Resurrection Service Sermon 2011

Christ is Risen!
The best-known quote from the Pesach Haggadah is, “why is this night different from all other nights?” This line is usually recited by the youngest person at the table (or at least, the youngest person capable of reciting it). It is meant to express the child’s confusion at the difference between a typical every-day or holiday meal and the unusual features of the Seder.
The Haggadah was written by Jews for Jews at a time when most Jews observed (or at least were familiar with) Jewish law and custom. It was written with the assumption that even the youngest child the Seder would know the daily rituals followed by observant Jews and would notice how this night is different from other nights. The Haggadah deliberately contradicts those expectations in order to provoke the child to ask questions about the proceedings.
So we ask why is this night different from all other nights. And the Orthodox Christian would have no other answer but because Christ is risen from the dead, by death hath He trampled down death, and on those in the graves hath He bestowed life. That is why this night is different than any other night!
Back in the 1990’s the Christian Music Artist Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song called “The Great Adventure” This past week we Orthodox have been on a Great Adventure we have been witnesses to the Greatest Story ever told.
We walked with Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, and we cried with Him in the Garden when He asked His father to let this cup pass from Him. We have seen Him at His most human and we have seen Him at His most Divine. We witnessed the four day dead Lazarus raised from the tomb. We witnessed the woman in sin, who came to beg forgiveness find it, and we watched as Jesus hanging on the Cross not only forgave the repentant thief but forgave those who nailed Him to the Cross. Just for the record, the ones who nailed Him to the Cross, that was and is you and me, and because of His death and rising again on the third day He forgives each and every one of us! Imagine that. We are a redeemed people, no longer do we have to fear the uncertainty of death, because Jesus has come and risen from the dead as the Troparion says trampling down death by for the very last time. He has broken the hold of the evil and redeemed Adam and restored all of humanity to the state for which it was created!
This has been a very powerful week a week that began slowly in darkness and a week that has ended with light and joyous voices telling the world that Christ is Risen!
As we began the service tonight the church was all in darkness. As the light emerged from the Holy Place and I called upon each one of you to come forth to receive the light from the unwaining light. Come and receive the light of Christ that will never be extinguished. The light that should burn in each of our hearts not just this night but every night and every day.
We sit here now, in this wonderful prayer place, holding that light, we try desperately to make sure it does not go out. We will carry this light to hall after and bring it back on the morrow. The big question is what do we do with the light on Monday? What do we do with that light after we leave this place and the singing of Christ is Risen is just a soft echo in our minds. How do we keep that light burning?
If there was ever a time in history that the world needed the light of Christ it is now. Last night as we were here safe in the Church a tornado was ripping through St. Louis, the People of Japan are still trying to recover from the deadly earth quake and let us not forget the people of Haiti still trying to recover from their earthquake. At this moment, Church services have been canceled in Syria because of the violence, because a people have said they will no longer suffer under brutal dictatorship and have taken to the streets, as well as Egypt and Lybia some of the very places were the events we have read about this week took place. We can and should be that light.
But what about right here, what about right here in our own home town? Right now there is a mother desperately trying to feed her children, there is a war veteran trying to make sense out of the horrors that he witnessed or perhaps participated in. Right now there is the family worrying about where their next meal will come from or if they will even have a job come Monday, what are we going to do about the hurting world right here outside our own doors.
What about all of us here tonight. We all have hurts and fears. All of us. How will we be Christ for each other as the days turn into weeks and the week’s months and the month’s years, before long we will be back here and wondering where the year went.
Tonight we stand looking in the open tomb and are both sad and joyous at the same time. We are joyous with the women who went to anoint the body of their friend and brother; joyous of the news that he is not here he has risen. We are running along the road with Peter as he has to see with his own eyes, and we will be with Thomas as he places his hands in the nail prints and the side of his Lord and Savior. But what will we do with the light?
Each of us here tonight has an obligation. Yes that’s right and obligation to be that light for another person. I asked each of you last Sunday as we began the holiest of weeks in the Church year, to make this week special. To make this the year that you reconnected and recommitted your life to Christ. If you did that great, if you did not there is still time it is never too late. As we hear in the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom, “If anyone has labored from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay. 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 labored 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 honors the work and praises the intention.”
We have an obligation to not hide our light under a bushel but to bring that light out through those doors and into the world that needs us more than ever. We have an obligation to love not for ourselves but for others we have an obligation to live as Christ commanded us too by loving the Lord our God with all our heart mind and soul and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Christ did not come for some pageant or some painting Christ came for you and for me. God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, so that all who believe should not perish but find eternal life. We have found that true life and we have indeed found that light. Let us commit in this place and at this time that our lives will be different, that we will live our life as God has commanded us too, to life our life, the life that Christ has redeemed this night, that we will live our life and make a difference in someone else’s life. Yes it is hard. Every journey begins with that first step. Maybe the one person who needs you is you. Maybe you need to forgive yourself, and love yourself. We sit here tonight in the presence of the risen Lord. As Orthodox Christians we know that Jesus is ever present in the tabernacle that sits on the altar, this year of any that has much more meaning for me. We know and have the assurance that he is here, He is present in His Church and believe it or not He is very present in all of us, each and every one of us sitting here tonight.
Take that light in both your hands and boldly walk out into the darkness and yell at the top of your lungs that CHRIST IS RISEN! Take that light into the dark places of the world and show the people the light. After the Crucifixion Jesus’ Apostles and friends hid in the upper room because they were afraid of what was going to happen to them. They were waiting, waiting for what they did not know, but on Pentecost the Holy Spirit came on them and they boldly went to the corners of the world to preach the word. We have that blessing of the Holy Spirit now, each and every one of us and we are being called this year, at this moment, in this place, to bring that Spirit to the hurting world.
Why is this night different than any other? Because on this night we have been redeemed, we have been saved from death for all time, Jesus paid the price that we no longer have to pay, and He has trampled Down Death by Death. Let us make this night, and the rest of our lives different, let us act as the people we have been called to be, let us shout from the roof tops that Christ is Risen and that Jesus does love us each of us.
May God richly bless all of you this Easter night, may He give you the strength to take that light out into the world that so desperately needs it.
Christ is Risen!
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