My dearest friends, gathered with me on this holy night – Happy Easter!
We gather tonight after forty long days in the desert, reflecting on our sinfulness, our brokenness and ultimately our betrayal of God by His people. Over these last three days, we mourned our participation in the Lord’s Passion. And we have arrived here, at this night.
I am reminded of a scene from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, after the character Aslan – an allegory of Christ Himself – recounts a similar history of betrayal and pain, asking King Caspian if he has marked these things in his heart.
“I do indeed, Sir,” said Caspian. “I was wishing that I came of more honourable lineage.”
You come from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve”, said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth; be content.” (Prince Caspian, 185)
Be content. We are at last able to be content this night not solely because of our relationship to Adam and Eve, but because of Him who has finally repaired their first transgression – and restored their dignity, and ours. We have been washed clean by the living water that flows from Christ.
Perhaps we can take this time to reflect on the symbol of water.
As Washingtonians, though not always being thrilled by its frequent presence or the seemingly constant deliverance from on high, we are intimately familiar with the gift that is water. We often take for granted the full importance of water – and are perhaps not alone in doing so.
In this the most holiest of nights, we started in darkness. Not only have we moved from the darkness of the tomb to the light of Christ triumphant, we are reminded of the darkness before creation. Following the creation of light, God separated the land from the water – that it might not overwhelm life, even as it nourished it.
As we listened tonight, we have heard in each reading a reference to the life giving gift of water. But as we move from the initial purity of God’s creation, a new element is brought in. Where water once sufficient, in the face of sin it is no longer enough for the cleansing and nourishment of humanity. Suddenly there is a need for sacrifice – for blood to be shed. We see this reality clearly as Abraham and Isaac climb the mountain of Moriah to offer holocaust. Sin obstructed the gift of water, reducing it’s effectiveness in the life of man.
Despite the need for blood sacrifices, God’s plan is still made evident not only in blood, but in water. The covenant marked by the rainbow. The miracle at the Red Sea, allowing deliverance from the Egyptians. The Lord’s invitation to all those who are thirsty. Even how we refer to God as the ‘fount’ of wisdom!
And throughout it all, the promise of future deliverance from sin: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities”.
There is a German proverb, which I’m sure to mangle in the pronunciation, that says Blut ist dicker als Wasser and is translated simply as “Blood is thicker than water”. It is understood that the bonds of family and common ancestry are always stronger than the bonds between strangers, or even friends.
In our embrace of sin, we had tried to cut ourselves from our heavenly Father – losing sight of our status as the children of God. We merited the harshest of punishments, the loss of our inheritance. But Christ has come among us – not as a parent, but as a brother. A brother who would offer His own blood to be shed in atonement for our sin.
And yet, we do not come here tonight to celebrate the crucifixion, but His resurrection. And this too is a joy, because it is not the bloodshed that we recall, but the waters of life. This water that Jesus offered the Samaritan woman, the water that flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb in heaven – the river of life-giving water that we were plunged into at baptism – and the water that makes us whole.
In a particular and important way, you, elect, serve as a reminder of the great sacrifice of our Lord. Your presence among us these forty days, your longing for Christ, and ultimately, your baptism and confirmation are a visible sign of the great treasure we have been given. Your testimony stands as a witness to the power of Christ’s passion and resurrection. Not only do we welcome you this night, we thank you for making present anew the gift we have in the life-giving waters of baptism.
We must be reminded of the waters we have received in order to make it through the desert of a world still torn by sin. For this reason we celebrate this night. And it is why we must return to this river not only tonight, not only yearly or every now and then, but often and always. We come to this water not alone, but with our friends, our family, strangers and even enemies. This water, given its power through the blood of Christ, reunites us to our Father, reveals our brother and through the Holy Spirit, joins us as one Body.
Tonight, we are content and unafraid, because we have heard and responded to the invitation: “Come receive the gift of life-giving water.”