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The Great Vigil of Easter - April 16, 2022

Part of me wants to be offended that the male disciples don’t believe the women when they bring the news of the resurrection.

Part of me wants to walk up behind those dudes and flick them in the back of the head and say, “Sit up straight and listen! This lady is telling you something that will change the world, and here you are being kind of a dismissive twit about it."

I want to be offended that the disciples don’t believe the women.

Except that I know that I wouldn't have believed them either.

The first time I came to this service a decade ago, I was overwhelmed at the beauty and sensory experience of it. I loved it.

I wasn't so sure, however, about this whole resurrection thing.

This is the night. This is the night, the deacon sang, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave.

As it turns out, my reaction to the news of this most holy of nights was much like that of the male disciples - "Oh, that's a sweet sentiment, darling, but it's the kind of nonsense that weak minded people believe." - I mean, they s aid it, not me.

I am, by nature, a bit of a skeptic. Or at least Quietly suspicious.

I think there's a lot of us out there, but we don't always say the quiet parts out loud.

My fellow quiet skeptics - at least we’ve got decent company. As you just heard in the Gospel reading, for most of the people who knew Jesus best, the knowledge of the resurrection was something that they initially rejected.

These skeptical disciples were men with broken hearts. Human beings whose whole lives had fallen apart. They’d given up their jobs to follow Jesus. Some had given up their homes and families to follow Jesus. And then one night after supper, Jesus lead them out to pray, as he had done many times.

Their beloved teacher was arrested like a criminal,

violently taken from them,

crucified, died, and was buried.

But they had hoped that he was the one who would redeem them.1

I wonder what they turned to in their grief? I wonder how they numbed the pain of their disappointment?

I wonder where THEY looked for life among the dead?

Because, see, that’s what we do, isn’t it?

If we’ve had our hopes dashed, we try to protect ourselves from hoping again.

We won’t be the ones to look silly for what we believe.

We won’t be the ones to be taken advantage of. Not us.

We won’t be the ones to have to feel that pain again.

The problem with building up these defenses is: when real hope comes, we’re pre-positioned to dismiss it.

I think the angel’s question to the women might have been a good question for the reluctant disciples

And is a good question for all of us with broken hope

Why do you look for life among the dead?

He’s not here. He is risen!

What the women bring with them from the empty tomb is what my favorite Christmas song calls “the thrill of hope.”2

Yes, I know this is Easter not Christmas, but can you do better than:

Long lay the world, in sin and error pining


til he appeared and the soul felt its worth

The thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices, for yonder breaks

A new and glorious morn.

The women bear with them the thrill of hope:

Evil does not win out.

Death does not have the last word.

A new world is on the horizon.

A new, courageous type of life is possible.

Good news, quiet skeptics - though the disciples around that table initially scoffed - their unbelief wasn’t the end of their story. There are more pages.

Our Gospel tonight ends with Peter saying “I have to see this for myself” and he jumps up and goes.

The disciples are not condemned for their initial skepticism

The risen Jesus will invite them to see for themselves.

For many - if not most - of them, the new reality of the resurrection hits them gradually. It was only later, encountering the risen Jesus over broken bread, scripture reflection, and struggling forward in community that they became fully aware of the awesome thing that had happened in their midst. For most of the crew, it took time for the utter devastation of Good Friday to be turned into the thrill of hope brought by Easter morning.

It happened in breaking bread.

It happened with an eye on the scriptures.

It happened in community with each other.

The resurrection is the pivotal story of our Christian faith.

“This is the night,” the deacon chants, “when all who believe in Christ are delivered form the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life.”

This is the night, when we're invited into a more full and courageous way of being.

But for some of us, it may take a little longer than this one night.

And that’s okay.

The Good News is: You are invited to see for yourself.

It's taken time, but God has turned my quiet suspicion into a quiet hope.

The kind of hope that acknowledges that what starts in darkness

Doesn't have to end there.

A belief that, in time, God is turning things right-side up.

A new and glorious morn is just over the horizon.

So, if you can’t yet find the thrill of hope in the resurrection story.

Maybe some of the other images we've heard tonight about God's action in the world, resonate instead:

  • God, gathering up exiles and giving them a home.

  • God, putting new flesh onto dry bones.

  • God, redeeming God's people out of slavery.

  • God, making a way where there seemed to be no way.

  • God breathing life into creation, and calling it very good.

And if you can't feel the thrill of hope as a thread running through the scriptures,

Maybe just look around the room.

A community of people who have no business caring for each other.

People born and raised in this church next to people

that maybe never expected to be in a church again.

Showing up for each other and loving each other.

What built that?

God’s redemptive power built that.

The power to put death to death, the power to give exiles a home, the power to breathe new life, the power to part the waters, the power to create and bless and call it all good.

The power that the women tell us about when they come back, breathless, from the empty tomb.

A power that, despite our skepticism, entices us to come and see for ourselves.

The thrill of hope.

A weary soul rejoices.

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Alleluia, He is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!

1 - they say this of Jesus in very next passage in Luke, the story of the road to Emmaus Luke 24:13-??

2 - O Holy Night

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