Sermon; Easter Vigil 2018
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep . . . And God said, “Let there be light.”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Early on the first day of the week while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb.
We have just come through some dark days. Last week after the celebratory procession, the singing of “All glory, laud, and honor,” after waving our palm branches, we turned around and shouted, “Crucify him!” On Thursday we ate the final meal, betrayed and abandoned him. Friday we denied knowing him and, once again, shouted, “Crucify him!” And yesterday we sat in stunned quiet as we came to terms with the fact that Christ was indeed dead and buried. Dark days indeed.
But have you noticed that God seems to be most active and most present in the dark?
In the dark, God said, “Let there be light.”
In the dark days of Noah, God provided a mode of survival and a covenant of new life.
In the dark days of slavery, God raised up Moses and gave the Israelites the bright beacon of freedom. In the beginning, while it was dark, was the Word, and the darkness did not overcome it.
In the dark the women went to the tomb, but resurrection had already happened because the darkness could not contain the light of Christ.
Our service began in the dark, but the light of Christ shown forth and was not overcome.
These examples are important for both recognizing and proclaiming God.
On the one hand we recognize that God is the God of life and light. That is certainly true. But this can lead us to seeing God present only in the good times, only in times of light. If not challenged, it can lead to that pernicious interpretation that if you have the right type of faith God will reward you with health, wealth, and abundance.
But if we look closely, that's not how God acts, nor is it where God dwells most often. God dwells in the darkness because God's light cannot be overcome. If God weren't there, all would be dark and there would be no hope.
We experience dark days during the loss of a loved one. Whether a sudden death or an expected death, it doesn't matter; either way, death brings darkness into our lives. But the light of resurrection shines there and the darkness will be vanquished because that's where God dwells.
We live in dark days of financial instability or insecurity. We live in dark days of political turmoil. Our history is full of the dark days of slavery, oppression, and other injustices. We live in dark days of inequality and rising hatred of the Other. And we still live in dark days where some lives are more valuable than others. It's very apparent that we have a long way to go before reaching the light and fulfillment of God's kingdom.
It may seem that all is darkness. It may seem that all is lost. Sometimes that darkness and hopelessness overwhelms us and paralyzes us. That seems as likely an explanation for how the gospel story ends: So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
You can't really blame them. Not only did they live through the actual events of the first Holy Week and all that darkness, but now the body of their friend was gone.
What those women had yet to learn, at least in Mark's account, was that Jesus is the Son of God, the Second person of the Trinity, the God of light and life, and the God who dwells in the darkness, because it is there where he shines most brightly.
In the beginning, God said, “Let there be light.”
In the darkness the fire is kindled.
Three times the procession stops and we proclaim, “The Light of Christ. Thanks be to God.”
At the appropriate time we joyfully and loudly proclaimed, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!” as candles and light burst forth to banish the darkness.
We all experience dark times. But know this – the God of life and light dwells in the darkness because it is there where the light of God shines brightest. That light shines in the darkness and it is not overcome.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
And the light was not overcome.