April 21, 2019

The Great Vigil of Easter

Acts 10: 34-43; Psalm 118; 1 Corinthians 15: 19-26; John 20: 1-18

The Rev. James M.L. Grace


In the Name of God: Father, Son, And Holy Spirit.  AMEN.

            We have heard a lot of scripture this morning, we have sung hymns and canticles, we have had baptisms.  So what I know that you all are really wanting now is a long Easter sermon.  There has not been enough “church.”  This will not be a long sermon!

            This morning’s service is the most important service in the Christian calendar.  From our entry into a darkened church that felt, at least to me, slightly like walking into a tomb to the lighting of our Paschal candle, the light spreading throughout the church, the new life emerging as promised through baptism, to the great “Alleluia” where we proclaim as Easter people that Christ is risen from the dead. 

            In Jesus’ resurrection, God reveals the retreat of death and the victory of life. 

            That is what is proclaimed in Christian baptism.

            Resurrection is a promise for all of us.  In his book Immortal Diamond, priest and author Richard Rohr writes this: “The True Self is the Risen Christ in you, and hence is not afraid of death.  It has already been to hell and back.”  I believe that what Rohr is wanting to remind us of is that the Jesus that dwells within each of us is the Risen Christ.  It is the Christ who has defeated death and now lives eternally that dwells within each of us.  When we are in touch with the Risen Christ within us through prayer, reading Scripture, and meditation, we will begin to see resurrection out of every situation, especially the most difficult ones.

            For some of us, we might experience a resurrection in three days, but for most of us, I think, it takes much longer.  The most significant resurrections in my life have taken years.  A beautiful story of resurrection on my mind this year is of the mother of one of my closest childhood friends.  My friend loved golf and had an energetic smile about him.  He also had a sadness to him that grew into a depression in high school leading him to, tragically, take his own life.  My friend’s mother, upon losing her son, entered into a long season of grief, and of darkness. 

            But even in the darkness she now found herself in, she prayed, and in her prayers, she entrusted the life of her deceased son into the care of God.  In the midst of her praying, one day she experienced a resurrection.  The Risen Christ within her reached out to her and said “it is time share your grief, and your pain, because that is what will bring healing to your broken heart and to the broken hearts of others.  They need to hear your story.”  So she did. But the Risen Christ was not finished with her, yet, because in her journey out of grief, she came to realize that God was also calling her to serve as a Deacon in the Episcopal Church.  And that is what she continues to do this day.  Today she serves in a congregation in another state, as a faithful deacon.  A defining part of her ministry is in leading grief recovery groups where she encounters grief in all forms.  Through telling her story about her walk through grief, she is practicing resurrection daily because her story is giving many others hope.  She is Christ to so many people, meeting them in their grief, and helping to bring them out of it, so that they can know the power of resurrection.

            Nothing is lost to God, not even the dead.  For the God we worship is a God of the living.  And on this Holy morning, we proclaim resurrection in all forms, and in all places. 

            Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen.  The Lord is Risen, indeed.  AMEN.