Easter Sunday

Service sheet 12th April 2020

Today, as we celebrate the risen Christ, we might feel more connected to those disciples, scurrying around in hidden places. We might feel entombed and isolated, waiting and not daring to hope. But Easter has come. Jesus is alive and as the church we are the ultimate symbol of resurrection today, because the day will come when we will break free. This year may feel like we’re not doing Easter properly, but what better symbol of the resurrection than a scattered church surrounded by death; Easter reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death. Easter reminds us that death will never have the final say because life is triumphant. Easter reminds us that we live as resurrection people and to that I say a loud Amen.

Call to worship

After nights of deep darkness,
we come in the bright light of this Easter morning.
We come in search of something.
We come in search of the living.
We come in search of the Living One
The Resurrected One.
We come with eyes open to the dark emptiness of the tomb.
We come with ears tuned to hear the angel proclamation:
Christ is not here, for he is risen.

(with gusto)

Halleluiah. Jesus is risen.

He is risen indeed. Halleluiah

Hymn

Our opening hymn was introduced to me by a supernumerary minster many years ago. He told me when he was a young man he sang this at one of the large Christian rallies where gave his life to Christ. Whenever I sing this I remember John and how his passion for Christ did not diminish with his years and it gives me goose bumps every time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xM-fpXayUg – See what a morning (Singing the Faith 309. Not in Hymns & Psalms)

Prayers

When everything was dark
and it seemed that the sun would never shine again,
your love broke through.

Your love was too strong,
too wide,
too deep
for death to hold.

The sparks cast by your love
dance and spread
and burst forth
with resurrection light.

Gracious God,
We praise you for the light of new life
made possible through Jesus.
We praise you for the light of new life
that shone on the first witnesses of resurrection.
We praise you for the light of new life
that continues to shine in our hearts today.

We pray that the Easter light of life, hope and joy,
will live in us each day;
and that we will be bearers of that light
into the lives of others.
Amen.

(Revd Michaela Youngson)

Forgive us when we fail to see your love.

Forgive us when we deny your life is present amongst us.

Forgive us when we dare not dream.

Forgive us when our despair becomes infectious

In the transformation of your resurrection, you declare our sin is no more. Guide us so that we may live as your Easter people. Amen

Readings

Acts 10:34-43

Colossians 3:1-4

John 20:1-18

Hymn

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-M3cuTAINo – Christ is alive! Let Christians sing (Singing the Faith 297. Hymns & Psalms 190)

Reflection

Easter morning begins in darkness. The story has confusion and tears and misunderstanding. The first Easter Day did not begin with loud alleluias and tears of joy and celebration. It began with heartache and pain. Today, many of us are struggling with the concept of a different Easter where we don’t get to celebrate with our church family surrounded by spring flowers and singing our hearts out to magnificent organ playing. But actually, finding hope in the midst of our estrangement means encountering God. We may feel broken and hungry for each other’s company, but here we have the ultimate story of humanity finding an unimaginable love.

When we read the resurrection story we rush to the moment Mary meets Jesus, or even beyond, when later that day he appears to the disciples. But of course, way before any of that, the resurrection happened in darkness, when no-one was watching. The secret of the resurrection happened in the hours before dawn, with no witnesses. Out of death God works the great mystery to bring about life. Because whatever we believe happened (and we can argue about what a video recorder might have captured in that tomb had they been invented), we can all agree that this is mind-blowing stuff. The question isn’t whether we believe or not; the question is whether we have experienced the risen Christ.

Our story from John begins with Mary and a couple of the other disciples, early that morning, coming to attend to the remains of Jesus. Mary was diligent in her duties, though she must have dreaded seeing the broken body of the man she had given her life to. Of course, when they get there, before they are even in half light, they see disturbance. The tomb has been ransacked. The pain of their grief is multiplied. The two male disciples go inside, but Mary’s grief is too much to bear. She will not go in and see the reality of the stolen body. She didn’t think it could get any worse.

Two people appear; angels we are told. They strike up a conversation with her and ask a ridiculous question – why are you crying? Isn’t it obvious? Mary turns and practically bumps into someone standing there. He asks the same thing – why are you crying? Did Mary wonder why she was being asked this? Didn’t they know? Hadn’t they heard what happened a few days ago? This is the point that we always shift the narrative to Mary’s mistake – she mistakes Jesus to be the gardener. How on earth didn’t she recognise him? I mean, I know it was dark, but she’d spent years with this man. I am not persuaded that this is about Mary not expecting Jesus; many of us have experienced visions of those we love who have died and known it wasn’t entirely real. But in my reflections recently, I have been considering the resurrection and how Jesus is no longer confined to one place and time but released to be in all places and in all times. So perhaps, Jesus was the gardener, or rather, the gardener was Jesus. Jesus was released through the resurrection to be everywhere, in everyone. Jesus has become every man and every woman. Mary didn’t recognise him because Jesus had been utterly transformed so as to resemble an ordinary working man, but I don’t necessarily think Mary made a mistake. She finally recognised Jesus in an altered form when he spoke to her with the kindness she knew to be of God.  And Jesus continues to do that, becoming recognisable in the faces of ordinary people today.

Mary doesn’t recognise Jesus until he calls her by name. This encounter is personal. And finally, when the darkness is lifted, when Mary sees the illuminated truth, Jesus tells her not to hold onto her. I have always read this as if Jesus is a bit tetchy. I have read this as if he has a stern teacher voice on, starting a sentence with ‘’Don’t”, in the same way I might speak to my dog. But in re-reading this, I have found a different intonation in the voice of Jesus. I think he might be telling Mary not to hold onto the things of the past, not to cling to relics, not to look back and be consumed with grief, not to grasp onto those things we think give us comfort but turn out to be unreliable. Maybe Jesus is telling Mary to look for the resurrection with hope, to be present to the now and not weighed down by history, to hold onto something much more sure, to hold onto the love of God that is the strongest force in the universe. To hold onto the fact that love never dies, it is eternal.

Jesus isn’t always in the places we expect him to be. We don’t always recognise him. Perhaps at the moment we can glimpse the face of Jesus in those NHS staff wearing masks and face shields, seeking to bring healing and comfort to those who are in pain. Perhaps we can glimpse Jesus in the refuse collectors, clearing away our mess. Perhaps we can glimpse Jesus in the supermarket shopworkers, bringing nourishment to our hunger and generosity to our meagre expectations.

It’s hard for many of us at the moment to expect to see Jesus when we are not seeing each other. But there are some unintended consequences of this lockdown and if we pay attention we can find resurrection happening around us. I am told that for the first time in decades, there are dolphins swimming in the canals of Venice and the waters usually churched and full of diesel, is clear and blue. I am told that the smog that has been a constant factor in many east Asian cities has lifted and pollution levels have dramatically decreased. I am told that the Himalaya’s are visible from the Punjab district of India for the first time in 30 years. Just as we are being forced to rest, the earth itself is resting and healing. Creation itself is demonstrating resurrection.

Some of you, I know are gardeners, and I have delighted to hear of the work you are doing with time on your hands. I can’t think that you appreciate the humble dandelion, in fact many of you will see this weed as a real nuisance, despoiling your lawns and flowerbeds. It is one of those plants enormously difficult to get rid of, because even the smallest amount of root will sprout again. At this time of year dandelions are coming into their own, and here we have a fantastic symbol of resurrection. A plant you thought you had got rid of forever, is yet again sprouted new life. We may think of beautiful spring flowers such as tulips and daffodils as an emblem of Easter, but perhaps the dandelion is more appropriate.

The religious and political authorities thought they had eliminated the problem of Jesus. They assumed with Jesus out of the picture, his followers would disperse and the memory of him would quickly fade. But they hadn’t factored in love. Love cannot die, it merely gets transformed. According to the funeral liturgy of the Roman Catholic church, ‘Life is not ended, it is merely changed.’ Jesus lived over 2000 years ago in Roman-occupied Palestine. His resurrection means that this single human being has been released beyond the limits of time and place, to be alive within the whole of creation. 2000 years ago Jesus was limited and restricted. Through his resurrection, he becomes present to us all.

We put a great emphasis on St Paul and his writings to various early churches. Perhaps today we can remind ourselves that Paul was never a disciple, he never met Jesus in person, he was not a witness to the resurrection. This makes him the perfect voice to name the experience of the risen Christ and the reality it became for him. Let me finish with Paul’s words: ‘When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.’

Where will we see Christ revealed today? Where will we notice the risen Christ today? Who will be the face of Christ for us today? When we manage to find Christ, to recognise the life of Christ in us and in those we encounter, we can be immersed in the glory of God. And even in our struggles and pain, we can shout alleluia to that.

Hymn

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYA0tFX2tV4 – Now the green blade rises (Singing the Faith 306. Hymns and Psalms 204)

Prayers

O God, with faces touched by the light of a new day,

and hearts warmed by our prayers and praises,

we come before you to pray

for the needs of our world.

Into the light of Easter morning

we raise those who are struggling with illness,

with despair over their lives, or with

the breakdown of relationships.

Into the light of Easter morning,

we bring those places in our world

where war, violence, poverty and need

are the experiences of everyday life.

May the light of Christ shine upon them.

Into the light of Easter morning,

we bring the headline news of this weekend.

We hold in our hearts the pain

of those suffering violence, bereavement or conflict.

May the light of Christ shine upon them.

And into the light of Easter morning

we bring ourselves, the private struggles,

the heart’s yearnings, the hidden dreams,

the unfulfilled potential.

May the light of Christ shine upon us.

AMEN.

 (Ann Siddell)

I invite you now to say out loud The Lord’s Prayer, knowing that around the world countless Christians are reciting the same prayer through different languages and traditions.

Hymn

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPH7-dNrwb8 – Thine be the glory (Singing the Faith 313. Hymns & Psalms 212)

Blessing

When it takes hold, resurrection doesn’t let go,
it shakes the dead awake,
it shakes the darkness from the light,
it shakes the silence from our throats
and it wrestles death from all that is dying

Let us go out into the world
and in the upheaval of resurrection
seek out the life

(Roddy Hamilton)

3 thoughts on “Easter Sunday

  1. Thank you Rachel – sang ‘Thine be the Glory’ in the garden at 10am then opened the window for the King’s College version during the service.
    Easter Greetings to you and all your family

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the idea that Mary didn’t make a mistake- it was the gardener but also Jesus in a new way.
    You also chose one of my favourite Easter morning hymns that I have known for many years and it brings back memories of Easter’s past. If I’m allowed, I would like to request that we sing it when we are back together whenever that is.
    I will look at dandelions in a whole new light now.
    Judith

    Like

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