The Great Vigil of Easter 2018 - Pastor Cholak
And so we wait. Through our fasts and the giving up of our favorite things, through our contemplations of the cross and death and sin, through long readings, tears, and sufferings, we wait. We gave up alleluias and songs of glory and triumph to our King. We thought ourselves not worthy, we thought ourselves super worthy, and then doubted ourselves and the people around us again and again. Why would God die for us? Why would he allow the decay, the sorrow, the pain? And yet we had to wait.
We endured the lies and the deceptions of Satan and his accomplices. The sweet nothings that didn’t seem so nothing. Devils all the world would fill just to trip us up, convince us of our defeat, words to destroy you, temptations to trick you, pleasures to entice you away from the truth and the life…a detour from the way.
And we followed them into temptation. We enjoyed the sweet feelings of pleasure, denying our God and his reward for a moment of emotion and a fake second on top of the world. We flip flopped, we confessed our faith when it was convenient and conveniently kept our mouths shut when it might hurt or embarrass us. And then were attacked for our sin, accused for our failures, and left out to dry in the winds of Satan’s foul breath.
But even if you didn’t fast, if you didn’t give up anything, if you kept your prayers or didn’t. If you pondered your own depravity or if you ignored it or forgot about it, it doesn’t change the right now. The church waited. The disciples waited. The Marys waited. We wait. But tonight the wait is over.
Lent is over. The time for fasting is over. The stone is rolled away. This is the night when death has been overcome. The ancient darkness has forever been banished. All the promises of our God have come true this night. Let all of God’s people ring out with rejoicing. Hold back no longer your alleluias and songs of Glory to God our victor King. The time for waiting has ended and the time for rejoicing has begun.
It is the time for your rejoicing. No matter if you resisted the temptations of the devil and fell to your own pleasures, no matter if you kept the fast or didn’t, no matter if you were tormented all your life in unbelief and just recently heard and believed the Gospel. No matter if you ignored the lies of Satan or listened to every one of them. This is the night of rejoicing for you. This Jesus, Your Jesus, has come for you.
He knew that you couldn’t resist the devil. Jesus knew that you would be attacked from outside and from within. He knew that you have greater enemies than you could have ever expected. Jesus knew that even your own families and friends would turn on you. That the church would be divided over the petty and seemingly unimportant. Jesus knew that there would be long waits and depression and sorrow. He knew there would be tears and attacks. Terrors in the night and lies whispered in your dreams. And he has triumphed over it all.
This is the night when God has brought all of his people out of slavery into the freedom of his Son. This is the night death could no longer hold the dead and Jesus burst out of its prison. This is the night you are restored to life and immortality. This is the night your baptism is realized and the mark of your righteousness is known by the victory of Jesus over sin and death and the grave. The seal of the grave is broken forever. Now we wait no longer. Jesus has turned our baptisms into our resurrections, he has turned our graveyards into bedrooms and gardens, and Jesus has crushed the head of the ancient dragon forever. This is the night when the morning of the new creation breaks forth out of the night of death and darkness and you are transformed by his victory.
All the rules are broken. Camels walk through the eyes of needles, rich men enter the kingdom of God, hateful and rebellious sons are declared holy and pleasing to God. The lame walk, the Deaf hear, the blind see, and all at no cost, no charge, no debt remains. Jesus lives.
Tonight we are brought out of slavery. Tonight God leads us through the gates of hell on dry ground. Tonight Jesus breaks the curse of Babel and tonight we speak as brothers and sisters of God with one voice, singing with the angels. We are the newborns of heaven…carried safely to the arms of our God in the ark of the church. Tonight we rejoice for Jesus has broken the grave. He lives. Jesus, who once was dead, now lives. He does all things well. Now is the time of great rejoicing, our God is merciful, he is full of grace, he has made all things new. Death is dead and Jesus is alive.
Alleluia! Christ Is Risen!