Saturday, April 15, 2017

God Turns Toward Us

St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City NJ
April 15, 2017

The Great Vigil of Easter
Genesis 1:1-2:2
Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13
Exodus 14:10-15:1
Ezekiel 37:1-14
Romans 6:3-11
Psalm 114
Matthew 28:1-10

God Turns Toward Us
            Alleluia! Christ is risen!
            The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
            Well, we’ve heard a lot of Scripture this evening, haven’t we?
            And, you know, when that Scripture was written most people believed that the earth – that they, that we – were at the center of the universe.
            And, if we were at the center of the universe, it’s not too surprising that God would take a keen interest in what was going on here on this planet.
            But, although we all know a few people who think they are the center of the universe, over the centuries, we have come to understand that our planet, as beautiful and as precious as it is, the only planet we’ve got, is just a speck in an incomprehensibly vast universe.
            We are small, very, very small.
            The psalmist understood this long ago when he wrote, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you have set in their courses, what is man that you should be mindful of him?”
            And yet, although Liam and Luca and all of us are small, God is mindful of us.
            We are of infinite value to God.
            And, so, tonight, we re-told the stories of God’s saving deeds in history, just a few of the more memorable times when God has turned toward us and saved us from disasters, usually, let’s face it, disasters of our own making.
            We began with the story of creation, the story of God turning to us, creating all that is out of love.
            And, whenever I hear that story I always think about what happens just a little later, how the first man and woman mess up and, out of their new experiences of shame and fear, they try to hide from God.
            I think of that heartbreaking moment when God comes through the garden looking for the man and woman, turning toward them and calling out, “Where are you?”
            And, through the centuries, God continued to turn toward us, continued to call out to us with, again, let’s face it, limited success.
            Finally, God turned toward us and came among us in and through Jesus of Nazareth – and, at first, even that attempt didn’t seem to go very well, did it?
            On Good Friday, Jesus seemed like a heartbreaking, tragic failure.
            But, then God took an unexpected turn – God made the most unexpected turn of all - shining light into the shadows, love conquering hate, and life defeating death – the most unexpected turn that we celebrate tonight:
            Alleluia! Christ is risen!
            The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
            Now, tonight, God turns toward us again, and God especially turns toward Liam and Luca, making an unbreakable bond with them in the water of Baptism, a bond that can never ever be dissolved no matter what they ever do, or don’t do.
            They and we are of infinite value to God.
            And, so God offers Liam and Luca and the rest of us the water of baptism and the Body and Blood of Christ.
            God turns toward us, and, in and through Jesus, offers us the way: pray and break bread together, resist evil, ask for forgiveness when we mess up, share the Good News, see Christ in everybody – especially the people we hate and fear, strive for justice and peace.
            And, though we’ll never be the center of the universe, the more that Liam and Luca and the rest of us follow this way, the more we choose love instead of hate, the more we choose life instead of death, then this beautiful and precious planet really will be the good creation for which God has dreamed, and worked, and sacrificed so much for so long.
            On Easter, once again, God turns toward us – little us – raising Jesus from the dead and offering us all new life, new life, new life!
            Alleluia! Christ is risen!
            The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!