Saturday, September 13, 2014

Happy Feast of John Chrysostom



Growing up in a Pentecostal church, the preaching was where it was at.  I mean, if the pastor could deliver a strong, make-you-really-think-about-your-relationship-with-God, and get-you-to-the altar sermon, then it was a good Sunday morning!  Please read NO sarcasm in this statement.  It was wonderful.  I have heard some amazing preaching in my lifetime.  It didn't have to touch the emotions, either.  If it was something that resonated inside the spirit, then it was a good sermon.

Don't get me wrong.  I have heard some very emotion-driven sermons.  They made me laugh.  They made me cry.  They moved me, Bob.  But the best sermons were ones that called me to change.  Called me into a more intimate relationship with Christ.  Called me to be more of who God made me to be.

There are very few sermons I actually remember.  But those I do remember have made a lasting impact on my life.  

One was given by an evangelist named Mike Brown.  I remember it so clearly.  I was a camper at a Kansas youth camp.  The message was entitled, "A Double Portion."  It was based on Elijah and Elisha.  When Elijah was about to be taken up to heaven, Elisha asked for a double portion of the spirit that rested on Elijah.  The invitation to us:  pray for God to give you a double portion of His Spirit.  I have never forgotten that.

Another was a sermon by my brother-in-law:  "God Is Bigger."  John preached this sermon during a time in my life when I was questioning everything God was doing.  Our family was undergoing some huge changes, and I wasn't a bit happy with God.  John reminded us all, though, that no matter what we were facing, God was bigger.  I have never forgotten that.

Just one more I want to mention in particular.  A sermon by Tim Dilena.  I don't remember the title.  I do remember the content, though.  He was preaching from Psalm 56.  Verse 8 particularly caught mt attention:  You have kept count of my tossings;   put my tears in your bottle.    Are they not in your record?  He talked about the Jewish teaching/tradition that tears were collected in a bottle, and saved for a time of mourning.  (Perhaps that the woman who anointed Jesus' feet with her tears was actually using a tear bottle.)  I was brought to a place of trust in God in which I realized that He cared about every teardrop that comes from my eyes.  Every moment of sorrow, He has "kept count of."  He cares deeply.

(I must mention here, too, that I have heard so many memorable sermons by my husband, I cannot count them all!)


Saint John Chrysostom was known by this title of "Chrysostom" due to his preaching.  He was known to have a "golden voice."  He lived about 350 A.D.  As New Advent.org states,  he "is generally considered the most prominent doctor of the Greek Church and the greatest preacher ever heard in a Christian pulpit."  Now those must have been some sermons!  He is considered greater than every preacher...ever.

One of his most famous sermons is called his paschal homily.  It is read every Easter in the Eastern Orthodox Churches.  Be prepared!

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!  Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?  Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting?  Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour,  let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour,  let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour,  let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour,  let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,  let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,  as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!  First and last alike receive your reward;  rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,  rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty,  for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;  for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaiah foretold this when he said, “You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it is mocked. It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed. It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated. It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive. Hell took a body, and discovered God.  It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated! Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

That is a soul-stirring sermon, is it not?  (Can I get an "amen!"?)

As much as I love the sermons, though, I have to admit that the greatest message ever told is repeated every time there is a Mass in the Catholic Church.  For the story of Christ's life, death, and resurrection are displayed very clearly as we hear the Gospel read, and the priest retells the story of the night before Jesus died.  We listen to the words of institution, "This is My Body.  This is My Blood."  And we remember His death until He comes again.

The greatest sermon of all (and I'm sure St. John would have agreed!) is the Holy Eucharist.

God bless you all, and have a wonderful Lord's Day!

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