Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for Trinity Episcopal Church, Lincoln, Illinois, on the Easter Vigil, Year A, 2017.
Alleluia—Christ is risen. He is risen indeed—alleluia!
It is a great honor to be here with you all tonight sharing this most holiest of occasions—remembering, celebrating, and in a real sense experiencing the raising from the dead of Jesus Christ by the glory of the Father, that we too may walk in newness of life. Joining me this evening is my family, my wife and our four daughters, and all of us bring greetings and prayers to you all from our parishioners back in Tazewell County, where I am the Priest-in-charge of both Saint Paul’s Church in Pekin and All Saints’ Church in Morton. Indeed I ask your prayers for us as both churches continue to discern what it means, and might yet still mean, for the two churches to become in an official sense the Parish of Tazewell County, serving all residents of Tazewell County.
I mentioned a moment ago that we are not only remembering and celebrating the resurrection of Our Lord to the right hand of the Father in Heaven, the Church Triumphant—but also in a real sense, experiencing it. We have witnessed and shared in the first light of Easter, indeed the first flickers of recognition by Mary Magdelene and the other Mary of the great mystery that was upon them, and upon us—and the first flickers grew to a holy fear and great joy.
These two women did not walk to tell the other disciples—behold, they ran to tell the disciples. These women had been announced to by an angel of the Lord. Just as Saint Matthew records angels being prominent in the infancy narratives of Jesus in communicating and clarifying God’s will, so the angel here explains what happened and what the women are to do. And how immediately and completely they obey! They have undoubtedly learned from Blessed Mary, herself announced to by an angel, about the nature of obedience. Be it unto me according to Thy word.
And just as the holy women were in darkness yet listened to the Word of the Lord, we began this liturgy in darkness, and have listened to the Word of the Lord proclaimed through the Scriptures, the mighty acts of God in preparing His people for salvation in His only-begotten Son. And then the Light fills the room, we exclaim Glory to God in the Highest, and so we are experiencing what they experienced—the breaking open of time and space itself, breaking to open a window into heaven—the glorified presence of Jesus Christ, crucified yet resurrected, risen from the grave, and in so doing, He destroyed death, and made the whole creation new. Made the whole creation eucharistic.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the stone was rolled back from the tomb not so that Jesus could get out, but that we could enter in. We have entered into the tomb tonight so that just as the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, and were saved that day from the hand of the Egyptians, we have by the grace of God walked on dry ground through the flood of sin and separation from God to be saved by Him—and with Him—and in Him. We have died with Christ through our experience of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, because we believe that we shall also live with Him, and are living only in Him, ourselves being born of the spirit through Baptism and fed by the spirit through the Eucharist—so that our lives become lives of eucharist: of thanksgiving, always and everywhere giving thanks to the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
And indeed the stone was rolled away so that in entering the tomb to seek Him, we might find Him, not in the tomb but out on the road, just as the two holy women found Jesus not in the tomb but having begun to run with perseverance the race set before them, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. We gather at the tomb likewise to be dismissed and sent from the tomb out into the world to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, and to seek and serve Christ in all persons—and to always know that when we fall into sin, all we must do is repent and return to the Lord, to humbly acknowledge Him as our Savior, and to recognize that He shed His blood for the forgiveness of all sins. Jesus told us that always, he thirsts for us.
By hearing His Word and celebrating His Sacraments, we share in His victory over death. Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth, bright with a glorious splendor, for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King. Amen.