Easter Vigil 2008

Easter Vigil
Matthew 28:1-10

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Lent is the time of fasting. Our desire these past seventy days was to bring our bodies into submission, to train ourselves to live not by food but by every Word that proceeds from the Mouth of God. No one ever got stronger, the devil was never overcome, by doing what the body wants. Successful armies and athletes are those who know discipline and self-control.

But now Lent is over.

Easter is the time of feasting. Jesus lives. Death is done. Sin is forgiven. Creation is remade. The rules are broken. It does not matter whether you kept the fast or not. It is does not matter what grievous sins you have done. It does not matter how faithful or faithless you have been. Jesus lives! It is the time to feast.

Let no one fast. Let no one repent or hang his head in sorrow or consider his sins anymore. Jesus lives!

Death is dead. Sins are removed. God is pleased. And the body, our one-time enemy is redeemed and restored, its joys are cleansed and sanctified. Eat, drink, and be merry, laugh and rejoice, for Jesus lives. The devil and our old sinful nature are overcome and our effort or lack of it matters not. For grace abides and grace reigns because Jesus lives.

He is risen from the dead, not for our fasting and discipline, not for our patience and submission. This victory has come not to the strong but to the weak, not to the disciplined but to the lazy, not to the saints but to the sinners. Jesus lives not because our sadness pulled Him out of the grave, but for His perfect love, to our unending joy. For this God would have us as His own and has snatched us away from Satan as though we were a pearl of greatest price. Jesus lives. The rules are broken. Camels walk through the eyes of needles, rich men go to heaven. Hateful and rebellious sons are declared holy and pleasing to God, without effort and without price.

Jesus lives and we feast this night in forgiveness and grace. We seek no moderation, no self-control. The Lord our God is generous and extravagant. Our cups overflow. He forgives more sins than we’ve done. He has crushed the devil on our behalf. He has ended the terror of demons. He has made our cemeteries into bedrooms and gardens and has declared us to be His own. Jesus lives! Salvation and heaven are free, and without strings. There are no prerequisites, no charges, no hidden fees, no background checks, no pedigrees needed.

Tonight we are brought out of bondage. Tonight we are led through the gates of Hell on dry ground. Tonight the seal of the grave is broken, the morning of a new creation breaks forth out of night, and all the sons and daughters of Adam are brothers once again. The curse of Babel is ended. We exchange a kiss of peace, all debts forgiven, all failures forgotten, as we pray together the common language of praise. Tonight the holy angels laugh like mothers watching their babes take their first steps. Creation is remade. The rules are broken. We are the newborn of heaven, who have ridden the Water and the Blood in a Holy Ark and have come to a Temple made without hands, a Cornerstone once-rejected, risen and pristine, holy and perfect, our Bridegroom and our Friend. Tonight is the night of joy, of purest delight.

God is good. His mercy endures forever. He was slain to make us clean. But once again Jesus, our Jesus, Lord of Life, our Savior and our King, our Jesus lives. The rules are broken. Death is dead.

Hallelujah. Jesus lives.
Pastor David Petersen

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