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Sermon preached by Fredrica Harris Thompsett
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
The Great Vigil of Easter — April 4, 2015

In the name of the One God who leads us to new life, loves us without condition, and who blesses us without asking.   AMEN

[And after wild, wicked wintry weather . . . are you ready, really ready, to warm up amid this welcoming community! To welcome more passion into your life of faith?  Then, tonight, I have good news for you!]

Tonight God has a deeper kind of ambition for each of us.  A deeper kind of ambition fired and set aflame by a deeper kind of love.

A conflagration kindled by love.

A new fire that is blazing hot!

And a prayer that calls us to “burn with heavenly desires.”

Tonight we are passionately invited, urged, provoked in stories, sounds, splashes, smells, touches, torches and tastes to celebrate a living encounter with the Risen One!

Tonight is not a night for lukewarm expressions of faith. If you had ever supposed that the church’s liturgies were, at best, boring and bland, or, at best, beneficial only for infants, be prepared to trust tonight’s liturgy and enter into it fully.

Tonight I invite you to fall fully and warmly in love with the bountiful blessings of baptism, a service that is even appropriate for thoughtful, reasonable, consenting adults!

Tonight we can be thankful for the witness of Jean Reed which prompts us to remember that baptismal celebrations are always about the future about each one of us (not only about Jean)

about our willingness, our “We Will” responses (baptismal covenant)

about what we are willing to let God do with us!

about being called (at any age) into newness of life.

AND most of all because of who God is, and how deeply we are loved.


I invite you to fall in warmly in love with the fervent and feisty witness of Mary Magdalene and her bereaved companions.  Why?  Because of what these women in Mark’s story teach us about deeper kinds of love

      about the interwoven character of grief, loss and love

about being alarmed and amazed at the same time

      about moving from tragedy and loss to the promise of eternal life

AND most of all about moving from the absence of his body to the promise of his presence


On this night of all nights I invite you to warmly embrace the liturgy of the table, to trust its power and enter into it fully

to remember his life, passion, and resurrection

to realize this self-giving love, how very deeply we are loved,

to embrace the One who goes on ahead of us, making himself known in the breaking of the bread,


AND most of all to celebrate the movement of this whole beloved community through death into new life.


On this night, as we celebrate, Christ’s resurrection, and Holy Baptism and Holy Communion we are trice warmed, enflamed by sacramental love:

God shows a deeper ambition for each of us!

          God expresses deeper love that persists!

                   Together “We grow into the holy.”

                   “We are loved without condition.”

                   “We are blessed without asking.”[1]


[1] These last three phrases are based on prayers by Bishop Steven Charleston.


Dr. Fredrica Harris Thompsett is the Mary Wolfe Professor Emerita of Historical Theology at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  She resides on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is a guest preacher and teacher around the globe, and serves on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church.  St. Paul’s is pleased to call her “friend”.

Categories: Sermons