St. Paul’s Nanaimo
April 20, 2019 Easter Vigil
Our God is a relational God. In other words, our experience of God is known in and through our relationships – with God and with neighbour. Jesus exemplifies this - Jesus did not come to do mass healings or to put things straight in the world. No, he modeled for us the way of true change – personal and loving interactions; trust in a God who acts through people. No panic, no rush. Faithfully, he took the time to respond to each situation as it arose; each person he met - challenging, encouraging and loving those with whom he came in contact.
We are here tonight because of people in generations past who kept the stories of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection alive and added their experiences and stories. We are of this lineage. People who trust God, who respond faithfully, and who share the stories with others.
And each of us will have our own unique way of sharing the story of our faith journey with others.
Some people will not believe our story; others will not be interested. In tonight’s reading the women who come to the tomb only to find it empty are not believed by their fellow disciples. Peter needs to see for himself. Only then can he believe. And that hands on experience fuels his journey as a disciple for the years to come.
Most of us go through times where we don’t believe, or where we forget. But then something will happen that makes us believe again. Some experience, someone’s story tugs at something very deep within us, calling us back into relationship with God. And the journey continues. Anew.
On this night, twenty-five years ago, I was baptized. So I am celebrating!
I came into awareness of my relationship with God over a long period of time, but resisted the story of Jesus with the kind of skeptism rampant in our society at this time. I was looking for a God I could understand, tame and control. Not someone who died and came back to life. Preposterous!
But God does not make sense to our minds. God speaks the language of our hearts. In ways our minds cannot ask for, or imagine. And God calls from the future, not the past - “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen,” the women who have come to the tomb are told.
Don’t try to rationalize, don’t think you can control, don’t think your way there. Just be open. Any god worth being in relationship with is a god who will take you beyond yourself into the divine relationship for which you were created.
We say the words all the time: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” But do we hear what we are saying? These are wild, unimaginable, hopeful words.
I spent a year receiving instruction in the teaching of the church. And after being baptized at the Easter Vigil, that instruction came to a halt. I felt like I had been “done,” another number added to the ranks.
How different than in the years after Jesus died! People spent a long time preparing for baptism. A couple of years. You had to be serious, committed. It could be dangerous to be seen even affiliating with followers of Jesus. You really had to want to be part of that community of followers; a lot was demanded of you. You couldn’t partake in the sharing of bread and wine. That intimate sacrament was only for the initiated.
On the day of your baptism, you would be fully immersed in water. When you were pulled out of the water, someone would turn you in the opposite direction that you had been facing when you entered the water. This turning indicated the start of a new journey. You were just beginning. In community, you would be supported in living out this new life; a life following Jesus. You would be fed by word and sacrament, and encouraged and challenged to grow in confidence, wisdom and love. You depended on your community and on God.
Every Easter, we are given the opportunity to wake up to new life, to turn once again to follow the One who came to show us the way.
So tonight, let us recommit ourselves to the journey.
And give thanks to God for the Word and Sacrament that keep us alive to truth and love, for the community of believers we are so blessed to be part of. Amen.