Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Tonight you may have heard more Scripture read than you have ever heard before in a single worship service. Not only the stories, but the Psalms and canticles, and the prayers drawn from Scripture, all together giving us a rich and full sense of the God who created us, who redeemed us, and who loves us beyond measure.

The Creation, the Red Sea, the Dry Bones are ancient stories but they are still true today. We need to hear them over and over, because they repeat a rhythm, like the heartbeat our faith. All of human history bears the same rhythm of moving from chaos to creation, from death to new life, from sin to redemption. This rhythm, like our heartbeat, tells us that we are alive and that God is alive in us. And this life, this redeemed, renewed, resurrected life is only possible because our God is a God of life, a God of new possibilities, a God of unceasing and unconditional loving-kindness.

The one required Vigil reading from the Hebrew Scriptures is the story of the Exodus. God delivers God´s people from slavery in Egypt to freedom, and demonstrates divine power in simultaneously life-saving and deadly ways. Death and life are held in close tension; both are ever-present in our journey, both corporate and personal. This dramatic story prefigures the resurrection: the situation is dire; there seems to be no way out of certain oblivion. But then God acts in a totally unexpected way and life is restored for those who stay the course.

Tonight the risen Christ lives in us, and he has commissioned us to bring about the kingdom of God on earth. It is up to us to speak out with his voice, to insist on justice, to bridle greed and cleanse corruption, to look beyond our own interests to those of the people who have less than we do. There is no need to fear death, because death has already been transcended and defeated. Easter, as the final chapter in this millennia-long story of salvation, is all we need.

The message of this night is that God is the God of life, not of death. Death is present in our world, but God triumphs and transcends death. The doomed people are saved. The heart of stone is replaced with a heart of flesh. The dry bones are enfleshed and revived. God provides for all in a hostile environment, water in the desert, food for the famished. The God we serve is a God of surprises, of generative power, and of liberating love. God will not allow us to remain in slavery to Pharaoh, whether in the guise of abusive relationships, or complacent churches, or political structures that have become disfunctional, chronic conditions that are broken but not yet painful enough to prompt us to change.

God calls us into the light, to live fully, to risk failure, to discover just how much we can do, with God´s help. To seek and serve Christ in all, to uphold dignity, to strive for justice and peace: these are hard challenges and we are likely to fail. But we can do all things WITH GOD´S HELP, and only with God´s help.

This is the night. This is the night when all these stories, lessons, and promises come together. We hear once more the stories of God´s saving power, We tiptoe once more into the garden at the break of day. We strain our eyes to peer into the darkness of the tomb. We allow ourselves against all odds to feel an overwhelming joy, and to believe that love triumphs over death. We hear the command ¨Do not be afraid¨ and we pledge to live into that admonition. We strive for hope over fear, for love over indifference, for life over death.

Tonight we proclaim a hope of breath-taking audacity: that God is with us, that this world is worth saving, that love is stronger than death. We proclaim a hope for the world, that we also need to hear for ourselves, because in this hope lies a deeply personal yearning: that each one of us is also worth saving, that as broken and smeared with sin as we might be, God has the power to restore us to wholeness.

Our Eucharistic liturgy is the daily bread that nourishes this hope. We re-enact the sacrifice of Jesus each time we gather, in order to remember that we are saved, in order to once again lay down our lives and take up new life in Christ.

The toxic culture, the world of empire and of Pharaoh, will continue to tell us that our options are limited, that we are inadequate to the task of transforming the world. The resurrection of Jesus tells us that God defies all limitations, that life is enriched by endless diversity, that all things are possible with faith. We have only to put away our fear and dare to step out of the grave with Jesus, and, with God´s help, we are reborn into a new way, the way of life, and love, and peace.

Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Easter Vigil 2018
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

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