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Mark 16:1-8

This is the night! - the most holy night in Christianity. It is the night that the Church rejoices as she meditates on the wonders of the Lord our God; this is the night that we recount what God has done from the beginning of creation to the fulfillment of his promises. 

Our readings remind us of how God summoned his people home repeatedly from every place of exile. God will allow the people to return to their ancestral lands. We hear of God's plan to make a radical surgery - in place of stone hearts, God will give hearts of vital- God-feeling flesh. These promises are now fulfilled – Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us - God and man reconciled!


My friends - this is the mystery of the celebration of Easter. Christ broke the bonds of the grave. Therefore, like every real story, every prophecy, and every history, all the facts have come together with one conclusion. And the punchline is clear –– Jesus LIVES! Christians gather today relive the Vigil to celebrate this Light.

There are many elements to the tradition of Vigil keeping. First, let's reflect on our gospel reading from Mark, where he introduces Mary Magdalene and two other women. After the drama, which climaxed on Friday, the question is why they risk their lives by going to the grave on the dawn of Easter. Mark says, "So that they might go and anoint Jesus."

No matter what your family practices and background are today, we all have ancestral and cultural practices and rituals of respecting the departed. Because we understand the mystery of death and dying more than our ancestors, most cultures have set aside their traditions. Back in Jesus' time, the Hebrew tradition for vigil practices, like my ancestral practices, includes keeping watch around the beloved as they make the transition. Rituals must be performed on the same day. But Jesus did not die a normal death. The authorities had control over his body, and Joseph of Arimathea, being a member of the aristocrats, used his influence and spared the body of Jesus from a common grave. So, this is where the women went to anoint Jesus' body ritualistically with special oils, herbs, and spices.

They would have been there earlier, but what would have been the Vigil of love has become a vigil of distance and fear. Mary, the mother of Jesus, exhausted physically and emotionally from seeing her son tortured and dying on the cross, has been led away by John. It is hard to understand her unbearable sorrow that night, and she kept her own Vigil quietly.

This part of Mark's story resonates with the privilege to tour a tomb buried deep down under the Convent
of The Sisters of Nazareth, where my group stayed during our Pilgrimage to Israel. This ancient tomb was discovered during an excavation. It has been carefully preserved. There's a separate area for the traditional body preparation. You couldn't miss the large, heavy, round, solid and thick rocky stone that would seal the tomb's entrance. 

I can now see in my mind's eye Mary Magdalene and the other women as they approached the tomb where they hoped to prepare Jesus' body for proper burial. But it dawned on them they didn't have the strength to move the enormous stone. Just then, they saw that the tomb was opened, and Jesus' body was not there. Someone else was there - perhaps the gardener? But no – the person spoke, "Do not be afraid." But they fled from the tomb for terror and amazement which had seized them.

The Greek word for amazement is "ekstasis," which denotes awe, wonder, and terror or displacement of the mind. "He is not here," the man says. "Check the place where they laid him for yourselves; go and tell Peter
and the others that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee."

Tonight's service started in darkness, and then it exploded into LIGHT to remind us that Jesus is not in the tomb – that death or darkness is not forever. However, Mark's manuscript ends here. But the story of Jesus did not end. It is continuing in our lives every day. And one Episcopal priest (The Reverend Rebecca Hansen) looks at the Easter story as a human experience. She says, "Resurrection and new life can happen to anyone anytime. Every time we struggle and manage to choose the good or embrace healing rather than growing cold and bitter, every time we learn from our mistakes, forgive our enemies, forgive ourselves, seek out justice and mercy, and reach out to those in need, we are living out that promise of Resurrection, of new life and new beginnings."

I think that's a beautiful and remarkable observation! My wishes to you this Easter are that we too
experience this Resurrection in our lives every day! Amen!