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Ancient Sermon for Easter

Chinese believers refer to Easter as “Resurrection Day” (fuhuojie in Mandarin pinyin). On Resurrection Day we celebrate the world-changing event of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. His victory over death secures victory over death for all who believe in him.

Church of the Holy Sepulcher - likely site of Jesus' death and resurrection.

Church of the Holy Sepulcher – likely site of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

An ancient Greek sermon, often attributed to John Chrysostom, captures much of the beauty and power of Resurrection Day. It invites “successful” and struggling believers alike to celebrate glorious life in Christ and revel in the victory Christ accomplished over the grave. Note especially the allusions to the parable of the vineyard workers (Matthew 20:1-16), the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), and 1 Corinthians 15:20-26,54-55. Here is the sermon:

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!

This English translation of this sermon is found at anglicansonline.org, and the original Greek sermon is included in the Patrologia Graeca Series by Jacques-Paul Migne. For a brief discussion about the association of the sermon with John Chrysostom, see Roger Pearse’s post and links.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!flowers in waterA

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The Greatest Commandment, part 2

So, what life priorities should we pursue as Christians? Jesus’ discussion with the scribe about the greatest commandment (Mark 12:28-34) shows us the way.

Last time we examined the easily overlooked point that the God that we are to love is the God of the Scriptures, who revealed himself to Israel and established a covenant relationship with the people of Israel.

Today, we’ll look at what exactly it means to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

If we revisit the original context of Jesus’ quote (Deut 6:4-5), we can see that it surfaces soon after the 10 commandments (Deut 5:6-21). The more immediate context of Deut 6:1-3 further stresses the importance of obedience to God, in response to the grace he had shown the people of Israel. After our target passage God calls for the people’s exclusive loyalty (Deut 6:12-15): “do not forget the LORD” and “do not follow other gods,” because “the LORD God, who is among you, is a jealous God.” Clearly, love for God is meant to result in obedience and undivided allegiance to him.

Taking his cue from the original passage, Jesus’ repetition  – “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength” reinforces this idea of wholehearted, uncompromised loyalty to God. In other words, this is a love that is meant to have deep roots, beyond casual affirmation, superficial emotion, or unthinking affiliation.

In discipleship and mission, love for God is where we must begin. For discipleship, we must be disciples – “learners” – of what it means to love and please God and not simply operate on auto-pilot. We must be discerning about how to engage with a holy God who has opened up a way to know him through Christ (and his death and resurrection) and by the Spirit. The global church’s missionary efforts must first and foremost help people to know God through Christ and grow in devotion to him. In short, we are to make the Greatest Commandment our top concern and teach others to do the same.

We’ll take one final look at the Greatest Commandment in the next post. The link is below:

https://gregorysmagee.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/the-greatest-commandment-part-3/

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