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  • Writer's pictureFr. Daniel S.J. Scheid SCP

Easter Vigil Sermon 2024

Fr. Daniel S.J. Scheid, SCP

Great Vigil of Easter – March 30, 2024

All Saints’ Episcopal Church, San Francisco

“The Promise of Easter”

 

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Everybody wants to laugh,

But nobody wants to cry.

Everybody wants to hear the truth,

But yet everybody wants to tell a lie.

Everybody wants to know the reason,

Without even asking why.

Everybody wants to go to heaven,

But nobody wants to die.

 

Albert King was a titan among blues musicians. A prolific and influential singer and guitarist, King had many hits, including this song, “Everybody wants to go to heaven.”

 

It rings true. So often we look for shortcuts – we want what’s good, but we don’t want to give up too much to get it.


Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.

Tonight’s feast is central to the church year. In it we turn the corner from crucifixion to resurrection, from hell to heaven, from death to life. We turn this corner because in Jesus, God first turned this corner for us. The Son of God who came from heaven, died so that we may join him in heaven.

 

But it’s more than the eternal heaven that Jesus’ death and resurrection opens for us – as if that alone weren’t enough.

 

In baptism, we participate with Jesus in his death and resurrection, in the heaven-building on earth that he came to announce and to initiate. It’s a tall order; seldom have we come close, though once in awhile we catch glimpses of the good amid the mess, of life within death.

 

“Is there life after death?” someone asked a sage long ago. “That’s not the question,” the sage replied. “Is there life before death? That’s the question.”

 

The life of the baptized is life before death. Our life in Christ, lived well and with commitment, with sincerity and truth, knows that answers are seldom easy and shortcuts rarely work. To go to heaven, we have to die.

 

I recently had a sidewalk conversation with an academic who now works in tech – in San Francisco, go figure!

 

He’s working on a project to counter on-line misinformation, the sort of which can sway elections. It’s important work, pointing out lies and promoting truth.

 

I asked him about artificial intelligence, in part how it affects his work, but my query was more philosophical, and he wondered aloud with me how AI, even in the best case, erodes what it is to be human; that it’s a technological shortcut that requires little more than our soul, our self-hood, to give us the easy answers we want. It’s a frightening road we’re taking.

 

My friend is a philosopher; I’m a street-level theologian; less an academic than I am instinctive. But our aims are the same.

 

After we parted, I imagined God as the Ultimate Intelligence, not artificial but True and Real. The difference between God-Intelligence and AI is that God doesn’t desire to take our thinkers from us. God promises no easy answers, no shortcuts.

 

Yes, Christ died for us. We are not our own saviors. That is too much to ask of any human or computer.

 

But for the rest of it, God invites us into a thinking partnership. God does this because God trusts us and because God loves us.

 

Trusts us and loves us so much as to become one of us. To show us how to live, and how to die, and how to live again. That is the promise of Easter.

 

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

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