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2016 Easter Vigil Homily

April 10, 2016

March 26, 2016 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“All you works of the Lord, bless the Lord—praise Him and magnify Him forever.”

“Rejoice!” is the command on this night. Joy is to come from all ends of the earth. So the Exsultet declared at the opening of the Vigil: “Rejoice now, all you heavenly choirs of angels; rejoice now all creation…. Rejoice, too, all the earth…. Rejoice, O Church of Christ….” So also the Song of the Three Young Men invite such worship: “All you works of the Lord, bless the Lord—praise Him and magnify Him forever.” Reciting that canticle, you heard all parts of creation being called into this great adoration of the Lord, including the “spirits and souls of the righteous… the pure and humble of heart.”

Such invitations are not simple calls to be happy. They aren’t commands to get a feeling of gladness. Or to get the joy, joy, joy, joy down in the heart. No, the exhortations and commands go deeper. There is a reason for the season. The reason for this Easter exaltation is the work that Jesus has performed, the acts of salvation that He has accomplished that bring to a culmination the long line of deliverances that the LORD has given to His people.

Again you heard of great acts that the LORD has done: Creation, Flood, Red Sea Crossing, Deliverance from the Fiery Furnace. These and other acts like them show the majesty and power of the LORD. They also reveal His concern for righteousness and for His faithful people. The LORD acts for the benefit of mankind, showing His generosity and steadfast love. Graciousness and mercy have been displayed, even as the LORD uses His power to destroy His people’s enemies. That elicits the responses of joy that the LORD’s people have given in the past.

But what the LORD has done on this night is even greater. For even in the Creation, Flood, Red Sea Crossing, and Deliverance from the Fiery Furnace, there was more that He could do. Those acts did not ultimately address the greater problem that mankind and the rest of the cosmos has faced: the disorder, despair, and death that have come from the Fall into Sin and Satan’s usurping the role as prince of this world.

However, the LORD doesn’t leave matters unaddressed; He acts. That is what we celebrate on this night: the death and resurrection of Jesus which deal with the greater problem. We have spoken well of Jesus’ death when recalling the Passover and the night of His betrayal and when recounting His Passion. So beginning on this night, we speak well of His resurrection and its effects, so that the choirs of angels, all creation, all the earth, and the Church may rejoice.

What has Jesus done? He has cleansed us by the shedding of His precious blood. All who believe in Christ are delivered from bondage to sin and are restored to life and immortality. The seal of the grave is broken and the morning of the new creation breaks forth out of night. The LORD’s mercy is shown by giving His Son to redeem the slaves to sin. All wickedness is put to flight and sin is washed away. Innocence is restored to the fallen and joy is given to those downcast. Man is reconciled to God in Christ.

All this has been done according to the LORD’s Word. So we come to the feast of victory for our God. We speak of His work being done for us. We eat and drink. We look forward to the promises being fulfilled. We trust and believe in the LORD’s acts for us. And so the command for this night, for all of Eastertide, and for all our redeemed and holy lives is “Rejoice!”

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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