Here’s a quick Easter post: it’s a nod to my favorite Easter sermon ever preached…okay my second favorite one (the women telling Peter is probably the best). I wasn’t there the day it was preached for the first time, but I’ve heard it repeated and I love it. Enjoy!
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 death 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.
Hell was in an uproar because it is mocked.
Hell was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
Hell is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
Hell 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!
St. John Chrysostom … Constantinople~400AD
It never ceases to amaze me that a 1,600 year-old sermon can continue to inspire. Perhaps that’s why it’s read every year in many Eastern Orthodox Churches. Sadly, I know far too many pastors who are no longer inspired by the story of Holy Week–who have lost their sense of wonder at the resurrection and who are so attuned to the end of the story that they no longer struggle with Good Friday and pause in silence on Holy Saturday. Whenever I need Easter inspiration, I turn to Chrysostom. Maybe that’s why the Eastern Churches use it–like a fail-safe. If the pastor can’t come up with the power of the resurrection AT LEAST the congregation gets to share in the blessings of Chrysostom’s words.
It’s easy for me, as a young pastor, to be critical of pastors who have been in ministry for a long time and are no longer blown away by the story. I wonder if I will be like them. I wonder how some of them stay freshly in love with the Holy Week story year after year. I hope that I can be like the latter.