Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter Vigil Sermon 2008

This sermon was inspired by a Penitential Rite written by Fr. Ernesto Medina in the publication Awake my Soul available online here.

“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him… So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

I speak with you in the name of the creating God, the resurrected Christ, and the ever-present Holy Spirit. Amen!

Good evening! Thank you for coming out this evening to the most sacred worship service of the Christian Year. A lot of work went in to making this the most sacred service we hold here at All Saints, and I encourage you to give your thanks and appreciation to all who worked on this service as I do. We have arrived at Easter. Our journey with Christ has been long over these forty days, but finally we are here. And on this sacred night it is both good and right that we have heard yet again the sacred tale of salvation history; God’s story beginning with creation and coming in the fullness of time to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It is on this salvation history that I would like to reflect with you for a moment or two. Recently I read a liturgy written by Dean Ernesto Medina, who serves down at the Cathedral, on salvation history and it got me to thinking about how our story is woven with God’s story through rocks and water.

See, in the beginning, God created. During the creation God made rocks while thinking “my children will walk on these rocks.”

You hold that rock in your heart.

God’s children did walk on the rocks. Eventually, sadly, that walked away from God.
So God sent a flood and cleansed the earth saving one family. God returned the family to the rock.

You hold that rock in your heart.

Later the children thought they were equal to God. So they began to build a high tower upon a rock to try and reach God. God can not be equaled, and God’s children can not climb to the heights of God. So, God confused the children.

You hold that rock in your heart.

Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well and sat upon a rock. He listened to her story, and told her everything she ever did.

You hold that rock in your heart.

Jesus had a friend named Peter, which means rock. Jesus said he would build his church upon Peter the rock. One night, when Jesus needed him the most, Peter denied ever knowing his friend Jesus.

You hold that rock in your heart.

Soon after Peter’s denial Jesus was crucified and placed inside a cave, inside a rock.

You hold that rock in your heart.

My brothers and sisters our hearts are hearts of stone and I invite you to reflect on your burdens and your sins. “Remember those things you have done that you are sorry for and place them on the stone that is your heart.”

“Remember those things you didn’t do, but probably should have, things done and left undone. Place this burden on the rock that is your heart.”

It has always been that in the midst of our burdened and hardened hearts God remembers God’s children. Once, God’s children were in slavery. God heard their cry for help and liberated them. On their way to the Promised Land God parted the waters and cleansed their hearts of stone.

Later on their journey they were thirsty. So God told Moses to take his staff and strike a rock. Water poured from the rock and cleansed their hearts of stone.
A long time later, but still a long time ago God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel in a valley of dry bones. God told Ezekiel to say to the bones, “I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD." And so the dry bones were made wet again and God cleansed their hearts of stone.

Jesus came to be an adult and went to his cousin John at the Jordan. Jesus, God incarnate, who wise ones had knelt before with gifts fit for a king, humbled himself and knelt in the muddy water of the Jordan. John baptized Jesus along side the penitent sinners and in front of the holier-than-thou leaders. And so, God cleanses our hearts of stone.

Tonight the cold dark stones of our heart are brought into the light and washed clean. In the bright light of the Resurrected Christ, the burdens and cares we came with here tonight are no more. We come to God’s table a new creation not by our own power. Rather we are made new by God who became human. We are born again by God who was taken, blessed, broken, and poured out for us in the person of Jesus Christ. We receive this God in the form of bread and wine taken, blessed, broken and poured out for us this night. Know that Christ is risen. Know that you are forgiven. Know that you are loved and welcome at this feast. Come, taste, and see. Amen.

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