“Easter is for All!”
On of the best and most lasting Easter sermons was written in the late 4th century by John Chrysostom (the same John Chrysostom whose well known prayer “when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them…” appears in our service of Morning Prayer BCP pg 102). It is rich. It is powerful. It is joyful. It is hopeful. And it has the added benefit of perhaps being one of the shortest Easter homilies on record.*
Chrysostom’s Paschal Homily expresses that Easter is for everyone.
“He gives rest to those that come at the eleventh hour, as well as to those that labored from the first hour; and to the last He is merciful, and the first He pleases; to the one He gives, and to the other He bestows; and He receives the works, and welcomes the intention (editor’s note: intention is rewarded as much as successful action); and the deed He honors, and the offering He praises. Wherefore, then, enter all into the joy of your Lord; both the first and the last, receive your reward.”
This theme of the universal gift of Easter continues:
“You who are sober and you are slothful (editor’s note: you who struggle with addiction), honor the day. You that have kept the fast and you that have not, be glad today. The table is full-laden, let all delight in it. The calf is fatted; let none go forth hungry. Let all enjoy the feast of faith, all receive the riches of goodness. Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his transgressions, for forgiveness has dawned from the tomb. Let no one fear death, for the death of the Savior has set us free”
And while many Christians continue to grasp full strength to the fear of hell and the threat of hell, John Chrysostom’s Easter homily reminds us that Christ’s Resurrection has destroyed death, abolished hell, leading hell’s captivity away as captive.
Jesus played the ultimate trick on hell—it never saw him coming.
“He who descended into hades, embittered it, when it tasted of His flesh. And foretelling this, Isaiah cried: “Hades,” he saith, “was embittered when it encountered Thee below.” It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered. (editor’s note: And here is where the trick was played–the trap was sprung…) Hades received a body and encountered God. It received earth, and met heaven. It received that which it saw, and fell to what it did not see. O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory? “
And so let everyone rejoice! Life flourishes for ALL…yes, even you. “There are none dead in the tombs.” So let us live as those who are alive in Christ, and let us live as those who know that ALL are made free on Easter Day.
He is Risen! Alleluia. Alleluia.
*Mark Boesser loved to share the story of the “Shortest Easter Sermon Ever Preached.” Here it is as “told” by Mark:
One of my favorite Easter stories is of a certain bishop who was accustomed to visit a particular church in Pennsylvania on Easter Day. Since his last visit a sounding board had been constructed over the pulpit, a nice improvement, except for the fact that the height of the bishop had not been taken into account. He stood well over six feet tall. (A sounding board is an ornate wood cover hung above a pulpit to project sound outward toward the congregation.)
At the appointed time that Easter Day, the bishop mounted the pulpit for his sermon, thrust his hand into the air with pointer finger extended and shouted:
Broke his finger on the sounding board,
And had to be carried from the church.