The Rev. Cynthia K. R. Banks; Easter Vigil—Year B; Exodus 13:17-18, 20-22; The Gospel of Truth 4:1-8; Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Ephesians 1:17-22; Romans 6:3-11; Psalm 114; Mark 16:1-8 Video
Oh, what a night! Overflowing, abundant, rich in every way. We see it and hear it and smell it and touch it and taste it—Love is come again, life returns, resurrection.
“Rejoice! Sing! Be glad! This is the night!” the Exsultet rings out. And just as our sacred story has wound us around on a long and hard journey this past week, so now our sacred story immerses us in a different journey—the journey of creation and liberation, the journey of dry, dead bones who yearn to breathe and live, the eyes of the heart now clear to see the hope that is our inheritance, baptismal waters refreshing parched souls.
It is a journey wrought at such great cost. Every liberation is full of struggle. Every new beginning depends on an ending. Every birth comes through sweat and blood and labor. Resurrection comes only after the old life has breathed its last. So, our celebration this night is grounded in this great paradox of dark and light, life and death, liberation and loss, joy and grief.
But out of the great paradox, the Great Mystery is born. Tonight, Jesus has passed over from death into life, and is pulling us back into life whether we want to go or not.
When I sit with people who are dying, I am often struck by how hard it is for a person who has leaned into life and often fought so hard for life, I am struck by how hard it is for them to turn on a dime and yield, surrender, give their life over so that they can cross over to the other realm and be born anew. But I think it is equally true that those of us who have leaned hard into this Lent and Holy Week and have become fully acquainted with the delusions of our False Self, the shape of our sins, our patterns of death, it is equally hard for us to shed our graveclothes and leap with Jesus into the joy and freedom and power of resurrection.
To fall into grace and life and joy is the ultimate act of surrender.
But tonight, this is the call, this is the invitation. Jesus has danced his way into life this night, and he’s extending his hand, yearning for us to take it, bidding us to join him in the dance, as well.
Tonight is the night of “YES,” which means saying “no” to whatever shame or fear or anxiety or anger or resentment or inhibition would keep us from taking the hand of our Lord and stepping out onto the floor.
Christ has broken the bonds of death and hell, and that includes whatever has kept us all bound up, that includes whatever hells we have inhabited, that includes whatever has weighted us down and held us back. It is all put to flight; it is all washed away; our innocence is restored; we are redeemed, and not by denying all that we have come to know of ourselves through our Lenten and Holy Week journey, but preciously, we are redeemed within all of that by the Love that makes all things new.
This is the Passover of our Lord, and all creation resounds with a cosmic “YES”—“YES, you are worthy of this much joy, this much freedom, this much life,” says our God.
It is almost more than our hearts can hold, so don’t even try. Tonight, let it fill you to the brim, let it top over, let it spill over completely and cascade into the world. It’s been a long forty days, maybe even forty years, but our wilderness wandering is done. We are all thirsty for joy, and tonight, our joy is finally complete. Amen.
The Rev. Cynthia K. R. Banks
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Boone, NC
April 4, 2015