A Shocking Night
Updated: Oct 31, 2019
Tonight is a night to be shocked.
Everything about our liturgy this evening is meant to shock us – to shake us out of the routine, of what we are used to, of what we expect. This night, when we commemorate the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead – about all other nights – is supposed to be different, and shockingly so.
First, we start after sunset, after night has fallen – not at our usual time or even in our usual seats. All of us are outside the church – maybe a little chilly – expecting something new. The drama of the Liturgy of Light opens our senses for the impending action of God that we are about to celebrate.
The Liturgy of the Word brings us again into contact with the shocking realities of God’s action in our world. First, we recall God’s creation of the universe – a moment when first there is nothing, and then BANG! – there is something. First there is darkness, and then light; first there is chaos, and then order; first there is silence, and then there is the symphony of creatures calling out to God who created them.
Next, we hear of God’s shocking action on behalf of the People of Israel, long held captive in Egypt. Not one of them had known a time when they were not slaves, and the thought of being free – and even a free nation– was such a distant dream that no one even dared think it. Then, God sends Moses to them, leads them out of Egypt, and SPLASH! – they even walk across the Red Sea to freedom while the Pharaoh drowns in pursuit. Shocking, to say the least.
Isaiah the Prophet shocks the nation by suggesting that even those with no means of paying can be filled to abundance with the good things of the earth because of God’s great love for them. They need only to abandon their worldly ways of buying and selling, of waiting and expecting, and allow God to grasp them firmly as His children. While this seems impossible for them to imagine, he reminds them that God’s ways are “above your ways and His thoughts above your thoughts.”To hear this truth is certainly a shock; to see it play out is an even bigger one.
Saint Paul attempts to wake us out of our complacent faith-nap by reminding us that “we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death … so that … we too might live in newness of life.”And this is the reason for all the drama of this night. This is no ordinary night; and we are recalling no ordinary events. We must be shocked!
Jesus is not simply some historical figure – a man who walked the earth, said some nice things, and started a movement. No. He is the Lord – God, in fact – who through dying like us has conquered the power of death and sin and who has given us now the same promise of eternal life. This is not something that happens every day; in fact, it’s not something that ever could happen – not in any human, natural, scientific sense. It is, to be blunt, a miracle. And it should shock us – just as it shocked the women at the tomb that first Easter morning. They puzzled over this, we are told; and they were terrified– how else could they have reacted? Peter, after seeing, went home amazed at what had happened.
“What had happened?” Jesus, their Friend, their Teacher, had risen from the dead. Just like He said He would, He had risen from the dead. That dark tomb could not hold the Lord of life. Everything Jesus said, everything He did, has been affirmed by God Himself in the Resurrection of Jesus. No other religious figure promised that they would rise from the dead. Even more shocking, though, is that no other figure actually did rise from the dead!
This shock echoes throughout history. It is the reason for Christianity – a faith that began with a shock, as powerful as the Big Bang, as miraculous as the Red Sea crossing, as unexpected as a free gift from God. And now, friends, we share that same gift; we share that same faith. Jesus is the shock of a lifetime, and our lives can never be the same after encountering this shock. For our brothers who will be baptized tonight – and, truly, for all of us – this encounter with the risen Lord must shake us out of lackluster faith and strengthen our commitment to Christ. Live differently, friends. Let your new life shock the world!