The Great Vigil of Easter – Mother Beth
I have noticed that some of my friends are now purchasing complete sets of TV series on DVD. This is in some ways a dangerous proposition if you are given to indulgence of TV because you can sit through a whole year’s worth of a particular weekly TV program in one sitting. Many others now binge watch shows on Netflix. Thank Goodness I have not yet discovered Netflix for myself. I will concede though that the fact that TV shows are available to watch online allows me the opportunity to go back and watch episodes that I may have missed. Certainly one disadvantage of the fast paced writing of a TV serial program is that characters can change and develop quite quickly from week to week and should you happen to miss a week it might be confusing or frustrating to have missed a particular storyline.
There is something satisfying about watching or reading a particular story from start to finish. Some are even worth experiencing more than once.
I do remember however, when Steve and I were going to see the movie Titantic, when it first came out at the theatres, and my Mother was dumbfounded by this. Why would you want to watch that movie – you already know how it ends? Still, even when we know how something ends it can be interesting to hear the rhythm and flow of the whole narrative. Life of course, is more than just a beginning and an end – it is how we live it in the middle that is important too!
On this night we hear the great story of salvation. If we were to hear all the readings scheduled for the Great Vigil of Easter we would hear 22 lessons that begin with Creation and continue beyond the Gospels. It is an opportunity for us to hear the great over-arching story almost in entirety.
Former Bishop of Durham, England, NT Wright describes the story of scripture as a 5 act play. I think this is a particularly helpful way of looking at it, especially tonight as we hear the larger story and prepare to renew Baptismal Vows. According to Wright the first act is Creation. The second act is the Fall, Act Three is the story of Israel as a chosen people, Act Four is the story of Jesus and the Gospels and the Final Act, Act Five is what we are in right now. We are the Fifth Act.
God’s story becomes our story. We are ransomed, redeemed, embraced, saved and marked as Christ’s own forever. We have been admitted into God’s family and the benefit of being part of the family is that we are embraced into a safe place – a place where we can learn the lessons of those who have gone before us. As we read, hear and participate in the great story of scripture we are taught how those before us handled this human life and how God revealed his faithfulness to them.
So what did we hear tonight that is hope for us? In the lesson from Exodus we heard about God’s faithful deliverance – how the people are told to stand still and see God’s mighty act of salvation for them.
In the Isaiah passage we heard words of encouragement that God is the provider for his people and that God’s family is a witness to all nations and that salvation is extended to all people.
In Ezekiel, God offers transformation – he will take our heart of stone and restore it to a heart of flesh.
The Romans reading explains the grace extended to us at baptism; that dying with Christ and being raised connects us to Christ. In baptism we turn away from ungodly things and turn towards God himself. We accept his offer to be part of the family – part of the story.
The Gospel reading confronts us with the pertinent message for tonight. We go with the women to the tomb, only to discover it empty and to behold a great mystery. The body is, in fact, gone and we hear the witness of angels – that Jesus has been raised as he promised.
We are commissioned for the fifth act of the play – Go and Tell the good news. This is where we come into the story after all. We are witnesses to the empty tomb and we are sent out to tell others the great story of God’s salvation.
The whole story really is His Story but it is also our story. Easter Eve is about the transformation from the dark of the tomb to the light of resurrection glory. It is Christ being resurrected but it is also about His salvation of us – his empowering and embracing us – so that we might be transformed from the dark of this world to the light of Christ. Amen.