March 26, 2016

Sermon for Easter Vigil, 2016

Sermon for Year C, Easter Vigil
By The Rev. Torey Lightcap
March 26, 2016
Grace Cathedral, Topeka, Kansas

Let’s just get all our cards on the table.

How do you even begin to name a mystery?
How do you give voice to something, when shock and surprise have stolen your breath?
How can you explain what you yourself cannot exactly comprehend?
How do you interpret your total joy, so that others can have their equal share?
How do you proclaim and apply words to the thing that just refuses articulation?

It’s like putting a rainbow in your pocket, isn’t it? or saving moonlight, in a jar, for later.
It really depends upon whether you saw it for yourself in the moment –
 “You sort of had to be there to fully appreciate it,” you might say, after the fact.
“Boy, oh boy. You really should’ve been there. It was like, I could feel the world turn.”

But. Thanks be to God, at least tonight, we are “there.”
For the moment, there is no other place to stand but here, no other time to be but now.
Everything – everything else has come to a sudden *stop*.
It’s deafeningly quiet;
 Something momentous is happening;
 And we have found ourselves, on this night,
   Standing precisely upon the most crucial moment in all of history.

This is the night, we heard a little while ago, in singing –
 This is the night from which everything else springs.
It’s the headwaters of our particular and peculiar faith system,
 The axis, the hub, the basis, the fulcrum, the measure.

We believe that Jesus was and is the Son of God;
 We always make room for doubt and questions, but we also say and believe
 That he was a one-hundred-percent real person, and actually all God, at the same time,
   And that this isn’t some math problem to be solved,
     But a relationship to be enjoyed.
We believe that this same man was murdered in a state-sponsored execution
 By people who were jealous of what he knew and afraid of what he was doing
   And by people who wanted to keep the peace and the status quo at all costs.

We believe that – well, would you believe it?
God did the most amazing thing possible by then raising Jesus from the dead.
We believe that this is a sign of love and grace and redemption
 Between the Holy and all creation, which includes you (!) and me (!).

And – AND, we believe that this small collection of facts
 Which I have just recited matters more than anything else that it is possible to know.

We really believe that this is the most important thing that you could ever know,
 Even though we have to admit that it’s not completely knowable,
 Because it’s a story about a mystery.
It’s a story about a strange but unstoppable, unconditional force called love,
 Which is a subject that’s always difficult to pin down.

We believe that if you chased the story for years with your life as so many of us have done,
 And tried to boil it down to its essence,
 You would have these statements, this mystery, these facts, this story –
   A purple morning sky, a hillside somewhere on the other side of the world,
     A hole in that hillside, a protective stone rolled away,
     And a man raised to walk in the newness of life,
       Fresh from the baptism of death,
       His body a collection of fresh new scars and bruises.
Walking away from the place his lifeless body had been ... walking away.
Walking away, not to escape, but simply into the next phase of his ministry.

Sisters and brothers, it may very well be simplistic,
 But if Jesus Christ and him crucified isn’t the heart of it, then what, I ask you, is the point?

Oh, but surely there’s been some kind of tragic mistake,
 Say the “cultured despisers of religion,”
 Or do dead bodies rise and walk on their own now? Or is it just this one?

As I say.
Always room for doubt and questioning. Always a place for seeking after truth.
How else can it work?

But maybe at some point the picture starts to resolve itself and a few answers come forth.
And this, to me, a simple man, after all these years of trying to find the truth –
 This, to me, is where I always go; it’s where I always find myself resting.
This particular night. This particular hillside.
 This particular man: Jesus Christ, and him crucified and risen.

Can you give yourself over to it?

If we give ourselves over to it,
 Eventually it will ask us to give up every last thing that gets in the way of that truth:
 Every last falsehood, every small withholding, every little shred of ego.
This truth is the irreducible minimum of the faith, the great and wide paschal mystery:
 Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
And as each year passes into itself,
 And with each celebration of the Great Vigil of Easter that I have undertaken,
 Like the waves that reset the beach,
   Slowly everything else has disappeared and been pulled out of view.

This night momentarily reflects and perfects that view:
 Christ alone, died, risen, come again.

Such a simple and glorious thing.
Such a mystery beyond telling.

And here we were, to witness it.

Thanks be to God.

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