Easter Vigil April 11, 2009

O.T. History of Salvation

Romans 6:3-11

Luke 24:1-12

 

Around the church tonight is this wonderful series of quilt-style banners depicting the story of God’s saving work through history. We have six of them now; Nancy Stehno just completed the one over the organ, illustrating a passage from the Book of Proverbs about Wisdom being more precious than gold. Nancy, I hesitate to tell you this, but there are six more we could do, if we draw on both the Episcopal and Revised Common Lectionaries! But, one at a time. That’s the way God works, so you can work that way too.

 

Actually, there could be more than 12 banners. There could be an infinite string of banners, stretching into the future, because God is working out God’s plan of salvation in every one of our lives, in the world around us, in every event in the news—even the terrible ones. We know from Scripture that God uses everything, patiently building towards the Kingdom. Maybe some year we can each draw a banner illustrating some way in which God has done a saving act in our lives or in some act that we see in the world.

 

This night, you know, is the Christian equivalent of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Passover is the holiday Jesus was celebrating with his disciples at the Last Supper. It commemorates the angel of death “passing over” the first-born of the Hebrews and destroying the first-born of the Egyptians so that Pharaoh would finally let the Hebrew slaves go free—what we know as the Exodus. Easter is our delivery from slavery—slavery to sin and death and defeatism, to anger, hatred and fear. Easter is our Exodus from the old life of darkness into the new baptismal life of light in Jesus Christ.

 

Each year at their Passover Seders, Jewish people gather to remember this act of God in the past, just as we gather tonight to remember the Resurrection. But the point of remembering the past lies in the future. It is our memory of these sacred stories that we retell and retell which shapes us as we live into the future. Because we remember the working of God in the past, we can be alert to recognize God’s working in the future—and we can be a conscious part of that working.

 

If I were to make banners of the saving acts of God I see around us today, I might begin with a banner depicting a young single father who has committed himself to raising his three little children—a huge thing. Or I might make a banner of another single father, serving in the military, who is working to arrange for child care abroad so that he can provide for his son after the mother left them. These banners would include the grandparents of these families, none of them in good health, who are sacrificing themselves to support their young families. This is part of God’s saving work, when families come together to take responsibility, in love and hope and trust in God. Salvation is a quilt of little deeds like these as well as great public ones.

 

I would also make a banner honoring the older people in this congregation, and those with chronic illnesses. These folks, if you’ve noticed, rarely complain. They go around with smiles on their faces. They keep marching along. Because younger people are so busy and overwhelmed, we rely on older people to make the most amazing contributions to society and certainly to this congregation. The world may say they’re useless, but they too are a part of God’s saving plan. The Bible is full or miraculous old people who become the source of new life.

 

I would do a banner depicting the young families who come to this church seeking a faith foundation for their children and themselves. This is an amazing act of commitment and courage in our culture. A recent study found that only in Vermont are there fewer people who go to church than in our own New

Hampshire—and that’s particularly true of younger generations. One of our young dads told me that he didn’t know a single other family who attended church—not one. It’s hard to be that different family—I know it. If you’re a teenager, I know it’s hard to be the different one! Hard to make the time and effort to add church on top of all the other things in life. Hard to do something your friends say is weird. But this is exactly how God works—people being different, sometimes even weird. We cannot measure the difference that a single family’s commitment, a single teenager’s commitment, will make in God’s plan. But we know that Jesus was just a single individual—only 33 years old when he died. God uses individuals, not just groups.

 

I could go on, and I hope that as I’ve been talking you’ve been thinking of banners you could make of God’s saving acts in your own lives. But I think also of banners depicting how God is working in the world today. We have this young black President. You may have voted for him, you may not have. But here he is going into places of fear and darkness in the world—speaking to the Turkish parliament about Moslems being our friends, planning talks with Iran and pushing for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, taking bold actions to try to stabilize and reform our economic system, save our environment, improve our health care system. Maybe you agree; maybe you don’t. But here is someone who obviously operates out of faith, out of hope and not fear; someone who seeks to inspire others. Somewhere in this, God is working out God’s plan.

 

And lastly, I think about our bishop, Gene Robinson. Again, we will differ on the issues around sexuality on which he has staked his prophetic ministry. But the point here is that like our President, our bishop is not afraid. He operates out of faith and hope. He seeks to expand the Kingdom of love and light. God will sort out the particulars—should there be same-sex marriage, should gays this and lesbians that. Mistakes will be made, but you know mistakes are never final. It is through the Gene Robinsons of the world, that God is working out the great design of salvation.

 

Each of us, then, is a player in God’s history of salvation. Each of us is a child of darkness and also a child of light. The darkness in us is caught in fear, in doubt, in negativity and despair. But this night is about darkness yielding to light. For in Baptism each of us is born anew as a child of the light. Each of us is resurrected as a child of Jesus Christ. So though we yield to darkness time and again, we never yield finally. The God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will not let us go. Whether in this life or the next, God’s light will be vindicated. The final victory of Easter will be won.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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