Resurrection and Gratitude
I spent my seminary years being cared for and formed by St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, California. For me, this congregation will always have a special place in my heart because of the love, care, and hope they poured out upon me. I think of St. Gregory’s especially at Easter because the congregation does such an amazing job of bringing Holy Week to life in a way that blends the ancient into our modern-day context. Every year when I am preparing my sermons for Holy Week, I listen to my favorite Easter hymn written at St. Gregory’s (take a listen: https://youtu.be/4-6ixsN_QZk) and read the Paschal Sermon of St. John Chrysostom, which is read at St. Gregory’s before entering the church for the Eucharist after the procession outside during the Vigil.
As I read the text this year, I realized that what is really profound about the sermon is that my response to it is gratitude. I read it and am grateful. I listen to the hymn and am grateful. I was shocked to realize that, when I really sit with my emotions as Holy Week unfolds, my response to all of it is gratitude. I’m shocked because had you asked me before I really began working on my personal spiritual discipline of gratitude, I probably would have said that my response to Holy Week was sadness and joy. Holy Week is full of emotions and can be bittersweet, and as a priest it can be downright exhausting. But this year, as I prepare for the Triduum, I realize that the texts of the hymn and the sermon, for me at least, are a reminder that I’m not alone, God will not abandon me, and I (and we all) are loved beyond measure simply for being the person God created us to be. I am grateful because Easter is reminding me that I am enough, that I am loved, and that I am never alone in the work God has given me to do in this world. I read and listen and am reminded that I am made new through the love of God and I am sustained by responding to that love with gratitude. Easter is a reminder that it’s exhausting to try and live a lifestyle fueled by scarcity. If you are never enough, or never have enough, all you do is grapple with trying to overcome scarcity and get enough or be enough. But, if we live a life of gratitude and give thanks that we are enough and that we have enough, we’ll find a lifestyle of abundance. Gratitude will overcome scarcity, it will resurrect the person God created us to be because God created us as signs of love to a broken and hurting world.
So this month, I decided I wanted to share with you St. John Chrysostom’s Paschal Sermon text as an Easter Season meditation, in the hopes that you’ll join me in giving thanks for all that Jesus and God did for us to live a life of abundance. And, I hope that it will also serve as a reminder that you are loved beyond measure, that you are enough. I am profoundly grateful for each and every one of you, and every person who has committed herself or himself to a daily gratitude practice. Gratitude will change us, our communities, and our world because it is a reminder of the good things that God is doing in us and in the midst of us and, even at times, in spite of us. Happy Easter everyone, may the Resurrected Christ bless you this day and always.
Paschal Sermon of John Chrysostom (from the Easter Vigil at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, San Francisco, California)
If there are devout and God-loving people here, welcome to this beautiful, radiant feast. If there are any careful servants of God, come and rejoice with the Lord. If anyone here is worn out from fasting, tonight you will get your fill. If you’ve been working from the break of day, tonight you will be paid in full. If anyone came to work in the morning, the thanksgiving meal is spread for you. If any of you showed up in time for lunch, don’t worry, there is plenty for everyone. If some of you could only manage to come in the afternoon, you haven’t lost out on anything. If anyone came right before closing time, don’t give it a second thought, you’re right on time. The Founder of the Feast is gracious; the last one in gets as much as the first. The Lord is here to serve everyone – the latecomers as well as the first comers. God is compassionate with the last as well as the first; She gives freely to both. It doesn’t matter if you’ve overachieved, or you’re just getting started; God is gracious and welcomes every effort. So, everybody – enter into the joy of our Lord: newcomers and old friends, share the bounty. Rich folks and poor: everyone celebrates together. Sober or shabby, God honors you both. Those who fasted, and those who did not, rejoice today. The table is full of rich foods; no one goes away hungry. Everyone is welcome to the banquet of faith; God’s goodness is freely given to all. No one has to mourn tonight, for God brings everyone into his [MbD1] embrace. No one has to be ashamed of his or her shortcomings; forgiveness has dawned from the tomb. No one has to fear death; the Savior’s death has brought us freedom. Death thought it had beaten him down, but the Savior beat death. He stripped death of its power when he took death on himself. Death tried to swallow him up, but it gagged on his life. Prophet Isaiah saw this and proclaimed: “Death was angered when it met you in the pit.” It was angered because it was abolished. It was angered because it was mocked. It was angered because it was slain. It was angered because it was chained up. Death swallowed a body and choked on God. Death invaded earth and came face to face with heaven. Death relied on what was seen and fell by what is unseen. O Death, where is your sting? O Grave, where is your victory? Christ is risen and death is overthrown. Christ is risen and its tyranny is destroyed. Christ is risen and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen and life is triumphant. Christ is risen and the tombs are emptied. Christ has risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of those that died. Glory and power to him forever and ever!