Homily for Easter Sunday, 2012
Alleluia! We have finished our Lenten observance and we can speak this great word of praise once more. Alleluia! My goal in this homily is to see how many times I can say it. Set the world record. Because there is no word that more adequately describes or sums up Easter, what we are doing today, than Alleluia.
It’s one of the few words that we can say and hear knowing that Christ himself spoke and heard the exact same word. Not a translation – but the very sound of the word – maybe there was a bit more of a ha to it, but Alleluia is a Hebrew word that has come down to us untranslated for 3000 years.
Actually, alleluia is a word made up of two Hebrew words: Hallel and Yah. Yah, is short, an abbreviated form of God’s holy name, Yahweh, a name so holy that the Hebrew people did not dare to speak it fully. And Hallel – Hallel is often translated into the English word “to praise.”
But Hallel has a more complex meaning. It really has more of the sense of a joyous song or shout of praise, a glorious boasting in God. It speaks of a joyful frenzie, almost – in fact, it was a word sometimes used to describe someone who acted madly and foolishly. A sense of glee, a sense reckless abandon.
That’s the Hallel – the state of one overtaken by a joy so full, so overpowering, that he or she cannot remain silent, cannot remain still, cannot remain alone – a joy that must reach out to others, that must be expressed as loudly and fully and exuberantly as the human body is capable.
We get a sense of the Hallel when watching the scene of a sports team that has just won a great championship, or an army that has just won a great battle, or a whole people when a despot has been overthrown. It is the cry of a victorious people, a profoundly moving and unifying experience – it is what celebration is meant to be.
And that is why we, who bear the name of Christ, who are his disciples and followers sing the hallel today. Because it is not some distant savior who has risen from the grave, it is not an unknown or uncaring God who now lives and reigns forever.
It is the Lord Jesus Christ! He has revealed himself as our brother, taken on our flesh and blood, called us his own, making us his brothers and sisters. He is our healer and defender - who gave his life over for us, who battled the powers of hell for us and faithfully loved us to the end. Our God – not just any God – no, our God, the one who we are rooting for and who roots for us - who has come into our world and done battle with the powers of hell in order to free us from our sins. And today he has won the victory. Today his plan is accomplished. He rises, victorious from the dead – the gates of hell, the chains of death, the stain of sin – obliterated. The tyrant of this world has been overthrown – our savior has freed us.
And because his flesh is our flesh, his blood our blood, His victory is our victory. His resurrection is the promise of our resurrection, his glory the pledge of our future glory.
Alleluia. Today we celebrate the greatness of our God, the genius and beauty of his loving plan of redemption. We set aside the turmoil, the strife and struggle of this world, our eyes lifting heaven-ward in praise and thanksgiving. Not fleeing from the darkness or escaping the trials of our time, but remembering for a moment the bigger picture – the eternal truth revealed to us in Christ. That today good triumphs over evil – our good, our hope, our salvation.
And so it is not only our duty, it is not only our salvation, it is not only right or just – it is our joy to give God thanks and praise for the wonders that he has done for us. Alleluia.