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2024-03-31 Easter Sunday

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

With hearts and faces full of radiant joy and peace, dear brothers and sisters, we gather together again this year to celebrate the Divine Resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ our Lord. Of all the miracles of our Christian faith, this one is the greatest. Indeed, it is the greatest event in all of human history! Nothing else even comes close to the magnitude of the empty tomb. The resurrection is at the same time both a historical event and an extraordinary miracle that defies all sense of logic and reason! As an event, it occurred in human history. It was witnessed by men and women, just as the ones we heard about today in our Gospel reading from St. Mark. The evangelist tells us that three women - the first founding members of the LWML - brought spices to the tomb and upon arriving found the stone rolled away. How can this be?! There were guards keeping watch. Was it a scandal!? If the disciples did it, the women would have known about it. But this is impossible. People don’t come back from the dead, normally. But nothing about Jesus was normal. He worked miracle after miracle during His ministry. He even raised people from the dead like Lazarus and the Son of the widow from Nain. It calls to mind our Lord’s word in Luke’s Gospel “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (LK 18:27).

The people who saw it, the eyewitnesses of the resurrection - testimony that would hold up in a modern court of law - presented their witness to the world not as scientists or interpreters of “how” Christ rose from the dead – but rather as preachers of the truth that He is Risen! Think about the words that the angel spoke to the women: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee” (MK 16:7). Go. Tell. With this faith and this conviction, the women went and spread the message. The disciples went and did likewise. They proclaimed this amazing news around the world! In fact, almost all of them ended their lives, more often than not, in martyrdom. They chose to die rather than deny that Christ was risen from the dead. Why would anybody do that? You wouldn’t do it for some fake-news scandal, that’s for sure. No, the only reason you would die for the message is because it is the truth. They were living and proclaiming the truth that Christ was risen from the dead beating down death by death. As it says in Acts “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (4:20).

As a historical fact, the resurrection of our Lord can be demonstrated. Empty tomb. Shocked guards. Eye witnesses. But as an incomprehensible miracle, it cannot be explained and dissected like a frog in Grade 9 biology class. The fact that Christ is risen from the dead is everything! It is the basis and cornerstone of all the Church’s preaching over these last 2000 years. In fact, the Church – not the building, but the people … you – are a living testimony to the truth of Christ’s resurrection. How else could the Church have come to be over 2 Billion people strong, from the preaching of 1 man and 12 disciples? It’s nothing less than miraculous!

Hear the testimony of St. John: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-3).

St. Paul also points out the obvious: “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1Cor 15:14). Here we see that Christ and His bodily Resurrection from the dead is everything! It is inseparably linked with the true Christian message and its proclamation. Without the empty tomb, our faith would be empty indeed! This wasn’t just some made up myth or fairy tale devised as a money making scheme! The people who proclaimed that He is risen had reason to! St. Peter proclaims it: “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16

Plain, ordinary people experienced Christ’s Resurrection from the dead. It wasn’t famous folk or social media influencers behind some kind of campaign. Regular people went to the tomb and saw the stone rolled away. The same people trembled with astonishment as the Angel spoke to them: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him” (MK 16:6). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, countless people have come to believe the same truth for themselves and confess that Christ is risen from the dead. And by so doing, have received eternal life. Again, this isn’t just some kind of scheme. The proof kept coming. “He presented himself alive to them after His suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3) the Scripture says. For forty days Jesus appeared to the disciples. They touched His resurrected flesh, nail holes and all! He talked to them, ate with them, walked with them and taught them. They felt the Lord’s real presence so vibrantly that their hearts were aflame within them!

Whoever heard of a dead man exerting such influence on the living?! Whoever has seen such power and wisdom enlightening people so much so that it completely transformed their lives? One of the early Church Fathers, St. John Chrysostom wrote: “A great proof of the resurrection of Christ is the great power He manifested after His death. His resurrection convinced the living to abandon their country, their home, their friends, their relatives, their wives, children and parents, and to take little thought of the danger to their own lives. All these are the achievements, not of a dead man who remained in his grave, but of a resurrected God.”

The resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a miracle inside of a real-deal historical event. Christ was crucified. He was nailed to the cross and suffered and died for you. And not only that, He was raised for you and for your salvation! This amazing miracle of God is the life blood of our Christian faith. It is an event in human history of such magnitude that it permanently ripples through out all time! It was just like when I was kid at Buffalo Pound lake. I would go down to the water early in the morning and look at the perfect mirror surface of the lake. So still and calm, the water looked like glass. And as all little boys do, I couldn’t wait to hurl a rock into that water with all my might! Then I’d sit back and watch the waves ripple further and further across the lake!

This is much like the message of our Lord’s empty tomb. Those same ripples happen as the water splashes in the Baptismal font. The power of Christ’s cross and resurrection ripple again to us as our sins are washed away. Also as the wine ripples in the chalice as it is poured out for us and the bread is broken, our Lord’s resurrected body and blood come to us that we may taste and see that the Lord is good!

Today, this message comes to you again, as handed down through the centuries. How amazing it is to hear anew and celebrate that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has conquered sin, death and the devil for us! How exciting it is to know that we now have life and salvation by His cross and empty tomb! How real is the witness of the Apostles, the Saints and Martyrs who would rather die themselves than to deny their Lord’s resurrection! Heed the angel’s word: “go, tell” tell the world this amazing news that Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

~ St. John Chrysostom’s Paschal Homily ~

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.

If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.

If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now receive recompense.

If anyone has laboured from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward.

If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.

If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss.

If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation.

If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.

For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has laboured from the first.

He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one He gives, and to the other He is gracious.

He both honours the work and praises the intention.

Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward.

O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today!

The table is rich-laden: feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted: let no one go forth hungry!

Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness. Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.

He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He that descended into Hades and took Hades captive!

He embittered it when it tasted His flesh! And anticipating this, Isaiah exclaimed: “Hades was embittered when it encountered Thee in the lower regions”. It was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was despoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains! It took a body and face to face met God!

It took earth and encountered Heaven! It took what it saw, but crumbled before what can not seen!

O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!

Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!

For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that have slept.

To Him be glory and might unto the ages of ages. Amen!

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