“So you also must consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
“Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!” We have been waiting six weeks to hear those words, and only just now we proclaimed them, and the lights went on, and we sang a hymn of praise, and read the Easter Gospel. Alleluia, for Christ is risen! “Praise to the Lord,” that’s what it means, “Praise to the Lord.” It’s the same in both English and Spanish, because it comes from Hebrew, the language of God’s ancient people. It’s the shout of victory, the joyful song of the redeemed. “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!”
Adrienn, our new musician here, has so graciously stepped in to play for us tonight. And besides her excellent work on the piano and with the choirs, she is an instrumentalist, a teacher of strings. Because she’s a violinist, she knows a great deal about fugues. Fugues are musical selections in which a given theme, stated at the beginning, is repeated in a seemingly endless series of variations. Bach wrote some of the finest ones, and occasionally we hear one as a postlude on Sunday morning. As we repeat the theme in a fugue, we gradually become aware of dimensions and possibilities within the original melody that we hadn’t noticed before. The melody comes to take on a new kind of life, with increasing complexity and power. And as the fugue unfolds, the pace speeds up and grows louder, until it settles on a great resounding chord, all the stops pulled, a sound as big as glory. That’s what tonight is all about. It’s all one grand fugue, this Easter Vigil, and here’s the melody: “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.”
Praise to the Lord—it’s what the angels sang for joy when in the beginning, when the Lord made the heavens and the earth. He made all things and filled them with life, tuned them all to sing His glory. Alleluia was what Miriam and Moses sang on the bank of the Red Sea when the waters parted to allow the Israelites to pass through dryshod and then swallowed up Pharoah and all his chariots into the torrent. And when God breathed life back into the dry bones of exiled Israel, and raised up a new people, they made their way home singing Alleluia.
So when Jesus rolls the stone away from the tomb this night, and the angels fly and the rocks break open for joy, it is glorious and new, an unparalleled mystery. But we’ve also been here before. We know this song, and God has given us the words, “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!”
And this is for us, this Alleluia, that’s why we remember our Baptisms this night, and read that glorious text from the Epistle to the Romans. The God who made the world and rolled back the Red Sea waters, who put scattered Israel back together and raised the Son on the third day, He has stepped into the midst of our lives as well. When we were washed, and confessed Him as our Savior, the Lord of our life, He freed us from sin’s power as well. We heard the call to repentance and were pulled out of the fire and carried through the flood. He raised us up, though we were as dry as death and blew into us His Holy Spirit.
And this night, He opens our lips and gives us the only thing we can rightly say in response, the word we say with our lips and pray to show in our lives. Will you sing it with me one last time? “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!”