Honestly, when the idea was first layed out to me when I was prepapring for Holy Week, my first year on Washington Island, the fine worship board just sort of said, yeah…. we do this. I was like… ugggg… I need another worship service in Holy Week like another hole in the head. Well Trinity has a little chappel across the road, a stavkirke, a replica of the old wooden churches in Norway. We held the service over there often plowing through snow to get there and set up the candles.
Well, I have been doing vigil services now for.. whoa… 10 years and I missed it last year cause it was the other pastors turn to do it, and I’ll be danged if I didn’t miss it.
What’s a vigil? you may ask, well I am glad you did.
Well a generic vigil is a time of waiting, of keeping watch, of being awake when you would normally be sleeping.
The Easter Vigil is what I am talking about our worship resource talks about it this way: “This is the night! This is our Passover with Christ from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom, from death to life. Tonight is the heart of our celebration of the Three Days and the pinnacle of the church’s year. The resurrection of Christ is proclaimed in word and sign, and we gather around a pillar of fire, hear ancient stories of our faith, welcome new sisters and brothers at the font, and share the food and drink of the promised land. Raised with Christ, we go forth into the world, aflame with the good news of the resurrection.”
The Easter Vigil for us is modified. We sort of wimp out, we have it at 7:00 p.m. and not many of us are actually sleeping by then!
But the point of the vigil is not really in the staying awake until the sunrise service at 6:30 a.m. For in fact Christ has been raised for quite some time, but the vigil is a great service for the stories and how those stories continue to feed and live in us today.
We read the salvation history in stories from scripture, from creation, Noah and the Flood, Abraham and Isaac, Jonah and the big fish, and my favorite… Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the firey furnace! (honesly I just like sayin; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!)
Then after these stories… we baptize and in the waters of baptism these stories of salvation continue! This year we have two! Devin, a very energetic 2 year old and Robert who is in his early 20’s. These two are not related, and they may only run into each other periodically over the years in worship, but they become my brothers and brothers to every baptized child of God out there. The Good News, the Gospel of Easter is summed up in the waters of baptism, we are put to death in these waters and raised up to new life in Christ.
Oh.. I got so worked up I almost forgot to mention that we start this service outside in the dying day light with a fire. I get to start the fire…. woot! Then we all grab candles and light them off the newly lit paschal candle and walk into the darkened church and then boom as the light fades outside the light in the church erupts!
The service is a little long, but the good news is with all those stories and the baptisms I don’t need to preach much, the word carries the weight just fine.
We close this service with the gift of Holy Communion, blessed to and prepared to celebrate Easter in the morning… it is a great service.
It is great I think in part because it is in the dark of night when we are reminded of what God has done for us when things looked darkest…. and in the light of a new dawn we can celebrate this love and hope that has been with us since the beginning.
May God bless you and keep you this Easter as you become what you already are in Jesus Christ.