Easter Vigil: A Reflection

An Easter Vigil Sermon, preached at Trinity Anglican Church (Aurora, ON), April 19, 2014

 

I speak to you in the name of God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

                                                                                                             

I believe in Jesus Christ, the Lord. Who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried he descended to the dead.

                                                                                                             

It is easy to rush by Holy Saturday on our way to Easter Sunday and the joy of the resurrection.

After all, who wouldn’t trade sorrow for joy, lament for praise, guilt for forgiveness?

It is easy to pass by Holy Saturday.

There is no drama; no excitement.

It is an odd and unsettling time and place.

It is full of nothing.

The nothingness of silence.

The nothingness of darkness.

The nothingness of death.

And yet here we are in the depths of this nothingness.

So, let us linger in the nothingness of silence, darkness, and death.

Let us linger here in order to seek the God who descended to the dead.

Let us linger here in order to seek the God who descended to the dark nothingness that is utter separation from God.

                                                                                                                       

I have a confession to make: I am afraid of the dark.

Darkness is everything that “I do not know, cannot control, and am afraid of”.[1]

Darkness exposes my vulnerability and weaknesses.

Darkness is where my enemies lie in wait.

Darkness exposes my need for rescue and liberation.

It is strange to think of darkness as exposing anything – after all, it is in the darkness where I hide my deepest, darkest secrets.

When I linger in the darkness, I come face-to-face with my secrets, my brokenness.

When I linger in the nothingness of death, I come face-to-face with my deepest fears.

I am afraid of the dark.

I want to escape to the light as quickly as possible, to feel the warmth of sunshine on my face, to leave the darkness behind.

And yet, light can be deceptive.

It can leave me with the illusion that all is well.

It can cause me to forget what I left hidden in the darkness.

In the light, I have no need for God, no need for his protection and care.

However, in the darkness, my search for God is desperate.

Why, O Lord, so you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm10:1a)

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? (Psalm 13:1)

O Lord, why do you cast me off? Why do you hide your face from me? (Psalm 88:14)

In the darkness, I am alone.

In the darkness, God is nowhere.

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1a)

                                                                                               

Jesus’ cry on the cross indicates the experience of the utter darkness that is separation from God.

Jesus’ cry on the cross is a cry of solidarity with human suffering; solidarity with the dead.

Jesus’ experience of the nothingness of darkness and death is real.

Because it is real, we have the comfort of knowing that Christ goes before us into the darkness.

Christ is there in the nothingness, in the darkness.

Wracked with grief and suffering, he may be difficult to see; it is possible that we may even pass by him in our rush to the light.

But if we linger in the darkness, our senses become heightened: as we stumble and grope our way through the darkness, our eyes and ears become wide open.

If we linger in the darkness, we will find Jesus Christ, the God who took on human flesh and descended to earth; the God who took on our suffering and descended to the dead.

For our sake, Christ goes before us into the darkness.

For our sake, Christ is with us in the darkness.

When we linger in the darkness with the God who goes before and with us, we will not be afraid.

When we cling to God in the darkness, we will be better able to cling to him in the light.

In a world that lives in the nothingness of Holy Saturday, in the darkness of death and suffering, in a world where God is seemingly absent or even dead, may you have eyes to see and ears to hear the God who goes before us and with us in the darkness. May you cling to Christ in hopeful anticipation of the light of Easter Morning.

Amen.

 

[1] Barbara Brown Taylor in a recent interview: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2014/04/14/barbara-brown-taylor-encourages-christians-embrace-darkness/

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