Holy Saturday (Easter Vigil) – Fear of God
Canon Treasurer - Revd Canon Leanne Roberts
Tonight is the culmination of our faith
We have heard the story of our salvation from its very beginning: creation, rescue, prophecy, the necessary death to self that is the only path to life.
This week we have been considering fear, and how it prevents us from becoming our true selves, fully alive. How we, like those apostles in our reading from Luke’s Gospel, can view these words of life as ‘an idle tale’, and refuse to believe it.
When the women discover the empty tomb, we read that they were ‘perplexed’. This feels like something of an understatement, to me. Confused, yes. But terrified, too, surely?
Of course they hadn’t wanted Jesus to die. On some level they must have longed for the tomb to be empty, the previous days a terrible dream. But, faced with reality, the emptiness must have been very frightening: it showed them – and us – that something had happened, something that was beyond reason and comprehension. It required them – as it does each of us – to consider a possibility that had not been imaginable before.
And in such an imagining there is both fear and hope. Fear of what our God is capable of, and what he asks of us. Hope that everything is, indeed, possible with God, and that earthly threats hold no sway in light of his mighty power.
Fear of God is a theme throughout Scripture; the psalmists and Proverbs tell us that fear of the Lord ‘is the beginning of wisdom’. It is a fear unlike all our other fears, because it leads to life and not death.
Our worldly fears keep us locked away inside our preconceptions of who the world tells us we should be, which keeps us at a distance from God; but fear of the Lord turns us towards the one who is life itself, if with some trepidation.
The letter to the Hebrews tells us ‘it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’, and which of us could disagree with this? Facing the God who is dazzling light, ultimate truth, pure love demands an honest accounting of who we really are. An account that holds no place for those personas we construct to protect us from being seen, or being wounded, or being judged.
In CS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when the children discover that Aslan is a lion they naturally have some questions about whether it’s safe to meet him. Mr Beaver responds ‘Safe? Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe! But he is good. He’s the King, I tell you.’
The fear of God is the only fear that will save your life.
It may not feel safe, but we can know that it is good.
The resurrection of Jesus we celebrate tonight is about our potential for new life, new beginnings, new chances. Jesus saying today, tomorrow, forever, 'Behold, I am making all things new'. All things: that's us, too.
Resurrection is always in the present, in the now.
And each moment is trembling with divine love, and all love is a form of hope.
To end, a poem. ‘Arrival’, by R.S. Thomas:
that you have been seeking
you come upon it
the village in the Welsh hills
with no road out
but the one you came in by.
A bird chimes
from a green tree
the hour that is no hour
you know. The river dawdles
to hold a mirror for you
where you may see yourself
as you are, a traveller
with the moon's halo
above him, whom has arrived
after long journeying where he
began, catching this
one truth by surprise
that there is everything to look forward to.
Tonight, it is not just Christ that is risen, but us, as well.
Today, and every day, he can make all things new.