This Is the Day

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Alleluia, Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!

This is the day.
There is no other.

This is the day
when God lets loose
the fire of our hearts.

This is the day
when God washes us
forever clean.

This is the day
when hell is put on notice
and death is put to flight.

This is the day,
and there is no other.

This service—
this Great Vigil of Easter—
Christians have been doing this
for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Before Easter’s first light
they would gather together,
and light the Paschal fire,
and tell the old, old stories from Scripture
to remind one another
that God has never, never given up.

God has been making a way through
to us and for us—
since
the beginning
of time.

So we, too,
gather on this day
and tell those ancient stories:

How God made a way through
the nothingness of creation
and brought it gloriously to life.

How God made a way through
the turning, churning Red Sea
and brought his people
safely to the other side.

But this year,
we at St. Anne’s
told a new story,
one we’ve never told before
at the Great Vigil of Easter:
the story of
God’s covenant
with Abram. *

Did you pay attention?
Did you notice all that happened?

God came to Abram and said,
“Abram, I’m going to make something of you.
In fact, I’m going to make a way through you.
Through you and your children’s children,
I am going to bring a blessing to this world
that will change the destiny of all people.”

“But how am I to know
that this will be?”
Abram asks.

And God said,
“Let me tell you how, Abram.
I will make a covenant with you.”

And in a most peculiar series of events,
God had Abram take a set of sacrificial animals,
cut them in half,
and lay them on both sides of a path
so the blood trickled down between them.
(Nice, huh? Happy Easter.)

But what you may not know is that
this is how people in Abram’s day
made covenants with one another.

Both parties would walk back and forth
through that bloody path,
uttering prayers
and swearing oaths.

It was as if they were saying,
“If either of us do not keep this covenant,
may his fate be like these animals on either side of us,
for the penalty for breaking a covenant
is nothing less than death.”

But listen to me now.

Did you notice in the story
where Abram was
when it was time
to make the promise?

Did you notice
were Abram was
when it was time
to walk the path?

Abram
was
asleep.

God put Abram to bed,
tucked him in
under the cover of darkness.

And all night long,
God walked the path,
and said the prayers,
and swore the oaths,
and made the promise . . .
alone.

You see, God knew.

God knew that as good as Abram was,
there was no way
Abram could uphold his end
of such a monumental promise.

So God took it all upon himself.
God made a way through.

God made
a one-way covenant,
a one-way promise,
a one-way gift,
out of his unfathomable
one-way love.

This, brothers and sisters,
this is the kind of love
that this day is all about.

For don’t you know?
All of us are Abram.
We want to be good.
We try to be faithful.
And quite often, we are.
But alas, we are not perfect, are we?
Far from it.

Deep down we all know
that if the hope for our souls
and the destiny of our world
rests squarely on our shoulders,
then none of us stand a chance.

But God knew.

God has known that a for long, long time,
and out of his one-way love,
God’s been making a way through.

Out of his one-way love,
God made a way into our world
in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Out of his one-way love,
God took the promise to Abram anew
onto his shoulders alone,
this time for all people.

Out of his one-way love,
God gave himself up
and poured himself out
in the person of Jesus
for the sake of that promise,
even to the point of his death.

And then, out his one-way love,
God sucker-punched death
right in the face,
and never again will death
have the final word.

God made a way through for you.
God made a way through for me.
God made a way through
for Kate and for Caroline,
for Korbin and Kohen and Levi
whom we baptized just moments ago.

God made a way through
for everyone who has ever lived . . .
more numerous than the stars in the sky.

Oh, you beautiful people of God,
this is the day.

This is the day
when God takes you by the hand,
rescues you from death, and says,
“I’m going to make something of you.
You are mine now,
and I will love you forever.”

Out of his unfathomable one-way love,
through the resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ,
God has been making a way through
to you and for you—
since the beginning
of time.

This is the day!
This is the day!
This is the day!

Alleluia, and amen.

* Yes, we at St. Anne’s occasionally use Old Testament readings for the Great Vigil beyond the nine prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer, so long as they speak to the redemptive power and agency of God in the narrative of salvation history.