Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sermon: Easter Wednesday

11 April 2007 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: Mark 16:1-8

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Ever since that very first Easter when the women discovered the empty tomb, and the risen Jesus began to appear, Christians have annually celebrated the resurrection feast. It became a New and Greater Passover, in which the meal is no ordinary lamb, but the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Every Sunday’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper was to become a remembrance of that first Easter in which death was conquered by death, in which the Author of Life Himself rose to a life that has no end.

We Christians rightfully celebrate this resurrection, for it is confirmation of our own conquest over death and the grave. It is a banquet of our deliverance from bondage to sin. In His death, our own guilt is put to death, and in his rising, our own literal bodily resurrection is promised.

Every Easter, the entire world has to come to grips with Jesus – either confessing Him as Lord and God, or trying to use tawdry historical trickery to portray his resurrection as a hoax. And here we are one thousand nine hundred and seventy seven years later as two billion people around the world pause to ponder and meditate upon how our universe has never been the same after that April day in the year 30 when an explosion of light burst forth from a stone crypt and a Man of Sorrows and of scars came walking out by His own power, a Man of Triumph, a God of victory.

Nearly 400 years after the first Easter, a Christian preacher named John Chrysostom proclaimed the same crucified and risen Christ as we do today. His short sermon so embodies the meaning of the resurrection that it has been repeated from Christian pulpits now for some sixteen hundred years.

St. John Chrysostom was not only a beloved bishop and gifted preacher, he was himself a man of sorrows who suffered for the sake of the truth, who was persecuted for the sake of the Gospel, who constantly had the name “Jesus” on His tongue and at the forefront of his ministry.

And even as St. John awaits the resurrection, he does so from the perspective of paradise, being a member of the Church Triumphant, one of the hosts of heaven that lauds and magnifies the glorious name of the Lord evermore with us here in this holy sanctuary. Bishop John Chrysostom’s golden mouth may have been silenced in the grave, but his words ring on into eternity even as his soul magnifies the Lord. And those words are our words too, for they are the Church’s words, the Church’s confession, the Church’s testimony of the risen Lord.

So, dear brothers and sisters, please listen to this Easter homily preached around the year 400 AD. Thus preaches St. John Chrysostom:

Are there any who are devout lovers of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages!

If any have toiled from the first hour,let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,as well as to him that toiled from the first.

To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.Let no one go away hungry.
Partake, all, of the cup of faith.Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he said,"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.

Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Here ends the Easter Sermon of St. John Chrysostom.

And even as we Christians, two billion strong around the world, prepare to take the proclamation of the resurrection of our Lord into the third millennium, and while our preaching styles and technology may change – the Gospel, the good news, of the death and resurrection of our Lord, does not change. It is as true now as it was in 30 AD, 400 AD, and will be unto the ages of ages. Jesus Christ, the risen one, the holy one, the one who takes away the sins of the world, the same yesterday, today, and forever. All honor, praise and glory be to our crucified and risen Lord, now, and even unto eternity! Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1 comment:

Joshua Schneider said...

do you know which Isaiah passage Chrysostom intended? I can only find Isaiah 14 as a close reference, a passage that is often referred to as a description of Satan's fall (perhaps mistakenly), but clearly refers in the first instance to the King of Babylon. It sounds like a description of hell welcoming a fallen ruler to join in their misery though. I hardly think that could be the reference St. John intended. Do you have any other idea what passage he found this idea in? I certainly think from the New Testament we can come to the same understanding he preached about hell being in "uproar" because of Christ's victory--but I can't find it in Isaiah.