Sermon for the Easter Vigil 2017
15th Apr 2017
Sermon for Easter
‘What a difference a day makes’ we might say as we come to this glorious Easter time. Within the space of three days, everything for the Christian Church has now utterly changed. And in the passing of this brief period of time - of Holy Week and now of Easter, the Church has endured the pain of Christ's death in the deep solemnity of Passiontide and now all is transformed. The Church’s Easter proclamation proceeds out of the Passion of Christ, and through his Resurrection we proclaim new life to the world. This is now become our glory. And our joyful cry is “Alleluya!”
Salvation has been encapsulated into one week; the saving events into three days, and now the day of Resurrection comes to us tonight to startle and amaze us and carry us ever forward. The days of Lent and Passiontide have come together as one stream, leading inexorably towards its Resurrection fulfilment. The life that Easter makes possible is tonight brought to us as a delicate flame, The Light of the Risen Christ proclaimed as “Christ our Light”, appears first as a small, flickering light in the church's darkness and is then acknowledged in the the singing of the ‘Exsultet’ as the living symbol of everlasting life..
The Vigil of Old Testament Readings is for the recapitulation of our Christian Faith; the tracing of our spiritual origins. It marks a slow progress. It begins with The Creation Narrative in Genesis, and then proceeds to Exodus, to the Crossing of the Red Sea and to the Valley of the Dry Bones and then to the promise of the coming of the One who will communicate to us as one heart speaking to another. We make ready for the Resurrected Christ in this way. We go backward and deep into the past to go forward. The resurrected life of Jesus Christ carries all before it! The Easter Liturgy becomes a profound celebration of the sacramental life that God has granted us through the blessing of the baptismal waters and of the renewal of our Baptismal vows. We are to discover Easter in the outpouring of Baptismal grace. Thus invigorated, we then come to celebrate the Easter Eucharist, warmed and inspired by the presence of the great Paschal Candle; ‘Christ our Light’.
I was in Waitrose this afternoon and saw the sad sight of Easter eggs that had become too difficult to be sell. They sat on their shelves, forlorn, with their expensive price tickets waiting to suffer the ignominy of being reduced by half, or even more when the supermarket’s ‘Easter effect’ had become redundant. We live in a supermarket economy in which sell-by dates mix with sales trends and Waitrose’s marketting strategy which runs absurdly with and at variance to the Church's calendar. In the popular mind’s eye, not much is known about Maundy Thursday or Good Friday except as little known adjuncts to Easter. Lent is passed by, forgotten... after all how do you market Lent?
For Christians Holy Week and Easter is the significant, the profound time; one in which Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday each belong to one another. The Church allows us to inhabit these days of intense contemplation with a profound awareness and emotional experience of their truer, deeper meaning. The passing of this profound time is made in and through The Son's self-offering. It is experienced by the Church as (traumatic) kairos, God’s time, bristling like electricity, Alpha and Omega, our beginning and our end. Christians may not speak of an ‘Easter Effect’ or of ‘The Easter Experience’ without it’s having been ‘gone through’, lived, written on our hearts and made alive in our witness to the saving events of the Christian faith. We then become those same witnesses to the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ who rushed to the tomb. We become the ones who must now proclaim and share this message as a message of life and of hope in the discovery that he has risen and that life is now changed and transformed for good. We become like them witnesses to a world and to lives made new. As the hymn reminds us, Christ is Risen! We are Risen! We are become God's Easter people and 'Alleluya' is now our song!
The contrary movement lies in the ’emptying out’ of the true Easter, and of the return to our unsold but expensive eggs! We see a society which no longer relates Easter to Resurrection. ‘On the third day he rose again from the dead’ we say in the Creed. "All is made new in Him!"
We must proclaim this truth with our lives, as in the Exsultet, the song of praise to the Easter candle, Christian Faith is-with-us as a flame bravely burning, lit by Christ our morning star:
May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death's domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever.
We value the Christian manner of time-keeping as it draws us more surely into Holy Easter, proceeding out of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not by accident, but in and through God’s own kairos, his time.
The joyful message of Easter is that now God’s time and our time have become everlastingly one and the same, and this is cause for Easter as the time of real and unspeakable joy.