Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Vigil Homily

March 30, 2013 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“Christ has triumphed! He is living!” That is the theme of Easter. That is the message that the Church hears again this night and then carries out into the world. Yet, such message is not a new one. Rather, it is a continuation of the message about the Lord’s triumphs for His people. That line of triumphs is what you heard tonight, beginning with the Creation Account. All was very good. But the death that entered through Adam’s sin marred that very good creation. So the Lord does something about it. Each time He acts to have His will fulfilled, the Lord prevails.

The Lord’s flood drowns the sins of the world. A ram is provided in substitution for the firstborn son. The forces that enslaved lie dead on the seashore. The Lord’s words bring a city from death to life. A false idol is shown to be nothing compared to the One who appears like a son of the gods. These highlighted acts of the Lord are part of His triumph that culminates with His dealing with death itself. All lead up to the night that shines with the glory of the Lord Jesus’ resurrection. That is what we remember and celebrate.

Our rejoicing of this night is rooted in the resurrection of Jesus. All who believe in Him are delivered from the bondage to sin and restored to life and immortality. The seal of the grave is broken and the morning of the new creation breaks forth out of night. The triumph of the Lord Jesus takes us into the new creation that He establishes. But this time, there will be no more need for acts to remedy a problem. The new creation stands as very good for all time. It is ruled by the life that Jesus brings. That is the extent of His triumph.

St. John Chrysostom vividly wrote of that triumph. Hear again words that Christians heard long ago:

He who was taken by death has annihilated it! By descending into Hell, He has made Hell captive. He angered it when it tasted His flesh. And foretelling this, Isaiah exclaimed: “Hell was angered when it encountered You in the lower regions.” Hell was angered, for it was abolished. Hell was angered, for it was mocked. Hell was angered, for it was slain. Hell was angered, for it was overthrown. Hell was angered, for it was bound in chains.

Hell took a body, and it met God face to face. It took earth, and it encountered heaven. It took that which was seen, and it fell upon the unseen. O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave! For Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever! Amen.

That triumph of Jesus is the source of our joy. Let that joy be taken from here this night out into the world, so that His light may continue to shine on those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. “Christ has triumphed! He is living!”

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

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