Easter Hymn

Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands,
For our offenses given;
But now at God’s right hand He stands,
And brings us life from Heaven.
Wherefore let us joyful be,
And sing to God right thankfully
Loud songs of Alleluia! Alleluia!

No son of man could conquer Death,
Such mischief sin had wrought us,
For innocence dwelt not on earth,
And therefore Death had brought us
Into thralldom from of old
And ever grew more strong and bold
And kept us in his bondage. Alleluia!

But Jesus Christ, God’s only Son,
To our low state descended,
The cause of Death He has undone,
His power forever ended,
Ruined all his right and claim
And left him nothing but the name,
His sting is lost forever. Alleluia!

It was a strange and dreadful strife
When life and death contended;
The victory remained with life;
The reign of death was ended.
Stripped of power, no more it reigns,
An empty form alone remains
Death’s sting is lost forever! Alleluia!

Here the true Paschal Lamb we see,
Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursed tree—
So strong His love!—to save us.
See, His blood doth mark our door;
Faith points to it, Death passes over,
And Satan cannot harm us. Alleluia!

So let us keep the festival
Where to the Lord invites us;
Christ is Himself the joy of all,
The Sun that warms and lights us.
By His grace He doth impart
Eternal sunshine to the heart;
The night of sin is ended! Alleluia!

Then let us feast this Easter day
On the true Bread of Heaven;
The Word of grace hath purged away
The old and wicked leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed;
He is our Meat and Drink indeed;
Faith lives upon no other! Alleluia!

–Martin Luther (1524)


Easter Prayer

O GOD OF MY EXODUS,
Great was the joy of Israel’s sons
when Egypt died upon the shore,
Far greater the joy
when the Redeemer’s foe lay crushed in the dust.
Jesus strides forth as the victor,
conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might;
He bursts the bands of death,
tramples the powers of darkness down,
and lives for ever.
He, my gracious surety,
apprehended for payment of my debt,
comes forth from the prison house of the grave
free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.
Show me herein the proof that his vicarious offering is accepted,
that the claims of justice are satisfied,
that the devil’s sceptre is shivered,
that his wrongful throne is levelled.
Give me the assurance that in Christ I died, in Him I rose,
in His life I live, in His victory I triumph,
in His ascension I shall be glorified.
Adorable Redeemer,
Thou who wast lifted up upon a cross
art ascended to highest heaven.
Thou, who as man of sorrows wast crowned with thorns,
art now as Lord of life wreathed with glory.
Once, no shame more deep than Thine,
no agony more bitter, no death more cruel.
Now, no exaltation more high,
no life more glorious, no advocate more effective.
Thou art in the triumph car leading captive Thine enemies behind Thee.
What more could be done than Thou hast done!
Thy death is my life, Thy resurrection my peace,
Thy ascension my hope, Thy prayers my comfort.

–from The Valley of Vision

Easter continues!

Reflections on Easter from a great little book on the church year, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church by Laurence Stookey (Abingdon Press, 1996). (Full disclosure, I’m not a big church-year guy, but this book I found full of fascinating points):

1. He points out that our common Easter images of springtime, blooming flowers, eggs, etc. are totally Northern-Hemisphere in their orientation: south of the equator Easter falls in the autumn! (p. 53)

2. “For Christians Sunday is the chief festival occasion of the faith. About this there is much misunderstanding. Many active Christians would say that Christmas is their chief festival. Closer to the mark, but still missing it, are those who would say that Easter Day is the principal feast of the church. What is amiss about such assessments? Simply this: No observance that occurs only once a year can connote the continuing work of God in daily life. Therefore the chief festival occurs weekly, and from it all else is derived, including those annual festivities that may be more visible and certainly are the more popular cultural occasions.” (p. 44)

3. “It has become a maxim of late that ‘every Sunday is a little Easter.’ But it would be more accurate to say that ‘every Easter is a great Sunday.’ ” (p. 54) [In other words, every Sunday is the chief festival of the Church.]

4. Stookey also reminds us that historically Easter is a season, not a day; called “The Great Fifty Days,” the season culminates with Pentecost.  (pp. 53-78)

Poem for Easter

Death tasted hope in Christ’s last breath
and choked on its first fruits
For Death had longed to swallow down
the bread of life and light

Death opened wide its ravaging mouth,
And took the Savior in
Death bore down with lawful fangs
And broke its jaw on love

Death gulped for darkness in its death-throes
And gasped its very last
The Victorious Food of God
Would feed the grave no more.

Chorus:
Bread of Life and light and love
lead us from the sleepy grave
to everlasting resurrection homes.
You have swallowed all the poison,
You have bound the prince of death
We will toast your victory in song!

–Bruce Benedict  © 2011

Easter Sermon

He who hung the earth is hanging.
He who fixed the heavens in place has been fixed in place.
He who laid the foundations of the universe has been laid on a tree.
The master has been profaned.
God has been murdered . . .

But He rose up from the dead
and mounted up to the heights of heaven.
When the Lord hath clothed Himself with humanity,
and had suffered for the sake of the sufferer,
and had been bound for the sake of the imprisoned,
and had been judged for the sake of the condemned,
and had been buried for the sake of the one who had been buried,
He rose up from the dead,
and cried with a loud voice,

“Who is it that contends with me?
Let him stand in opposition to me.
I set the condemned man free;
I gave the dead man life;
I raised up one who had been entombed.
Who is my opponent?
I am the Christ
I am the one who destroyed death,
and triumphed over the enemy,
and trampled Hades underfoot,
and bound the strong one,
and carried off humanity
to the heights of heaven.”
“It is I,” says the Christ.

 –Melito of Sardis (ca. A.D. 195)