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The Paschal Triduum: The Great Vigil of Easter March 31, 2018 - The Rev. Janet Campbell
The Flood  (Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18, 8:6-18, 9:8-13)
Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea  (Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21)
A New Heart and A New Spirit  (Ezekiel 36:24-28)
The Gathering of God's People  (Zephaniah 3:14-20)
Romans 6:3-11, Mark 16:1-8
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Saturday, March 31
The Rev. Janet Campbell
This is a night
          begun in darkness . . .
the darkness of an 8 o’clock sky
          of the last evening in March,
shadows gathering 
          in the courtyard
where we huddled around
          a new-laid fire . .
(well, perhaps we didn’t exactly huddle –
we are, after all, Episcopalians,
and we like our personal space)
This is a night begun in darkness . . .
not just of the natural world
          turning toward its sleep,
but the darkness of
an ugly and uncertain and threatening season
          in the life of our country,
          in the life of God’s whole creation . . .
and for some of us
the darkness
of sorrow or worry or loss or depression
or loneliness or fear . . .
Through the long, dark nights
of our deepest anguish,
as persons and as a nation
it may seem as if
there will never again
be light . . .
with the stubborn hope
into which we,
          the followers of Jesus,
have been born
          through our baptism . . .
we have lit
that new-laid fire
          against the darkness,
and from its leaping flames
lit a candle to lead us
          the dark toward the light
the light that grows ever brighter
all around us
as we share it
          with one another.
In this world of conflict and terror,
in a nation suffering its own dark night of the soul,
in our own particular dark-nesses
we may have no reasonable expectation
of a dawning anytime soon . . .
In fact,
we may find ourselves
living in very reasonable fear
          of what will happen next . . .
or a sadness we can’t seem
          to escape . . .
But on this night,
we are not dealing
with things reasonable,
we are dealing with
          the things of God.

Others might find
what we do here on this night foolish . . .
and surely it is
to expect much of
this lighting of fires,
this giving voice to the words
          of an ancient people
          trying to make sense
                   of the darkness and light
                             in their own lives
this proclaiming
          of the resurrection from death
                   of a Palestinian Jew
                             over 2,000 years ago,
and our insistence that,
in that one event
so very remote
from our own time and place
          lies power and new life for us this very night . . .
And yet we do insist upon it.

And we have, this night,
still more
un-reasonable things to do . . .
We will take our friend Rod
          to the waters of baptism . . .
Kneeling in a common tub,
(a horse trough actually),
doused three times with water
          we have prayed over,
a grown man
will arise from a horse trough a newborn.
Anointed with chrism,
baptism’s aromatic golden oil,
he will shine with the brightness
          of the new and risen life that is his . . .
our new little brother in Christ,
sharer with us in Christ’s royal priesthood . . .

And not only that . . .
we will pray over
loaves of fragrant new-baked bread
and cups of deep red wine . . .
and when we gather at this holy table
to eat and drink
these ordinary gifts of the good earth
          and of human labor,
we will take into our bodies
the very vitality, the very strength, the very life
          of the risen Christ . . .
“the body of Christ, the bread of heaven,”
we say, and
“the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.”
And we know in our bodies
that this is truth.

Christians have done these
un-reasonable things
generation after generation
in the best and the worst of times,
          for hope when there is fear,
          for courage when all hope seems gone,
          for solace in the midst of sorrow,
          for renewal of faith and purpose,
          to give thanks for successes,
                    celebrate blessings,
                             mark life passages,
and day by day
simply faithfully
          to continue
          in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
          in the breaking of bread and in the prayers.
Often apparently to no avail
          in the larger scheme of things . . .
and yet,
this is the night
when we claim and proclaim
that Christ’s passing over from death to life,
beyond all reason,
          avail-eth everything . . .

It is
the pivotal turning point
in a world
seemingly bent on doing itself in  . . .
the pivotal turning point
from death into life.
This is the night
when we stand again
at that pivotal point . . .
when we give ourselves over again
to that turning within ourselves . . .
to God at work in us.
This is the night
when the un-reasonable children of God
gathered throughout the world
do un-reasonable things
that renew in us
God’s power in Christ
to bring new life out of death.

This is the night when,
having done these things,
we are sent into a world
seemingly gone mad . . .
to proclaim the sanity
          of our un-reasonable doings . . .
sent to proclaim
the most un-reasonable thing of all:
And what is that . . .
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The darkness may not be gone,
but we have stepped into the light.