Easter Vigil B – April 7, 2012 – Ending the Plagues
The Passover for Jews began last evening at sundown. During the Seder meal there is a remembrance of the ten plagues — boils, darkness, lice, locusts, the killing of the firstborn, and so on. They are often reinterpreted at the Seder to draw attention to forces that continue to deprive people of liberty. Some new texts speak about immigration, war, poverty, women’s rights, dictatorships. If we were to rewrite these texts, what would we say? I invite you now to take a moment to mention a modern day plague to a person sitting next to you. [One minute later …] What plagues did you hear from one another?
(Some plagues heard in the congregation were: war, racism, sexism, homophobia, children born with disease, poverty, human trafficking, health care, AIDS, hunger, violence, greed, anti-Semitism.)
Now … I invite you to pretend you are God. God, I have some questions for you. What was your vision as life began to evolve on this planet? What do you think went wrong with your big plans for us? Why did you feel compelled to constantly test your people like Abraham, Sarah and Hagar? And, why were your own people subjected to such humiliating defeats at the hands of the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians and later, the Romans?
It is hard to hear the voices of your prophets tonight. They proclaimed that your love for your people doesn’t fail; that all we have to do is obey you and everything will be all right; that if we cling to your wisdom we will live. Also, when you promised a homeland to the Israelites did you know ahead of time that Palestinians and Jews would still be fighting over that land today? God, we’ve been trying our best but it is difficult to understand what you are up to when so many good people who believe in you are suffering.
Enough role playing. Enough questions. Do we have any answers? Maybe we can find clues to these difficult questions in the ritual we are enacting tonight. Just like our Jewish friends who understand the Passover event as something happening to them today, our liturgies are as much about us as they are about our ancestors.
In this holy night we started a new fire, to celebrate radiance of the risen Christ in a long night of sin and evil deeds. We are that light. We gather in this hallowed house to hear biblical stories about where we’ve come from and to plot where we might be going. These stories are about us; and the future, which is in our hands. We splash ourselves with baptismal water to recommit ourselves to the peace agreement established between our ancestors and God, a covenant affirmed by Jesus. We promise also to be true to one another in our common priesthood; a priesthood of baptized, confirmed and ordained believers. We share spiritual food and drink to nourish ourselves on the sacrament of Christ’s sacrifice never forgetting those who hunger for food and justice.
The matzah at the Passover seder is a symbol of liberation. Those who share it show intolerance for anything that stands in the way of dedication to freedom. If this, the holiest of Christian nights, is a reflection of who we are, what we believe and do, then maybe there is a good chance that this night also resonates with our efforts to eliminate what plagues us.
The three women in this evening’s gospel story set an example for what we can do to eliminate plagues. Initially they seemed only concerned about caring for Jesus’ dead body. When they got to the tomb something serendipitous stunned them. The stone was removed and the tomb was empty. In their excitement they imagined an angel who reminded them of something Jesus said while he was alive. “I will see you again.” Embarrassed that they did not remember his promise they rushed to tell others who were despairing over what to do next. Those women did not keep quiet.
That enthusiasm over the empty tomb is why Easter is a time for you and me to reengage with the risen Christ. It is not a time to leave his human biography on the pages of our bible; or merely to remember fondly and thankfully what his death means for us. It is time to identify with Jesus and the fervent enthusiasm of the early Christians like those women at the tomb. On this holy night we find in these stories images of ourselves. Then, we come to know that each of us is called and ordained to work together to rid the world of plagues so all of God’s creatures might have hope for tomorrow. Happy Easter!