Easter Vigil: On This Night...
Luke 24:1 - 12
Dr. Carol S. Franklin
Dr. Carol Franklin is a retired higher education professional and is a member of Christ Church.
Tonight, we gather to hear the story God’s people as we stand in the shadow of the tomb. In the beginning was God, the father and mother of us all, the wisdom-giver and God the Son and Savior. On this night, the story of God’s people comes full circle as God’s divine power turns the world upside down. After the fear, disbelief and confusion over the crucifixion, the Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James (“the Marys”), discover an empty tomb at dawn the next morning. We, like the Marys, find an impossible, improbable and joyful truth – there is life in the face of death. Tonight, we join them to proclaim that the story did not end at the tomb. For as this night dawns into a new day, we proclaim:
“He is risen! Alleluia! He is risen!”
Is the proclamation that “Out of death there is life” simply a glorious end, or is it just the beginning of a new journey for God’s people?
I believe there is much more to the story and the journey beyond the empty tomb. As I look around, it seems as if the world is stuck in that tomb, buried in the darkness by fear and hopelessness. And the question is why… why do we continue to look for the Son of God in that tomb, among the dead?
Too frequently, we fear what we cannot see, touch, taste or understand. We believe we have been forgotten, marginalized and ignored while others have been lifted up. We see this fear manifested among our sisters and brothers whose religious traditions spring from the same root. We see it in the fear of “the other,” of those whom we believe live differently, love differently and are just not like us. Out of that fear, some set fires seeking to destroy our dwelling places and our peace of mind, while others talk of monitoring neighborhoods, building walls and closing doors.
We get stuck in belief that there is only so much space, time or resources to share. Focused on our own self-interests and needs, we are threatened rather than lifted up by Christ’s message of love. So we wait in darkness, longing for the light, afraid that love is not broad enough or deep enough to shelter us all. We have either forgotten or are just too afraid to believe that God has enough love, compassion and grace to encompass and save us all. Tonight, we learn something new, that we do not need to be afraid – because Jesus, the light of God, goes before us.
Tonight, we know that death is not the end. Christ’s resurrection has shattered the darkness and opens the way to new life. The belief that he lives uplifts me even in these challenging and anxious times. Although I don’t know what comes next, I do know that God is among us. How many of us have stories about those times, and how God’s love and grace put us back together again?
The miracle of this night comes in the midst of a family crisis; when we are lost in our own need; or feel we just cannot go on in that moment. In these moments, God sees us and fully knows us. He knows our gifts, failures and sins. He also knows our life’s promise. God knows and loves us still, carrying us into that new day. On this night, we learn that God will give all and will make us see, hear and know that we matter… and that we are loved.
Tonight, we are called to stand against the darkness, to affirm that God’s love is more powerful than fear, death or evil. The empty tomb is neither the end of the story nor simply a tale of fear or death; it is a story about love and life. The empty tomb is about the courage to believe in and witness the impossible through God’s love, that life is triumphant over death.
We have been called to tell others how to meet Jesus and how to experience the God who is always with us and supporting us. As Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in a New York Times Article, the resurrection is about “…a church and world where there is room for everybody.”
If we follow that thinking, the church is a world in which we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, receive the stranger and care for the sick and dying. Easter Sunday special, because we learn that God is not through with any of us and truly loves us!! Like Christ, we must place all that we are into God’s hands so that we may reflect His light and love.
I will end this homily interweaving my own thanksgivings with some words spoken by my great-grandfather, the Rev. Dr. M.C.B. Mason, from more than 100 years ago. Let us pray:
“Father, we thank thee for…thy Son Jesus Christ…. He came to bring us peace, and deliverance and salvation and eternal life, and we have it; Thank God, we have it. Now help us with renewed energy and enthusiasm to …” meet our brothers and sisters stuck in the tomb and help them find their way into the light of this new day. We are thankful for the breath in our bodies. Let God’s people greet this new day with a resounding “Amen!”
Alleluia, Christ is risen!