Sunday, April 08, 2007

He is Risen!

A Sermon for the Easter Vigil

"MOST powerful and glorious Lord God, at whose command the winds blow, and lift up the waves of the sea, and who stillest the rage thereof. We thy creatures, but miserable sinners, do in this our great distress cry unto thee for help: Save, Lord, or else we perish. "

The prayer I just read is from the Prayers to be Used in Storms at Sea, and is found in the back of the English Book of Common Prayer which was pulbished in 1662. The section, which goes on for some pages, harkens back to a time when English sailing ships took several months to cross the Atlantic being little more that wooden ships tossed to and fro by storms and powered only by the wind. These boats were not much different than the boat technology used by sailors in the times when the stories we heard read tonight were first written down.

In the creation story, we heard that the earth was without form and void, and darkness covered the face of the Deep. For people living up until not so very long ago, “the Deep” which is spoken of here, was the biggest, scariest thing imaginable. It could not be controlled or understood, it was nature in its purest form: it was chaos.

And yet from this Chaos, God had a plan.

In the Exodus story, we heard about the Israelites with their backs to that same chaos, the Red Sea. That chaos of the Deep being the only thing more fearsome to them that Pharoah's vengeful army that was closing in on them.

And yet from this Chaos, God had a plan.

In the gospel reading, we hear the story of the two Marys going to the tomb of Jesus. They too are confronted by Chaos, a chaos even more unfathomable and dangerous than the promordial sea. Death is the ultimate Chaos from which no man returns. They had to face the death of the one they had loved, the one they had hoped to be the Messiah.
And yet from this Chaos, God had a plan.

Many people think that Resurrection means only being brought to life again, or, at worst, being merely resuscitated from what only appears to be a deathlike state. But neither of those definitions are totally correct. In both of those cases, the person is brought to life again, but brought back to a life that is still as temporary as it ever was. Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead, but Lazarus, no doubt many years later, died again.

True Resurrection means being raised from the Dead by defeating death, not merely keeping death at bay for a time. True Resurrection takes on the ultimate chaos, and is victorious, not for a time, but forever, for as St Paul teaches us in the epistle reading, “We know that Christ, being raised from the Dead, will never die again; Death no longer has dominion over him.”

By virtue of our baptism and belief in Christ, Death no longer has dominion over us, because we are now members in that resurrected Body of Christ. So no matter what you believe to be your own personal chaos, God has a plan, a plan enunciated in the words of the Angel in the tomb, “Do not be afraid...for he is risen.”


1 comment:

Ian Gallagher said...

Ryan, thanks for the great sermon. The opening bit immediately caught my attention, because I used bits of that prayer from the end of the BCP for a sermon about storms which I gave in London in February.

Glad to read you survived Holy Week. Now this is coming up to the home stretch of seminary. Remind me again where you're off to?

All the best from here (that is, Bremen in NW Germany)