Saturday, March 30, 2013

we didn't start the fire

Easter Vigil, Year C
March 30, 2013

“Breathe on me, Breath of God, till I am wholly thine, till all this earthly part of me glows with thy fire divine.”* Amen. 

It begins with light. 

Out of the formless void, the churning chaos of darkness that covers the earth, God brings order with the command: “Let there be light.” The reflection of light on the last lingering raindrops creates a colorful symbol of God’s vow to never destroy the earth again by way of flood. Abraham gazes intently at the light from the flickering flames consuming a ram in place of his beloved son, God’s blessing still ringing in his ears. God calls Moses to action from the flames of a burning bush, and later God’s presence in a pillar of fire lights the way for the Israelite refugees as they make their escape from Egypt.  

“We didn't start the fire.
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning.”**

It begins with light. 

A room lightened by a surprise appearance, where a young woman learns of the incredible child she has been chosen to bear. A path lit by a beacon of light so that lowly sheep herders and foreign sages can find this child. The child himself, who shines as the “light of all people” in the midst of a time of darkness (John 1:4). Who baptizes people with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Whose teaching and way of life ignites a movement. 

“We didn't start the fire.
No, we didn't light it,
But we tried to fight it.”

It began with darkness. 

Whispers in the night from leaders who felt threatened by Jesus’ teachings and claims. A rogue disciple left the dinner table to plot betrayal. The total darkness of the garden punctuated by torches of an angry mob. A sky suddenly blackened as the last breath leaves the crucified king. The last rays of sunlight extinguished as a stone was rolled into place in front of the tomb. 

“We didn't start the fire.”

It begins with light.

In the early morning hours, just as the sun begins to make its presence known, a group of women slowly make their way to the tomb with heavy hearts. The stone is rolled away, allowing sunlight  to filter into the empty tomb, where a dazzling presence reveals that the Lord is risen. Days later Jesus prepares a breakfast of fish and bread roasting over a charcoal fire, revealing himself to his disciples for the third time.   

“We didn't start the fire.
But when we are gone
will it still burn on?”

It begins with light. 

Tongues of fire appear above the disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit. They proclaim the Good News of God in Jesus Christ, setting hearts ablaze. Centuries later, missionaries are sent by the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola, with instructions to “go forth and set the world on fire.” And so throughout the ages, people from all walks of life, from royalty to martyrs to ordinary people, light up the world by making God’s all-encompassing love known through both words and actions. 

“We didn't start the fire.”

Our service begins with light. 

From the flames of a new fire we light the Paschal Candle, a symbol of Christ’s sacrificial and radical love for the world. We hear stories of God’s saving work throughout history, stories of light in the darkness. These are our stories, for at our baptism we are adopted into God’s family, united with Christ in both his death and resurrection. And tonight, we welcome Milo and Ruby into our Christian family. We join them in renewing our own baptismal vows, remembering our commitment to be bearers of Christ’s light to the world. We give thanks by breaking bread together, that precious meal that nourishes us as we journey into the darkness. Finally we go out, carrying the Light of Christ within us, for this is what it means to be an Easter people. 

“We didn't start the fire.
But when we are gone [it will] still burn on.”

"The Empty Tomb" by Rik Berry
found here

*Breathe On Me Breath of God: words by Edwin Hatch, melody (Trentham) by Robert Jackson
**We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel

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