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Bears and dragons and darkness, oh my!
A sermon preached by the Rev. Kit Lonergan at the Easter Vigil, April 19, 2014

Christ Church Andover
Easter Vigil, Year A
April 19, 2014

Click for the readings for the Easter Vigil

A clergy colleague sent around a conversation that she had had this week with her seven-year-old son about his understanding of Easter:

Son: I know that zombies aren't real, but when Jesus came back alive did he come up out of his grave like a zombie?
Priest: No, honey. Jesus was buried in a cave. Remember they rolled a big rock in front of the door?
Son: Oh yeah. Were there bears in the cave?
Priest: No, baby. 
Son: What about a dragon??

I offer this story for two reasons this evening. First, to remind everyone here that not even clergy (or clergy kids!) have a perfect understanding of the resurrection. So don’t worry if at moments you wonder if you truly ‘buy’ into the story or struggle to avoid the zombie connections with your children or grandchildren. It’s all good.

And second, I offer it because for our youngest Christians, the concept that the tomb itself wasn’t scary enough—not the cave, not even with the rock rolled in front of it. No, being dead in a cave with a large rock for an entrance was not threatening enough without the addition of bears or dragons to accompany it.

I don’t believe that the same is true for most adults though. I think the concept of the tomb is terrifying. It’s terrifying because it’s just so… dead-ish. Final. Done. All of a sudden Jesus is with us, teaching us, reminding us, scolding us, but then—between Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, all of a sudden it really is finished. And we end with that rock being rolled into the mouth of the cave. And there is nothing more to say. And it all becomes silent. And that silence is even worse because we have no idea what will happen after it’s all over and done. Maybe we do in theory, but not in practice.

On Tuesday at 2:49pm, I was listening to the radio as I pulled into my driveway after attending the renewal of our ordination vows at the Cathedral in Boston. The radio station cut into the song playing, and announced that there would be a moment of silence honoring those who had been affected by the marathon bombings a year before on that sunny Marathon Monday. And then there was silence. I listened for a while and then out of sheer curiosity, punched around the dial to other stations. Silence. On every station. As the time seemed to come to a close, I started to wonder even more about what they would do after that moment; what song would they play, or if they would comment, or would they even just turn back on the song that they had abruptly cut from before that moment.

And that is what we get from this night, this Easter Eve, from standing at the tomb, angel sitting on the rolled away stone, gesturing inside that cave, for us, to look, to check, to see that it is indeed empty: it isn’t just about the silence, it isn’t just about the cave, the fear and the death; it’s about what we do in response. After that moment of silence on the radio, I kept switching around to hear how stations were responding—and it was as varied as one playing the pop song ‘I think I’ll go to Boston’ by Augustana, one playing ‘Imagine’ by the Beatles, another playing ‘Fragile’ by Sting. I’m sure if I had cut into other stations, I would have heard ‘Sweet Caroline’ or ‘Dirty Water’. Some stations clearly went on with their regularly scheduled programming. All, and each, of the responses said more in a way, than the silence did. Everyone heard the silence. But it was what it called to do, or to be, or to imagine, that defined each station, and, I would imagine, each one of us.

Each of our readings this evening points us through death to life. It’s the story that we as humans want to hear, that defines us as a body of faithful pilgrims, seeking life in all of its glory and dustiness and uncertainty. It’s what makes us watch those human interest stories at the end of the nightly news; it’s what enables thousands of runners to push through that finish line with a gusto after 26.2 miles that doesn’t seem physically or mentally or emotionally possible; it is what brings us to sit in the dark on this night of all nights, in the midst of the darkness and brokenness of the world. It is what we pray for when we are confronted with the tomb, and all the bears and dragons that might live therein, along with all of our fears. We want to hear life in the midst of death, light in the midst of darkness, and both light and life conquering the tomb. We believe, theoretically that it will happen, but it takes being here, together, to make it real.

In our gospel story this evening, the women are the first ones to hear the good news from that angel sitting on the stone, and they run to tell the others with fear and great joy. Resurrection takes both. It redeems the fear. It tells us that there will always be an ‘and’ added after words like death and fear, darkness and light, coupling them with the promise of God’s love and grace.

Another friend texted this weekend to say that she was sitting in a playground in Connecticut with her newborn son and four year old daughter, a playground built in honor of, and named after, one of the children shot in Sandy Hook a year and a half ago. Resurrection, she said. Resurrection is all around if we can be brave enough to tip toe into that cave and realize that not only are there no bears and dragons, but there is no body either. Tonight is that night. We walk in the dark together to realize that we will be met on the way out of that dark by the one who has conquered it, and walks with us in the light. The one who will meet us when we break bread. The one who will appear when we are locked inside our upper rooms of fear. The one who has never really left us. Jesus Christ, risen.


Last Published: May 9, 2014 2:09 PM