Easter Vigil – 2012
Readings as chosen to include Genesis 22:1-18
Something in us recoils at the thought of God putting Abraham to the test by asking him to sacrifice his only child and son, Isaac. What kind of a hard-hearted God would require such thing of Abraham who would fulfill God’s demand and Isaac who would be an innocent victim? Abraham was in extreme old age and so was Sarah his wife when, to their joy, God answered their prayers and gave them a son, Isaac. Moreover God had promised that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in heaven and the sand on the shores of the seas. Now, in their incredibly advanced ages Abraham and Sarah had a onetime child, an only son, a son whom God was now asking to be sacrificed. What’s going on here?
The whole thing makes no sense until we see what God was all about in allowing His only Son to be sacrificed. Abraham’s innocent son was saved from death but Jesus¸ God’s innocent son, was not. The answer to the riddle, the mystery, is that through conquering even death itself God has given us life, and not just human life but eternal life, immortal life.
It’s a mystery, isn’t it? But that’s the way it is in our relationship with God. We find Him only in mysteries, great mysteries to which we do not have all the answers and that require us to have faith. We, you see, are not in charge. Only God is in charge and His ways are not our ways. That’s the lesson God has been teaching us ever since Adam and Eve tried to grasp at God by eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the center of the Garden of Eden. Eating that fruit, they thought, would give them knowledge and therefore control of God’s ways with us. They ate it and as a result death entered into our human existence. We do not of ourselves have life in us, eternal life. Only God does. What is remarkable is the fact that in raising Jesus Christ from the dead we now, in Christ, have access to immortal (deathless) life. It’s all pure gift from God.
Let me now make a rather startling jump and to the question: What has all of this to do with Easter eggs? Quite a jump, eh? Well, think of those eggs not so much in terms of children on Easter egg hunts but rather as watching little chicks break those egg shells and come out into life in our world. It’s all about being born, and that is their significance. They remind us that we, like those little chicks, had a hidden life in which we were formed for the purpose of being born into a new life in the world God has given us. Isn’t that what the Sacrament of Baptism is all about, the Sacrament of birth into eternal life that so dominates our celebration this evening?
When you were living in your mother’s womb your life was shaped in the waters of her womb while being nourished by her blood. This should bring to our minds the water and blood that flowed from the side of Christ as He died on the Cross. It likewise tells us why we refer to our Church as “Holy Mother Church.” We are formed deep within her in order to be born in Baptism into the world God has given us. All of the symbols in our celebration this evening lead us into the deep reality of just how it is that God brings us into His eternal life. We die to a former life and are born again into God’s life through the waters of the Church’s womb. That is the joy and happiness we share this evening, a gift from God that parallels the joy and wonder we all share when a new baby is born into our world. Easter is not only the celebration of our Savior’s victory over sin and death; it is just as importantly the celebration of God’s gift of His life to us in the Resurrection of His Christ into the newer and higher life, the life which God has prepared for us.
But there is more, isn’t there? Following the blessing of the baptismal water and the actual baptism of our Elect, we are all sprinkled with those baptismal waters to get us in touch with our own baptisms, our own birthings into God’s eternal life. We then move on to receive once again the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and so receive the very life of God by being joined together into the resurrected Body of Christ, His Mystical Body.
There’s that word again: Mystical. It is a mystery, something that we cannot totally explain but something that nevertheless we can experience. It’s sort of like love. Love is a mystery, something that we cannot totally explain but at the same time is something that we can experience.
The joyful good news of Easter is not only that God has drawn near to us. He has come not only near, He has come among us to share His very life within us. That is stupendous; that is marvelous beyond words, beyond our comprehension; beyond anything found in any of the other religions of this world. God’s love cannot be contained and so the stone of separation has been rolled away and the tomb is empty. God is out and about, seeking to dwell within our hearts and souls.
We are here to celebrate Easter because this is a thin place and time. The boundary between heaven and earth in these moments is a thin boundary. In Christ’s Blood God’s world has bled into your world and into mine. When you receive His risen presence in Holy Communion, your world will be taken up into His world. The tomb is empty because our world cannot contain Him now even though paradoxically and mystically He freely lives within us.
The moment is now upon us when we receive into our Communion of Faith those who are to be baptized along with those who have in their faith journeys been previously baptized and now wish to share our life together in Jesus Christ. It is a privilege for us to be here with them as well as a privilege to receive their gifts and talents in who they are. Their journeys of faith enrich us because they truly are gifts to us. Ours is a family of faith in which we rejoice over new life just as any family rejoices in a new birth, for every new birth is a gift from God.
May God bless each and every one who is here with us this Easter. May He bless us with His life-giving Holy Spirit, that same Spirit who at the beginning of creation brought light out of darkness and order out of chaos in order to create souls fashioned in the image and likeness of God, the God who is love.