A podcast of this reflection can be heard on the Podcast page.
The Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
A happy and blessed Easter to everyone. It is of course far different from what we are used to, but we continue to adjust to our new situation. As I mentioned on Thursday (I like to repeat myself), the disciples were on lockdown after the crucifixion and isolated themselves from the people behind their locked doors, but the Risen Jesus entered, bringing joy and peace and hope. Thus may we experience something of the joy of Easter as we worship in our homes.
One or two notices:
412 – The strife is o’er
413 – The day of resurrection
415 – This joyful Eastertide
425 – The Saviour died , but rose again
SGP 51 – In a byre near Bethlehem
Call to Worship:
This is the Good News – the light shines in the darkness & the darkness will never overcome it.
Hallelujah! Christ is risen.
This is the Good News: once we were no people; now we are God’s people.
Hallelujah! Christ is risen.
This is the Good News – the grave is empty & Christ is risen.
Hallelujah! Christ is risen indeed!
Let us worship God with Easter joy!
The hymn 410: Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once, upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!
Let us pray
Jesus Christ, we greet you!
Your hands still have holes in them,
your feet are wet with dew;
And with the memory of our names undimmed by three days of death
You meet us, risen from the grave.
We fail to understand how;
We puzzle at the reason why.
But you have come, not to answer our questions,
but to show your face.
You are alive, and the world can rejoice again.
God of mystery, we confess that faith doesn’t come easy every Easter.
When we face difficulties and loss in our own lives, we sometimes lose track of the promise in Christ’s resurrection.
Sorrow can weigh us down.
Our challenges can feel like a stone too heavy to roll away.
Forgive us, O God, and let the joy of this day assure us
that the power of your love will never let us go.
Glorious God, so fill your people with joy
That the world may know that you son Jesus
Is not a dead hero whom we commemorate,
But the living Lord whom we worship,
To whom with you and the Holy Spirit,
Be our praise forever, Amen
Our Father, ….
Roddy Hamilton is a Church of Scotland minister, who has written a lot of worship material. In 1997 he wrote this Easter affirmation:
Today we have stood at the morning of the Kingdom and we have glimpsed the future:
And we have seen death’s greatest failure and love’s greatest triumph!
We are the people of the Kingdom!
Today we have seen the stone rolled away and witnessed the door to life opened up.
We have seen why there is hope in despair, for we are caught in love’s eternal brightness
Today we have stood with all the disciples of every time and place and looked into a tomb that is empty: we are taking part in the Good News of resurrection, for we have touched the joy that changes life into freedom, the hope that turns dreams into living, the love that gathers together and rebuilds all the brokenness, all the lifelessness, all the longing
Of yesterday’s living
In today’s amazing Yes to life.
We are the people of the Kingdom!
Alleluia Christ is risen!
Here is a hymn from the Presbyterian Church in the USA, written for this time of self-isolation:
This Easter celebration is not like ones we’ve known.
We pray in isolation, we sing the hymns alone.
We’re distant from our neighbours— from worship leaders, too.
No flowers grace the chancel to set a festive mood.
No gathered choirs are singing; no banners lead the way.
O God of love and promise, where’s joy this Easter Day?
With sanctuaries empty, may homes become the place
we ponder resurrection and celebrate your grace.
Our joy won’t come from worship that’s in a crowded room
but from the news of women who saw the empty tomb.
Our joy comes from disciples who ran with haste to see--
who heard that Christ is risen, and then, by grace, believed.
In all the grief and suffering, may we remember well:
Christ suffered crucifixion and faced the powers of hell.
Each Easter bears the promise: Christ rose that glorious day!
Now nothing in creation can keep your love away.
We thank you that on Easter, your church is blessed to be
a scattered, faithful body that’s doing ministry.
In homes and in the places of help and healing, too,
we live the Easter message by gladly serving you.
Tune: Aurelia (The Church’s one foundation)
Text: Copyright © 2020 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
Reading: Matthew 28: 1-10
During my daily exercise, I pass homes with rainbows attached to their windows. We remember from Genesis that the rainbow was a sign of hope to Noah and his family after the catastrophe of the Flood. Our children have obviously taken time to make these rainbows, which are signs of hope for us and affirm that we are going to get through this Covid-19 crisis.
The disciples were completely shattered after the crucifixion of Jesus. All hope had gone from their lives; they had the aching grief the death of a loved one brings, but also the devastation of all their hopes and dreams for the world. The women at least go through the ritual of making their way to the tomb to anoint his body, though in reality they probably just wanted to gain some comfort from being near him. We know something of their despondency as they trudge to the tomb.
I always love John’s telling of the Easter story in John 20, where Mary Magdalene discovers that the tomb is empty. Fearing grave robbers perhaps, she runs back to tell the disciples, and Peter and John race to the tomb to find indeed the tomb was empty. Mary lingers by the grave and encounters the risen Christ, mistaking him for the gardener at first. There is a wonderful intimacy in the scene, but Christ instructs her not to touch him, but to go to the disciples, and she does so with the words, ‘I have seen the Lord!’
However, we are in Year A of the lectionary, when we focus on Matthew’s Gospel, where in his telling of the events of Easter morning, the women actually witness the angel moving away the rock covering the tomb’s entrance. The angel, we are told, was like lightening. No wonder the women were absolutely terrified. The angel, and the risen Christ whom they encounter later, both begin by saying ‘Do not be afraid’, and the women depart to tell the disciples with this combination of fear and joy.
I think that is appropriate for our present circumstances. Our world is hurting, and every time we listen to the news we are filled with anxiety, especially as we see scenes from hospitals. Some of us have lost loved ones or know of people who have died of this coronavirus. We need to hear the words, ‘Do not be afraid’ and to know that are greatest fears are replaced by hope, that death and suffering donot have the last word and that evil will not prevail. The tomb is empty and Christ has risen; God has given a gigantic Yes to life.
We still live in lockdown, the virus is still spreading. It is as if we are in Holy Saturday despair. We have fears about what the world will be like once we get back to normal. Will there be an economic depression? Will those who are furloughed have a job to go back to? Will we be able to pick ourselves up? We need to hear the Easter message that the tomb was empty, that death could not hold Christ, that we can face the future in hope with a Saviour who knows what suffering and even death are like. That was the case in Matthew’s Gospel. The women at the tomb were able to go back to the disciples to share their good news, for in spite of their anxiety, they were also filled with joy, for they had met the Risen Christ. And the disciples when they too encountered the risen Christ were turned from a bedraggled group lurking behind locked doors into men and women to turn the world upside down. It wasn’t easy; they were persecuted, hated, mocked, but they had the inner joy the risen Christ brought.
In the resurrection we have God’s promise that life is stronger than death, that love is greater than hatred, that the sufferings of this world are transient. They don’t have the last word.
For the Good News is that Christ has been raised. The Good News is that death is defeated. This Good News is life-changing and world-transforming. I wish everyone a happy and blessed Easter, as we enjoy in our country setting, the new life all around us.
The hymn 417 is a great favourite of mine:
Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again that with the dead has been:
Love is come again,
like wheat that springeth green.
When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain, Thy touch can call us back to life again,
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: Love is come again,
like wheat that springeth green
John Macleod Campbell Crum
Let us pray
Great and glorious God,
you have rolled away the stone and raised Christ to life, and now you invite us to share in the Good News.
Give us the courage to welcome the winds of change in our lives
as it sweeps our streets
and brings hope to hungry families, the sick and the sad.
In this season of Easter, run with us in the joy of new life that transforms the way we see the world and one another.
For Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Hallelujah!
Lord Jesus Christ, on this Easter Day we join with all Your world to bring our thanks for hope restored and life renewed. We think of the tomb, and of all that speaks of death and destruction in our world. We pray for nations at conflict and for the hurt and destruction that comes with war. We pray for the environmental catastrophe of global warming and our part in it. Where we are entombed in pain, Roll back the stone
We think of the disciples’ confusion and pointless running about, and we pray for all who are over-busy, burnt out, exhausted trying to make ends meet. We pray for the under-employed and those forced into inactivity by disability. Where we are entombed in pain, Roll back the stone
We think of Mary not recognising Jesus, then hearing him call her name. We pray for the lonely and those left out, especially those with mental illness. We think of the vulnerable and the afraid and for all who go unnoticed. We think of Christians persecuted for their faith and feeling vulnerable Where we are entombed in pain, Roll back the stone
We think of the women being sent to the disciples with the good news of resurrection. We pray for all who long for good news, especially at this time -those infected with and affected by Covid-19, the NHS staff and all on the front line. We continue to pray for wisdom and guidance for our governments in Westminster and Holyrood Where we are entombed in pain, Roll back the stone
Lord, hear these and all our prayers in Jesus name. Amen
The hymn 419 reads:
Thine be the glory, Risen, conquering Son,
Endless is the victory thou o'er death hast won;
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave-clothes where thy body lay.
Thine be the glory,
Risen, conquering Son;
Endless is the victory
Thou o'er death hast won!
Lo, Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
Let the Church with gladness hymns of triumph sing,
For her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.
No more we doubt thee, Glorious Prince of life;
Life is naught without thee: aid us in our strife;
Make us more than conquerors through thy deathless love;
Bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above:
Edmund Bundry (1854- 1932)
God of new possibilities, new beginning, new hope bless us now with your resurrection life
Jesus, calling us by name,
Knowing and loving us completely
bless us now with your resurrection life
Spirit, sending us out with Good News,
equipping and energizing us
bless us now with your resurrection life
The blessing of God, father, Son and Holy Spirit
Be with you and with all whom you love now and always Amen