Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Church of the Resurrection, Wheaton, Illinois

Saturday night my family went to the Great Easter Vigil at the Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois. It’s a four-hour service. It starts with the Ceremony of Light. Then the story of redemption is told, starting with creation and ending with the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism and communion follow.

It was an amazing service. This was my third year of being there, and I’m taken aback by the liturgy. For those of you who grew up in a high church background, what I’m about to say is old news to you, but for those of us who grew up without thinking through the church calendar and the rich history of the liturgy, it’s like drinking from a fresh pond of God’s grace.

What really struck me was when the baptism came and the baptismal candidates were asked to recite the baptismal vows. They’re powerful, and the rector explained that these are ancient vows. In the first four vows, the candidates are asked to renounce certain things:

Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
I renounce them.

Do you renounce the evil powers of this world, which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
I renounce them.

Do you renounce all the sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
I renounce them.

It’s powerful. Renouncing things just has not been part of my church history. We affirm things. We declare things. We proclaim things. We don’t renounce things. Our own sinfulness, when we do renounce things, becomes so apparent. Yet, on Saturday, I found myself renouncing again the power of the evil one against whom Christ stands.

At the very end of the service, when we’d spent at least an hour singing our hearts out, ringing bells, and celebrating the resurrected Lord, we were asked to extend our hands toward the cross on the platform and proclaim several things:

The celebrant would say, “All our problems of our life on this earth…”
And we would say, “We send to the cross of Christ.”

The celebrant would say, “All the difficulties of our circumstances…”
And we would say, “We send to the cross of Christ.”

The celebrant would say, “All the devil’s works from his temporary power…”
And we, with our hands to the cross, would say, ““We send to the cross of Christ.”

When I think about all that’s weighing on me, all the pressures of trying to run the mission – to try to make sense financially, to try to make sense sociologically, to try to give us focus and vision and dreams – it is not always easy to extend my hands and say, “I give them to the cross of Christ. I send them to the cross of Christ.”

I pray that we will learn how to renounce and that we will learn how to send things to the cross of Christ.


1 comment:

  1. Funny timing on this post. This is the second time I have even heard of "renouncing". The first was on the TV show "The Unit". I hate admitting that renouncing scares me. I don't want it to, but that's the natural feeling that wells up in me. I'm afraid that there are parts of me that don't want to completely let go of my comfortable sins. Oh, I hate even writing that. I don't want it to be true, but it must be.
    This post reminds me that in order to be able to fully grasp the power of the cross I have to use both hands! I can't be gripping onto sinful desires with one hand and reaching for the cross with the other. I also can't allow any evil powers or spiritual forces of wickness to be pulling me back. Renouncing seems to be the verbal step of letting go of what's behind and the swatting away of what's holding us back in order to press on toward the goal. What a wonderful practice.


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