Easter Vigil Readings
Brothers and sisters, we know and we hold with firm faith that Christ died for us but once:What Augustine proclaimed in the 5th century, we still celebrate in the 21st.
the just for sinners,
the master for slaves,
the free for captives,
the physician for the sick,
the happy for the wretched,
the rich for the needy,
the seeker for the lost,
the redeemer for the sold,
the shepherd for the sheep,
and—what is the most awe-inspiring of all—
the creator for the creature;
keeping to what he always is,
handing over what he became;
hiding as God,
appearing as human;
life-instilling by his power,
dying by his weakness;
unchanging in divinity,
pained in the flesh.
The God who said, “Let there be light” has now brought the light of His Son into our lives so darkened by sin and death. The God who created all things has now recreated us and now prepares us for His new creation.
The God who judged the wicked world with a flood and safely brought eight people through water has now drowned the Old Adam in us and brought us safely through the waters of Baptism, joining us to the death and resurrection of Jesus our Lord.
The God who led His people out of Egyptian slavery and rescued them from Pharaoh’s pursuing army has now brought us through the Red Sea of our Baptism, is now leading us through the wilderness of this fallen world, and will one day lead us into His eternal Promised Land flowing with the milk and honey of His beloved Son’s life and salvation.
The God who sent His only Son into the world to die but once and rise again from the dead as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20) now invites us to “come, buy and eat!” He bids us to delight ourselves in the rich food of His forgiveness and life and salvation. As we hear the proclamation of Christ being raised from the dead, our souls may live once again, even when we mourn the loss of loved ones, even when we face our own falling asleep. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).
The God who sprinkles us clean in the pure waters of Jesus’ death and resurrection now cleanses us from our all our idols and misplaced devotions. He now gives us a new heart and a new spirit, a heart of flesh that beats with His Spirit, “the Lord and giver of life” (Nicene Creed). As He joins us to Himself, He also joins us to one another to dwell together as His redeemed, enlivened people.
The God who caused breath to enter and enliven the dry, dead bones of His exiled people, giving them new sinews, new flesh, and covering them with new skin, now renews us. In the middle of this valley of the shadow of death, we too are dried up by the effects of sin and death; we too lose our hope when illness, injury, and death strike us or the ones we love. Apart from Jesus we too are clean cut off from the God who loves us. But now that Christ has died and is risen, God puts His Spirit within us and we shall live. He places us in the land He has given, and we know that He is our Lord of life.
The God who allowed Job to be afflicted with loss of property, loss of family, and loss of sound health now gives us the same firm faith and confident confession of that ancient one: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth.” And even though our flesh, or the flesh of our loved ones, may be thus destroyed by death, that last enemy, yet in our flesh we shall see God. It’s not enough to say when we die that our body goes into the ground and our spirit goes to be with Jesus. The story of God’s salvation does not end there! With ancient Job we confess “the resurrection of the body” (Apostles’ Creed). Just as Jesus rose in the body, we too will rise in the body. “Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor. 15:23).
And the God who protected and sustained the three young men even in the midst of the blazing, fiery furnace—by being with them in the midst of the flames—now protects and sustains us in the midst of this world so hostile to the Gospel. Whether the blazing flames are individual temptations, trials or losses, government sponsored attacks on Christians, or a culture careening out of control toward the cliff and speeding to its own fiery demise on the rocks below, our risen Savior is still with us in the midst of the flames. In the end, because all things are subject to our risen Jesus, the fire has no power over our bodies. The hair of our restored heads will not be singed. Our white cloaks of Christ’s righteousness will not be harmed. No smokey smell of sin or death will follow us into the age to come.
This is our God—our risen Lord Jesus—who brings life and immortality to light through the Gospel.
The two Marys and Salome thought they still had to anoint Jesus’ dead body for burial. They fretted over the stone covering the tomb’s entrance. And were they surprised to see that entrance wide open! Then they saw that young man—full of life and vigor, supremely fit and healthy, an image of the new creation! What he told them, he also tells you: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.” Yes, that happened; Christ died for us but once. But “He has risen; He is not here”…in the tomb, that is. He died but once, but now He lives! And so will we. So will all we love who have departed in the faith. No longer in the tomb, our risen Lord is with us, giving us His life, leading us to His new creation.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!