Sunday, April 05, 2015

Alleluia, Christ is Risen

The Great Vigil of Easter 2015

Finally! There is the faintest glimmer of hope. We gather in the chill of the night and warm ourselves around the fire. We remember what he tried to tell us time and again but we would not listen. We simply could not understand it. So, counting hope against hope we light a candle and process into our gathering place and instead of cursing the evil in the darkness, we light all our candles. At least we’ve learned that much. We gather around this marvelous flame. We sing the ancient song of our Passover. 

Then we read of our deliverance at the Red Sea, the valley of dry bones, and of our calling to be God’s people. 

We remember how he raised Lazarus from the dead and his many miracles and his healings which were all daily occurrences for him; those with mental and physical ailments. How we wish we could heal those who are sick now and suffer so. For when we had our hopes up the faintest bit, we must now admit just how real suffering and death are even on this side of the resurrection.

Still, we set the Table as he taught us to do. We remember him but not as if he lived and died a long time ago. But we remember him now as the one who died and then rose again. Well, lets face it there are those who are not quite convinced on that point. That’s why we have Thomas the Doubter who famously said: “Not until I see it with my own eyes, touch it with my own hands, not until then will I believe.”

The Surprise of Faith, let me tell you, you are in for a wondrous and mighty surprise not just if you doubt, but even for those of you who believe! Such a Surprise that will fill your hearts with indescribable joy! A joy that will change your life! Right here, right now!

This is because Jesus brought us into eternal life beginning with our Baptism. All he asks of us is to die to sin and to rise to newness of eternal life both in this life and in the life to come. So lets not wait ‘till we’re dead. Lets get at it right now. For the time to do eternal life is here in our midst

This is the essential Teaching or Didache of the Church. The first document we have after the New Testament writings is a brief “catechism” if you will of teachings used for new converts to the faith including and especially directed to our young people. This document is called the Didache, a word which shares the same word as “didactic” or “teaching”.

All this is because in those days the world these kids grew up in was an especially dangerous one. Therefore all converts and members of the church were required to be mindful, to understand, and to master the essential teachings of the Didache; The Teachings of the Church.

Those essential teachings begin with this extraordinary statement;

There are only two ways to live; the way that leads to life and the way that leads to death. 

You can see that choice all around you if you but open your eyes to what is going on around you.

There is the way of violence, hatred, warfare, oppression and bigotry. Good heavens there is abundant dosage of that all around us. And much of it supposedly in the “name of God”. But we know such things lead to the destruction and death of God’s creatures. We are called to renounce them.

Instead we are called to peace with justice, love, compassion and an open heart that leads to life.

There is the way of fear, anxiety, and depression. That sure sounds like current events to me. But such a life leads to darkness and despair. That approach doesn’t make much sense to me and besides it will shorten you life, will it not?

But there is also courage, joy, good humor, gracious affection and good cheer. Such an internal reorientation leads to much, much more life, a life that leads to an eternal life like Jesus lived.

There is, of course self centeredness. One the other hand there is a life that we can live in concern and care for others. The former will destroy the latter builds up.

Need we point out the difference between greed and its antithesis generosity? Seldom have we seen such a stark reminder of the difference than we see in our own present historic context.

There is the matter of self indulgence and self discipline. Life will teach you that lesson sooner or later. Let’s keep one another in eternal life. 

All we have to do is read the papers or watch the news to see what destroys human life near and far away. Sin, by the way, is the only doctrine in our catechism we have abundant proof for. Everything else we believe in we have to take on faith. Ah but not sin…look around you. Its everywhere! It is no wonder so many take to the way of sin.

But still ultimately, it only leads to death and God is pretty consistent on this point; “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?” ~Ezekiel 33:11

Back now to the “remembrance of  him”. Back to that surprise and that joy! That Greek word “anamnesis” means to remember not as if we were recalling some ancient sadness or tragedy; the word means to remember as if we were bringing that ancient moment into the living present, as if we were invoking the presence of Christ as this very Table, which is exactly what we do in the Eucharist.

This remembrance is as real and as joyous as today right here among your friends and your family.  We have this joy, this now, this eternity right here for all of us to see. 

For Christ is alive in this glad Easter tide. We have seen him with our own eyes.
Alleluia. Christ is Risen
The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

And now may the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore. Amen.

Fr Paul

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