Easter Vigil—Year A; Exodus 13:17-18, 20-22; 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; Matthew 28:1-10
This is the night! Tomorrow will be its own celebration. Tomorrow, we will come at first light to the tomb. Tomorrow, we will see that the stone is rolled away. Tomorrow, we will have to make sense of that empty tomb. But that’s tomorrow. “This is the night,” the ancient hymn rings out.
This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life. This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell.
This is the night, when our Lord Jesus Christ passed over from death to life…This is the Passover of the Lord.
Passover, that night ever longer ago, when God brought our fathers, the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea on dry land. That night made present on this night.
Liberation wrought at such a cost—Egypt’s sons, the Son of God, you, me, dying forever joined to rising.
St. Paul got it. We cannot escape this dying business, but nor can we escape the rising. At his mystical best, Paul gets it, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
What better news could there possibly be on this night?
Our old self, our false self, that self that tries so hard to make it on its own, that self who believes it is never enough, that self who believes it is disconnected from God and tries so very hard to reconnect with God, that self was crucified with Jesus, so that that sense of separation that permeates everything in our life might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to that belief that we are separate from God. Sin, at its root, is that most fundamental separation anxiety—the false self’s belief that we have been rent asunder from God. Jesus died to that, and through him, we have died to that. We have been liberated from that sin.
All Lent long, and most especially this past week, we have been dying with Christ, and this is the night when the cosmos shifts, and we discover what it means to live. This is the night when Jesus Christ passes over from death to life, and like those dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision, we, with Christ, come rattling back to life. Divine breath blows all that gloom of sin away, and we step out with Christ in radiant splendor.
We, who have long been asleep in our forgetfulness awaken to our truest of natures, remembering who we really are—beloved sons and daughters of God. Whatever our life has been, this is the night when it is all made new.
You are dead to all that has separated you from God, you are dead to all that has separated you from others, you are dead to all that has separated you from your self; you are alive to God in Christ Jesus. This is gospel, good news, in the very truest and deepest sense of the word.
The winter has been long, so very, very long, but no more—this is the night when “Love comes again like wheat that springeth green.” Amen.
The Rev. Cynthia K. R. Banks
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Boone, NC
April 19, 2014