Alan Neale

Writer • Speaker

Easter Vigil Sermon “And the same to you…” April 15 2017. Trinity Church, Newport RI. The Reverend Alan Neale

I need not, but I will admit, that an  Easter Vigil service rates not highly on my list of liturgical “must-do’s.” Maybe this reluctant acceptance is due to personal history, theological concerns, a pedantic search for consistency, pastoral matters and… laziness. Nevertheless, my good friend and Rector Anne Marie Richards (armed with this knowledge) invited me to preach this past Easter Vigil – thank you!

I cannot remember using “shut up” ever before in a sermon and, this time, it was said only in jest (but it was blurted out and unplanned.) Who would have thought that an Episcopal congregation needed to be told “cool it” when it came to shouting out “alleluia.”

The text is below the sermon audio…

Sermon preached at Trinity Church, Newport RI
Easter Vigil April 15th 2017
The Reverend Alan Neale
“And the same to you…”

“Christ is risen; the Lord is risen indeed.

Two remarks as preface.

The first – earlier today I was doing some yardwork. My neighbor, not knowing the risk she took, approached me to chat. During the conversation, she said, “I saw you wearing all black yesterday. Was there church?” As I explained it struck me that indeed there has been a growing blackness throughout Holy Week, even Maundy Thursday is marked by chords of poignant farewell and then the blackness of Good Friday followed by the dull tones of the ennui of Holy Saturday. But friends, that was then and now is now. Let colors abound, let organs play, let voices ring –

“Christ is risen; the Lord is risen indeed.”

The second prefatory remark comes from my drive to church this morning; I forgot to miss First Beach and so was really quite happily embroiled in all the business of the marathon run. Again, it struck me (!) that this Holy Week has indeed been a marathon in time but especially in spirit and yet I have run with others and there have been wayside spectators cheering us on.

“Christ is risen; the Lord is risen indeed.”

Several decades ago when I was a young curate, fresh-faced and know-it-all (well, I can’t claimed fresh-faced anymore)I served as a junior curate at the pro-Cathedral church of St. Andrew, Plymouth UK. I was given the charge of the “young people”, I didn’t want the job but I did as I was told (ever obedient assistant priest to Rectors!) As Easter approached I wanted the young people to impress the Rector with their ready response to the Easter greeting. I taught them, I rehearsed them, I grilled them. And come the day all was going exceedingly well until one young girl approached the Rector, he said, “Christ is risen.” There was a fearful, pregnant pause and then she declared, “Oh… and the same to you.”

For many Easters now I have shared this story because it makes the most profound and crucial theological point… because Christ is risen, because death is vanquished… this all makes a difference to us. Not only because our own death will not be the final word but because daily we have access to resurrection power in all our doings, challenges, relationships.

Listen to St. Paul (Romans 8:11) “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.”

This resurrection dynamic power rebounds, redounds, overflows, overwhelms, it echoes, it resonates…
Just see the how this resurrection explosion made impact on the holy women of our Gospel…

  • They had courage and refused to be paralyzed by fear; though earthquakes were shattering and shimmering angels were appearing; though they actually were made to confront the place of horror (“come see where he lay”) – they were catapulted through their fear
  • They had courage to reach out and touch the risen Lord; though in worship still an act of courage not knowing what would happen and
  • They had courage to take the message to the men, those wretched creatures of betrayal

This is what resurrection power does to me, to you, to this church today… it breaks the debilitating grasp of fear, it empowers hands and hearts to stretch out in order to live afresh and it equips even sinners to carry the message of new life, grace and forgiveness.


“Christ is risen; the Lord is risen indeed.”

And the same to you…