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04.20.19 Amazing Doubt Luke 24.1-12 Easter Vigil Version

by on April 24, 2019

The Great Easter Vigil is the dramatic counterpoint to Christmas Eve. Four months ago, we celebrated the Feast of the Incarnation, the appearance of light in a dark world. Tonight we celebrate the Feast of the Resurrection, the triumph of light in the universe.

During the Vigil we hear a rehearsal of “salvation history,” stories of the Bible recounting God’s deliverance. There may be as many as twelve or more such stories read. There must be at least three.

Tonight we heard Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones, Zephaniah’s prophecy assuring the return of the Exiles, and the one story that is required every Vigil, the Exodus account. The reading from Exodus is Israel’s foundational story. In it God’s identity as deliverer and savior is revealed, as well as the Jewish identity as God’s own people.

It is amazing to me how early doubt enters the community of faith. After the ten plagues in Egypt, how could the ancient Israelites doubt? And yet they did. They said, “This God is a tease. He leads us out of Egypt into the wilderness only to let us die here.”

Moses’ message in response was, “Keep going. You don’t know when God’s deliverance will kick in.”

Story after story, in remembrance like the reading from Exodus, in metaphor like Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones, in poetry like Zephaniah’s prophecy, through Joseph, David, Gideon, Sampson, Ruth, and Ester, the Bible tells the history of salvation.

It’s amazing to me that the followers of Jesus doubted. Had they completely forgotten the God to whom Jesus prayed? Had they missed the God to whom Jesus pointed?

I suppose in the face of death and such utter disappointment that perhaps it’s understandable that they doubted. Or just forgot.

When it happens to us, when we doubt or forget, we do what we can. We go back to what works. We lean on tradition. We remember the “good old days.” We prepare spices, like Mary, Joanna, and the other women. At least it’s familiar. It gives us something to do.

And then there, right in the middle of our coping, though we’re convinced our dreams are dead, in the midst of our tradition, God’s promises come to us anew and we hear a gentle and familiar admonition: “Why are you searching for the living among the dead? Do you not remember his words?”

Then they did remember, and they believed. More than belief, they had conviction. Still God’s promises were true. Still God saves. Still we are God’s people.

So they told the other disciples. he other disciples heard, maybe they also remembered. But they considered it an “idle tale.” Sometimes hearing and remembering aren’t enough. How many of us have heard and remembered the stories, Christmas after Christmas, Easter after Easter?

Sometimes we need an experience, like the scent of a candle, like the splash of water on our face, or the warmth of wine in our chest, or the gentle touch of a Good Samaritan. And even then for some people it takes more time. For Peter chased an experience. He ran to the grave, saw that it was empty, then “went home amazed at what had happened.”

Peter had amazing doubt. At least there’s doubt. Doubt suggests at a minimum we’re asking questions. Amazing doubt may be closer than doubt to conviction, but it has some ways to go.

We know Peter eventually got there. Maybe we will too.

Tonight you’ve heard pieces of the salvation story and how in Jesus God renews his promises. Maybe you’re like the women that morning. Grieving a loss. Resigned to reality. In spiritual despair. Don’t worry—you’re on the path.

Maybe you’ve heard the promise tonight, and a little hope has stirred within you.

Maybe tonight your belief has strengthened into conviction and you know beyond knowledge, with a peace that transcends understanding, that God is your savior and that you are God’s child.

Or perhaps you’ve heard and experienced something here and you don’t quite know how to handle it, but it is amazing to you. You have amazing doubt.

Wherever you are, tonight you’re on the path. You’ve joined other disciples of doubt who are trying their best to follow Jesus—Jesus, who has resurrected from the dead to lead us into God’s deliverance.

 

 

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