The Great Vigil of Easter, April 23, 2011, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, Rev. Paul Moore
90 degree angles can get you in trouble, especially when they're not 90 degrees. But we're all 10 feet tall and bulletproof when we're in our mid 20's, and I knew better. We had gone upriver to go hunting, some friends and I.
The river ran perpendicular to the airstrip—at least at that point in the river. And the airstrip was always directly lined up in front of the mission's DC-3 when it flew in from the mountains to the west, which means it had to be oriented east-west. So the river ran north, right? We rode up the river all day in a motor canoe and stopped where the oil companies had blazed a perfectly straight seismic testing trail through the tangle of the jungle. It hit the river at a right angle which means it must be—are you still with me? East-west.
One of my friends, Carl, went with me hunting one morning. We heard game off the side of the trail and followed--making sure to cut directly away from the path at a 90 degree angle, so now we were headed south. We lost the game and headed back—we turned directly around and promptly got totally lost! (Later when I got to a map I discovered that none of the angles I figured were 90 degrees in actuality were!)
I tell you, the feeling of being lost in the Amazon jungle with nothing but miles and miles of trackless jungle around you is perhaps just a bit like Good Friday.
By happenstance, in our wanderings, we approached obliquely to a strange opening in the jungle. Simply because we thought we could get our bearings better we decided to step into the cleared area. Lo and behold, we stood once again on the seismic trail, not 50 yards from where we had left it. Relief is hardly the word. In a word, we understood Easter Sunday!
Tonight we celebrate the same sense of hope in the darkness, but on a cosmic scale. The little ones we baptize this night pass not just from the vastness of the Amazon onto a known trail, but out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. And we, in reaffirming our baptismal covenant, remind ourselves and them of just what we are doing.
Therefore the Covenant begins with the Apostle's Creed:
I believe in God, is the first light in the darkness.
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, is the rays of sunshine bursting through the gloom.
I believe in the Holy Spirit embraces the coming light with joy and gladness!
And then we promise to live in a way that gives expression to that hope in the form of 5 promises:
To live in the faith community of the Church, (To stick together, even when we feel we're lost)
To mould our lives after the pattern of Jesus Christ, (To follow the compass, even when it seems wrong)
To share the knowledge of Christ with the world, (getting others to look at the map, too)
Share the love of Christ with the world in acts of service, (sharing our compass)
Struggle for justice and peace--the values of the Kingdom of God, (urge one another to follow the map)
I thank God that we found our way out of the jungle that day, but I thank God more for bringing us out of the jungle of darkness, into the glorious Kingdom of God's Son, who is our light, and our path!