Easter Vigil Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 26 March 2016
RCL Year C: Genesis 1:1-2:4a [The Story of Creation]; Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 [Israel's deliverance at the Red Sea]; Ezekiel 36:24-28 [A new heart and a new spirit]; Romans 6:3-11; Luke 24:1-12
The women come to the tomb prepared to work,
to tend the dead.
They don't expect to encounter angels, to encounter life,
a new reality.
The women expect one harsh reality. They encounter Good News & go to share it. Why do the disciples react as they do? Why do they not trust what the women say?
Perhaps the disciples' reluctance has deeper roots, as Michael Joseph Brown, interim president & academic dean of Payne Theological Seminary in Dayton, OH, says in his commentary on today's Gospel & he quotes St Augustine.1 Notice these words from St. Augustine centuries ago:
“...the fall of humankind came through a woman, so now the restoration is first proclaimed by women. News of Jesus’ resurrection seems like nonsense in light of the horror of his death by crucifixion…The women reported this to men...These things seemed in their eyes like an idle tale...When Eve related what the serpent had said, she was listened to...A lying woman was believed, & so we all died. But [the disciples] didn’t believe women telling the truth so that we might live. If women are not to be trusted, why did Adam trust Eve? If women are to be trusted, why did the disciples not trust the holy women?”2
St. Augustine asks us challenging questions. Trusting people sometimes takes practice. It takes practice to trust when we encounter the unexpected.
How many times have you heard that in your life?
With practice, we can build self confidence to enter more fully into our work. This doesn't mean we won't make a mistake, as I know from my many mistakes. Each week in worship we practice our faith together. We hear scriptures again & again, like a coach's drill practice or like our fingers repeating musical scales to make them part of who we are. Look how far we've come through tonight's practice session:
We have journeyed from the Garden of Eden to the escape at the Red Sea, to the promise of a new heart, a new spirit God will give us to replace our heart of stone with a heart of flesh. As Easter people we know this happens because the loving heart of flesh that beats within Jesus stops beating on the hard wood of the cross.
God loves us & God redeems us through Jesus' death. Death is not the final word. We proclaim this when we gather in community to celebrate Holy Eucharist. In Holy Eucharist we gain spiritual strength to walk in newness of life that we know by being baptized into Jesus' death, as Paul reminds the Romans & us.
How do we walk in new life?
How long does it take us to live into a new reality?
We see how haltingly, how confused Jesus' followers walk into this new reality. When we see a totally different result than what we have expected, we may have no words to express our befuddled thoughts. When we do have words, the other person may not accept what we say, as we see in our Gospel.
Beloved Brothers & Sisters redeemed by the blood of Jesus, you are embraced by the Love of God.
Guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, return God's embrace.
Embrace the truth that you are profoundly loved.
Embrace others in the truth:
God loves you. No exceptions. All are welcome.
Embrace the fact that you – we – are part of God's miracle3 in this happening community where
we live God's Love.
Brown, Michael Joseph. “Commentary on Luke 24:1-12.” https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2819 Accessed: 26 March 2016.
Johnson, The Rev. Deon. “Practice Resurrection, Easter (C) – 2016”. Accessed: 26 March 2016. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2016/03/16/practice-resurrection-sermon-for-easter-c-2016/
Schenck, Tim. Dust Bunnies in the Basket: Finding God in Lent & Easter. USA: Forward Movement. 2015. www.forwardmovement.org
1 Brown, Michael Joseph. “Commentary on Luke 24:1-12.” https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2819 Accessed: 26 March 2016.
2 Ibid. Brown's footnote: Arthur A. Just, Jr., ed., Luke (InterVarsity, 2003), 376.
3 Note: Idea from Schenck, Tim. Dust Bunnies in the Basket: Finding God in Lent & Easter. P. 60.