Weekly Worship Resources and Bible Study
Easter Day (Colour = White or Gold)
|Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead :|
|Intercessions from our Sunday worship|
We have been through Good Friday and for some people the darkness of that day lasts longer that 24hrs. Indeed there is a sense in which we all feel a sense of shadow stretching across our lives and the future. We have seen some terrible things and the more we listen and see, the more that we are aware of the potential for evil to wreak havoc in our lives and the lives of people who long to live in peace across the world. Yet Easter is a day of joy, we rejoice because something has happened which transforms our expectations and gives us hope. It is not a question of burying our heads in the sand and hoping that when we look up oppressive regimes, wars, disease and suffering will have ceased. That time might well be a long time from now and beyond our lives. However in our own time we proclaim that Jesus in his death and resurrection has put in place an unstoppable chain of events which will lead to the overcoming of eveil and the continued establishment of God's kingdom. Easter means that death is defeated and Christians are more than just wide eyed optimists.
The first believers who witnessed the risen Lord Jesus were under no illusions about how shocking the world was. Their own leader had been nailed to a cross alongside thousands of others who were nailed to a cross, or beheaded, or tortured by an oppressive occupying Roman force. However they went on to bring to the world a message which we still share today as fresh as the first Sunday when Jesus came out of the tomb. That message has susatined the lives of millions of Christians who have not only heard the story about the Jesus who overcame death, but who have found in him a new beginning for their lives.
Christ is risen, and he continues to bring life into the lives of people today. It is his risen life which gives us a sure and certain hope for the future and for that reason on this day above all days we shout Alleluia !
Easter is the greatest of all Christian feasts, and the happy season of Eastertide lasts 50 days from Easter Day until the Feast of Pentecost. St Gregory of Nazianzus said that Easter was ‘like the sun among the stars’ of the other festivals. It is the heart of the sacred calendar, around which all of the other festivals have meaning and purpose. Today is the summit of the Christian year, the fact that Christ is risen shows that God will never leave us, bringing good out of conflict, suffering and death. Easter tells us that just as Christ is risen. So too we can expect to be raised with him to eternal life. As we go into Easter Week we consider that death was only the beginning, Christ is with us forever.
Opening Verse of Scripture 1 Corinthians Chapter 5
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray
Lord of all life and power, who through the mighty resurrection of your Son overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in him: grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ, may reign with him in glory; to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity. Amen Common Worship
God of glory, by the raising of your Son you have broken the chains of death and hell: fill your church with faith and hope; for a new day has dawned and the way to life stands open in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Common Worship Shorter Collect
Most glorious God, who on this day delivered us by the mighty resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, and made your whole creation new: grant that we who celebrate with joy his rising from the dead may be raised from the death of sin to the life of righteousness; through him who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. Methodist Worship
First Bible Reading Jeremiah 31:1-6
"At that time," declares the LORD, "I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they will be my people." This is what the LORD says: "The people who survive the sword will find favour in the desert; I will come to give rest to Israel." The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful. Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit. There will be a day when watchmen cry out on the hills of Ephraim, 'Come, let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God.'"
Second Reading Colossians 3:1-4
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Gospel Reading John 20:1-18
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!" So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. "Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Post Communion Sentence
God of Life, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection have delivered us from the power of our enemy: grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his risen life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
At the time, Good Friday seemed anything but good. Indeed it had appeared to be a complete victory for the forces of destruction and left those who associated with Jesus completely bereft. Evil had reared its ugly head and roared; and any idea of a good God was left in tatters. God had appeared to stand at a distance and the cry of Jesus on the cross must have rung in the ears of all who loved him
‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’
So when Mary went to the tomb, she went in deep sadness and despair, she went into a place of coldness and death, she went to a place with no hope and no happiness, she went to prepare a body for burial, she went to put Jesus in his grave. This spirit of hopelessness is not a stranger to most of us. The song title comes to mind ‘Into every life a little rain must fall’, yet for some it is much worse than that. Our world appears at this time particularly troubled with unrest and there are those who will never recover from the effects of that most dreadful Tsunami which has left Japan only just beginning to come to terms with the devastation and long term consequences of nuclear disaster.
For all of us, our lives face difficulty at some time or another. Earthquakes and tsunamis come, friends die, wars drag on, relatives get sick, jobs don’t work out, people we trust let us down. All of life is subject to the painful realities of decline and decay. Yet Easter reminds us that the God has an answer.
God’s love and forgiveness is at work in our curious world. Easter is more than a promise of life beyond the grave, or of happiness in heaven with our loved ones. Easter is a promise that God is at work with us even now. God’s power is active in this moment, in all places, in all lives.
At Easter Christians are reminded that evil does not triumph and that God’s ways will not be defeated by anybody or anything. Human power and authority might have appeared to triumph in bringing about the death of Christ, but this was not the case. Christ was risen by God and he appeared as a sign to his disciples that they must trust and have faith even when all the odds looked stacked against them.
The values of our world might lead us think that those who use force and power will triumph. In his resurrection Jesus tells us that this is not the case, it is only as we seek to be faithful to God that we discover real life.
This is why we live by the code which Jesus has given to us. To live lives in which we seek God above all else, in which we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. The false God’s of this world pretend that happiness is found in serving and pleasing ourselves, Jesus tells us that real peace and true joy comes only from loving God, with all our heart, mind and soul; and loving our neighbour as ourself.
At times we might be encouraged to think that fighting our own corner and looking after own lives is the most important thing and will bring happiness. Jesus shows us through Easter that we will only ever be able to discover life when we are willing to it in service of God. Life is full of difficulty and death, but God is full of life, and so are we, because Christ is risen, He is risen indeed! Alleluia !
John Bunyan was imprisoned in the 17th century for refusing to sign a document affirming the Anglican statement of faith. While in prison, he wrote the classic allegory, "The Pilgrim's Progress." Many of us think that the journey of faith is only about getting to the point where Christ converts your soul and raises you from the death of unbelief. Bunyan knew what all Christians eventually learn, though, that despair and discouragement are graves that Christians must be delivered from, too. In one beautiful passage, Christian and his travelling companion Hopeful are awaiting certain death in Doubting Castle. They are praying through the night when all at once Christian sees the Easter light break forth in his heart: "What a fool am I thus to lie in a stinking dungeon when I may as well walk at liberty. I have a key in my bosom called Promise that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle." And so it did for Christian and Hopeful as they escape the grave of despair by the key of the risen Christ. Whatever discouragement you may face, Easter is God’s promise to you of his resurrected power.
- Christ the Lord is risen today
- Christ the Lord is risen today (Tune Easter Hymn)
- Low in the grave he lay (Tune Christ arose)
- The day of resurrection 208 (Tune Ellacombe)
- Thine be the glory 212 (Tune Maccabeus)
- Joyful Joyful
- Praise my soul the King of heaven
- Christ is alive
- Now the green blade riseth
- He lives!
- The strife is o'er
- Thine be the glory
- To God be the Glory
- All hail the power of Jesus name.
- This is the Day
- If Christ had not been raised from death (Tune Kingsfold)
God of glory, by the raising of your Son you have broken the
chains of death and hell: fill your church with faith and hope; for a new
day has dawned
and the way to life stands open in our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Risen Lord Jesus, victorious over death, in compassion for your troubled friends, you appeared in many places that they might dare again to trust. In a world full of so much fear, strengthen us also with signs of your presence. Meet us on the way so that we might be no longer afraid. Free us from everything that would lead us to doubt your love for us and for the world and inspire our witness to the joy and the hope of your resurrection. Amen.
Risen Lord: There is so much we don't understand. We celebrate on this Easter morning the glory of your victory over death and with it the blessed assurance that, through you, we now have access to the kingdom of heaven. We are joyous. But we are also confused. What does it mean in our lives this news of a resurrected Lord? How are we, in the twenty-first century, affected by it? In what ways are we changed? What will tomorrow bring? Just as Mary, in her discovery of the empty tomb, was so focused on the issues of her life that she failed to recognize you standing before her, we too, struggle with seeing your presence in our lives. You are the Risen Lord and we sing loud hosannas in celebration of this but then we return home and focus on the issues that fill our days. Lord, we pray that you open our eyes and our hearts to your love and glory. Create in us a spirit that focuses only on you. Transform our hearts and send us off into the world to do your work. Rise again, Lord, in our hearts so we can truly become the children of God we have been created to be. It is through the glory of the empty tomb we pray. Amen.
O Lord, who by triumphing over the powers of darkness prepared our place in the new Jerusalem; grant us, who have this day given thanks for your resurrection, to praise you in that city of which you are the light; where with the father and the Holy Spirit, you live and reign, now and for ever. Amen.
Alleluia! Christ is risen
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Let us pray
Glory to you, O God: you raised Jesus from the grave, bringing us victory over death and giving us eternal life
Glory to you, O Christ: for us and for our salvation you overcame death and opened the gate to everlasting life
Glory to you, O Holy Spirit: you lead us into the truth and breathe new life into us.
Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit now and for ever. Amen.
Eternal God, who made Easter night to shine with the brightness of your one true light: set us aflame with the fire of your love, and bring us to the radiance of your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, all time belongs to him, and all ages; to him be glory and power, through every age and for ever. Amen.
By his holy and glorious wounds may Christ our Lord guard and keep us. Amen
The Easter candle is lit, saying
May the light of Christ, rising in glory banish all darkness from our hearts and minds
The light of Christ
Thanks be to God
The Bible reading today tells of Mary finding the empty tomb. This is not necessarily good news! Mary must have been devastated to see the empty tomb, and suspected grave robbers. We know that this kind of thing took place at the time and there was a death penalty for those caught.
Mary then runs to tell Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, commonly thought to be John. Mary goes to Peter, in part, because he is a leader of the disciples, also Peter and the beloved disciple remained in the vicinity rather than fleeing with the other disciples (18:15-18, 25-27; 19:26-27). The presence of these two men at the tomb will be important, because it establishes two legal witnesses (the number required by Torah law) to the empty tomb.
As a woman, Mary has no legal standing as a witness. This is an interesting detail in itself, Jesus will feel able to ignore this traditional understanding of the role of a woman and use Mary as the first Apostle and important witness. Make certain, the involvement of a woman is not something that the early church would have invented, not if they wanted the resurrection to be taken seriously!
When they enter the tomb they do not see the scene of a robbery, the grave clothes have been left behind, folded, not the actions of a thief! The resurrection is therefore not like the raising of Lazarus. Jesus does not need to be unwrapped from the cloths, he has departed the physical body, his is an entirely different kind of ‘bodily’ existence. His body is different, it can now pass through doors and grave clothes. The disciple whom Jesus loved knew that something miraculous had taken place. This was the moment when belief in the resurrection first became a reality in a human mind. This was a momentous moment! Some scholars think that he simply believes the truth of Mary's report that Jesus' body is missing, but that seems trivial compared against the serious tone of "he saw and believed" and Jesus' later comment to Thomas, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe" (20:29).
However we must not loose sight of the importance of Mary, her role in the Gospel story is crucial. Make no mistake she is the first Apostle. She is sent by Jesus as the ‘Apostle to the Apostles.’ It was she who was the first person to meet with the risen Jesus. We do not know a great deal about Mary Magdalene from the Gospels. Popular and extremely doubtful tradition tends to associate her as a prostitute, the woman who anoints Jesus feet (Luke 7:36-50; Matt 26:6-13) or with Mary of Bethany (Luke 10:38 John 11:1-2). You will perhaps remember such things as Jesus Christ Superstar or The Last Temptation of Christ. None of these fictional portrayals helps us to understand who the real Mary was! Feminists theologians have commented upon the willingness of a male dominated church to denigrate the importance of this first female Apostle. This has been done by allowing tradition to impart to Mary Magdalene the role of a sinful albeit repentant woman. This was only possible given the manner in which women were quickly marginalised into inferior roles once Jesus had physically left the scene. What we do know for sure is that (Luke 8:2 )Mary Magdalene was healed of seven evil spirits by Jesus, and she is spoken of in the context of women who had supported Jesus in his mission.
Once the men have left, Mary returns to the tomb to find two angels sitting where Jesus had lain, "one at the head and the other at the feet" (v. 12), like the two gold cherubim who sat at either end of the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant (Exod. 25:18). Neither Peter nor the beloved disciple saw the angels, and Mary does not recognize them as angels either. They ask Mary why she is crying, and she explains through her tears that "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him" (v. 13). We don't know who "they" is, and Mary surely doesn't either. Then Mary turns, and Jesus repeats the question that the angels just asked. Mary fails to recognize Jesus. Perhaps her vision is clouded by tears. Perhaps her grief so overwhelms her that she cannot think clearly. Perhaps since she came looking for a dead man, her mind is incapable of seeing a live man. We often see what we expect to see, and fail to recognize the unexpected that is right in front of our face. Perhaps Jesus' body has been transformed so that he is not immediately recognizable. There is irony here. Jesus' opponents, because of their hostility, failed to see the Messiah in their midst. Now Jesus' friend, because of her love, also fails to see.
There is also spiritual tension here. On the one hand, Jesus' resurrection body can be touched and handled (v. 27; Lk. 24:39), bears the marks of the wounds inflicted on Jesus' pre-death body (20:20, 25, 27), and not only cooks fish (21:9) but eats it (Lk. 24:41-43). On the other hand, Jesus' resurrection body apparently rose through the grave-clothes (20:6-8), appears in a locked room (vv. 19, 26), and is sometimes not (at least initially) recognized. There is something lovely about Jesus making his first resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene, otherwise a minor character in the Gospel story. We would think that Jesus would grant this honour to one of the inner-circle disciples or to his mother. But God's ways are not our ways. We would not have picked Mary Magdalene for this honour, but neither would we have picked so many of the characters whom God chooses, like Saul to be a missionary. God calls whom God calls.
Mary addresses Jesus, whom she assumes to be the gardener, with the word, kyrie, which the NRSV translates Sir, but which is often translated Lord. Jesus addresses her by her name, Mary. Hearing her name and Jesus' voice, Mary recognizes him and addresses him, Rabbouni. Mary, like the disciples at Emmaus, does not recognize Jesus until a specific act lifts the veil from their eyes. The disciples at Emmaus recognized him when he broke bread with them. Mary recognizes him when he calls her by name. This incident reminds us of Jesus words, "He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice" (10:3-4).
Mary's word, Rabbouni, is confusing. John tells us that it means teacher, a lesser word than Lord, which she used earlier (v. 13). Mary probably threw herself at Jesus feet and clung to him in her great joy. Jesus commands her not to cling to him, because he is ascending to the father and is therefore unable to resume life, as he knew it before. In this Gospel, his resurrection and his ascension constitute one event rather than two. He is in the process of ascension, part of the glorification, which is necessary to enable the gift of the Spirit (7:39). Rather than clinging to Jesus, Mary is to go to his brothers, his disciples. He and his disciples are brothers by virtue of the fact that they share a common Father, "my Father and your Father…, my God and your God." This is the first time in this Gospel that Jesus has referred to the disciples in this way. Until now, Jesus alone has been the Son of God. "The hour of Jesus, shortly to culminate in Jesus' ascension to the Father, will create a new situation where the God and Father of Jesus will also be the God and Father of Jesus' brethren (and they will no longer be) Jesus' disciples, but his brothers.
Mary obeys by going to the disciples and announcing, "I have seen the Lord" and by telling them all that he had said to her (v. 18). At Easter the challenge to us having heard the good news of the resurrection of Jesus is to go and do likewise. Charles Royden (also using resources lectionary.org)
The Paschal Candle The flame of the Paschal Candle symbolizes Christ as light of the world and his presence in the midst of his people. The term "Paschal" comes from the word Pesach, which in Hebrew means Passover. Traditionally the candle was put out after forty days following the reading of the Gospel on Ascension Sunday. However the Paschal Candle is an important "symbol of Easter" and Easter lasts for the Great Fifty Days until Pentecost, when we move from the Easter colours of white and gold to red. After the Easter season, it is lit during services that include the sacrament of baptism. The Paschal Candle is also lit for funeral services as a sign of the promise of resurrection.
Lord, you have freed us from the fear of death. You have made the end of our life here into the beginning of true life for us. You give rest to our bodies for a time in sleep, and then you awaken them again with the sound of the last trumpet. Our earthly body, formed by your hands, you consign in trust to the earth, and then once more you reclaim it, transfiguring with immortality and grace whatever in us is mortal or deformed.
You have opened for us the way to resurrection, and given to those that fear you the sign of the holy cross as their emblem, to destroy the enemy and to save our life. Eternal God, on you have I depended from my mother's womb, you have I loved with all the strength of my soul, to you have I dedicated my flesh and my soul from my youth until now.
Set by my side an angel of light, to guide me to the place of repose, where are the waters of rest, among the holy Fathers. You have broken the fiery sword and restored to Paradise the thief who was crucified with you and implored your mercy: remember me also in your kingdom, for I too have been crucified with you. Let not the dread abyss separate me from your elect. Let not the envious one bar the way before me. But forgive me and accept my soul into your hands, spotless and undefiled, as incense in your sight. Macrina 4th century