Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sermon for the Easter Vigil

Stepping into the story

The Great Vigil of Easter is all about story.

We act out the story of the light of Christ coming into the world
as we light the first fire of Easter
and process the Paschal candle into the Church.
The story of the light of Christ coming into a dark and hurting world.
Our world.

We light our own small candles from the Christ candle
because for each of us,
in ways small and large,
our own story
has been set afire by the story of Jesus Christ.

We sit and listen to stories--
the creation, the flood,
the crossing of the Red Sea,
the dry bones.

The story of the people of God.
Our story.

And tonight Robin Lynn Holt will be baptized.
Baptized into the Church of God.
Officially welcomed as a child of God—
an already much loved member of this parish, St. John’s.

As with all of us, Robin has her own life story,
but tonight her story changes.
She will make her promises to God.
She will be baptized by water and anointed with oil.
Tonight Robin will be marked as Christ’s own for ever.

Tonight all our stories are woven together as God’s people—
past, present and future.

We have made it through the 40 days of Lent and Holy Week.
We have arrived at the threshold—Easter.
Resurrection. New life.

Easter is not about a one day event.
Easter is about how we choose to live our lives.
Easter is about living as transformed people of Christ.

Easter is about putting all our eggs in a basket called hope.
Easter is opening our eyes to resurrection moments that confront us every day.

How do we live in this broken, battered world as Easter people?
With God’s help.
With God’s love.
A love made visible to us every single day
When we love one another.

Easter is our story, our way of life.

I remember many years ago when Tom and I lived in Memphis.
A friend of ours at our church suffered from severe heart disease.
He needed a transplant.
It did not look as if that would happen.

But at a time when it was almost too late,
it did happen.
Our friend Ted received a new heart.
Everyone in our church
was ecstatic with joy.
We felt that our prayers, and especially the prayers for Ted’s family,
had truly been answered.

But a few months later.
the transplant began to fail.
Prayers went up and out and around.
But Ted’s new heart was failing
And Ted was dying.

I remember being at the hospital
and stepping on the elevator with Ted’s wife, Jo
and their children.

There were so many heavy hearts that day,
but I shall never forget the words Jo said to their adult children,
as they held hands in that elevator and rode up to see Ted,
she said,

“Remember, children! We are Easter people!”

We are Easter people.
It does not mean that we live protected sheltered happy go lucky lives.
Like everyone else in the world
our lives harbor edges, if not deep pools, of sadness and suffering.

But what it does mean is
that regardless of whether we live or die,
we are God’s beloved children—always.
Being Easter people means we live our lives
knowing that life is stronger than death,
hope is always stronger than fear,
and nothing is stronger than the love of God.

Some young friends of mine who are now in seminary
went to El Salvador this year during their spring break.
There was a celebration there to honor and remember
Roman Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero.
Oscar Romero was a fearless defender of the poor and the persecuted.
He was an outspoken man
in a country where speaking out
was not the way to live a long life.
Oscar Romero was assassinated 30 years ago.
He was killed as he stood at the altar celebrating the Eucharist.

But you see, Oscar Romero’s story did not end there.
Because the Easter people of El Salvador
and in other parts of the world
stepped in, stepped up, spoke out
and continued to fight for those
who had no one to fight for them.

My friends sent me some photographs of their time in El Salvador--
thousands of people all wearing t-shirts
that said “Romero Vive”.
Romero lives.
The story of God’s people goes on.

Bishop Martin Barahona,
a dear friend of a dear friend of mine,
currently serves as the Episcopal Bishop of El Salvador.
Days before the Romero Vive celebration began
there was an assassination attempt on Bishop Barahona’s life.
He escaped unharmed--
and he refused to be intimidated.
He marched in the streets in his purple bishop’s cassock.
Romero Vive.
Romero lives.
How is that possible when Oscar Romero was killed 30 years ago?

We must not forget another outspoken man,
another man whose heart belonged to the poor and the suffering
and those pushed to the edges of society.
A man named Jesus was crucified, assassinated,
almost 2000 years ago.

Jesus lives.
Jesus vive.
Christ is risen in us
so that we might live as Easter people.
People of hope and purpose and love.
People who can offer hope and purpose and love to others.
We are Easter people.
We are marked as Christ’s own for ever.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

No comments: