The Vigil of Easter

Download or listen to The Vigil of Easter, “Reflections” (The Readings for the Vigil)

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed, let us keep the Feast! This is the feast, here, tonight. But as with any great feast, the choices are overwhelming. We cannot speak of everything; we can hardly speak of anything. It is impossible to sum up the history of salvation in a single liturgy and catch it all. Better to soak it in, better to bask in it, better to absorb what can be absorbed and let the rest go for now. Don’t try to gather up all the pieces at once; there is enough for each day, and the Lord scatters His bread from heaven day by day. This feast is like a thousand pieces of a broken mirror; pick up one or two and see what can be seen in them. Here’s one: do you see the reflection of creation in it? Our God is quite consistent: all that talk about His creation of “animals according to their kinds, male and female according to their kinds,” all the swarms of living creatures and the winged birds and the beasts of the earth—it is exactly those beasts, and livestock, and creeping things and birds that Noah is commanded to take into the ark, in order to preserve God’s creation. Likewise, Christ the new and greater Noah comes and through Him, all creation is preserved, not destroyed. God does not simply start over, though He certainly could have. No, He makes a new Adam and a new Noah in the womb of Mary, and saves us from the inside out, and overturns His ark to make a Church, in which we are saved by water and the promise and marked by a dove.

Here’s another: see how the reflection of salvation shines through all the ages of time. “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today.” Through the long night of death, God stands between us and our enemies, until the time for our deliverance comes. “And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.’” Very early in the morning, the women came to the tomb and found it empty. And death and hell said, “Let us flee from before this new Israel, for Jesus fights for them against us.” Your enemies are no more, washed away and drowned in the waves that roll back after you have walked safely through on dry ground. If God is for us, who can be against us? No one, and nothing. “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”

Or one more: resurrection reflected on the faces of Ezekiel and Nebuchadnezzar. Dry bones, parched and desiccated by decades of sin and complacency and idolatry. But now a prophet comes into the midst of them—of us—to speak life where there is none. “Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” Resurrection is the proof that our God is God. His Spirit is within you, and your own land has been prepared for you by your Bridegroom. Soon it comes down out of heaven, the New Jerusalem, holy and perfect, where God will dwell with His people forever. And there, look at the shock on the king’s face, as he sees four men where there were only three. Our Lord and Savior walks with us through the fire, and douses us with baptismal water. The fire has no power over your bodies. The hair of your heads will not be singed, your clothes will not be harmed, and no smell of fire will come upon you. “Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him.’”

Death to life, darkness to light, unbelief to faith, idols to the living God. This is the movement of the Feast. Hear, read, mark, learn, digest these words. Eat the Body and drink the Blood of our Passover feast. All of this will sustain you, even as you walk through this creation, through enemies within and without, through certain death and into even more certain resurrection.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.

— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 3/26/13

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