Sermon for the Easter Vigil 2019
20th Apr 2019
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 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 death in the deep solemnity of Passiontide and now all is suddenly transformed. The Church’s proclamation proceeds out of the death of Christ, and through his Glorious Resurrection we proclaim new life to the world. Our joyful cry is “Alleluya!” And all this has been encapsulated into one single week; the saving events into three days, and now the day of Resurrection comes tonight to startle and amaze us and carry us yet forward.
The days of Lent and Passiontide cannot be experienced separately but together as one stream, leading inexorably toward their resurrection fulfilment. The life that Easter makes possible, is now brought to us as a delicate flame, The Light of the Risen Christ is proclaimed as “Christ our Light”, appearing first as light in darkness and then acknowledged and honored in the glorious Easter song ‘The Exsultet’ as our everlasting life..
Then there is the Vigil of Old Testament Readings for the recapitulation of our Christian Faith; the tracing of our spiritual origins. It begins with The Creation Narrative in Genesis, and then proceeds to the Exodus and Abraham and then the promise of the coming of the One who will promise us the God not our of religious duty alone, but his being from the communication of one heart speaking to another. This Easter Liturgy will be 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 transformative grace. We come to celebrate the Eucharist anew, warmed and inspired by the presence of the great Easter candle, which is with us as ‘Christ our Light’.
I was in Waitrose this afternoon and saw the sad sight of the Easter eggs that had become too difficult to be sell. They sat on the 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’, marketed since the end of February, had become redundant. We live in a supermarket economy in which sell-by dates mix with sales trends and Waitrose’s own seamless thread which runs both vaguely with and absurdly counter to the church calendar – how else can we explain the fact of hot cross buns sold in Marks and Spencer’s at Christmastime? In the popular mind’s eye, very little would be known about Maundy Thursday or Good Friday except as adjuncts to Easter. Easter-time stretches out for weeks. Lent is passed by, forgotten; after all how do you market Lent?
For Christians this is very strange. For Easter is the most significant time of the Christian Year, one in which Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday have been each and alone significant. Each belong to one another, and they all belong to that part of The Church’s life which places a premium on the hallowing of time with an intense experience of the saving events of the Faith. Our emotions have been dragged from pillar to post. The Church allows us to inhabit this time of intense contemplation with the profound awareness of its deeper meaning. Such a passing of time is not made without its being offered to God in and through his Son. It is experienced as kairos, God’s time. And so we don’t speak of the ‘Easter Effect’ or ‘The Easter Experience’ without we ‘gone through it’, write it on our hearts and make it come alive in our own witness to the saving events of the Christian faith. We 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 of life and hope in the discovery that he has risen and that life as we know it is now changed and transformed for good.
The contrary movement is the ’emptying out’ of the true Easter, and of the return to our unsold but expensive Easter eggs! We see a society which no longer memorizes a calendar which allows for Easter as the time of Resurrection. ‘On the third day he rose again from the dead’ we say in the Creed. We must proclaim this truth as in the Exsultet, the song of praise to the Easter candle, that Christian Faith may exist as a flame bravely burning, if necessary, counter culturally.
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. Pray that two hearts may beat as one!