Saturday 26th March 2016, The Easter Vigil

by Revd Chris Palmer

at Christ Church Colliers Wood

We are here tonight because of life, because of joy. And we are celebrating that this life and this joy are for us. The life of Jesus is not something out there - just a doctrine, an event in the past, something we merely observe. The life of Jesus is life for us – we are caught up in it, we are risen with Christ, we also are alive.

This is expressed in the liturgy in three ways. In the passing of the light, so that the light of the Easter Candle, Christ our Light, spreads out are we each get a part of it. In the celebration of baptism, in which we die and rise with Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist, in which the life of the risen Jesus becomes our sustenance and joy.

And our prayer tonight is to beg God that we will rejoice and be glad intensely at the glory and joy of Christ our Lord.

And that’s everything. Tonight is not the moment for worthy self-improvement, for wondering what the resurrection of Jesus means for the world politics or community relations. Please don’t misunderstand me – these are all important things, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ does speak into these things.

But tonight, here in this place, we are invited simple to joy.

And please don’t try to manufacture this joy. It is a gift of God that comes only from surrender, from giving up the fight, from letting go.

The risen Jesus was filled with joy – because he chosen to let go, to surrender, to stop fighting on Good Friday. The life he received came as nothing but grace. He did not raise himself from the dead. The Father raised the Son by the power of the Spirit and gave him life.

The fact that you and here tonight, is a way of making yourself available to this joy. That is true in every act of worship, every time of prayer. But tonight is the special one. The Easter Vigil is the high point of the church’s year. There is no more important service. O, I know that’s not the popular view. The many come on Easter morning and at Christmas – and also on Mothering Sunday and Harvest and Remembrance Day, which aren’t really festivals of the Christian calendar at all.

But tonight is the real feast, the night of all nights when everything is changed:
Light shines in the darkness
Love overcomes hatred
Forgiveness redeems sin
Joy conquers despair
Mercy defeats vengeance
Life triumphs over death

Don’t worry if you feel unworthy, if the rest of Holy Week has passed you by, if you’ve not paid God much attention for a while, if you’ve arrived with an argument fresh in your mind, or reciting why you’re in the right and others are in the wrong, or if you’re feeling guilty, or if you’re worried you’re a fraud.

The resurrection of Jesus blows apart the whole worthy/unworthy, deserving/undeserving, righteous/sinful schemes into which we organise humanity. There is only ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven in the new creation, in the resurrection world.

So open those lungs and sing out. Open your hearts and let God love you. Open your eyes and see his glory in the faces of those around. Christ is risen from the dead! We are risen from the dead! Alleluia!