Homily for Easter Vigil, Year C, April 20, 2019

Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21            Canticle 8             Isaiah 55:1-11       Romans 6:3-11                                Luke 24:1-12

          We are here to celebrate the resurrection as told to us in the gospels, but tonight I want you to listen again to the wonderful words from Isaiah:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. . . For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

This passage from what is referred to as 2nd Isaiah speaks of God’s promise that all will be made right.  Thankfully God’s thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways, since God is quick to forgive, and his love knows no bounds.  God sends the rain to water the plants so we will have food to eat – we will be nourished.  We are told the rain and the snow will not return to heaven until it has accomplished what God has sent it to the earth to accomplish. 

          In the Gospel of John, John says Christ is the Word made flesh.  So when we read in Isaiah that God’s Word will not return to God empty, we are reading that the Son of God will not return to God the Father until he completes what he is sent to accomplish here.     

          Our celebration of the resurrection is a celebration that Christ has fulfilled his purpose – Jesus has conquered death!  He has conquered death not for himself, but for us and all who believe in him.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry says:

[Jesus] willing gave His life.  Not for Himself, but for others.  And in so doing, He showed us what love looks like.  That’s what we call the Way of the Cross.  And that Way is the way of life and hope. 

And when he died, His closest followers feared that maybe the strong do survive. Maybe might does make right.  And maybe we better look out for number one.  ‘Cause maybe the world has won.

But three days later, something happened.  Unexpected.  Undreamed of.  Unheralded.  Three days later their world turned upside down which is right-side up.  God raised Him from the dead.  And you could almost hear God thundering forth in that resurrection.  Love, in the end, love wins! Love is the way! Trust me! Follow me! Believe in me!  This resurrection is real!  This is not a fairy tale!

That’s the big picture, according to Bishop Curry.  The resurrection is the announcement that God’s love wins.

          Tonight’s reading from Luke, stops short of Jesus appearing to his disciples.  So, let’s take a look at it.  Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary (the mother of James), along with other women go to the tomb and find it empty.  Two men in dazzling clothes ask them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.”  They are reminded that Jesus said he would be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and then raised from the dead on the third day.  Thus, the women remember and they return to where the apostles are and report what has happened.

          Without seeing Jesus, the women believe, they understand.  Two thousand years later, we are here to remember that Christ rose from the dead.  Some people are like the disciples who discount his resurrection as idle chatter, but others are like Peter who decides to check it out for himself and is amazed at what has happened.  The women who found the tomb empty and Peter believe even before they experience the risen Christ. 

          Christ’s resurrection may have been a onetime event, but people continue to experience the risen Christ.  Most of us, however, fail to see him when he is standing right in front of us.  Remember that Jesus said whenever we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, or visit the imprisoned, we feed, clothe, and comfort him.  From this, we may now see captions beneath pictures of the poor, the homeless, and people in jail, that remind us that by serving them we are serving Christ.  This is true, but we also need to remember that Christ is present in the person sitting next to us, in the person who scans our groceries at the store, and in everyone else we meet.  I therefore challenge you to join with me this Easter Season and make a conscious decision to look for the Christ in every single person we meet.  It is, after all, what we say we will do each time we reaffirmed our baptismal vows tonight – as we did tonight.  We promise to seek and serve Christ is all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. 

Let us pray.

          Heavenly Father, we give you thanks this night for sending your Son Jesus to live among us, teaching us the way to truth and light.  Help us to see and feel his presence in our lives, offering us his love and support, that we, too, might offer your love and support to our neighbors.   We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.