We have just heard the entire history of God's relationship with God's own people, from the beginning to today.
Every time we come together to celebrate Eucharist, we have the liturgy of the Word, but during the Easter Vigil, the Liturgy of the Word is comprehensive.
With all the words we just heard read, it is easy to loose sight of the deep relationship among the various passages. It is easy to loose our focus on what we are hearing.
If we can tie together the nine readings, we can experience the meaning of these readings as a single message for us today, rather than as a just string of passages.
In the Old Testament reading has seven passages, each telling a part of the whole story of God's relationship with the chosen people, Israel.
We only heard five tonight.
We hear of birthing, testing, deliverance, the offer of a covenant, the invitation to accept the covenant, the advice to follow the wisdom woman so we can live up to our end of the covenant, and the final part of the OT reading tells of the means of reconciliation and restoration through ritual cleansing with water.
The New Testament readings include the Epistle of Paul to the Romans which tells of the meaning of Baptism and the Resurrection story told by Mathew, which tells of God's offer to us of a New Covenant through Jesus' resurrection.
Can we accept today that what we just heard is as much for us as it was for the Hebrews and the earliest Christians?
1. BIRTHING Gen 1:1-22 In the first reading, God speaks creation into being out of chaos. God spoke the word and it was done and it was good. God created humans in the image of God. In the image of God, he created humans. Male and female he created them and blessed them.
Can we accept today that by God's own word we are made male and female in God's own image and God sees that we are good and God blesses each one of us?
2. TESTING Gen 22:1-18 In the second reading, God tests Abraham. God asks obedience from Abraham and from of us. More, God asks Abraham, and us, to trust God's directions, no matter what is asked,
to trust that God will not be anything but abundantly generous, no matter how hard that is to see at the time. Although God demands what seems impossible of us, in the end God will make it possible for us to achieve what is asked. It is not the sacrifice but the trust that God wants from us.
Can we accept today that God will supply what we need today, no matter what God asks of us, if we but trust?
3. DELIVERANCE Exodus 14:15-15:1 In the third reading,
Moses cried out in need, under attack and in the desert.
God gave directions. Moses trusts. Moses was empowered
by that trust in God to part the red sea. God is victorious over the forces of chaos, over the Egyptian "god," Pharaoh.
Can we accept today that God will deliver us from our bondages, our own emotional wildernesses, if we but trust?
4. OFFER OF A COVENANT Isaiah 54:5-14 In the fourth reading,
God offers a covenant, like a marriage bond, with the people he has created. A marriage bond that is intimate, forgiving, tender, everlasting, compassionate, and a deep, living attachment, even though the people have forsaken God.
Can we accept today that God offers to us that same covenant, an intimate, forgiving, tender, everlasting, compassionate, and deep, living attachment?
5. INVITATION TO ACCEPT THE COVENANT Isaiah 55:1-11
In the fifth reading, God extends an invitation to all to be refreshed and nourished, to restore the broken covenant bond, to return to the Lord, to reform lives, to seek God's forgiveness, to repent,
that God's plan might then take effect. God, through the prophet lays out a perfect plan for reconciliation.
Can we accept today that we can be refreshed, nourished, restored to God's loving covenant, if we but return to God, reform our lives, repent, and seek God's forgiveness?
6. SUMMONS TO FOLLOW THE WISDOM WOMAN Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4:4 In the sixth reading, (we didn't hear this one) God teaches the people that if they decide they want to accept the marvelous invitation to the loving covenant with God, they also have to bring something to the relationship. It is not a one way street.
God summons people to follow the wisdom woman, whose teachings will help people to live out their part of the covenant in the same loving, tender, faithful fashion as God promises to do.
Can we accept today that we have to decide to enter into the intimate, forgiving, tender, everlasting, and compassionate, covenant of a deep, living attachment with God? Like a handshake, the covenant won't exit until the offered hand is grasped by another's.
7. RESTORATION / RECONCILIATION Ezekiel 36:16-17a, 18-28
In the seventh and final part of the OT reading, God restores and transforms Israel through ritual cleansing with water, giving them new hearts and a new spirit, removing stony hearts, giving what is needed to live the covenant.
God promises, "You shall be my people and will be your God."
Can we accept today that through the ritual cleansing of baptism we were given new hearts and a new spirit, that God gives us what we need to live the covenant that we have decided to enter into with God, that we are God's people and God is ours?
The New Testament is the new story of God's inbreaking into human history. Through the Incarnation of God in Jesus, God begins a new relationship, a new covenant with people.
8. BAPTISED INTO CHRIST In Paul's Epistle to the Romans 6:3-11 Christians are not only baptized into Christ Jesus, but also into his death. Immersed into the waters of baptism, we were buried with Jesus' into his death. Then we emerge from the waters of Baptism, into a new life of holiness; we emerge into freedom from death's power to end life; we emerge to live in the newness of life. Paul tells the Romans that Jesus lives for God; the baptized must think of themselves as living for God.
Can we accept today that by our own baptisms we have died with Christ and risen with Christ, and
that we are to live for God?
9. THE NEW COVENANT Gospel of Matthew 28:1-10
In the Gospel reading, the new day is dawning. A New Day is dawning for believers. It is a new beginning. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary encounter the angel, and, a bit later, Jesus,
both of whom reassure them and commission them.
There is no doubting the message that Mary of Magdala and the other Mary are the first witnesses to the risen Jesus and the first apostles to hear and to bear the news of the resurrected Christ.
The angel says, "Do not be afraid, he has been raised, come and see and then go quickly and tell his disciples 'He has been raised from the dead and is going to Galilee where you will see him.'"
On their way to do as they were told, Jesus meets and greets them.
They approach, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Jesus reassures them, "do not be afraid," and then commissions them to deliver the instructions to the men to go to Galilee.
Twice told, twice reassured, twice commissioned, these two women are the apostles to the apostles; they are heralds of the New Covenant to humankind.
As he did with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus chose to reveal himself and commission Mary of Magdala and the other Mary,
the least, in that society, to spread the Good News that he was the Messiah and was risen.
Can we accept today that Jesus will meet us on the roads we travel?
Can we accept today that Jesus reassures us, and says to us, "Do not be afraid,"?
Can we accept today that we can approach Jesus, embrace his feet and do him homage as we come to the Eucharistic feast?
Can we accept today that we too are commissioned to be heralds of the New Covenant that God has given us by the dying and rising of Jesus the Christ?
Can we truly accept today that we can be overjoyed because, the Easter message is that, through the waters of our own baptisms, and his life, death and resurrection, Jesus lives and we live in Jesus?