Sermon: The Great Vigil of Easter 4/23/11 Year A
Matthew 28:1-10 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
In the first half of the service, we heard the Salvation History: The story of Creation, The Flood, Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea, and The Valley of the Dry Bones. These narratives affirm that God’s intent from the beginning, was to restore all creation to himself. Our destiny is to be in loving relationship with the divine life, we are to be in loving relationship with God. In the creation narrative, the Spirit hovered over the water and from chaos sprang life. Through the waters of the flood, the people were offered God’s restoration and again new life emerged. The people of Israel passed through the red sea and became a new people; new life in community. Hearkening back to the salvific work of God in the water narratives, we renewed our baptismal vows and thus, remembered our connection through the waters of baptism when we became a new people, the church. Then we have the dry bones narrative that reminds us of God’s promise to bring life out of death.
The narrative of Mary and her visit to the tomb is a part of that Salvation history. By the resurrection, new life sprang forth out of the tragic death of Our Lord. The ultimate victory of God sprung out of ultimate tragedy. We hear this proclaimed in the words of the Pascha Nostrum, “Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So also consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord.” God’s love overcame death. That is Good News for us! Christ gave himself for all of us, and he was faithful in the face of trial, betrayal, and violence. Christ remained faithful to love and grace. We no longer have to fear death. Alleluia Christ is risen.
We no longer fear death because in Christ and Christ’s victory over death, we have God’s promise that death is not the end for us. We no longer have to fear the despair, the tragedy, the dark places of our lives, because we can with confidence know that God is with us and God promises life and life everlasting. We can live our lives in the peace that passes understanding, because that peace comes from God’s direct act in history, to manifest love, self-giving love, that overcomes. Our tears become joy! Our fears become hope, just as Mary’s tears and fear turned to joy at Jesus Greeting. Christ called Lazarus from the tomb, he called Mary to the Good News of his resurrection, and he calls us out of our despair into new life. That new life is for that time when all will be complete, but it is also present now, for today, and for each moment of our lives.
The creation story, the flood, the Red Sea, the dry bones all point to the turning point in the story of salvation, the resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The promises of God are fulfilled because Christ has been raised. We, like Mary, can live in the Good News of Christ’s resurrection. We, like Mary, can proclaim to the world in a loud voice, “I have seen the Lord.” We depart here today and go out into the world shouting and praising God, “Alleluia, He is Risen,” “The Lord is Risen indeed. Alleluia.”