Saturday, April 15, 2017

Holy Saturday - Vigil of Easter

Genesis 1:1 – 2:3; Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13;
Exodus 14:10 – 15:1; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Jonah 3:1-10; John 20:1-18

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The events of Thursday and Friday threw Jesus’ disciples into confusion and despair. When they saw Him betrayed in Gethsemane by one of their own, arrested and taken away for trial like a common criminal, they all fled in fear that the same fate might befall them as well. When a couple of young women recognized him and exposed him as he looked on from a distance, Peter was afraid and he denied his friend, his master, and his Lord, just as Jesus had told him that he would. Only a precious few stood near His cross as He died. And, when the women returned to His tomb on Sunday morning, they came prepared to anoint a dead body. Such was the darkness, the chaos, and the confusion that ruled those days and nights, just as it was in the beginning when the LORD said, “Let there be Light.” And, there was Light.
In the beginning, the Light of God’s creative Word penetrated and overcame the primordial darkness, bringing order out of chaos. And, even now the Light of that Word made flesh Jesus Christ shines forth from His empty tomb reordering the fallen creation, making all things new. And so, tonight, we remember our holy baptisms in which we were born again and made new by the water and the Word into new life that cannot die. Surely, if we have died with Christ in a death like His, we will also be raised with Him in a resurrection like His. He saved us in the killing flood of baptism, and He delivered us safely through the waters by His mighty hand, gathering us into the Ark of His body, His Church. In His Church, though we are tossed and turned about by the tumultuous waters of our sinful culture and world, and by our own sinful flesh and desires, we float safely through and upon those troubled waters until He returns to deliver us safely home. And so, tonight we wait and watch in hopeful and expectant vigil as we remember that He has come, that He comes now, and that He is coming again, perhaps before the sun rises in the morning.
He has called us through His Spirit-Breath from death to new life in Him. Though we were as dead as dried bones lying strewn about in the Valley of the Shadow of Death in chaos and confusion, by His Word and Spirit the LORD has raised us up to new life and service in His kingdom, a mighty army. Still He breathes His Spirit upon us through His Word and Sacraments that we might “rise each day from the death of sin to live in newness of life” before Him.
Yet, still we succumb to temptation and are fearful and sin. Satan tempts us to believe that our new life is a lie and that God is holding out on us. Therefore, like Jonah, we attempt to resist God and flee from Him, going our own way. But, as Jesus spent three days in the heart of the earth, may we so repent of our sinful unbelief and fear and “embrace our death in Him through Holy Baptism and so proclaim His victory over sin and death to all the world.”
And, as we take up our crosses daily and follow our Good Shepherd through the Valley of the Shadow of death, we remember how the LORD protected Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace of King Nebuchadnezzar. Let us so remember and be strengthened in faith that we might persevere through temptation, suffering, and death, that our God is faithful and will protect and preserve us, and that not even death can defeat us, so that we may “reject all false worship, and live and die in confidence, knowing that we are safe in [His] Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with [the Father] and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”
This night, all fear must be cast out and darkness chased away, for Christ, the Light of the World, is risen and death has been defeated. He has died, and yet He lives and will never die again, and He shares His victory with us. The ancient darkness has been banished forever. Let us rejoice in the brightness of His Light.
“Almighty God, through Your Word and Spirit You most wonderfully created all things, and through the Word made flesh You brought new life to fallen humanity. Grant that in Your mercy we may be conformed to the image of Him Who shares fully in our humanity, even Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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