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The Paschal Triduum: The Great Vigil of Easter April 15, 2017 - The Rev. Janet Campbell
The Story of Creation: Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea: Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21
Salvation Offered Freely to All: Isaiah 55:1-11
Learn Wisdom and Live: Baruch 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Saturday, April 15, 2017
The Rev. Janet Campbell
Dear sisters and brothers,
This is the night,
and what a night it is!
Night of fire and water,
night of story and song,
night of bread and wine,
night of wonder,
          night of rejoicing . . .
How can it be . . .
in this old, sad, struggling world . . .
in our old, sad, struggling selves,
          that Christ is alive among us
                    and God is making all things new?
Step into the Paschal Mystery . . .
and see.
Mary Magdalene
and the other Mary
came to see a tomb . . .
came expecting to sit grieving
at death’s door . . .
only to be startled into resurrection.
For this is the night
the stone is rolled away . . .
and an angel is telling
the beautiful news . . .
Out of darkness and death
          God has brought light and life!
For Christ is risen
and with him
we arise.
In the light of our Easter candle,
we’ve been
telling our story . . .
the story of our salvation . . .
          and why it is we need salvation . . .
a story that began long before Jesus
          walked this earth,
a story as old
as the foundation of the world
and as new as this night . . .
the love story
of God and God’s people . . .
a complicated story,
not all sweetness and light . . .
for ours
is a fragile love,
a faltering love,
often forgotten . . .
          for our attention span is short:
                   we are so easily distracted
                             and mislead
but God’s love
is a never-failing love
a fierce love
burning with hope and expectation,
          and will not be denied.
1.  In the beginning
before time began,
when we were not,
God had an idea so astonishing
even God was amazed:
an idea of a great vastness called space
with galaxies and nebulae
and suns and moons and stars and planets . . .
and a green and blue pearl
floating among them
in the velvety darkness:
this beautiful earth,
with all its myriad and marvelous creatures . . .
God imagined it
and spoke it into being.
And God loved humankind to birth
and entrusted the Creation to us
to enjoy and care for.
And God saw that it was good.
But the story continues
beyond what we told tonight.
There was just one small thing
we were not to do in the garden –
and the desire to do it
grew bigger and bigger
in our wanting hearts
love or no love,
we just had to
eat that damn fruit . . .
and so began
our history
of giving God (and ourselves) grief.

Everything we would ever need
          had already been given us by Love,
and still we craved what we did not need
          and took what was not ours to take,
betraying Love’s trust,
          despoiling Love’s creation
                   seeking our own selfish gain.
It began with an apple,
and became a hunting trophy,
a land grab,
obscene wealth and abject poverty,
factories spewing coal dust into the air,
oil smearing the waters . . .
Our failure to live
peaceably, kindly, lightly,
with gratitude for what is enough,
          in God’s garden paradise.
And yet God’s love
is a never-failing love
and will not be denied.

Once we were slaves
in Egypt
God led us to glorious freedom
by pillars of cloud and fire,
even though we were afraid
          and complained about God’s method.
When we were trapped
by Pharaoh’s army
against the shore
          of a great sea,
God made the waters
stand up to the left and the right
so we could walk through
          on the dry sea bottom . . .
as one of our Easter hymns
so quaintly puts it,
with “unmoistened foot.”
How we rejoiced
to escape the tyranny of  
our pursuers,
celebrating with
tambourines and dancing
and song.
Then the waters closed
over the Egyptian army
and all, chariot drivers and horses
          were drowned.

Surely God must have wept,
and how we ought to weep,
because all those drowning Egyptians
were God’s own children, too.
Children against children,
peoples against peoples,
nations against nations . . .
a multiplication of suffering and grief . . .
our pain,
God’s pain.
And yet God’s love
is a never-failing love
and will not be denied.
3. “Ho, everyone,”
God says to God’s people,
“Ho, absolutely everyone,
have I got a feast for you!”
A feast of good, rich food,
bread and wine and milk and honey
and all free for the asking.
The table of my feast is so big
the whole wide world of people
can pull up a chair and eat!
And just like in the garden,
we keep on reaching
for something else  . . .
something that will never satisfy
          our deepest hungers
          our most desperate thirsts . . .
and how often
our reaching and taking and possessing
          is of things God intended
                   for the feeding, the well-being, of others.
And all along,
God keeps calling,
          Seek me,
          find me,
          here at my table,
                   waiting for you.
Come to me here,
and learn this at my table –
In my world
there is enough for everyone,
learn, and go from here,
and set my table for others.
“Learn where there is wisdom,
          where there is strength,
          where there is understanding . . .
          where there is light for the eyes,
                   and peace.“
Learn where there is love,
          my love . . .
          and return to me.”

For my Love is never-failing
and will not be denied.
And the meaning of it all,
the whole glorious,
ecstatic story
of God and God’s people
is Love.
The liturgies of this past week
have made manifest to us again
the breadth and depth and height
of that love
made flesh in Jesus
whose life revealed
in word and deed
just what love requires . . .
to do justice, love mercy,
and walk humbly with God.
Jesus’ walk with God
led him into the hands
          of those who would deny God’s love,
and to death on the cross,

a walk that has been ours this week,
that anything in us
          that would deny God’s love
                    might die with him
in preparation for this
          great night.
Sisters and brothers,
this is Love’s night
led by Love’s fire
          atop the Paschal Candle,
we come out of Lent’s wilderness
          into Easter’s promised land . . .
led by Love’s fire
          atop the Paschal Candle,
we go to the waters of baptism,
          through which we once
                   passed over with Jesus
                             from death to life,
and at those waters,
          renewing our vows,
          find ourselves renewed.
Led by Love’s fire
          atop the Paschal Candle,
we come to God’s table
          of Easter refreshment,
where hunger and thirst
are satisfied
          with Love’s Bread and wine.
When sadness after sadness
          piles up in us,
when we are foolish beyond belief
          and ready to give up on ourselves,
when there is such suffering in the world,
that we wonder
          if the world will ever know
                   joy again . . .
This is the night
when God’s never-failing love
will not be denied.
Led by Love’s fire
we have stepped into the Paschal Mystery,
startled into new life
by resurrection.
Christ is alive.
Christ is among us.
Christ is with and for us.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!