Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Easter Vigil

       I’m sure many of you have heard the term “postmodern”. It is a term to describe the age we are living in right now. It basically describes a cultural shift. It is a way of saying we think differently than people did 200 years ago, or even 75 years ago. One of the markers of being postmodern in North America is that we don’t have a shared story anymore. We don’t really have a big over-arching story that gives our lives meaning that we all rely on and can look at for hope and direction. We don’t have a story that tells us where human history is heading.  For example, not too many years ago we had a story that told us technology would save us. Eventually these really smart scientists would invent things that would solve all our problems, but then we saw the invention of the atom bomb, napalm, and smart missiles. So there is a growing feeling that we are not heading in a positive direction and that technology will not ultimately save us.
  Instead we have a jumble of stories and we aren’t really sure which story is right, or if any of them are right. We don’t even like the concept that one story might be right, we’d like to think they are all right, in some way. Part of us doesn’t really buy that they could all be right because they all have parts that are very different, so what we are really hoping for is a story behind the stories.
The biggest story in our lives tells us that the universe is meaningless and random. The universe is a big soup of chemicals and energies that are all reacting against each other according to the laws of physics. The fact we are here at all is a happy accident. The wish for anything more is just wishful hoping and fantasy and a resistance to “growing up”. In this story there is no real meaning in the universe. Ultimately it is all about a soup of particles and energy.     
       That big story is what usually has a grip on us. Because there is no real meaning, we find meaning in our own lives with hobbies and special interests and friends and family. They give life meaning from day to day, but in the back of our minds we know that there is an all-consuming darkness that will swallow it all up. People we care about will die. The things we care about will eventually be forgotten as the times change. We hope for life after death, but we don’t usually live like it. We might hope for God, but we usually don’t live like He is King over our lives, let alone over the universe.    
Most of us, day to day, live this way. Our bank accounts show it by the way we spend our money. Our lives show it by the way we spend our time. Time spent in prayer, bible study, watching TV,  YouTube, on Facebook.  What books do we read? The way we spend our time shows us what we actually believe about the universe. How do we treat people? How do we treat cashiers, and servers, and coffee baristas? How do we treat our children?  Do we care about our character? Do we exert effort to become good people? The way we answer these questions reveals what we actually believe about the universe we live in and who rules it, or if anyone rules it. What we believe has less to do with what we say we believe and has more to do with how we live.  What story governs our lives?
    The disciples had their story taken away from them. They believed Jesus was the messiah. They saw him perform powerful acts. He healed people. He walked on water. He took on the authorities of his day. He taught people profound truths and challenged them to trust in him. He came into Jerusalem on a donkey and was hailed as the new King. For the disciples the rest of the story meant cleansing the temple from all hypocrisy and restoring true worship and then taking over the government and ridding the country of corrupt rulers and foreign armies and ruling forever as a benevolent king who is filled with God’s power. ….
That’s not how the story went though. Jesus did come into Jerusalem and was welcomed as a king.  And he did cleanse the temple by running out those who were turning the temple into a market instead of a place of prayer. Then blind and sick people came to him and he cured them and he started teaching the people about God and his Kingdom. He challenged the corruption of the leadership. … But, then things didn’t go according to the story the disciples were expecting. Jesus was taken by the authorities and Jesus didn’t even try to escape or avoid being arrested. He was taken, tortured, and nailed to a cross as a criminal. Then his body was laid in a tomb. The first Good Friday was not good at all. The first Holy Saturday didn’t feel holy at all. It was a day of darkness. Their story was taken from them. Their story died with Jesus.  
That first Holy Saturday they were left in a world without a story that made sense of the world. They thought Jesus was the one to trust, but now he was gone and besides that, he wasn’t who they expected him to be.  They didn’t know where to turn. They didn’t know what would direct their life. They had given their life to him for three years. Now what? They have been scattered? One of their own betrayed him and hung himself. The chief disciple, Peter, denied him. They were huddled in hopeless darkness wondering if a cross was waiting for each of them in the coming days. Their lives for the last three years must have seemed meaningless. Jesus is dead.       
           But… Jesus doesn’t stay dead. While the sky is just starting to brighten with morning light Mary Magdalene and the other Mary come to the tomb. Guards tremble and faint at the sight of an angel who moved the large stone that covered the entrance to the tomb. The women soon realize they have underestimated the power of God. Their whole world is shaken again as they are told that Jesus is alive again. Their hopes are reignited and their story has come back to life.  They are filled with fear and great joy.
The fear that they felt was an overwhelming sense of God’s power. It is the feeling that would come over you if you could see the angels that I believe are present here among us. It is the feeling that would come over you if you saw the power present in the bread and wine and the nonchalance with which we often receive it. That awe is the feeling that would come over us if suddenly people present here were being healed from their illnesses. Awe, or fear, is the feeling that would come over you when you suddenly realize you are really in God’s presence and He sees you and he really is the powerful being that created the universe. It is the feeling that comes over you when you realize you are in God’s story and didn’t fully realize it.  
That awe is what comes over you when you realize suddenly that we don’t live in a universe that is full of particles and energies randomly interacting. We live in a universe created and sustained by an intelligent being and that Being has come to show us who He is through Jesus Christ. And more than that, He invites you to be a part of his life- to be immersed in his life as you are covered with waters of baptism. He invites you into a life where your death will not be the end of your life. He invites you into a life that will never end. He invites you into a life free from Sin, and a life where you actually do know Him and hear from Him and interact with Him.  He invites you into His Story.

Tonight we are invited to re-commit ourselves to the story we are a part of, and to once again place ourselves under the rule of our servant-king who washes our feet and died to save us from sin and death.  Jesus Christ is the ruler of the universe and he invites to into his story. 

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