The Great Vigil of Easter April 7, 2012

The Story of Creation  


  (Genesis 1:1––2:2, as taken from

“God’s World” in Scripture Out Loud!

by Marianne Houle and Jeffrey Phillips;

© Augsburg Fortress Press, 1999.

Used with permission. All rights reserved.)


Voice 1 of God             In the beginning, when I created the heavens and the earth, the earth was without life.  Darkness covered the face of the deep, and my spirit swept over raging waters.  Then I commanded, “Let there be light!”  And I saw that the light was good.  I separated the light from the darkness.  The light would be called Day, and the darkness Night.

Narrator And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Voice 2 of God “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters!” I commanded.  “Let it separate the waters above from the waters below.”

Narrator God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters above.  God called the dome Sky.  And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

Voice 3 of God Then I said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let dry land appear!”  And it was so.  I called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together I called Oceans.  I commanded the earth to bring forth vegetation: plants, grains, and fruit trees of every kind.  I looked at what I had done, and it was good.

Narrator And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

Voice 4 of God “Let there be lights in the sky to separate the day from the night.  They will show the seasons and days and years.  Let them shine down on the earth.”

Narrator And it was so.  God made the two great lights — the sun to rule the day and the moon to rule the night — and the stars.  God set them in the sky to give light to the earth.

Voice 4 of God “They shall rule over the day and over the night, and separate the light from the darkness.”

Narrator And it was so.  God saw that it was good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

Voice 5 of God I ordered the oceans to bring forth a multitude of living creatures, and I let birds fly above the earth across the sky.  I created the great sea monsters and fish of every kind, and every kind of bird.  And it was good.  I blessed the, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply.  Fill the seas, and let birds cover the earth.”

Narrator And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

Voice 6 of God “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind,” I proclaimed  “Tame animals, reptiles, and wild animals shall roam the earth!”

Narrator And God created every type of animal, and every living creature that creeps on the ground.  And God saw that it was good.

Voice 6 of God Let us make human beings in our image and likeness.  They will have power over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over all the animals and reptiles of the earth.

Narrator So humans were created in the image of God, both men and women.  And God blessed them.

Voice 6 of God Be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth.  Take care of the fish in the seas, the birds in the air, and all living things that move upon the earth.  I have given you every plant that yields grain, and every fruit tree for food.  And to the beasts of the earth, the birds of the air, and to every other living creature, I have given green plants for food.

Narrator And so it was.  God saw everything that was made, and was very pleased.  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Thus the whole universe was completed.  And on the seventh day, God was finished working and rested.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on that day God rested from all the work that had been done in creation.  And that is how the world was created.




Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea


(Exodus 14:10 – 15:1 as taken from

“Deliverance” in Scripture Out Loud!

by Marianne Houle and Jeffrey Phillips;

© Augsburg Fortress Press, 1999.

Used with permission.  All rights reserved.)


Narrator         Moses led the Israelite people out of slavery in Egypt.  Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, was angry and tried to recapture them.  As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back and saw the Egyptian army quickly advancing on them.  In great fear they cried out to the Lord for help, and blamed Moses for their plight.

Israelite 1 Wasn’t there enough room in Egypt for our graves?  Is that why you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?

Israelite 2 What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt?

Israelite 1 Didn’t we tell you in Egypt to leave us alone and let us serve the Egyptians?

Israelite 2 We would be better off serving the Egyptians than dying in the wilderness!

Moses Do not be afraid!  Stand firm, and see how the Lord delivers us today.  We will never see the Egyptians again.  The Lord will save us.  Keep still and watch!

Voice of God Moses, why do you cry out to me?  Raise your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea.  The water will divide in half and the Israelites will be able to walk through on dry ground.  Then I will make the Egyptians so stubborn that they will follow them into the sea.  I will show my power over Pharaoh and his entire army.  And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.

Narrator The angel of God, who had been leading the Israelites, went behind them.  A cloud, which had also been in front, moved between the Israelites and the army of Egypt. 

And so the cloud lit up the night for the Israelites, but kept the Egyptians in darkness.  And the one did not come near the other all night.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea.  All night, the Lord drove back the sea by a strong east wind.  The waters were divided and turned the sea into dry land.

The Israelites walked into the sea on dry ground.  The water formed a wall for them on their right and on their left.  All of Pharaoh’s soldiers, chariots, and horses went into the sea after them.

At dawn, God looked down upon the Egyptian army from a fiery cloud, and threw the Egyptians into a panic.  Their chariot wheels were clogged with mud, and they could hardly turn.

Egyptian Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them and against us.

Voice of God Moses, stretch your hand over the sea, so that the water may come and drown the Egyptians and their chariots.

Narrator So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth.  The Egyptians tried to flee, but the waters covered the soldiers, chariots, and horses.

The entire army of Pharaoh had followed the Israelites into the sea, and not one of them lived.  But the Israelites had walked through the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians.  Israel saw the great work that the Lord had done.  The people stood in awe and believed in the Lord and Moses, God’s servant.

Then the prophet Miriam took a tambourine in her hand and all the women went with her and danced with tambourines.

Miriam Sing to the Lord who has triumphed gloriously; horse and driver have been thrown into the sea!

All Sing to the Lord, who has triumphed gloriously; horse and driver have been thrown into the sea!


A Reading from the Book of Zephaniah (3:14-20)


Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;

         shout, O Israel!

Rejoice and exult with all your heart,

         O daughter Jerusalem!

The LORD has taken away the judgments against you,

         he has turned away your enemies.

The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;

you shall fear disaster no more.

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:

Do not fear, O Zion;

do not let your hands grow weak.

The LORD, your God, is in your midst,

a warrior who gives victory;

he will rejoice over you with gladness,

he will renew you in his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing

as on a day of festival.

I will remove disaster from you,

so that you will not bear reproach for it.

I will deal with all your oppressors

at that time.

And I will save the lame

and gather the outcast,

and I will change their shame into praise

and renown in all the earth.

At that time I will bring you home,

at the time when I gather you;

for I will make you renowned and praised

among all the peoples of the earth,

when I restore your fortunes

before your eyes, says the LORD.



A Reading from the Letter of Paul to the Romans (6:3-11)


Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.  For whoever has died is freed from sin.  But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.


The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark(16:1-8)


When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.






by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer


The liturgy of this night is a form of the most ancient, annual celebration in the entire church year.  It seems to have begun as early as the late first century, and it is one that continues to engage all our senses.  It makes use of some of the most powerful symbols that we have, symbols that have the power to touch us at the deepest levels of our humanity: darkness and light, water, food and drink, and words — many words.


We began by lighting the Paschal or Easter candle, processed into the nave, and listened to the words of the Exultet: a joyful proclamation that the Church has used for more than 1200 years to announce Jesus’ resurrection.  We then began a series of scripture readings that spoke of the ways that God has given life to God’s people: in creation, in the Exodus, and in new beginnings during the times of the prophets – powerful and life-giving words.  Then more words: words of St. Paul linking Jesus’ resurrection with baptism.  Finally, we listened to the conclusion of St. Mark’s version of the gospel: words describing what took place two days after Jesus’ death, words of a new hope, words of new possibilities.


The women come to the tomb.  They encounter a messenger from God, who shows them that the tomb is empty.  They are told of Jesus’ resurrection and are sent to bring that Good News to others.  They have heard words, amazing words, and they are sent to bring those life-giving words to others.


Yet here, at the most important and most dramatic moment of all, words cease, and we are left with silence: unnerving, disconcerting silence.  “’Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’  So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”  They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  Total silence.


What kind of an ending is that for a gospel?  Christians have asked that question almost from the very beginning.  As early as the mid-second century, people tried to add resurrection stories on to the end of Mark’s account: stories like those found in the other three gospels.  But none of those endings was part of the original version.  Why not?  Why would the evangelist leave us hanging, waiting to know the rest of the story, waiting to know how Jesus appeared to his disciples in Galilee, waiting to know who finally dared to proclaim what had happened, waiting to know how that proclamation was received?  Instead, he left his first hearers in silence.


He leaves us, too, in silence and in awe at this great new act that God has done, this great new creation that God has begun.  And maybe the reason that we have not been given the end of the story is that, as yet, there is no end of the story.  Maybe the story of Easter is ongoing.  Maybe we are not just hearers of the story.  Maybe we now are part of the story.


In his commentary on this passage, Gospel scholar Joel Marcus suggests that, in order to understand the meaning of this last verse of the gospel according to Mark, we need to return to its very first verse: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  Maybe today’s concluding verse is not the end of the end of that “good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” but only the end of its beginning.  Maybe, at this point, Jesus’ story has become our own.  Maybe it is now up to us to write the ending by the way that we proclaim and live the good news, by the way that we proclaim and live the resurrection.