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Salvation Stories

This sermon was originally preached for an online Easter Vigil, Saturday, April 11, 2020 at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square.

Relevant lectionary readings here.

A campfire burn in the night.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

This is the night where we gather together and sit around the fire as the dark creeps in, and we tell and retell our favorite stories. Stories that began in the Near East, in Israel, in Babylon, in Canaan, in Palestine, in Egypt, that now reach all over the globe.

Stories being whispered in all kinds of languages. These are the stories of our ancestors, ancient stories from thousands of years ago, stories that were old before they were even written down, stories that were passed on to us like an heirloom or a treasured family recipe.

There are stories of God who took earth and breath and Their very own image and created us, playfully stamping Their likeness on us like a fingerprint. There are stories of floods, and loss, and rainbow promises. There are stories of Seas that Part, oppressors vanquished, captives liberated. There are assurances of abundance. There are dusty bones that dance. There are disobedient prophets and obedient ones too and a God who rescues both. There is a stone rolled away, an empty tomb, a God on the loose, a story almost too good to be true.

These stories are a balm for an aching soul, like a good friend who comes to us in the very real grief that surrounds us and gives us a reason to stop weeping for a minute.  These stories are dramatic, and silly, and moving, and strange. They are familiar and unfamiliar, comforting and surprising, they are repeated each year but somehow always new.

These are stories about who God is.

We tell these stories to each other early, while it is still dark, before the light of dawn, because we just can’t wait any longer to be together, to hear how things are going to turn out…even if we already know.

WE HAVE SEEN THE LORD! 

The story of Easter is a story of betrayal, of execution by Empire, of faithful women keeping watch, of defiant resurrection, of a God who would not be contained by anything, not death, not hell, not the grave.  I love Jesus so much, this story might just be my favorite one of all.

But this story, the story of Jesus, is not an anomaly in the life of God.  This story, the resurrection, Easter, is not outside of God’s normal character. 

As we heard tonight in all of these stories, salvation is just the way that God operates.  It’s who God is. God has been coming for us and saving us and bringing life and making us whole all throughout history.  God has always worked this way, across all time and space.

Christians believe Jesus is our clearest image of God’s saving power, but it isn’t totally different than what God has always done.  This story is particularly revelatory, but isn’t the exception. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the climax of this same story, another thrilling chapter in a very long book of all the saving work that God has done. 

This book is not finished, God is still doing the thing that God does, saving us. These salvation stories are not just for people long ago in places far away. They are for me, and for you, for us, now, here.

And we can count on God, even when it seems bleak, even and maybe especially, when it feels like God has abandoned us, like God is dead, like we are in Hell, like there is no way out. God is here, with us.

I wonder how this next chapter of this great salvation story goes. God works differently in different times and different places, but the saving part remains.  God’s playful fingerprint is still all over humankind. God’s rainbow promises are still hung in the sky. God still breathes life into our dry bones, reigniting dreams long dead, reconciling broken relationships, bringing life out of death and making things new. And after Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to Heaven, we, the church became the Body of Christ here on earth.  God chose you and me for this part of the salvation story, to love and care for each other, to work for justice, to comfort one another in grief. It is the work of the church now to create, to keep promises, to set captives free.

And when things seem hopeless and out of control, we have each other, to tell one another these stories when we need reminders. To come together, creatively and believe on one another’s behalf. To sing songs and record boomerang freedom dances and send drawings of rainbows to each other in the mail.

Our God is not dead.  Our God has risen! And I see God, very much alive, in each one of you.

Thanks be to God.

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