Homily: Easter Vigil, April 4, 2015

EASTER VIGIL, YEAR B; Rev. Phil Boelter  

Fire and water.

These two elements of tonight’s service

stand in uneasy coexistence.


Fire warms us and cooks our food

but fire can also burn us.



we can only live a few days or weeks without it

but we can also drown in it.


In our first lesson

both fire and water make cameo appearances.


A FIERY spirit dove

Broods over the primordial WATER of Creation

And the result is light.


Later God keeps declaring all creation good,

And indeed it is good.


But sometimes I do wonder-

does God keep calling the creation good

because it is good-

Or because He desperately wants it to be?


That beginning at least,

with its word “brood” is ambivalent.


In her brooding might God be contemplating her options?

Asking herself, “Should I bother with creating this world?”


Thank God

Her answer was yes-

or you and I wouldn’t be here.


Later in our Exodus reading

fire and water reappear

again in destructive and creative power.


God leads the children of Israel to freedom

By means of a FIERY pillar that draws them

through a WATERY Red Sea pathway

on dry ground.


A few moments later

that place becomes a water logged Egyptian graveyard

when Pharoah’s armies are drowned.


In the Hebrew tradition

fire and water

bring in their wake both liberation and fear.


So it is not really too much of a surprise

to find that tonight’s gospel reading ends Mark’s entire gospel,

on a very curious note:


Upon hearing the good news of Christ’s resurrection

Mark reports,

“They went out and said nothing to any one

For they were afraid.”


The message for us tonight is this:

tonight’s gospel and its resurrection message

are tailor made for we who doubt and we who fear.


In some circles

Christ’s bodily resurrection

is proof certain that God is real.


Back in high school,

I was involved in one such Evangelical group

called Campus Crusade for Christ.


We spent a lot of time

sharing factoids about Jesus

in the hope of convincing folk to accept Christ

as their personal Savior.


We even had a book by a man named Josh McDowell

Called “Evidence that demands a verdict.”


But I am more comforted in my waning years

by a gospel which


knows that Jesus rose,

but also acknowledges

the struggles and fears and doubts

that this strange factoid brings with it.


I hope, I believe, I confess with you

that in the waters of baptism

I have died and risen with Christ

And been given the gift of Spirit’s fire,

as the Apostle Paul says

in our second reading tonight.


But I also know this:

because we have the fire of the Spirit

burning within us

that burning will not let us rest.


We will go on fearing,

We will go on questioning,

our faith more like a flickering candle

than a powerful flashlight.


The waters of baptism

ARE powerfully cleansing.

Baptism both kills our old selfish ways

and raises us up to surf on waves of new life.


But even that washing

Doesn’t scrub away all our fear and doubt.


So, we will leave this place tonight

walking wet in the renewal of our baptism.


We will leave having been nourished at our Easter Table

as our elder brothers and sisters in the faith

are also at their Passover tables this night.


We will go on

Doubting and Believing,

Wandering and wondering,

Groaning and Growing.


As it was in the beginning

with our Father/ Mother God   at the Creation,

And as it was

in the Liberation of God’s People at the Exodus.


So it is now

in our Watery Dying and Rising with Christ,

And ever shall be,

In the Holy Spirit’s Fire burning within,

World without end,