Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Transformed in the Tomb


April 3, 2021 – Easter Vigil, Year B

© 2021 Evan D. Garner

Audio of this sermon is available here. Video of the service can be seen here.

The women come to the tomb in grief but leave in ecstatic wonder. They come cloaked with doubt but leave aglow with amazement. They come bearing a particular intention but leave in the spirit of pure possibility. They come under the shadow of death but leave having been raised to new life. 

The women’s faithfulness transcends our own. They came to the tomb not because they expected it to be empty but because they loved Jesus enough to anoint his dead body. And, because of that love, they became vessels for the miracle of the resurrection. God revealed to them Christ’s great victory over death not because they were prepared to explain it to others but because their love gave them the capacity to encounter it in the first place. The terror and dread with which they ran away were not signs of their failure but of their faithful encounter with the pure holiness of God. 

On this holiest of nights, we gather within the tomb, after it has been emptied of its lifeless body yet before the women have come to discover its glorious truth. We gather, therefore, in the presence of the risen, triumphant Christ, who is here with us, among us. Tomorrow morning, we will see for ourselves what the women saw. We will hear their testimony and behold the bewildering truth for ourselves. But, tonight, our wait within this holy place, where sin is defeated and where death itself is put to flight, finds its fulfillment. Our waiting, our longing, our yearning is over. The risen Christ is here in our midst, and we are transformed. Alleluia!

And yet, in a way that surpasses our understanding of time and space, we come into this sacred tomb only as inheritors of those women’s love. We gather here because their love has shown us what will take place this night. We come to the tomb as they did, following their example, and so, despite all that we already know about this holy night, we, too, bring with us our own uncertainties and incompletenesses. We carry our grief and our doubt into the tomb because we dare to hope that what those women found will be true for us as well. We dare to believe that God’s great gift of love will come to us as it came to them.

The women have taught us that faithfulness is not the same thing as understanding. They have shown us that transformation precedes realization. So we come, having received from them what they know yet hoping to learn it all over again—that in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has overcome anything that would stand in the way of God’s love for us.

Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!

Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
From John Chrysostom’s Easter Sermon

We have come to the tomb carrying with us all our grief, but now we leave in ecstatic wonder. We have come bearing the weight of all our doubt, but now we leave beaming with the fresh glow of amazement. We have come with all our particular intentions—for ourselves, for our lives, for those we love—but now we leave having been given the spirit of pure possibility. We have come shrouded in the shadow of death, but now we leave having been raised with Christ to new and unending life. Alleluia!

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