Easter Vigil – This Is The Night!

Easter Vigil – This Is The Night!

John 20:1-18

April 7, 2012

This is the night!

We sang the refrain 5 times this evening!

This is the night!

that “most holy night when our Lord Jesus Christ passed from death to life”

This is the night!

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

 

Earlier this week I brought Holy Communion

to Betty, one of our members who lives at the Lutheran Home here in town.

Betty is one of those faithful women who are the backbone of every church –

Betty reigned over the church kitchen.

She was the one to call if you wanted to have a reception at church  after a funeral or a baptism,

or if the fellowship committee wanted to have a potluck;

or if the scouts were having their annual awards banquet.

You wanted Betty to know because Betty knew the important things about the kitchen.

She knew which of the burners on the stove tended to get too hot;

she knew where the salt and pepper shakers were kept;

and most important of all, she was one of the few people who knew how to work the dishwasher.

As I brought Betty communion,  I was remembering all those things,

though It’s been several years now that she has been able to worship with us.

Her memory is not so good anymore.

She doesn’t remember my name or that we’ve met before.

She doesn’t usually remember which room is hers.

And when we commune, she sometimes asks if it’s okay to swallow the wafer I give her.

This week, when I brought communion,

I began to read to her the account of the resurrection.

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb…”

Before I got any farther, Betty stopped me;

her eyes opened widely, and she said with astonishment and even joy,

“I think I’ve heard that before!

Yes!  I’ve heard that before!”

Yes, we’ve heard that before!

This is the night!

This is the night when we’ve heard it all before!

We’ve heard the story of creation before,

but don’t your ears perk up once again when you hear God say, “And it was good.  It was very good.”?

We’ve heard the story of the flood before,

but don’t your eyes still light up when you think of the rainbow?

We’ve heard the story of Abraham and Isaac before,

but don’t you still get the chills when Abraham takes up the knife?

Oh, how many times have we heard the story of the exodus from Eqypt and the parting of the Red Sea,

but doesn’t it still make us long for the day when everyone around the world will hear the promise that God can make a way when there seems to be no way?

A group of us pastor-types were planning this evening’s service,

and discussing which readings to use.

You might feel fortunate that we don’t have at least double the number of readings tonight,

because whenever someone mentioned  a passage of one of “God’s greatest hits” from the Old Testament,

the others of us would say, “Oh that’s a good one!  Let’s include that one!”

….We did use some restraint.

But you know, how can you resist hearing once again the words of Isaiah, “Ho, all who are thirsty come to the water!  You who have no money, Come, buy and eat!”

We’ve heard it before,

but when there’s severe famine in West Africa we need to hear it again.

And don’t you just want to sing along with Ezekiel, “oh dem bones!”

and pray that bones can live again as we hear of school shootings in Ohio and California,  serial killers in France, and continued civilian deaths in Syria?

We’ve heard the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,

and we marvel at the skill of the reader who gets through that tongue twister of a reading,

but doesn’t this resurrection story still challenge us to have the courage of those three men to stand for our beliefs, despite personal risk?

This is the night!

This is the night when we’ve heard it all before!

This is the night when we hear it all again!

This is the night when we hear once more the promise of baptism,

but when we see Rhys’ face and feel the drops of water on our heads,

doesn’t it renew the gift in us?

Over and over again, we’ve shared bread and wine,

but doesn’t this meal, on this day, when the passion is still fresh in our minds, make us hear the words, “for you” a little more personally?

Most importantly, this is the night when we hear about the empty tomb.

Yes Betty has heard it before.

Yes we’ve all heard it before.

We’ve heard that the stone has been rolled away.

We’ve heard that the graveclothes are lying by themselves.

We’ve heard that Mary and the disciples are confused about where the body might be,

and that Mary lingers at the tomb crying.

We’ve chuckled to ourselves when we hear again that she thinks that Jesus is the gardener,

until he calls her by name.

And we cheer her on as she goes running to tell the disciples the news that she has seen the Lord!

This is the night that we’ve heard it all before.

But It hasn’t lost its wonder.

It hasn’t lost its mystery.

It hasn’t lost its joy.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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