Since 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon the Church has been in limbo … a nowhere place of desolation, death and despair.
After the celebration of Jesus’ words and actions at the Last Supper we marked Jesus’ entry into the time of his Agony by stripping the church of all its adornments.
We then gathered at the foot of the cross as we reflected upon the last moments of his human Incarnation.
Since then … there has been nothing!
The bell has not rung to summon the faithful to prayer … like the first disciples we have offered our prayers, but in secret … behind our locked front doors.
But now … we find ourselves in a very different place … the new fire has been lit … the Paschal candle shines out once again as we once again cry:
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!
This evening we celebrate the most wondrous event that has ever occurred in the history of human-kind … we celebrate Jesus’ overcoming the power of death and, thereby, creating a new covenant between us and God.
This is truly wondrous … and difficult to fully comprehend.
Why should God want to renew a covenant that had been broken by the weaknesses and the foibles of the human race?
In our Vigil readings from the Old Testament we heard of the moment of Creation, the rescue of the Israelites from the oppressive Egyptians, and the giving of new life to a valley of dry bones.
Each of those readings shows how much God values his relationship with the creatures he created in his own image.
Of course, if our reading from Genesis went just a little further we would hear that humanity was weak from the beginning as Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the tree that gave the knowledge of good and evil … almost from day one we thought we knew better!
Despite this arrogance … which certainly persists into these modern times … God did not give up on humanity …
God was faithful …
and, eventually, God came into our midst,
showed us how we should be living our lives,
and made himself a sacrificial Lamb in order that we might know his forgiveness, his love and, ultimately, the joy of eternal life in his nearer presence.
Put in these terms we can, so easily, find ourselves in the same position as the incredulous disciples as they received the report of the resurrection from the women who heard the angels ask: Why do you look for the living among the dead?
We should not be surprised as Luke tells us that these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
The big question for us, as we gather to celebrate the emptiness of the tomb in which we saw our Saviour laid following his crucifixion, is what can we do to honour our side of the covenant God continues to offer us …
even in this modern world that can seem both wondrous in its own right, and confusing?
I would suggest that the answer lies in our reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans …
Paul writes: our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
Paul refers back to those very first moments in human history … those moments when we learnt how to sin, a skill we have worked to develop and perfect through millions of years!
Paul also asks: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
In words that can seem as confusing as the reality that faced those first disciples, we are being invited to take a great leap of faith.
In our baptism we were offered a cleansing and a moment of renewal … but, what difference has that made to us?
When we study the Philosophy of Religion, one of the first subjects that is touched upon is the nature of God … now, there’s a daunting topic!
But, that unanswerable question … What is the nature of God … is summed up in a simple phrase: God is omnipotent (all powerful); God is omnipresent (absolutely everywhere); God is omniscient (all knowing) …
of course, this list could go on because God is … ‘omni …’ everything!
This is just as difficult to grasp with our inadequate human intellect as it was for the first disciples to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead.
We, like those first disciples, are called to set aside our dependence on our feeble and flawed human wisdom and have faith … a faith which will be rewarded with a treasure that is far beyond our wildest imaginations … an intimate relationship with our crucified and risen Lord and Saviour … Jesus Christ … the one who is everywhere and all-knowing … the one whose power is infinite.