Easter Vigil sermon

I preached at the Easter Vigil at field ed this year. Our vigil isn’t the most popular of our Easter services (It hasn’t quite caught on in this particular parish just yet) but it’s my favorite. The clergy selected every reading they could find that mentioned water when choosing the readings for the salvation history this year. So I preached about water. The following isn’t long because I think there are too many other things going on at an Easter Vigil to make a long sermon a good idea. I also don’t really like Easter Vigil sermons; I think we should focus on getting the rest of the service right so the liturgy speaks for itself. All that said, here it is.
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We shall draw water with rejoicing from the springs of salvation.

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As human beings we probably have a more complicated relationship with water than with any other substance. Water is a deceptively simple molecule; just two hydrogen atoms bonded to an oxygen atom, yet to us it is the stuff of life and death, of joy and sorrow, of suffering and delight. Our bodies are mostly water. We must consume a certain amount of it every day in order to survive. We cook with it, bathe in it. We have countless names for water in its many forms. We talk about rain, drizzle, snow, sleet, hail, ice, steam, fog, frost, downpours, torrents, spitting, mist, and flurries. We have rivers, lakes, streams, springs, pools, gullies, creeks, ponds, waterfalls, oceans, bays, seas and lagoons.

There is something about water that enchants us. For those of us who have power and resources, water is a source of great delight. Real estate on the water is generally worth more than land without a water view. Many of us can sit on the beach and stare at the waves for hours. We loved running through water sprinklers as children, and even as adults many of us love to swim, or wade in water. We enjoy fountains, spend days at water parks, and crave the chance to spend time on the water in the vessel of our choice, whether that be a kayak, a sailboat, or a cruise ship.

Without water there is death. Nothing grows, the ground dries up and turns to dust, and fire, famine, and often war descend. In some parts of the world the daily search for drinkable water consumes most of the energy of the average woman or girl, the never-ending struggle to find enough swallowing up time that might otherwise be used for education or employment.

And as deadly as water can be when it can’t be found or when the rain doesn’t come, it is also deadly if the balance is shifted the other way. We fear water as much as we love it. We may find joy in swimming in it, but if you’ve ever gone body surfing in a rough ocean, you know that a fun experience can quickly turn scary when you find yourself trapped under a breaker, wondering which way is up and running out of air. The images of tsunamis, the flooding after Katrina, and the recent flooding in the Midwest remind us that too much water causes devastation. Water destroys, drowns, decays, uproots, wears away, and tears down.

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From the very beginning, remembering that Jesus was baptized in water, Christians have used a rite involving water to bring new members into the faith community. For almost 2000 years converts to Christ, followers of the Way, have been baptized in the name of the triune God who created us, saved us from the power of death, and who sustains and inspires us day and night throughout our lives. In baptism we use water to symbolize our death, burial and rising to new life with Christ. Water is the stuff of life and death, and in baptism it is transformed into death overcome and new life begun.

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Just a little while ago we renewed our baptismal vows, and water was sprinkled, well maybe more like thrown, or splashed, on all of us. You might still be feeling a bit soggy; well, in fact, I kind of hope you are.

Here’s why: In our worship we use lots of words… we use words that are familiar and comforting, words that are inspiring, words that teach and challenge and embrace us with their power and their meaning. But we are incarnate creatures, mind, spirit, and body, and so in our worship we are given chances to experience what our words describe. Especially on this night, in this a worship service that has remained unchanged in its central elements since the early church, we live the story of our salvation. In the darkness we remember the despair and the sealed tomb, and in the kindling of the first fire of Easter we remember the first light of dawn and the joy of discovering that He Is Risen! Soon we will share the bread and the wine, and whether you’ve been to the communion rail hundreds of times or never before tonight, as you taste the doughy sweetness of the bread and the sharpness of the wine, you will become one of the disciples, a close friend, sitting at table, sharing a meal with Jesus. And with the water that was splashed on each of us tonight, we remember our baptisms… regardless of we were sprinkled with water from a delicate little shell or immersed in the ocean. So feeling a bit soggy tonight helps remind that baptism is the foundation of who we are, and that our response to the love our God has shown for us in cross, tomb, and resurrection is embodied, encoded, in our baptismal vows.

Because we have been buried and raised with Christ we renounce evil and turn our ways towards the ways of God. Because death no longer has a grip on us, we are free to live new lives, striving for peace and justice, promoting the dignity of every single fellow human being on this earth. Because through baptism we have been transformed into the Body of Christ in the world, we leave this place and go out to be his hands and feet, bringing compassion and mercy to a desperately thirsty world.

And because on tonight of all nights, we celebrate Christ crucified and risen, we live without fear, but instead rejoice, crying out Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, and from now on drawing water, the water of life and not of death, from the springs of salvation.

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~ by Sophia on April 13, 2009.

2 Responses to “Easter Vigil sermon”

  1. The former lifeguard in me really loves this sermon.

  2. well done – i cant imagine preaching at the Vigil, – so much else going on, as you ay, but this is good. Hope you managed to enjoy the worship too

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