Second Reading: Exodus 14:15 – 15:1: The Israelites crossing the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and cloud
Third Reading: Isaiah 55:1 – 11: Come to the water you who are thirsty, buy corn without money and eat. With you I will make an everlasting covenant; my thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways
Epistle: Romans 6:3 – 11: We were baptized into Christ in his death so we too might live to new life.
Gospel: Luke 24: 1 – 12: Women come to the empty tomb: Why look among the dead for someone who is alive. He is not here, he is risen.
Tonight we celebrate the fulfillment and the promise of God’s covenant with us, lived today and each day of our lives.
Some weeks before my father died, I asked him if he was afraid of dying. His response was “No. I’ve lived a good life and done what I was supposed to do. I’m not afraid“. While he didn’t use the language of covenant, that is what he was talking about. Dad trusted God’s goodness and fidelity to him and knew that he had done the best he could as a husband, father, farmer, church member and neighbor. He trusted that God would be merciful to him for any failures and would welcome him into an eternal loving relationship.
As we listen to the readings for this Holy Saturday liturgy, we follow the living out of God’s covenant with the Israelites. The covenant begins with God creating the world for us to live in and continuing in God’s guidance as the Israelites escape from Egypt. The Isaiah reading speaks to the richness and abundance of God’s love and reminds us that this covenant is not based on our being ‘good’ and ‘righteous’, but rather on the overflowing, tender and persistent love God has for us and for all that God has created.
The wonder of the covenant God has made with us is not that God is with us when we are ‘good’, but that God is with us also in our weakness and need. Jesus’ witness and message in his lifetime is that God is always present to us in profound love, without limiting that love to the “right” people. Rather God’s love is given to all, especially those who are poor, vulnerable and in need. God’s love doesn’t discriminate because of religion, gender, social status, color or ethnicity. Nor does God’s love falter in times of adversity. Even in the midst of evil, Jesus did not turn away from his torturers or from the mob that clamored for his death. He anguished and prayed in the midst of his suffering: The message of the crucifixion is that Jesus never turned away from love and from trust in God’s faithful love.
The marvel that we celebrate tonight is that we are baptized into Christ in his death, entering with him into His deeply faithful, loving response to God, so that we too might live to new life in Him. In the midst of the many tragedies and horrors happening in our world, in the midst of our own personal struggles, we are invited to live that new life day by day, witnessing to the covenant God made with us and living out our covenantal response of love and trust. We long for God, yes. But even more, God longs for us with an inexpressible love, lives with us day by day, always desiring to draw us close in an abiding love.
So, tonight we celebrate the fulfillment, the wonder and promise of God’s covenant with us, lived today and each day of our lives. Jesus’ message for us tonight comes through the angels at the tomb, “Why look among the dead for someone who is alive. He is not here, He is risen.” May we know the resurrected love of Easter in our lives!