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Easter Vigil Sermon

I wonder how many of us have experienced Mary moments…moments in our lives when we are hanging in limbo, not really sure what will happen next, suspended in sadness, fear or confusion, not knowing what to do or what to believe? Mary and the other disciples were already mourning the death of Jesus. Now she encounters a scenario that is very unclear: it would definitely be disturbing if the authorities took Jesus body away but just the fact that his body isn’t in the tomb where it is supposed to be is confusing. No wonder Mary is crying. Sometimes because we are so far removed from the story, we forget that these are real human beings with real feelings. But there she is in the garden of the tomb of her Lord, and his body is no longer there. Her response to the angels conveys her despair,“They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

This is a hard place to be…in between, in limbo. It is a hard place to be when you are waiting for important test results to come back. It is a hard place to be when your job might be ending or has ended, and you are looking for a new one. It is a hard place to be when a loved one is suffering from a debilitating illness that will eventually take his or her life. It is a hard place to be when transitioning from one phase of life to another, a hard place to be when you’ve lost someone close to you and wonder when you will feel happy and free again.
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This is a very human place to be…in between, in limbo. We want to KNOW what is happening, we want to take CONTROL and get back to normal. But we are NOT in control. There are many things that can happen outside of our control…in the eyes of the disciples and many bystanders, Jesus’ crucifixion was outside of their control. We share a common existence with people who are just as broken as we are, living in the midst of a broken creation, at the mercy of our frail bodies. As much as we struggle with it, these Mary moments may be a bigger part of our lives than we realize. We can very easily empathize with Mary as she stands there in the garden, not knowing what has happened or what will happen, not knowing where to turn. We know what it is like to break down and weep in the midst of human helplessness.
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Tonight, we gather for worship, at a service a little longer than what we are used to for this Easter Vigil. The time we will worship together tonight is NOTHING compared to some of the Mary moments we have experienced in life. Those can go on for hours, days, weeks, or even longer. In some respect, in those moments, we are waiting for something to break the limbo, the in between time…to bring us back into normal life again.
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Tonight, in this much briefer time of waiting, in this Easter Vigil, we wait with hope and anticipation. We remember God’s history of deliverance…where we see that God is never defeated, God is never finished. This prepared us to listen to the gospel with expectancy for what might happen next as Mary stands there weeping in the garden. Tonight we are also reminded that in our Mary moments, we can also wait in hope and anticipation to see what God will do next.
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O Mary, don’t you weep, don’t you mourn! Pharoah’s army got drowned, O Mary don’t you weep! These words from a song the choir will sing later are a call into Mary’s moment of despair, to remind her and us that God has a history of delivering God’s beloved humanity. She shouldn’t give up on God, because God has not given up on her. It is a moment worth waiting for, as Jesus appears on the scene, yet she doesn’t recognize him right away…she thinks he’s the gardener…poor Mary, she’s REALLY despairing! It is through his voice, not in his question…through his voice speaking her name that Mary’s weeping turns to amazement because she has found her Teacher…or her Teacher has found her. See…God isn’t finished!
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Now this story isn’t like those fairy tales that end “happily ever after.” Yes, Jesus is raised from death standing there in front of Mary, which is awesome; but he doesn’t plan to stick around for very long. God’s deliverance may not always happen the way we WANT it to happen. Still, the unfolding of God’s plans are yet another amazing testimony to all that God can do as well as the amazing imagination that God has, far beyond our own. God is never finished, never defeated where God’s children are concerned. So in all your Mary moments, keep vigil, be attentive to God’s presence…the creator of new life is never finished. Amen.
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