Order of Service – Engadine UC
Easter Day - 12 April 2020
Come people of God, draw near, the long night of grief and despair is over. Light has come, light a candle and remember on whose land you live, honouring their stewardship of God’s Creation.
CALL TO WORSHIP
Out of an ending emerges a new beginning; out of death comes new life.
Shattered hopes spark new dreams; what was broken is now re-formed.
All glory and honour, thanks and praise to you, almighty God!
And so we declare good news for all the world: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Let us Pray…
God of Easter morning, you bring sunrise after the darkest night, and butterflies from the cocoons of quiet transformation. Your promise of love extends to the far reaches of the earth and encompasses all of creation, and so we raise our voices in thanksgiving and praise.
From the tomb of death comes new life and from the pain of broken relationships you bring trust and new paths of living. Your promise of hope is for all people, and so we raise our voices in thanksgiving and praise. We join the song of the heavens, together with all of creation: Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.
When morning gilds the skies, my heart awakening cries
May Jesus Christ be praised! Alike at work and prayer
I know my Lord is there: may Jesus Christ be praised!
To God, the word on high, the hosts of angels cry:
May Jesus Christ be praised! Let mortals, too, upraise
Their voice in hymns of praise: May Jesus Christ be praised!
Be this, when day is past, of all my thoughts the last
May Jesus Christ be praised! The night becomes as day
When from the heart we say: May Jesus Christ be praised!
Be this while life is mine, my song of praise divine
May Jesus Christ be praised! Be tis the eternal song
Through all the ages long, May Jesus Christ be praised!
Anon German, early 19th C translated by Edward Caswall 1814 - 1878
A TIME OF THANKGIVING
Name a resurrection experience in your life. For example, a time when overwhelmed by bitterness, regret or deep loss and what may have turned that bitterness, regret or loss into a measure of healing or new beginnings. Where the loss & grief has been contained so that it no longer touches every part of your life. When you are ready, repeat the phrase below as often as you wish.
Despair can be strong, but hope is stronger
Bitterness can be strong, but forgiveness is stronger
Hatred can be strong, but love is stronger
Death is strong, but resurrection life is stronger.
Thanks be to God.
Acts 10: 34 - 43 (NRSV)
Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
In this is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Jesus Christ, Crucified and Risen One, we confess that sometimes Easter confronts and challenges us. The status quo is predictable and comfortable. Your story of breaking through to bring change and new life may come as a threat to our well-trodden paths. Forgive us, loving God.
We confess that we are slow to respond to the news of the new life you offer, and find ourselves
huddled with fearful disciples, rather than with the women who knelt before you and worshipped.
Open our eyes to your life-changing presence, yes, even in my life and help us to worship you with unrestrained joy and praise.
As we stand outside an empty Garden tomb with its stone rolled away, there is no more powerful time and place to hear again, or for the first time, Jesus calling us by our name, knowing our hearts strangely warmed and all that hinders our enjoyment of life wiped clean and forgiven.
Remind us especially today of the gift you offer. Amen.
John 20: 1 - 18 (NRSV)
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. In this is the Word of the Lord. Hallelujah!!
SONG – TIS 744 (repeat as often as you wish) Refresh My Heart
Refresh my heart, Lord, renew my love
Pour your Spirit into my soul, refresh my heart.
You set me apart, Lord, to make me new
By your Spirit lift me up Lord, refresh my heart.
And I will worship you, Lord, with all of my heart
And I will follow you, Lord, refresh my heart, (last time add) refresh my heart.
Geoffrey William Bullock 1955 -
MESSAGE – ‘Do not cling to me’ Μη μου απτου
The Lord is Risen! And God’s people say - He is Risen Indeed!
Today we hear again this very familiar story of Easter morning…
That following the heart wrenching crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday, viewed at a distance by the woman who had accompanied Jesus on his travels for the past 3 years.
Today before sunrise some of these women, most notably Mary Magdalene or Mary of Magdala along with, according to which Gospel account you read, Mary the Mother of James, Salome, Joanna, the other Mary and others…They brought with them oils and spices to anoint Jesus’ body.
All their hopes, all their dreams, all that they saw so clearly in Jesus, this Jesus of Nazareth, teacher and prophet unlike any before, was DEAD. In-spite of all their love and devotion, it has all come to naught but at least we can tenderly, with great dignity and love, care for his body.
So, overwhelmed with grief, oblivious to anything or anyone around them they come to the garden…
We all know something of what it is like to be overwhelmed by grief, to know that our future has been changed forever, some of us today know that feeling well enough…
One important note to add at this point.
In the four Gospels which make up our New Testament all that we ‘see’ on Easter morn is the stone rolled away, an empty tomb, grave clothes folded and no body.
There is no description of how Jesus rose from the dead. Yet there were other early Christian writings from the late 1st well into the 3rd C that did seek to describe how Jesus rose.
After much thought and reflection, by the time the NT with its 27 books, was closed early in the 4th C, these more descriptive accounts were deemed to have gone too far.
At the heart of the resurrection is mystery.
It cannot be videoed or recorded, and just as mysterious are the stories of Jesus’ encounters with the disciples after his resurrection…of Jesus entering locked rooms, appearing on the Emmaus Rd etc
Now back to our story today. As Nicola Slee from the Iona Community writes:
Mary Magdalene doesn’t recognise Jesus. ‘Supposing him to be the gardener’, she does not yet understand the miracle of transformation that Christ’s own body has undergone.
Though the key to her recognition will be when Jesus calls her by her own name!
Like the grain of wheat that falls into the ground, the dead body of Jesus does not remain as it was but has been transformed into something wholly different and more glorious.
Resurrection is not return, nor the restoration of an old state of affairs, but a total reorientation to a radically new reality. Christ is risen. He is not a mere resuscitated corpse, nor is he raised like Lazarus to resume his previous life.
His risen body is resplendent, glorious – as a spring daffodil or lily is more resplendent than the bulb from which it springs – but his body also bears the scars, the wounds of his crucifixion, now glorified – a sign of hope to us that our scars, too, may become sites of transformation and healing.
And this new and glorious resurrection body, which St Paul also talks of in Romans 15, is similar to what happens, we pray, to us when we die. In Revelation Ch 21 John talks of ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ of God making ‘all things new’. Of a complete transformation in who we are, as St Paul calls it ‘a new spiritual body’; a spiritual “body” which retains all that was unique and distinctive in our earthly life, with Christ, now for the first time in our lives at the very centre of this our new being.
It isn’t just Ma & Pa sitting on the eternal hammock surrounded by all their children and grandchildren with all their usual banter and squabbles, as we did on earth.
It is a completely renewed & transformed existence with Christ at the centre.
We cannot hold or define or control the power of God that brought Jesus back to life, though in this life we too often try to! But we can embrace, with fear and trembling, and with the ‘did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road’ (Emmaus) as the first disciples did, all that Jesus’ resurrection can mean!! His resurrection literally changes everything.
Death no longer need have the last word, as there is still an element of choice for us in His invitation.
Life and light ARE stronger, it can and does shine in the darkest of places amidst terrible grief and tragedy and is not be destroyed. Christ is present with us if we can ‘see’ him.
The resurrection of Christ transformed frightened disciples into apostles of courage and hope.
The Risen Lord confronted Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus Road and transformed him from a persecutor of Christians into its most amazing evangelist. And yet even the disciples transformed lives did not sway everyone they met, some weren’t convinced that death could be overcome, others preferred the conspiracy theories of the day that Jesus’ body had merely been taken away.
At its heart, our response to Jesus’ resurrection is a mystery too, why some believe and others not.
This resurrection life can live in us too, we can’t force others to see the transformed life within us but we can allow it to be salt, light and leaven to all we encounter and leave the rest up to God.
And finally to one of the key elements in today’s story, Mary’s wishing to hang onto her risen Lord after he calls her by name and Jesus’ reply ‘do not cling to me’.
Biblical scholars have many and varied responses to what this is all about.
For me, at its heart is that as much as Mary wants life to be ‘as it was before’ with her Lord, it can’t be. She hasn’t yet appreciated just how transformed his resurrection life is.
We too would like much of what we experience with Jesus to be ‘as it was before’ to look back.
Jesus gently disentangles himself from Mary’s ‘ownership’ of him and sets her free to tell others.
As Nicola Slee shares “to be willing to leave behind the Jesus we thought we knew in order to meet the unknown Christ awaiting us as we too leave the garden tomb”.
Christ is no longer found amongst the dead but with the living, available to all, going into bat (interceding) for each of us, every day; encouraged as we are by the great cloud of witnesses in the faith who have gone before us. May it be so with us and our journey with him! Amen.
And post COVID-19, one resurrection moment, amidst all the chaos, disruption and death may be that we rediscover just what it truly means to be the ‘body of Christ’ gathered together in one place, sisters and brothers of the Risen Lord with good news for all whom we meet.
Yours be the glory, risen, conquering Son
Endless is the victory over death you’ve won
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away
Kept the folded grave-clothes, where your body lay.
Yours be the glory, risen, conquering Son
Endless is the victory over death you’ve won.
See, Jesus meet sus, risen from the tomb
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom
Let the church with gladness hymns of triumph sing
For the Lord is living, death has lost its sting.
No more we doubt you, glorious Prince of life
Life is naught without you: aid us in our strife
Make us more than conquerors through your deathless love
Bring us safe through Jordan to your home above.
Edmond Louis Budry 1854 – 1932 translated by Richard Birch Hoyle 1875 - 1939
AN UPPER ROOM – OUR PRAYERS Today we would have sat together at table in the centre of our church worship space and shared the bread that is broken and the wine that is poured out.
As we cannot do that, at this time, I am inviting you to still ‘break bread’ and to have a cuppa.
Break a large piece of bread (slowly) remembering all that Jesus did and all the brokenness in the world. Eat it in remembrance of Jesus and be thankful and as you slowly eat, name out loud the places where Christ’s presence, healing and Peace is desperately needed and the people who are close to your waking and sleeping. And especially all those health professionals involved in the response not just in Australia but across the world to COVID-19.
OFFERING – if you are able, please remember to set aside your weekly gift for Engadine UC
HYMN – TIS 531 ‘Sent forth by God’s blessing’ (abridged) Tune ‘Sing praise and thanksgiving’
With praise and thanksgiving to God ever-living
The tasks of our everyday life we will face.
Our faith ever sharing, in love ever caring
Embracing as neighbours all those of each race.
The seed of Christ’s teaching, our hungry souls reaching
Shall blossom in action for all humankind.
His grace shall incite us, his love shall unite us
To work for his kingdom, his purpose to find.
Omer Westendorf 1916 - 1997
BLESSING & BENEDICTION (taken from John 20: 19 – 22)
Huddled, in fear behind closed doors, Jesus came and stood amongst them and said: “Peace be with you”. “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you”. Jesus breathed on them. “Receive the Holy Spirit”. And may the blessing of God rest upon you and reach every part of your being, always. Amen.