Romans 6:3—11; Matthew 28:1—10

The Easter Vigil starts in one season and finishes in another.  Tonight we began in the darkness with only the light of the Paschal candle to guide us.  The glimmer of this candle spread and became the glory we now see around us. 

It is because this service stretches from one season to the next, from the despair of Good Friday to the Alleluia of Easter, from the empty tomb to Galilee that it is probably my very favorite service of the church year.

I love the in-between times, and I appreciate that the church, in her wisdom set aside time for us to observe that even God knows what it means to be neither here nor there.  In church speak we call these times liminal spaces.  They are usually times of disorientation, confusion and even chaos, but they are the times that are our bridges, they are the spaces that bring us from one place to the next. 

My preference is usually to go directly from one place to the next.  I do not like spending much time in the middle, in the in-between, but as I so often observe in the stories who share their journeys with me, it is the in-between time in which we spend most of our lives.  Most of my time is spent between Good Friday and Easter morning, the very terrain which we travel together tonight.

And while I love Easter morning, there is something I learn each time I see Easter unfold.  Tomorrow, we will come into church and the sunlight will be beaming through the windows, the flowers will all be out and the first Alleluias will already have been sung.  Tomorrow we gather to proclaim what has already happened.

Tonight, though, we participate in its birthing.  We bring the light into the darkness, we proclaim the victory of life over death, love over hate, hope over despair.  Tonight, we do that together.

Together, we garner the courage to let go of what has been in order to grab onto what God offers us; freedom, peace, hope, love, life.

Sometimes, what God is offering me seems to lie just beyond my reach.  It is as though I am reaching for that item on the top shelf of the cabinet and as I stretch every nerve on the very tips of my toes, my fingertips are able to brush that for which they are reaching, but not grasp it.

When that happens in my heart, when my soul seems to be reaching for something it cannot grasp, often times it is because, while I am reaching for what God is offering me with one hand, my other hand holds tight to whatever it is of which I am terrified to let go. 

One hand reaches, while the other keeps me anchored but held back.  And I stay stuck.  Stuck between Good Friday and Easter; stuck between the empty tomb and Galilee, stuck between what I know and what God has to offer me, if I will just. Let. Go.

There is a sculpture in the office of Christ Church in Cambridge where I served as the Assistant Rector.

Made of brass and wire, it depicts the crucifixion, but places Jesus on a large archer’s bow as his cross.  Not nailed to a tree, one hand is bound to the wire attatched to one end of the bow, his other hand is bound to a wire fixed to the other end.  The metal figure of Jesus is being stretched, his chest opening by the tension from either side of him.

None of us on staff were big fans of this sculpture.  It always appeared a bit gruesome for a first image for visitors to see.

But I have come to appreciate that image of Christ being stretched in the same way I so often feel, stuck between to opposing forces, my very chest seeming to break from the tension.

Looking at that sculpture, I would imagine what would happen to that figure of Jesus if I cut one of the wires holding him in place.  I liked to imaging he would be catapulted forward, free and unbound.

And that’s exactly the moment we celebrate tonight.  The moment when the very thing that was supposed to keep Jesus stuck was broken and he was set free.  Jesus’ death was one side of the bow’s string, his resurrection and new life the other.  Tonight we remember the moment when what kept him bound in death was cut, and Jesus was propelled, free, into his resurrection.

And we are supposed to do likewise.

We talk a great deal about living like Jesus did, loving like Jesus did.  We talk some about dying like Jesus did; dying to the powers of this world that prevent us from living the lives God wants us to live.  But what we don’t talk about as much is joining Christ in his resurrection, breaking free from whatever keeps us stuck, whatever prevents us from grasping what God offers us and catapulting ourselves into our new lives, free from all that holds us back.

Maybe talk of resurrection makes us uncomfortable because we’re not sure we totally get it or believe it.  Neither did Mary Magdelene, the other Mary or the disciples.

Maybe we don’t talk about letting go in order to reach for what God offers us because we are afraid.  So was Mary Magdelene, the other Mary, and the disciples.

We’re in Good company; Mary Magdelene, the other Mary, the disciples and even Jesus, God incarnate, have been in this place before us.  God knows the tension that keeps us stretched, that keeps us stuck.  God was there first.  The women and other disciples followed soon after.  Now it is our turn. 

It is our turn to move toward Galilee, leaving the empty tomb behind.  It is our turn to reach toward Easter, letting go of our grasp on Good Friday.

Now it is for us to let the Love of God intervene, cut the wires that keep us bound and propel us into our new lives of resurrection.

Christ is Risen.  Pray that we might be, too.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!


© 2017 The Reverend Jeffrey W. Mello

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