The Great Vigil of Easter – April 20, 2019 – Luke 24:1-12 – Trinity, Winchester
Maybe you noticed, there are no shortage of readings to preach from this evening. And we only read five of the nine suggested readings and responses. Some Christians go all night long, praying, reading, and fasting until the sun comes up. We won’t be here that long tonight, but there is something to be said for that tradition.
After all, the longer one sits in the darkness of the vigil the sweeter the triumphant “Alleluias” sound when they finally do arrive.
Darkness is a powerful thing.
Christian metaphors of light and darkness often give us the sense that darkness is bad. It often represents the absence of God, but the truth is, darkness was always part of God’s plan.
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep…Then God said, “Let there be light.’” And there was. God separated the light from the dark, and it was good.
Yes, darkness was always part of God’s plan.
In Abraham’s darkest hour, as he bound his son and raised his knife, God sent an angel to bless him with the light of his countenance. Because you have obeyed my voice “I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.”
In their darkest days in the wilderness God sent a pillar of fire to light up the night and protect the Israelites from the Egyptian army. He even parted the dark waters, so that they might pass through to the light of their salvation.
In the darkness of exile God sent the prophet Ezekiel to tell his chosen people that he would bring them up from their graves and give them the light of new life.
Surely darkness was always part of God’s plan.
From Thursday night when we stripped the altar, through Friday evening when we venerated the cross, there has been within these walls and within our hearts a shroud of darkness.
Still covered in darkness, many of us returned this morning to do the things people do when confronted by death. We busied ourselves by sprucing up the church, as for a funeral, making sure everything was just right.
Even tonight began in darkness. Our celebration of Jesus’ glorious resurrection from the dead begins in the quiet shadows of the evening.
Yes, darkness was always part of God’s plan, you see, because if it weren’t for the darkness, we wouldn’t be able to see the light.
Sitting in the darkness tonight we could see signs of light all around us: the glorious splendor of the new fire; the radiant light of the paschal candle, that marvelous and holy flame that focuses our attention on the Risen One; even the Exsultet is a light to our ears, a love song from Mother Church to the triumphant Christ.
The salvation history narratives, ancient stories of our faith, enlighten our memories, and the faint whiff of fresh lilies enlightens our senses.
It is in the darkness we see the fullest expression of resurrection light. Nowhere is this more prevalent than through the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Tonight as we gathered around the font to renew our baptismal promises, we were sprinkled with the water of abundant life.
Our reading from Romans reminds us that we were baptized into Christ’s death so that we might rise with him to new life. In other words, in order to see the light of resurrection, we have to know the darkness of the death of Jesus.
From the very beginning God has been telling us, teaching us, showing us that darkness is part of God’s plan. At the dawn of creation. In the wilderness. By the Red Sea. In the valley of dry bones. Even at our baptism.
As people of faith, we need to recognize that darkness is a part of our journey, but we must never mistake it for our destination.
That’s reserved for resurrection light.