Year A Easter Sunday 2011
Call to worship
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Allelujah!
Hymn Together in Song 370 Christ the Lord is risen today
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
We come before you, awed at the wonder of the Easter miracle.
As children wait for the Ester Bunny, so we have waited for this day: anticipating, excited, expecting something special.
In this day, of all days, we see your love spread out for us.
A love which would hold nothing back, which allowed your Son to die for us.
A love which would hold nothing back, which raised him again for us.
A love which would hold nothing back, which promised that we would rise with him.
We confess that we sometimes forget the miracle of Easter.
This holy day has become a holiday,
and we have holiday things to do, gifts to give,
friends and family to see.
It is so easy to walk away from the empty tomb,
into our full lives,
and forget what all this means.
Visit us again with the reality, the wonder, of the Easter miracle.
Remind us of the depth and breadth of your great love.
Help us to meet the risen Jesus face-to-face.
And forgive us if we have taken this wonder for granted.
In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness
“The Good Eggs” by Tom Kerr, from Wriggle
Hymn Together in Song 719 Big kids, little kids (with Easter verse)
Scripture John 20:1-18
Easter Sunday must have begun for Mary as a shock.
There are some things we can generally be sure of when someone dies. One of those things is, wherever the person is put, they'll stay, unless someone moves them. That's logical, it's obvious. A person who has died just isn't capable of any form of self-determined movement.
In a bit over a decade of ministry, I've done a couple of funerals. Each time I've assumed that the person who has died will stay where he or she is put throughout the service. And so far, they've always done so. I don't think I could cope if the person got up, had a chat to a few friends, wandered outside for a breath of fresh air.
Mary came to the tomb for a funeral. Jesus had been buried in haste on Friday afternoon, the setting sun making it necessary for everything to be done quickly. Mary had noted the place of the tomb, and , now the Sabbath was over, was coming to make certain things were done properly. We can understand that. When someone we love dies, we want to be certain everything is done as well as it can be done. It is natural to show our love and concern in this way.
Try to imagine the scene. It's early morning. Mary arrives in the garden, with spices and oils to anoint the body, and she makes her discovery. Imagine her panic, discovering the tomb open, and Jesus gone. Mary examines the scene and comes to the obvious conclusion. Someone has taken the body. Someone has desecrated the tomb. After all the indignities and injustices Jesus had suffered over the past few days, and now someone had taken his body away somewhere and hidden it. Someone had to have done it – because, as I said earlier, we generally trust that people who have died don't move themselves.
Mary does exactly what many of us would have done in the same position: she runs to tell someone. She goes to share her outrage, her anger, and confusion. She runs and gets Peter and the other disciple. They run to see for themselves. Going inside, they are able to confirm this is not an ordinary grave robbery. CSI would have had a field day with this one: the body of Jesus is gone, but the one item of value to grave robbers: the expensive linen wrapping cloth, is still there. This must confuse everyone more. If you were going to move a body, would you unwrap it first? And if you were robbing a tomb, why take a body, which has no value, and leave a linen cloth which is extremely saleable?
The Bible tells us they didn't understand. And if the story were left at this point, we wouldn't understand either, it would be one of history's unsolved mysteries.
The empty tomb itself is a strange thing: but of itself is proof of nothing. Not even those who had been close to Jesus, who had seen him raise Lazarus, and had heard him speak of his own resurrection, understood the mystery.
Peter and the other disciple left, confused, probably in shock. Mary stayed behind, alone. Perhaps she had some hope that if she stayed where Jesus had last been seen, she might find him. Perhaps she hoped someone would come along who had seen what had happened. Perhaps, she too, was in shock, and really didn't know where she was or what she was doing.
It's an interesting thing, that those wrappings would be left behind. When a caterpillar completes its metamorphosis into a butterfly, it leaves behind its wrapping, too. And Jesus had also completed a great metamorphosis, going from death into life.
When Peter and the other disciple looked into the tomb, they saw a mystery: the graveclothes lying in their place, with no body.
When Mary then looked into the tomb, she discovered something even more startling. Two angels were sitting where Jesus had been, and wanted to know why she was crying. Now if I were Mary, I probably would have left off crying and be into hysterical screaming by this time. She must have been a woman of incredible strength and character to be able to tell them what was wrong: someone had taken Jesus, and she didn't know where he was. (I am very annoyed with the angels at this point of the story: they didn't tell her what was going on! A small piece of additional information might have relieved her distress immensely.)
Perhaps it was simply that Mary didn't wait to hear their response. Perhaps she couldn't stand to look into the tomb anymore. As she turned around, she saw a man, a human being, someone she could ask about the mystery she had been confronted with.
If people who have died are not supposed to move around of their own accord; they are also not supposed to approach people and speak to them, not even if the person in question is a close friend. In fact, when someone dies, the last thing we expect is to bump into them and have a conversation. So, in her confusion, disorientation and shock, Mary had no idea of who she was speaking to. Even when he asked her what was the matter, Mary didn't recognise him. It was only when he spoke her name, that she knew him.
It was a wonder to Mary that she had Jesus back again, but he told her she couldn't hold on to him. She couldn't keep him there, he had other things to do, and must return to his Father. But in the meantime, he would see his other followers as well.
Mary was one of those who stayed at the foot of the cross, she'd followed as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had carried Jesus' body to the tomb. It seems fitting that she would be the first one to carry the most important message in history: Jesus is risen!
And Jesus risen! We celebrate that today, but we also celebrate that every time we come to worship, and we celebrate in our daily lives. If the whole idea of resurrection is confusing, or surprising, then that is not strange. It was confusing, and surprising, at the time, has been throughout history past and will be for history to come. It's a thing that doesn't happen within the limitations of human lives. But God isn't limited by human lives. We live in time and space and have limits on all things we do. God lives in limitless eternity, and is able to do all things, even the most surprising, the most wonderful.
Easter is the gift of God's limitless goodness. It's God's reality breaking in on ours. In God's reality all things are possible: even death can be overcome. And Jesus is the bridge between our reality, and God's reality. In Jesus, there is no reason to fear the limits placed on human beings, certainly no reason to fear death. Because in his resurrection, Jesus promises us resurrection also, and a share in his life in eternity. It is the event of Easter which gives meaning to our lives: because our lives are not simply lived in a short span of time which ends in death. Instead, through God's gift of Easter, our lives are lived in a short span of time, and then death is an open door to something greater, a new life with God.
Hymn Together in Song 376 I know that my Redeemer lives
Prayers of the People
We pray for your world
A world which needs to know the wonder of new life
A world which has seen too much of death and destruction
A world which has soon too much of loss and pain
In Easter, you took the reality of the hurt and pain and loss
and transformed it forever into hope and promise.
Reassure this world of your hope and promise
the answer to all of our needs, and all of our pain and loss.
Prayer points from newsletter.......
In Jesus' name. Amen.
The Lord's Prayer
Hymn Together in Song 380 Yours be the glory, risen conquering Son