Easter Vigil, 2003
St. David’s, Pepperell
Katherine Hancock Ragsdale
Readings included the Exodus and the Valley of the Dry Bones.
We come together tonight after the Crucifixion and before the Resurrection. We come together in our despair to find comfort with one another, to share hope, to remember who and whose we are and where we come from, and what the God who made us and brought us this far has done for us, and for our fathers and mothers from the beginning of time.
We remember that when our people were just a motley crew of tribes, wanderers in the wilderness, who ended up enslaved in a land not our own, God set us free and bound us together into a people, a nation, a community so that never again would we live alone in the world – isolated and unattached. We remember a time when our nation, our people, were conquered and dispossessed. A time when it seemed we were a people no more but just a mess of scattered bones, not even recognizable as the skeletal remains of a people. So long, and so far, gone -- dry bones with no life left in them. And God said – out of these bones I can, and will, re-assemble a people. And it seemed impossible. The bones were little more than dust. There was nothing, nothing, to work with. And yet God reassembled the people of Israel.
And we remember times in our own lives, or those of people near and dear to us, when it has seemed that there is little left of and for us but dry bones and dust. The proud provider with a dream for his family, who sees the market, and his dreams, crash and looks longingly at the high-rise window. The high school senior who can’t get into the right college and sees her hopes and plans for the future dashed and considers the trees on the side of the road. The couple who watch their marriage, their home, and their family come apart and begin to eye the sedatives. The parents whose child dies young and who lose interest in food, life, and one another. Those in Afghanistan or Iraq who watch their homes, their loved ones, everyone and everything they know blown to dust and rubble. All those who see nothing ahead for themselves but more dry bones and dust. Who know, down to their marrow, that there is no way to reassemble a full life from the wreckage that surrounds them. And we remember how often we have seen such lives impossibly reassembled, their dreams implausibly re-kindled, themselves reborn once they allowed God to get Her hands on them and to breathe into them.
We remember those, perhaps even ourselves, who have been hurt so badly that we’ve turned our hearts to stone that we may never suffer like that again. And we remember a God who has said, “I will remove from you body a heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you.”
And, because we remember, we gather here to wait, and hope, and expect God’s saving power in our lives and in the world.
We gather at the tomb – hoping to see Jesus rise again. Knowing that Jesus’ resurrection confirms yet again that God can create new life, new hope, new chances, out of nothing – out of less than nothing.
Because Jesus rises we can, too. And because we can, we must. And, having risen and reclaimed God’s love for us, we have a responsibility to search for ways to take that healing, redemptive, life-giving power out into the world – to spread Good News and hope – to look for ways that we can work with God as He goes about God’s work of re-creating life that has seen its substance blown apart, its own dreams dashed.
We are due for a celebration – for God has promised us resurrection, redemption and joy, and has blessed us with work worthy of our best efforts and our passion. Our hopes have been fulfilled – Christ is Risen.