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Easter Vigil

This year, over Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and now of course at the Easter Vigil I have been sharing with you my experience of burning the holy oils on Wednesday. Well, here is the thing, little did you all know, but on Wednesday you were almost without a vicarage because I decided to do something stupid.

You see on Wednesday, the weather wasn’t very nice and so I had a “good idea”. I thought to myself as I soaked up the oil in the paper towels and prepared to set it alight in its aluminium tray ‘Well I could just put the try on top of the oven, put the extractor fan to full and light it inside’.

This actually worked wonderfully for the best part of 2 minutes. The flames burnt well, the oil began to burn too and a nice warm flame about 6 inches high warmed the kitchen nicely. After 2 minutes the flame had doubled and still getting larger, clouds of black smoke were starting to defeat the extractor, and I said and I encourage you to translate exactly what I said in your imagination into earthy anglo-saxon ‘oh dear, oh dear, I’m about to set the whole blinking vicarage on fire with holy oil’. The fire alarm starting blaring and the immediate future was looking interesting. Thankfully, despite my stupidity, I was a trained science teacher in a previous life and knew how put out an oil fire, quickly soaked a tea towel in cold water and placed it on top. Fire went out, I opened all the doors, and the crisis was averted. As I shared over the last couple of days, I went and finished the job outside.

Tonight, we celebrate Christ rising from death, alleluia. Tonight, we celebrate Christ setting us free, tonight we celebrate that evil now has a sell-by date and every day that date gets closer. We have heard the salvation of God in scripture, that centres in on the empty tomb. The priests, the romans, the people all tried to put out the fire of love that Jesus kindled. They had tried to defeat Him through discourse. They had tried to defeat Him through traps. Finally, they tried to defeat Him through death, they did everything they could to put out the fire but nothing could stop the uncontrollable, unshakable, unstoppable love of God from setting the whole world on fire. That fire roared from the tomb and the stone was rolled away. That fire was first witnessed by the women at the tomb in the early morning. That fire, that fierce fire ran through the women and the disciples and spread across the empire and then the world. It is a fire that still burns today in me and in you and other brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe. There is no stopping it. Even today, not learning the lessons of the past, repressive regimes around the world continue to try to stop the fire of God’s easter love. They might as well try ice skating uphill, its impossible, it can’t keep the fire from spreading. The more you try and put it out, the more it burns all the brighter. It is no mistake the some of the biggest and growing Christian churches in the world are in places like China and Iran. The victory is won and there is no earthly power that can stop the Lord. 

As God’s church our job is to fan the flames of love that see it spread. Our job as the church of God in Cleveleys is to fan the flames of love in our town. Because Easter joy cannot be held back, it cannot be stopped.

What does fanning the flames of God’s love look like? It looks like people being welcomed by the Christian community here, in all the different ways we love people who come in this building. It looks like praying for people even if they wouldn’t step into our building. It looks like people finding the bravery to try new things, pray new prayers and reach out to lost people.  

The church always needs to watch out for damp towels though. There are things like sin, conflict and fear that drive some of that fire away, although nothing can fully stop the Easter love let loose. We need to avoid the temptation to try and control or inhibit, fire, by its nature goes where it will. We need to avoid anxiety and actively decide to trust that the Lord will keep the fire burning, after all it is in His power not ours that the church grows and prospers.

Here is my easter prayer for our community here over the next couple of years. Our church, I believe, is afire with the love of God. But I wonder if we are prepared to let it go out of control, to rage, to become a wildfire that will tell people of the love of Christ? I wonder if we can have the faith to allow the fires of the resurrected Christ to get out of our building and set our town on fire with love? I wonder if we can have the courage and the faith to welcome the stranger in the street to know the love of Christ? I wonder if we can put away any damp tea towel and just see what catches on fire. To try new things, to speak to people about our faith, to love in ways we never thought we could. The fire of Christ is burning brightly in this place. Perhaps it’s time to see what we can go out and set on fire as well.

Christ has risen, His church is still here doing the work He started nearly 2000 years ago. The Kingdom of God is expanding, the fires of the Lord are spreading. Let’s learn together to be Easter Arsonists, spreading the fire of God’s love, of Jesus rising from the tomb, because the profoundly good news of Christ is that He died and was raised, the first fruit of the new creation that God will bring in and that we are a part of and have the joy of telling others about. We know the words of the one who brings eternal life, not simply life after death but life now in all its abundance. its worth sharing, even if some will not listen. We have so much to celebrate and in His power and through faith, putting anxiety aside, we will see miracle upon miracle here as we take His easter love to Cleveleys and all the world. Christ is Risen, lets celebrate hard and let us go out in His power to let the whole earth know that God saves. Alleluia! Amen. 


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