My First Vigil Service

I remember my first Easter Vigil. The bonfire and silence; the long service of readings and the flickering of the candles. We were in a small chapel with so many candles and people crammed in that we were dying of heat. It seemed to go on forever. Story after story of the faith was told, by youth, by adults, by the elderly. Finally, we moved from the chapel to the narthex, right outside the sanctuary of the church. The font was there, ready for baptism. Another person’s life was to be wrapped into the stories of faith.

But Jonathan and I were getting tired of the stories. We had pies to bake at home; we had company coming after church the next day. We didn’t have time for all of this. So Jonathan turned to go home, and I was about to go with him when the doors of the sanctuary were thrown open. I saw the blazing light and Easter lillies; I heard the trumpet playing “This is the Feast.” A great light bulb went on in my head and I suddenly understood: “Oh, this is the feast!” And I knew I had to stay.

What I understood was something about the grand scheme of things, something about the big picture of my faith that’s hard to put into words. The Vigil is the feast – the feast from which all other feasts come. The place from which all our faith traditions flow. The place where heaven and earth are joined.

It was as if I had been looking at a master painting, but only seeing one tiny part of it; I knew about baptism, Holy Communion, the stories of our faith. I was a seminary student, and I appreciated the part of the painting that I saw. But at the Vigil, I caught a glimpse of the whole painting. I had a whole new context for the little part I was used to seeing. I saw where I fit into the grand scheme of things. My story was connected to stories of God and God’s people that went back to the creation of the world.

This year I am in a new church, and you have a new pastor. We are coming off a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic; we are all due for resurrection. I am looking forward to celebrating Easter! I am looking forward to connecting my story again with the stories of faith.

I invite you join me at the Austin Campus for my favorite liturgy, the Easter Vigil. Join me as we light the New Fire and follow the light of Christ in great procession. Join me as we hear the stories of our faith told by children and adults, in styles funny and serious. Wash yourself anew in the promises of baptism, and feast at the Lamb’s Table of Grace. This is the feast of victory for our God, and for us! The strife is over, the battle won! In Christ, the forces of life and love win.

Pastor Julie

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