there, and show others Christ in us.
Resurrection and New Life
We are living in a time of great fear and trepidation. We are safe at home, but that safety comes with a price, which is our sense of fellowship and communion together. The isolation, separation, and loneliness are signs that we are not together as the baptized but fear not, Jesus is still Lord, the Tomb is still empty, and the Resurrected Christ has overcome all our fears, all our doubts, and has even overcome death. It sounds like a trite saying when all around us, death threatens the core of our nation, but the Resurrected Lord is our hope.
We have new life, even in the midst of fear and death. We have the promises of God that the grave is not the end and that promise should change how we face today’s crisis and transform how we will face the new normal to come. I pray that this crisis becomes a lasting transformative wakeup call for not only we as a nation, but all of us as God’s creation, united under God’s abiding grace. I pray we become a united family that realizes that we have more that brings us together than we do that drives us apart. I pray that the hope of the resurrection, becomes the new normal for the world
Live as if It is True: Because it Is
I still remember the young college kid a few years ago, who said to me, “Fr. Eric, I cannot be a Christian, because I am not sure I believe in resurrection.” My response to him was this, “What if it is true?” Then I thought and I added, “What if you lived your life as if it were true, as if the tomb was empty, and as if Jesus had been raised?” His response was simply, “Everything for me would change, I would live my life differently, I would treat others differently, I would face my fears without reservation, and I would be at peace.” I simply told him, “Then live as if it is true, and let trust and choice change your life forever.”
Sisters and brothers, the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and his promises that we will share in a “resurrection like his” is true. That truth will change you, and it will change the world forever. Make the choice to live the resurrected life in Christ. When our new normal returns, and it will return, and when we look back at the economic losses, the isolation, fear, and loneliness we have experienced, how will live? Will we in a few months return to our self-absorption, petty differences, economic satiation, and our political polarity, or will we be forever changed by the truth of a new life after the pandemic, the truth of new life in resurrection after death? Then, if you want new life, then live as if it is true, and believe in the hope of God’s promises. Because the truth of the matter is this, “Alleluia Christ is Risen, The Lord is Risen Indeed.”