Easter in Doxology

Easter in Doxology April 4, 2024

Easter in the Rhetoric of Doxology
John 20:1 – 18


I have decided to preach my Easter sermon in the mode of doxology. I still remember all those gruesome sermons back in the 1950’s designed to “prove” the resurrection of Jesus. I thought we would never come to an end of all those long sermons replete with theological, doctrinal, and arguments. I would have rather someone read John Updike’s “Seven Stanazas at Easter” and said “Amen” and sent us to an early Easter dinner.

When Jesus said, “Mary,” I believe she heard the voice of angels, the voice of eternity, the voice calling her back to life. Her response: “Rabbi” soon led to her powerful witness “I have seen the Lord.” This is the text I will attempt offer in doxology.

Doxology is an essential aspect of reflection on the Christian faith, especially creation and resurrection. There is danger in praise without doctrine and there is dullness in doctrine without praise.

And besides, we have just emerged from the 40 days of Lent. The “Alleluia” has returned from its temporary exile and doxology is a white hot light shining on our theological vision.

The Exsultet

Let’s get this celebration started with the Exsultet from the Easter Vigil:

Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels,
and let your trumpets shout Salvation
for the victory of our mighty King.

Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth,
bright with a glorious splendor,
for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.

Rejoice and be glad now, Mother Church,
and let your holy courts, in radiant light,
resound with the praises of your people.

All you who stand near this marvelous and holy flame,
pray with me to God the Almighty
for the grace to sing the worthy praise of this great light;
through Jesus Christ his Son our Lord,
who lives and reigns with him,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Easter brings us back home from all our dark and despairing journeys. “The end of all our exploring . Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.” You are resurrected. I am resurrected. We are resurrected! Praise the Lord!

Theological Praise

Let’s add one of the most important sentences ever written theologically: “God is whoever raised Jesus from the dead, having before raised Israel from Egypt” is the hallmark sentence of Robert Jenson’s Systematic Theology. There is no higher praise. Doxological theology!

Doxology from Our Hymnal

Now add the familiar words of the Doxology (In 1,199 hymnals) we sing after the offering and let it fill out hearts at Easter:

From all that dwell below the skies let the Creator’s praise arise!
Let the Redeemer’s Name be sung through every land, by every tongue!

Eternal are thy mercies, Lord, and truth eternal is thy word;
thy praise shall sound from shore to shore till suns shall rise and set no more.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; praise him all creatures here below;
praise him above, ye heavenly host: praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

The Easter Psalm Reading

Let us break out in praise with the song of victory in the Easter psalm reading:

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
   his steadfast love endures for ever
Let Israel say,
   ‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’
Let the house of Aaron say,
   ‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’
Let those who fear the Lord say,
   ‘His steadfast love endures for ever.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
   you are my God, I will extol you.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

Doxology from St. Chrysostom

Now, there’s one more praise for us – praise from 1700 years ago, praise as moderns as this Easter morning: A portion of the Easter homily by St. John Chrysostom.

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.”

I know of no better way of ending this sermon of praise to God for Easter than these words from a George Herbert sonnet – “heaven in ordinarie” and Gerard Manley Hopkins phrase “Let him easter in us.”

Easter as a verb – because resurrection is not a mere empty tomb. Resurrection is the universal experience of the universe. God has brought into being that which was nothing and God has raised us all from the dead!

Let the alleluia chorus ring true! I will be praising God who raised Jesus from the dead and raised Israel from slavery from this moment to my dying breath. May the high praises of God be on our tongues! Alleluia! Amen!



Browse Our Archives