SERMON FOR THE EASTER VIGIL, 4-21-2019
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
On this vigil of Easter we stand on holy ground. We stand between death and life, between the font and the altar, between the darkness of Christ’s death and the light of Christ’s resurrection. On this most holy morning, we keep an Easter Vigil. For the seal of the grave has been broken, and the morning of the new creation has dawned.
Our Lenten fast has ended and it is now a time to reflect upon the Pascal life – a life so real you can eat it in His Holy Supper, a life so real you can bathe in it in the waters of heavenly regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which we call Baptism. This Baptism, St. Peter reminds us, “now saves you.” It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe.
This Easter morning you heard in the creation account from Genesis how God creates life out of nothing. He does it all through the power of His holy Word. It is that same Word in Holy Baptism that recreates you. Remember the water and the word of Noah’s flood, which destroyed the sinful world, yet was also the means of salvation for Noah and his family, eight souls in all. That waters kills, downs to death, but out of it also springs life. That life-giving, life restoring waters of the flood in Noah’s day foreshadows Baptism.
God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Paul puts it this way: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
We see here that you and I are linked to both death and life: the death and life of Christ. In Baptism, there is a death and resurrection for every believer. That is why St. Peter can put it so simply: baptism now saves you! By the power of God’s Word in that water you were truly put to death and raised by God to life again.
This morning you stand on holy ground, at the dawn of a new creation in Christ, in which you participate through this gift of baptism. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved! Those are words of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, words which you can take to the bank!
So in this death and life washing of holy baptism you have a peace which the world simply cannot give. It’s Jesus for the sins of the world and sealed by his glorious Easter resurrection. This is a peace that is present in all times – times of sorrow or times or joy. This peace comfort even when our consciences accuse us and we live in anxiety and in fear. This peace breaks right through to deliver comfort – the comfort of the forgiveness of sins – full and free. This is a peace strong enough to withstand everything the world can possibly throw at you!
This peace and comfort is so near you can bathe in it in the holy baptism, taste it in His Supper, and have it preached into your ear. In this peace is forgiveness, life, and salvation and this peace is yours, even now as we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection and Easter’s dawning light.