A Sermon for the Great Easter Vigil

Saturday, April 16, 2022

By: Kilpy Singer, Director of Youth Ministries


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be pleasing in your sight oh Lord, our Rock and Redeemer.

Darkness. Suffocating darkness. This is where we find the first witnesses of the resurrection, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. In a state of disbelief and confusion and darkness. Just hours before, he was crucified. They saw it themselves. They heard his cry. They saw his last breath. He was dead. Now, they’ve come to his tomb with spices to help with the stench, a practical but tender act of love. They approach, hoping to find some closure. But the stone is rolled away, and they look in, and all they see is darkness.

They’re looking around in the shadows of the empty tomb then at each other. They are in such shock from the events of the last several days and the soul-crushing outcome, and now, after all that, his body is missing. It’s gone. Stolen, maybe? What a perplexing, exhausting thing to have to deal with on top of the heavy weight of grief that they already carry.

It’s strange though, isn’t it, that they don’t connect the dots? We know what happens next, but they don’t see it. They had followed Jesus in his ministry and professed him to be Messiah, but the shock of his death seems to have distracted, if not totally paralyzed, them. “Why are they surprised? Don’t they remember?” Had the darkness of the last few days made them forget how Jesus said that he would die, that it wouldn’t be the end, or do they just not believe it anymore?

Darkness has a way of messing us up like that. It distorts reality, distracts us from what we once believed in or knew to be true. Have you ever had that experience when you find yourself awake, in the middle of the night, staring at the ceiling, believing things you never would in the light of day? “I’m pretty sure everyone in my life hates me, and I’m a complete failure, and life is meaningless.” Of course, it’s not true, but something about the shadows of night makes the mind bend in weird ways. Or have you gotten so deep into the news, a 24-hour reel of tragedy, the news of war, and of hatred, and of gun violence, and of environmental destruction, that you’ve confused it for the whole picture, and convinced yourself that there is nothing else? Nothing left?

Like the women at the tomb that day, we look around and we only see darkness. The shadows consume us. And we jump to conclusions that just aren’t true. We look around and we, too, convince ourselves that Jesus is missing, he’s gone.

Even though we’ve followed Jesus and know the gospel to be true, the darkness distracts and distorts what’s around us. We think failure and death and destruction have the final word on our lives and this world.

But, for all the sway that the dark can have, it’s funny how quickly it can be disarmed. It takes only a sliver of light to cut right through even the deepest darkness. A single shining star to penetrate the night sky.

And after that darkest of nights, when we humans murdered God, the angels appear to Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary with the rising of the sun. They stand beside the women, in their clothes of dazzling white, and proclaim to the women what they knew to be true, but had only forgotten. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you?”

In the night, the tomb seemed like the final blow of death. The shadows tried to tell a different story. But in the morning light, the emptiness could be seen for what it really was- the site of to the resurrection. It’s not empty because death has won. It’s empty because death has been undone. He is not here because he has risen. And just like that, with the angelic light and the dawning of the day, the women remember, and the darkness doesn’t seem so dark anymore, and death doesn’t seem so final.

And this night, we too have witnessed that light. We have witnessed that remarkable ability of a single flame to cut through the darkness that entraps us. The Paschal Candle has guided us to this place, as led us through prayer and scripture and praise, to the dawn of that new day, the morning when Christ rose from the dead.

And we remember. We remember that the things which torment us at night look like foolishness in the morning. We remember that the despair which plagues this world holds no grip on the new creation that is coming. We remember that the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ casts out the power of death and that the Eternal Light of Christ is life for the whole world.

Our remembering is not just for ourselves though. We don’t witness the Light of Christ only to keep it to ourselves. What if the women that morning heard from the angels then kept it hidden in their hearts? Thanks be to God, they received the light, and they ran, and they shared it with others, knowing that it only takes a flame to start a wildfire.

And so we sit here now at this most holy vigil, generations and generations later, recipients of that light, receivers of those women’s story. And we remember how it still shines and spreads, even when the darkness tries to tell us otherwise. And I can think of no better way to witness to this reality right now than with the baptism of Kathryn and Jim.

In just a few moments, they will receive the sacrament and with it, a candle lit from the Paschal Candle, a symbol of the Light of Christ that is theirs to receive, to carry, and to spread. And united as brothers and sisters in Christ we will leave this place, renewed and reminded and ready to proclaim that he is risen.