Tag Archives: Easter Vigil

It’s all Jesus’ fault (Easter Vigil, Year B, 4 April 2015)

Readings
Exodus 14.10-31; 15.20-21
Responsive Reading: Exodus 15.1b-6, 11-13, 17-18 (Canticle of Miriam and Moses)
Mark 16.1–8

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” ― Anne Lamott

It’s all Jesus’ fault.

I can’t read the bible the way I used to, and it’s all Jesus’ fault.

Let me give you an example. One of our readings tonight was from Exodus 15. This reading is always included in an Easter Vigil. It’s a great reading, particularly if you like God utterly crushing his enemies in absolutely spectacular ways.

Horse and rider
are thrown into the sea!

True to the name ‘Lord’,
our God leads in battle,
hurls Pharaoh’s chariots
and army into the sea!

When I was a boy, I could believe in a god who punished his people’s enemies, a god who expected his people to rejoice at the deaths of their enemies.

Not any more.

Not since I realised that Jesus died as an enemy of God’s people. As our enemy. The priests, the crowd saw in Jesus a danger to public safety that needed to be eliminated. Having him put to the grisly death of crucifixion was the surest way to restore public order.

Jesus died as an outlaw, as someone rejected by God, as public enemy number one—but God vindicated him. Any rejoicing at the death of Jesus was short-lived.

The death of Jesus was the crucifixion of God’s incarnate Son. God the Father wept as God the Son suffered, and God the Father still weeps with everyone who suffers.

Jesus calls for his Father to forgive those who are crucifying him. Risen from the grave, he speaks words of peace to disciples who had deserted him.

If Jesus is the Son of God, then God does not throw people into the sea. Perhaps the people of Israel interpreted their victory as the victory of God, as indeed our own countries did at least up until World War One.

But I can’t see it that way anymore, and it’s all Jesus’ fault. Oh, and I blame some of Jesus’ followers too. In particular, today—4 April—I blame Rev Dr Martin Luther King.

Today, 4 April, gives us another reason to remember that God’s ways are peace and non-violence, and to stand with those who suffer. Today is the day the Church remembers Martin Luther King. It was on this day in 1968 that he was shot dead in Memphis, and entered into the peace of his Lord. If you want to gain a little more insight into this disciple of Jesus, I suggest that you see the film Selma when it comes out on DVD if you haven’t seen it yet.

Martin Luther King practised a way of non-violence that has done more to advance the cause of God’s kingdom than any number of acts of violence or terrorism or retaliation against these things. King found the joy of God as he walked this way.

And God’s joy is now for all people too. When prophets like Zephaniah cry,

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!,

God intends all people on earth to hear it whoever and wherever they are. God says

I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.

Not just the outcasts of Israel, but the outcasts of all nations! Everyone is included, and that’s why we can’t read the Exodus story or any other part of the Bible as a simple tale of goodies and baddies. Not any more.

The Exodus story does act as a kind of historical parable of how God deals with the sin and evil in the world, how completely and utterly God deals with it. It is dead and buried. And God says, Step away from evil. Stop your fascination with sin. Join my way.

The Christ of the cross identifies with the suffering and the outcast and the sinner, and calls me and you to join him in doing that. The joy of the risen Christ is for all people on earth, whoever and wherever they are.

I can’t read the bible the way I used to, and it’s all Jesus’ fault.

Thanks be to God.

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Buried with Christ, raised to life—Easter Vigil, Year C (30 March 2013)

Reading
Romans 6.3-11

This is the night when our Saviour Jesus Christ passed from death to life! This is the Passover of Jesus Christ:

Through light and the word,
through water and the bread and wine,
we recall Christ’s death and resurrection,
we share Christ’s triumph over sin and death,
and with invincible hope
we await Christ’s coming again.

This is the night we gather around the new fire to light the new Easter Candle. This is the night we move into the darkened church with our candles lit, the night we sing songs of resurrection, the night we renew our baptismal vows and then share the Easter Eucharist with the risen Lord. (And we get to do it with the Anglicans!) I love this night.

For a few minutes, let’s look at what we’ll be doing next—renewing our baptismal vows. We heard from Paul’s letter to the Romans:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

Do you see what Paul is saying here? Once baptised, we are baptised into Christ’s death. Don’t forget, ‘baptism’ really means to be immersed. It might not look like it our churches, but we go right under the water in baptism. We go down for the third time—in fact, Paul says “we have been buried with him by baptism into death”.

Through baptism, we are dead and buried—to sin. We are dead and buried—to the old ways of living. That’s what happened when we were baptised, even if we were baptised as infants.

That’s why Paul can’t understand it when Christian people still live self-centred lives:

How can we who died to sin go on living in it?

The scandalous truth is: baptised people, who have died to sin, may yet sin. We see that there’s nothing automatic about baptism. We may be dead and buried to sin, but the old self is still active. So Paul says:

we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

We have been buried with Christ. That’s done. Now, we are to “walk in newness of life”. But it’s not automatic. It’s not you are buried with Christ and you ‘automatically’ walk in newness of life, but you are buried with Christ so that you may walk in newness of life.

Once we realise who we are—people buried with Christ, dead to the old ways of the world—we can start to reorientate ourselves. We can start to live as part of the new creation that the Resurrection of Jesus has brought into being.

Yes, we fail, that’s why we need nights like tonight. A night in which we reaffirm our baptismal vows; in which we together proclaim the Faith of the Church in the words of the Apostles’ Creed; and in which we remind ourselves that we are marked with the sign of the cross. And where here, at least, we do it ecumenically.

Paul goes on to remind us of our great hope:

…if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his…if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

We walk in faith, we live by hope. We have been untied with Christ, one day we shall be like him. Baptism isn’t automatic, but it is grace. God redeems us; God sanctifies us; God will transform us so that one day, we may be his children in every fibre of our being.

What can we say? Thanks be to God! Alleluia!

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Easter Vigil (Year A, 23 April 2011)

A shared and bigger future together

Gospel Reading
Matthew 28.1-10

Richard Rohr says it so well, as usual, and much better than I can. From his Daily Meditations, 1 January 2011:

The raising up of Jesus is not a showy miracle on God’s part, but God’s eternal promise to humanity of a FUTURE that we can enter and trust together.

On a recent day of prayer, I did some Scripture study on the four Gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus. Something became very clear to me that I had never seen before!

The texts do not really emphasise a miraculous ‘returning’ of Jesus’ body, nearly as much as Jesus’ new cosmic body leading us ‘forward!’

Note that he sends his disciples forward into Galilee (Matthew 28.7), into the whole world (Mark 16.20), into their own futures (Acts 1.11)—and without any baggage from the past. Continue reading

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