EASTER VIGIL – April 3, 2010 – Life’s Roundabouts
More traffic roundabouts are being constructed throughout the Capital District all the time. National studies say these circles reduce accidents and the pollution caused by idling engines. Still, the reactions from drivers are varied and surprising.
In the traditional system the lights at an intersection tell us what to do. In the roundabout we have to take responsibility for entering and leaving the circle. That’s where the problem is. The circles make us liable for our actions, they prompt us to keep moving in a certain direction while watching out for the other person.
Tonight we conclude our holy week and begin a season of new life. There is little more one can say about way fire and light touched our senses, how the music filled our spirit, how rich biblical texts fed our minds. Soon we will be refreshed by baptismal water and fed by the bread and wine of life. This is a celebration of illumination, passage, inspiration and nourishment. This ancient ritual, like a traffic circle, keeps us moving together in the sacred dance of life.
Life cycles are all around us. We are part of them. No one lives outside them. The universe is a network of endless roundabouts, spiraling and twisting in the dark. Terabytes of stars and planets roam freely while others are caught in one another’s grip. The known universe is a never ending tableau that explodes and implodes, grows and dies, all at the same time.
Here on earth moving in its own circle the cycles of life consist of never ending announcements of birth and anniversaries, accolades and accidents, sickness and death. We humans trek along trying to find purpose and meaning in it all, balancing our dreams with realities. The tale repeats itself over and over. Our family trees and our memories tell us that our ancestors traveled these highways before us.
We believe God is the guide, the creator, the energy, the architect and engineer of these life cycles. Was God naive in entrusting an unfolding creation and its treasures to us? Would God have to come to rescue us? Indeed. The story is similar in many cultures and religions. An immortal deity takes on human form, to blend in and create enough of a fuss to rattle our brains, shake our bodies and move our souls. We are charged to think about living in more dignified ways, to stay on track and keep our eyes fixed on a moral compass.
The tests continue. We pass some and we fail others. Our sacred texts tell the story of floods, plagues, sacrifice, bloody battles, secrecy and power struggles. There is no escape from these vales of tears. Sometimes we don’t know what exit to take. The same texts however also speak of birth, dignity, healing, peace, truth and new directions. Even though these possibilities sometimes appear as elusive as the stars and planets in the sky they are nonetheless fuel cells of energy and hope for tomorrow.
We believe that all pathways in life, as diverse as they are, will eventually take us to the same place. Although death lurks at every intersection life does give us choices. No sense in going fast, impatiently blowing the horn, or using language that only makes us madder. Sometimes taking a different route can be more refreshing as well as safer or faster.
Tonight three people are celebrating a change of direction in their life cycles. Cain ___ has decided to map out a Christian route in the Catholic tradition. Erina ___ has chosen a slightly different Christian path and Christopher ___ is getting recharged in the Catholic church. We welcome them into our faith community. We promise to continue to nurture them. We expect they will nourish us.
OK so the big reason for this Easter feast is to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus even though no one saw it physically happen. Yes, women were first to discover the empty tomb and spread the good news. Yes, Jesus will make a number of appearances to small and large audiences afterwards. Yes, we still believe the story and keep telling it repeatedly. It is not because we search for proof but because we believe in some powerful presence, a sacred spirit, that pervades every part of our fragile bodies, our idiosyncratic lives, our soulful aspirations. We have to. After all, our story does not end with death but the promise of eternal life.
The link between traffic circles and the paschal event we celebrate this evening is this. There will always be roundabouts in our lives. Sometimes we know where we are going. Sometimes we miss an exit and go around again. Eventually we have to get off or run out of gas. And as we leave one circle another one awaits us. Jesus made choices in his life cycle that deeply affect us even to today. He chose a direction that was not always well known or safe. In each turn he thought about others first. May the spirit that gave Jesus Christ new life and the promise of eternal life to us always be with you.