My son Max has fears at night. I talked to him about mentioning his fears to you this morning. I told him that I didnt have to share them with you. "Will it only be at the six o'clock service?" he asked. "Yes," I answered. "Well, that is OK," he said. "It will be mostly grown-ups and they must be really nice and really believe in God if they get up so early, so they wont make fun of me."
So please consider yourselves among the select few that Max has allowed to know about his fears.
Max is nine. He alone of my three boys gets afraid at night. He hates to be alone in the dark. We have tried everything: lighting candles, handling rosaries, singing songs and praying, but when he is alone in the dark, he gets really and truly afraid.
"What are you afraid of?" I asked.
"I am not sure...monsters...maybe...I dont know..." His fears are so primal, so serious and old that he cannot even verbalize them. The only thing that seems to help is when I come and sleep under his bunk bed.
Do you remember the song The Servant Song? There is this beautiful verse that reads, "I will hold the Christ light for you, in the night-time of your fear."
The resurrection is something that cannot be explained with rational words. So for thousands of years, Christians have reinacted this ancient service called the Easter Vigil as a way of showing what resurrection is. The Easter Vigil used to go on all night. It begins in the dark, in the place of all of our fears. And in that darkness, a fire is kindled. Light comes out of the darkness, out of nothing itself, just like it did at the very beginning of creation when God said, "Let there be light."
Resurrection is light coming into the darkness. It happened when all was lost and Jesus was dead. He came back to us from out of nowhere. And he told us that there is light at the end of the dark tunnel of death, that the sun will rise again even after we die, that life cannot and will not be extinguished for those who believe.
I will hold the Christ-light for your in the night-time of your fear.
In his book, The Logic of Eternal Joy, Jerry Walls argues that the notion of heaven is dying in American culture today. Both heaven and hell are becoming obselete, he claims. No one believes in heaven anymore. We think that its a childish notion. Something that may exist but can never be rationally explained. There is no need to prepare for something so amorphous. He writes that Americans don't believe in heaven because we are afraid that it will be boring. "Our ancestors were afraid of Hell; we are afraid of Heaven. We think it will be boring."
How could there be life after death? How could we just go on existing? The notion overwhelms us. Will we sit on clouds in boring stagnation? How could God possibly make the light continue without it getting stale, old, boring?
It is true that heaven is a childish notion. It comes from the very heart of a child. Jesus tells us that we must be like children to enter the kingdom of heaven. For the child who is having a great time, there is no boredom in repetition. It is like the little boy, who, when bouncing on his daddy's knee, says, "Do it again! Do it again!" That is what God is like. Every morning, when the sun rises, God says, "Do it again! Do it again!" to the sun. And every evening, God says, "Do it again! Do it again!" to the moon. G.K. Chesterton writes, "It may be that God has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we." God is never bored, but eternally playful, eternally joyful.
Today we will baptize a man named Peter. For decades, Peter, who was a non-practicing Jew, has been wondering about baptism. For decades, he has thought about it. And on this morning, as the sun begins to rise, we will begin a new life for Peter, a new relationship with God.
Peter, this is quite literally the most radical thing you have ever done or will ever do. A life begins today that is beyond all of our comprehending, a life that is anything but boring. And all you need to do is trust in it. You enter heaven today. Open your heart to the possibility that God waits for you, playfully waiting to dance with you in heaven. The dance begins now, Peter, at this baptism. So keep awake. Watch for signs of God's love, signs of the dance. The sun is rising and you are about to experience something totally new. This is just the beginning.
When you celebrate Easter, don't think so much about eggs or bunnies, think about the fire that is kindled in darkness, the light that comes out of nowhere. Think about the fact that you need never be afraid again. Think of that verse, "I will hold the Christ-light for you, in the night-time of your fears."
Jesus is taking my place under Max's bunk bed, slowly but surely. Max is realizing that Jesus is all he needs to chase away the darkness. In fact, he has been there all along.