Today is the day that Lord has made. Let us rejoice! Christ has risen.
Good morning and welcome to Easter – the most special day for Christian faith and a very special day for us here at New Church Sherman Oaks.
Easter is also our church birthday! Thanks to COVID, our service is a little different than it was four years ago. But not so different than that first easter morning, when the disciples were also at home to received the good news! The tomb was empty. Jesus is alive.
The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ was not a one-time event. What God did then, God does now. We are resurrected people. This does not mean we won’t suffer, feel pain or somehow escape a physical death. It just means God so loves us, that God was willing to take on our flesh and feel our pain with us.
Out of this divine solidarity comes our blessing, a new life. And a new understanding of God’s covenant promise kept. God is our God. And we are God’s children, beloved and alive thanks to Christ Jesus. It is in his name we gather. It’s his name we rejoice. It’s in his name we offer this prayer:
Almighty God, awakens us to your glory through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, who overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life. In the face of all that we are suffering from today, let there be joy in Jerusalem and peace among all nations. Let the sounds of weeping and the cries of distress turn to shouts of joy and laughter. Let infants grow and thrive. Let the old dance like children as we come together as a community, caring for one another and helping one another live into the glory of the Easter resurrection. By your Holy Spirit fill us with all goodness and grace, so that we might proclaim kindness, justice and love to our neighbors; living out this life by the example set for us by your resurrected Son, who taught us to pray saying:
Last week, Palm Sunday, we spoke of the people who lined the streets to celebrate Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem. But that celebration was short lived. Sometime after he shared a Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus’ enemies had him arrested. They hustled him through an unjust trial and convicted him of blasphemy - a crime punishable by death.
But because they were devout, law-abiding men, his enemies had to connive and convinced the Roman government do their dirty work. Before Pilate, Jesus was beaten and mocked, yet didn’t flinch before the emperor’s sword. Instead, he stood there silently as if to say, “What are you gonna do, kill me?” It was like Jesus knew God’s love and faithfulness was bigger than death. Still, Pilate gave him an insurrectionist’s cross. And well, you know the rest of the story.
Then, on the day Jerusalem observed the Sabbath, God got busy. And here’s what happens next. Read: Mark 16:1-8
Now Mark is considered to be the first of the four gospels. His is a quick and to the point account of Jesus’ ministry. Throughout the ages, people have found all sorts of creative ways to make Mark’s Easter story come to life. Around 400 A.D. John Chrysostom, the archbishop of Constantinople, preached one such sermon. It was so good the Church argued it should be preached every year.
Given the divisive state of American Christianity these days, today seems like the perfect time to bring back this famous Easter message written by one of the early church fathers. Even though it’s over 1,800 years old, his words are still relevant and speak to every heart. He begins by asking:
Is there anyone here who is a devout lover of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival.
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any now weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If they have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward.
If any have come after the third hour,
let them with gratitude join in the Feast!
And they that arrived after the sixth hour,
let them not doubt; for they shall have sustained no loss.
And if any have delayed until the ninth hour,
do not hesitate; but let them come too.
And they who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
be not afraid by reason of this delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to those who come at the eleventh hour,
as well as to those who toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the work 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 Hades 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 was mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it was destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar because it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and it 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 your sting?
O Hades, where is your 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,
has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen!
What an amazing gift John Chrysostom gave to the world. A simple invitation to everyone to come and feast on the glory of God! When we first gathered as a church, our invitation was simple. Come and see.
Come and see the church from a new perspective.
Come and see yourself through the eyes of God’s love for you.
Jesus often described God’s love as a banquet, a feast like no other. A feast that Jesus has invite you to attend. The table has been set. There is a seat waiting for you.
It doesn’t matter who you are or when you arrive, Jesus said you are welcome to this feast. Whether or not you believe a little, or a lot, or not at all it does not negate what God has done for you through Christ Jesus. Whether you are a sinner or a saint, God destroyed death, so that you might live and enjoy this everlasting feast.
Think about that for a moment. God destroyed death, so that you might live. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks of you, or how it tries to define you. It doesn’t matter how you see yourself! This is a day that the Lord has made. No longer will darkness overpower you. Jesus Christ is giving you the radiant light of Easter.
In this light, Jesus sees you as you really are – a beloved child of God. He is calling us all to the feast.
Today, as we gather to celebrate God know that God is here to celebrate you. Whether you see yourself as worthy or not, the table is set, the food is already cooked. There is enough for everyone to get more than their fair share. The celebration is on. The only one stopping you from attending … is you.
Every Easter for as long as I can remember, we have hosted a big Easter brunch. Kathleen would make all kinds of great dishes. And our friends and family bring their best. Mouth-watering aromas mingled with the electrifying joy in the house. Around our table one would find ham, quiches, soups, charcuterie boards with different meats, bread and cheeses. Not to mention salads and vegetables prepared a dozen different ways.
We’d load our plates. Then go back for seconds and thirds. The champagne was as plentiful as the laughter. We’d relax on the back porch, holding our stuffed bellies and watching the kids hunt for the remaining easter eggs. And then, desert would come. Cakes, pies, fruit, ice cream and chocolates and of course Easter candy.
It’s a marvelous feast to say the least. A little reminder of the sweetness of heaven here on earth. Because of the pandemic, this didn’t happen last year. This year won’t be any different. Many of us are still unable to be with our friends and family. Yet we all still have a reason to rejoice. The tomb is empty. Death no longer holds us captive or cripples us with fear.
Christ is Alive. And he’s calling us to the party. A never-ending feast of unlimited and boundless compassion. A banquet where we all delight in forgiveness and have our fill of mercy. It is here, with Christ, that God pours into the cups of our heart grace upon grace until it spills over and splashes on the tables and floors. Best of all...No one is turned away. Because no one is beyond the boundaries of God’s eternal love.
Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten this. Somewhere along the way, we tried to capture God in a box. But as the Easter tomb has shown us, God cannot be contained.
What God did then through Christ, God did once and for all. Through him we are free; given a new life. Today the Incarnate Christ is calling us to embrace this new life and the fullness of God’s faithfulness that broke through death on that first Easter morning.
From his empty tomb, the words of God still reverberate, “You are my beloved children. And my love is everlasting.” And so I invite you once again to come and see that God’s love is stronger than death. And anything that belongs to God will never go to waste.
Jesus calls out to you and me. Come and see. His is an invitation to receive God’s love that empowers you to take the Way that Jesus has taken before you: a way that gives you true joy and peace and enables you to make the love of God visible in this world.
Come and see what the Lord has made for you, out of great love for you. The table is set. The feast has begun. So come. The only one stopping you is you.
Let us pray:
We love you and adore you, Lord Christ. Because of your cross and resurrection, you have freed us to live into our belovedness. By your Holy Spirit, guide us always to walk in your footsteps as the visible presence of your light and love so that the world might see its place at the table and come to glorify you. Amen.
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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