Dear friends in Christ: On this most holy night, in which our Lord Jesus passed over from death to life, the Church invites her members, dispersed throughout the world, to gather in vigil and prayer. For this is the Passover of the Lord, in which, by hearing God’s Word and celebrating God’s Sacraments, we share in Christ’s victory over death.

With this ancient call to prayer we began the Great Vigil of Easter, taking our place with Christians dispersed throughout the world, gathered together on this night to hear again the history of God’s saving work in creation, and to take our own. place in that ongoing story.

The prayer declares that this night is the Passover of the Lord. Indeed, it is a night of passages, from chaos to order, from darkness to light, from fear to joy, from slavery to freedom, from despair to hope, from death to life.

Each of our many readings tonight (and we could have done six more) proclaim this theme of passage. We begin with the story of creation, with the universe a formless and chaotic void covered in darkness.

But God was not satisfied with chaotic void, and so God created the heavens and earth, the plants, animals, and human beings. And we passed over from chaos to order, from formless void to this fragile earth, our island home.

Then we joined the Israelites escaping from a life of slavery in Egypt, poised at the edge of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army closing in on them. It seems like a hopeless situation. 

But God parts the sea and the Israelites safely cross it without even getting their feet wet, and in doing so pass over from slavery to freedom.

Next we see the prophet Ezekiel, priest to a people in exile, banished from the promised land because they have forgotten the Lord who led them out of Egypt. Ezekiel looks at his people and their life of exile and despair, a life of nothing more than dry bones.

But God breathes life into those dry bones, and Ezekiel and the people of Israel pass over from despair to hope.

Finally, we go with Mary Magdalene and Mary to the tomb of Jesus, where they plan to anoint the body of their dead friend and Lord. But God again was not satisfied that death be the final answer and so Jesus is raised from the dead.

Jesus passes over from death to resurrection, and Mary Magdalene and Mary pass over from fear to great joy.

Christians are sometimes accused of being too optimistic, of denying the reality of the world and its problems, of the evil that continually confronts the world and us.

But listen closely to the stories we heard tonight. All the problems of the world, all its evil, are honestly portrayed here. Darkness does exist. Fear is real. Slavery, oppression, despair and chaos are among us. Death does happen.

At various times in our lives we have all lived in darkness, known fear and despair, felt the chains of oppression. We have all grieved the death of someone we thought we could not live without and faced the fear of our own death.

We are not here tonight to say that these things do not exist. We are here tonight to proclaim that they are not the final answer.

We are here tonight to praise our God who turns a formless void into a created universe, who brings God’s people out of slavery into freedom, who breathes new life into dry bones, and who finally conquers even death with the resurrection of Christ Jesus.

We are here tonight to proclaim that these stories are our stories, that the God who performed these mighty acts is here with us when we are living in darkness, despair, and fear.

We are here tonight to proclaim that death is not the final word, that the God who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us.

And so we rejoice tonight with the whole of our Mother Church in radiant light, resounding with the praises of her people – praise for a God who was not and is not satisfied with sin and despair, fear and death. A God who raises us all again to new life – restoring our innocence and bringing us great joy.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

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