Easter Vigil B – April 4, 2015
Many years ago while spending holy week with the Aymarán peoples in Chucuito, Peru I experienced worship in a very different way. The community processed in the mud to three modest churches on different levels of the village. The liturgy blended the Roman Catholic mass with rituals of praise and thanksgiving to Pachamama (the World Mother).
The Aymaráns have no word for God or religion. “Pacha” means living with the forces of nature and the universe. “Mama” is the one who gives life, protects and nourishes. “Pachamama” celebrates relationships in non-dualistic terms. In this ancient viewpoint of creation everything is one.
Tonight we celebrate a divine mystery — the presence of God in our lives. Illumined by the light of Christ we pondered creation through the eyes of the Hebrews. They thought of God as a being above and beyond nature. Peering through the Hubbell telescope, we see that the known universe is not fixed but ever expanding. God is in that mix like Pachamama; not removed from it or us.
In the scriptures tonight we were on a roller coaster ride from great hopes to shattered dreams; from slavery to liberation; from passivity to participation in events that engage us as partners and not spectators in the mystery of God. The texts embodied relationships between God and God’s creatures, Abraham and Isaac, Moses and the Israelites, Mary Magdalen and Jesus.
We heard that pivotal story about deliverance, how captive Israelites rushed to freedom from abusive rulers; how they gave witness to God’s gift in song, dance and deed. The Jews are remembering the same story this week at their Passover meals
Scripture scholars remind us the great act of divine power was the deliverance itself  and the Exodus is “… a story about God’s activity in creating a new people from the victims of oppression.”  Storytelling, according to NY Times columnist David Brooks is another way to conquer fear. Stories create new ways of seeing, which lead to new ways of feeling and thinking.  Tonight offers those possibilities to us.
The traditions of the Aymarán people and the narratives in the Hebrew bible set the stage for our celebration. We see the fulfillment of the prophetic promises of liberation in the itinerant Jew name Jesus. He so challenged the status quo the political and religious leaders plotted to execute him.
However, the death of Jesus did not stop the work of God. The same Spirit that lifted the body of Jesus off the cross to a transfigured form continues to work in us if we agree to let that Spirit do so. The God who unleashed the wonder of creation and liberated the Israelites can set us free from whatever frightens and oppresses us. We believe baptism is a first response to God’s gift.
In our worship tonight we give thanks to God for the graces we have. Our liturgy is an act of witness before all the world, a testimony to others of what God has done for us. Betsy Rowe-Manning pointed out on Holy Thursday the washing of feet is synonymous with sharing the eucharistic meal.
The liturgy we celebrate here is the same as our social action out there. The sacramental bread and wine on our holy table resonate with what we share with others in our food pantries, prisons, counseling centers and hospitals.
Jessica Burns and Meg Bassinson tonight give witness to how God acts in their lives. This Spirit God, an overwhelming wind, is moving in these women, stirring them to action. Both of them, seekers on a spiritual journey, are joining us in embracing this mystery of God.
God continues to unfold in each one of us and in all of creation. Here in this holy place, on this holy night, amidst the stars of heaven, we constitute a faith filled communion of “saints alive.” Tucked together under her shawl, the God of all creation, protects and nurses each of us, giving us courage and hope to rise up anew.
1. Wright, J. Divine Providence in the Bible: Meeting the Living and True God. (NY: Paulist, 2009) 28
2. Hoppe L. New Light from Old Stories: The Hebrew Scriptures for Today’s World (NY: Paulist Press, 2005) 30-31
3. Brooks, D. “On Conquering Fear” in The New York Times, April 3, 2015