We gather at night to celebrate the Light.
There is meaning in this, is there not? To be a Christian means that we belong to a truth that says that light pierces the darkness, even as forces of darkness pierced the body of our Savior and God. Witness the tiny flicker of flame borne aloft on the Paschal Candle, literally, the candle of suffering that bears the nails, this year’s nails, that are stabbed into its beeswax flesh.
The wounds to the body of Jesus, though fatal, are not the ultimate end of our truth.
Christians believe that when night surrounds and envelops us, we are not afraid, not without hope. Ezekiel’s dry bones, the detritus of our despair, are being joined together in a joyful rattle. Sinews and tendons and ligaments are again covering their powdery surfaces. Muscles, blood, flesh and skin are covering faces long forgotten. And soon there will be dancing and eating and drinking in community. What had been torn apart, is being brought together. This is what God keeps doing, in spite of us.
We know tearing. We know what it means to be torn apart. We know the impulse among us and within us that says, “It would be better if that person were no longer among us.” Some of us have even heard a voice within us say, “It would be better if I was no longer here among the living.” We know the human tendency to discard other humans, presuming to know what God wants with the creation God has not yet completed. We know that night, that darkness.
But nevertheless, in spite of this night, notwithstanding that gloom and despair and loss and grief, we gather around this flame, newly kindled. That flame is ignited by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit that enters our night in answer to our flickering hope.
Tonight, we celebrate and shout “Alleluia!” for the life that God insists on giving us, whether we are ready or not, whether we feel we deserve it or not. Whether we actually deserve it or not. And let’s be honest-for our times demand honesty–we don’t deserve it.
Whenever we come together when the ways of night would keep us alone and a part, there is a Rising. Whenever we look kindly on each other as a child of God when the world would prefer you see a label or a bumper sticker, there is Resurrection. (By the way, I am not much interested in renewing a church as the voice of a new religious left or right. Good Friday teaches us that such labels only lead to our mutual assured crucifixions. Rather let us renew our dedication to the more costly and holy work of recognizing the child of God in those whom our labels hide, mar, and disguise in masks that may even disgust us.) Wherever we reach out to someone in pain, not to say anything we may think wise, but simply to share a loving presence, there is Resurrection. Whenever we welcome a stranger, teach a child, or allow a child to teach us how to see the world freshly made, there is New Life bursting. Wherever we strive peaceably to seek the truth, among those with whom we are in conflict, we can hear the joyful rattling of bones coming together in true re-lig-ament–that is, true religion. This is God’s new creation.
We celebrate not only the rising of one human being, the spark of diving light that emerged from a damp and dark tomb two millennia ago. We celebrate the myriad and infinite ways that God is raising us, too. Even in the night of the present time. All of us, you and me, this whole fractured world, are being re-woven in a new Body, the risen Body of Jesus Christ, in whom the whole creation, lives and breathes again. And so we sing in the dark and in the light. Alleluia!
This is the night of our birthing into a new day. Alleluia. Let us go out of our tombs and live again. Alleluia.
Bishop A. Robert Hirschfeld