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Proclaim the Pascha!

Notes on Preaching the Resurrection
I find that Christmas and Easter sermons are among the most difficult to compose. The pressure of the day
is immense, as we’ve been on our ‘Lenten journey’ for 40 days, always pointing to Easter, and then, finally, there we
are! On top of that, we’ve got an extra bunch of people coming to church who will probably not hear another
sermon until next Christmas! What is a pastor to say on this day that is the absolute center of our lives and of the
whole entire world? The Resurrection of our Lord is indeed the most important thing that has ever happened in the
history of the world, so how will we herald It’s arrival? What follows is a collection of nuggets I’ve mined over the
years, that will hopefully be as helpful to you as they have been to me. God bless your proclamation of the
Resurrection of Christ!

“We are, when all is said and done, only preachers of a word we have received. When we stand
up on Easter morning and say, “Christ is risen!” we are not arguing for the abstract possibility of
resurrection; we are simply announcing what was announced to us. We arrive in our several
pulpits not as the bearers of proof, but as the latest runners in a long relay race; not as savants
with arguments to take away the doubts of the faithful, but as breathless messengers who have
only recently spoken to Peter himself: The Lord is risen indeed (gasp, gasp) and has appeared
(pant, pant) to Simon!”
+Robert Farrar Capon, The Third Peacock, 50-51.

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If
any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored
long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let
him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness
keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall
in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near,
fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at
his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he
gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the
first hour.
And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and
upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and
honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and
receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold
high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have

fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one
bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his
iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s
death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell,
He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this,
did cry: Hell, said he, 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 slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in
chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took
that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your 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 the grave. For Christ,
being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be
glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.
+John Chrysostom – Paschal Homily
“Christianity appeals to history, and to history it must go. And the question of Jesus’
resurrection, though it may in some senses burst the boundaries of history, also remains within
them; that is precisely why it is so important, so disturbing, so life-and-death. We could cope –
the world could cope – with a Jesus who ultimately remains a wonderful idea inside his
disciples’ minds and hearts. The world cannot cope with a Jesus who comes out of the tomb,
who inaugurates God’s new creation right in the middle of the old one.”
-NT Wright, Surprised By Hope, 68-69

“Yesterday the Lamb was slain and the door-posts were anointed, and Egypt bewailed her
Firstborn, and the Destroyer passed us over, and the Seal was dreadful and reverend, and we
were walled in with the Precious Blood. Today we have clean escaped from Egypt and from
Pharaoh; and there is nothing to hinder us from keeping a Feast to the Lord our God – the Feast
of our Departure; or from celebrating that Feast, not in the old leaven of malice and wickedness,
but in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, carrying with us nothing of ungodly and
Egyptian leaven. Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I
died with Him; today I live with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; today I rise with Him.”
+Gregory of Nazianzus – Oration 1

God the Father had awakened his Son, who suffered as the Lamb of God bearing the sins
of the world from the dead. Through the blood of the eternal testament, he took the great
Shepherd of the sheep from out of the grips of death. He rose as the firstborn of many brothers.
He is the head of the Church, and His church knows that, “For where the Head is, there as well I
know his members are to dwell, when Christ will come and call them.” With that, the end of the
world began. The firstborn are risen from the dead, and all will follow him. However long it
takes is of no consequence. The new era began with Christ’s resurrection. The old world
perished. The Church lives between these two worlds, between these two eras. It is still night, but
the first rays of light are dawning. Now the sun will rise. It is no accident that the only
relationship between the resurrection and nature in the Church’s ancient liturgy is the mention of
light. “Very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, the women went to the
tomb.” That was the first Sunday of this world. Just as God created light on the first day of the
week, so the new creation began on the great Sunday of the holy Easter festival. For this reason,
the first candle on the Eve of Easter was lit in the dark of the church during the Early Church’s
Easter Vigil, (a custom which the church would do well to keep even today) with the liturgical
announcement: “The light of Christ. – Thanks be to God.”
That is the message that is proclaimed throughout the world today in the tolling of the
Easter bells, in the prayers and songs of the Church, and in the preaching of the Easter Gospel. It
rings throughout the lands of the extreme North and the extreme South of our planet in the lands
of early Christendom and on the mission fields of Asia and Africa where the light of Christ is
dawning for the first time. It rings throughout the wide-open lands of the Russian Empire, where
men still greet each other, but in secret, with the ancient greeting, “The Lord is risen! – He is
risen indeed!” It rings through the cosmopolitan cities of modern civilization, and at the same
time through tiny country villages. It is for the rich and the powerful people as well as the poor
and oppressed. It is for the learned and the unlearned, the men of every race, all peoples, and all
languages without any exception, because we are all on the way to the grave our earth places
before us. We are all on the way to the grave in which all human differences end. That means the
end, the end of all history, the end of eternal Germany, the end of eternal Rome. To the grave
that no human wisdom, no human power opens. To the grave that devours all of us, and from
which only one has risen on this Easter Vigil, as over a dark world where the sun comes up,
when the joyful message of this day is proclaimed: “The Lord is risen! – He is risen indeed!”
Amen.
+Hermann Sasse, Witness: Erlangen Sermons and Essays for the Church 1933-1944,
111-113