Holy Saturday Easter Vigil – March 26, 2016
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
Quiet, stillness, silence……these words can fill a person with deep peace and tranquility. They can conjure up the peace of listening to the ocean waves, the silence of the deep woods, or the quiet on a garden walk. But sometimes these words instill a sense of anxiety, tension, and even fear. The space between Good Friday and Easter Sunday can be an unnerving one. ELCA Bishop Elizabeth Eaton said in a recent article about Holy Saturday that “I think the space between crucifixion and resurrection – truly terrifying and truly compassionate – beckons us from our life to life in Christ.” The space between crucifixion and resurrection can indeed be a truly terrifying experience.
Voids have a way of evoking uneasiness, and our minds can get carried away in dark directions. Instead of seeing the possibilities, we can fear the worst. “What if this is it?” “What if it never gets better?” “What if all hope is lost?” The space between today and tomorrow can seem to last forever. And in that space we may feel intense pain.
That was especially the case for Mary Magdalene and the other disciples. While it was still dark -making their way through the shadows – they came to the tomb expecting one thing, but discovered something else. They came expecting certainty and what they discovered was emptiness. The stillness, the silence, filled them with anxiety, and worry, and fear. The space between what was and what would be was more than they could bear. What followed was a scene of total chaos. Mary Magdalene frantically running and repeating, “Where is Jesus?” “Where have they taken him?” She was out of her mind with worry. Disciples outrunning each other to see if it was true, then left Mary alone. Mary, weeping uncontrollably, kept searching for answers – searching, and feeling hopeless. The space between crucifixion and resurrection was a frightening place indeed.
And it is for us as well. The space between the known and the unknown can leave us feeling as frantic and frightened as Mary and the disciples. There are so many times in our lives when these spaces of uncertainty overshadow us. Waiting for test results to come back from a school exam, a job interview, or doctor’s lab-work, can be a frightening place to wait. Each hour and day as the time passes we can become more tense. Our minds can begin to fill in the spaces that are silent and still with thoughts that are dark, and critical, and frightening. We can imagine the worse-case scenarios and play them over and over again in our minds like the newscasts that show images of fear that play over and over in our minds. And when we are already feeling hopeless the news reports of violence, terrorism, and disasters fuel the negative and dark forces that try and overtake our minds and spirits. They can lead us to believe that the entire world is falling apart and we may find ourselves like Mary weeping uncontrollably. We want answers, but there are none to be found. And the sound of quiet, stillness, and silence no longer soothes our souls and we don’t recognize that the answers are there waiting to be seen. And something has to break the silence.
“Mary!” “Mary!” The sound of her name breaks the silence and Mary Magdalene turns to see the risen Jesus standing right there next to her. He was there the whole time, but she didn’t recognize him from the weight of her fears. But Jesus’ voice broke through the silence. Jesus’ voice broke through the fear. Jesus’ voice broke through the darkness of death and the light came pouring out. The light of hope. The light of joy. The light of the resurrection. Jesus broke the chains of sin and death just like he promised he would. God raised him up on the third day and proved that there is no power on earth that is stronger than God. There’s no evil on earth that is stronger that God. There’s no problem on earth that is too big for God to handle. Resurrection was standing right in front of Mary and resurrection is standing right in front of us!
We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. And God is already there. God is with us today, in the future, and in the space or void between. For remember that in the beginning of the world, the world was a formless void, but God was there right from the beginning and God will always be there. We may not always feel the presence of God, but just like Mary Magdalene on that first morning, God was already in her midst in the person of the resurrected Christ. Just because we can’t see resurrection doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Resurrection is all around us. We only have to listen to hear the voice of Jesus.
He is calling our name. Each and every one of us. He is calling out and saying look, listen, I am here. I am the resurrection and the life. And tonight we proclaim that we are resurrection people. We believe that life comes from death. We believe that hope springs forth out of the darkness. We believe that resurrection is not only possible, but real. That is what we celebrate this night.
And that is why in the shadows of darkness we have hope. In the darkness before the Easter dawn – in that space of uncertainty – is where it all begins. In the space between the crucifixion and the morning dawn – this Holy Saturday – we keep vigil and begin our joyful celebration because the resurrection is upon us. Resurrection is happening and resurrection will keep on happening. Look around. Listen and believe with the eyes of faith.
We are people of the resurrection. The space between certainty and the unknown need not frighten us because the space between is the birthplace of resurrection and new life. The space between is one of quiet, stillness, and silence in preparation for the breaking forth of new life – new life in ourselves, new life in our families, new life in our congregations, in our communities, and in our world. New life that transforms hate into love, new life that transforms condemnation into compassion, new life that transforms betrayal into forgiveness, new life that transforms bitterness into understanding, new life that transforms everything is touches. New life is the promise of the resurrection. Be not afraid. Sing out in joy! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen!