Sermon: Saturday, March 31, 2018

Easter Vigil

Saturday, March 31, 2018 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Rockland
Sermon by the Rev. Lisa Smith Fry

Everything begins in the dark.

We began here tonight in the dark, then we lit a fire. Some of us may have been a bit uncomfortable sitting in the dark. A couple of years ago at the Vigil I once heard a child whimper, “Daddy, this is scary!”

And many of us, if we were honest, would admit that the dark scares us. A little.

I think that’s interesting, because everything begins in the dark.

Don’t believe me?

In our faith history–which we read tonight—God’s creating everything begins in the dark.

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”

There’s no mention that the darkness was ‘bad’. It just WAS.

And then God said, “You know what—let there be….. light.”

Our day begins in the dark, at one minute after midnight, which we heard clearly in the creation story: “ And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day. Dark precedes light in our daily cycle.

Or take our births—we grow inside our mothers in the dark. And we are—from what I’ve observed—very happy there.

Seeds germinate in the dark.

Jacob wrestles with an angel at night, Joseph dreams at night, the Exodus happens at night, manna falls from heaven at night—in the dark.

And Jesus died, and was put in the tomb. In the dark. Without a candle. And the Anointed One, the Christ, experienced resurrection in the dark, before dawn.

Seems like an awful lot of things begin in the dark.

And that’s Good News.

God is not only there when we’re enlightened, or when we are light hearted, or when it is daylight. God is with us in the dark.

I’ve found that sometimes I have learned more from my darknesses than from my light.

That’s why I love Holy Week: it’s full of both light and darknesses—both real and imagined.

We have the darkness of the Tennebrae service. Tennebrae means “shadows”. This service takes place at the beginning of Holy week. Contrast that with the brightness of Easter. And then ther eis the liminal space in between __ The Triduum.   Maundy Thursday is first– and it is a night of firsts: first foot washing, first betrayal, first denial, first Eucharist. Then the darkness and anguish of Good Friday—the end of all dreams.  And then this—my favorite service of the year—where we have both darkness and light right next to each other in one service—you can’t miss the contrast tonight. It’s half dark and half light—challenging us to see God everywhere.

True confession here. You know that hymn “I want to walk as a child of the light”? Great hymn. Catchy. I love it. Most of it.

But I really cringe when we sing, “in Him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike.

Another confession: I’m a night person, a moon person. I walk at night. I love the stars and the quiet and the dark filled with fireflies.  When I hear that in God the night and day are both alike—I think two things.

#1: I want to run away screaming. Can you imagine living in a place where it’s sunny all the time? No variation? I can. I lived in Florida for 10 years.  Lovely place, but I began to crave a good cloudy day—or better: rain! Anything actually, but the relentless sunshine. I thanked God for the night.

#2 The night and the day are both alike? Really? I think that’s bad theology. It’s like saying the ocean and the desert are both alike, or the arctic and the tropics are both alike. Why? What’s wrong with having both? God is a God of infinite variety!

And why would God allow all the amazing things we talked about to happen in the dark, If the light is the only thing that matters?

And then it hit me: maybe the line means – the night and the day are both alike: as in they are BOTH are important.

Maybe the dark can become a metaphor for things that germinate unseen until they burst into life and awareness.

When Jesus was resurrected, everything he had taught the disciples began to finally make sense.

And they determined to follow.

To be love in the world.

To shatter the expectations of society,

speaking truth to power

and loving every single person.

And it all began in the dark:

The formless void,

the parting of the red sea,

the manna,

the challenges,

and the tomb.

This is the night when Christ broke the bonds of death!

This is the night when heaven and earth are joined!

This is the night when Christ showed us that love is eternal and shall never perish from the earth.

And it all began in the dark.