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Worship resources, prayers, bible teaching

Easter Sunday - Year B

Liturgical Colour - White/Gold

 

Opening Verse

New every morning is God's love

 

Collect Prayer
First Reading:
Second Reading:
Gospel Reading
Post Communion Sentence
Commentary:
Meditation:
Hymns
Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead:

ResurrectionIntroduction

Alleluia!  Christ is risen   --  

He is risen indeed Alleluia !

Lord Jesus,

risen from the dead and alive for evermore

Stand in our midst today as in the upper room;

speak your peace to our hearts and minds;

and send us out into the world as your witnesses,

to the glory of your name. Amen. John Stott

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 Verses 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. All Amen. NRSV

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

First Bible Reading  Isaiah 25:6-9

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death for ever. Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. NRSV

 Acts 10:34-43

Peter began to speak to those assembled in the house of Cornelius. ‘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: 38how 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.’ NRSV

New creation in ChristSecond Reading 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you – unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them – though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.


Gospel Reading  John 20:1-18

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 towards the tomb.4The 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? For whom are you looking?’ 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, ‘Rabbouni!’ which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on 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. NRSV

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. CW

Commentary

women arrive at tomb Our Garden of Remembrance has more flowers than usual at this time of year, so does the woodland burial ground. People visit and recall memories of their loved ones, these are special places for and we look after them, but they are inevitable also places where strong emotions abound.

We can only imagine how those women who went to the tomb of Jesus must have felt. they had seen such a cruel and unjust death take place, it was’nt so much a trial as a murder. Worse still was the fact that one of their own friends had betrayed them and Jesus.

The stage is set for years of mourning and sorrow and bitter regret. How many times will they visit the grave with flowers and remember what was and think of what might have been? The scene is all too familiar to those who mourn.

What happens next is set to make matters worse. Not only has Jesus died, now somebody has taken the body. Take no notice of people who say that when they are dead you can put their body in the wheelie bin because it is no important. The body is important and it means a great deal to those who mourn. Think of the enormity of grief experienced by those whose loved ones have been murdered killed and who sometimes spend the rest of their lives searching for the body. Think of the relatives of those who have died following a plane crash, they so desperately want to find the plane and recover the bodies of their loved ones. Great efforts are being taken to recover the bodies of those who died in the Germanwings crash, using DNA to match parts of bodies broken in the impact.

Little wonder then that Mary would be distraught at coming to the tomb and finding the body of Jesus removed. Things could hardly have become worse, now with the loss of the body it was the final indignity. We all have huge emotional feelings following a death, Mary feels all of this and more and it is in the midst of these feelings that she encounters Jesus in the garden. This is the resurrection moment which changes her life. Mary changes from despair to a living witness of the risen Lord, and not just her but the other disciples also. They too will soon see Jesus and believe. A change took place beyond human knowing which transformed them from terrified victims of a powerful state and religious system, to willing martyrs who would challenge anybody who stood in their way because they believed that the worst that could happen is that they would be killed and raised with Jesus.

This first Easter a new kind of people was born and the world was changed for ever. We are a part of that change, we understand that God has a plan, and none of the suffering of this world has lasting power. We will all experience our own Good Fridays, times which are horrible, perhaps painful emotionally, spiritually and physically. Yet there is no circumstance which will not be changed by the coming of Easter. This is why it is Easter which is the most important time for the Christian, not Christmas! It matters to us to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but he came not just as a great teacher, he came to conquer death. Friday is called 'Good' because of Easter, it is seen for what it is, the time when out of despair came hope, out of the darkness of death came the light of life.

We do not know the physics behind the resurrection, how Jesus ’appeared,’ but we do know that it was real, so real that people changed. These changed people grew as other ‘met’ with the resurrected Jesus, physically or spiritually. The resurrection happened 2,000 years ago, but the risen Lord Jesus has met with those who seek him ever since. Mary was the first to see Jesus but that Easter resurrection experience is something promised to all would in faith open their eyes and see the Risen Lord. Charles Royden

 

Meditation

Oscar RomeroIn Latin America in the 1950’s, Christian Roman Catholics developed a way of understanding God which was rooted in the experiences of the poor, it was called Liberation Theology. It looked at the structures of society and saw that there was a fundamental injustice in the way that things were organised. These Christians believed that God loved the poor and he was concerned for them and wanted them to be freed from oppression, in exactly the same way that God had freed his people from Egyptian slavery and led them out of Egypt through the Red Sea in the great Exodus.
Social injustice was not of such concern to Christians in other parts of the world and it must have been hard for these Christians and their leaders who were fighting against corrupt institutions whilst being criticised by Christians around the world who saw them as Marxists, who should have been more concerned about personal piety than social justice.
When I was studying theology at college Liberation Theology seemed to be the very best type of theology, because at its heart lay a desire to make real change in the world. They wanted to change not just what we preach but also what we practice, or ‘praxis’ - the technical word used by Gustavo Gutierrez who wrote the book ‘A Theology of Liberation.
This was about making real change not just talking about it. God was upset about those who were poor, marginalised, despised, weak and defenceless and God expected something to be done about it. It is hardly surprising that Liberation Theology spread so that the ethos of liberation affected women and black people who also felt marginalised.

As part of our Lent journey this year a few of us travelled to St Albans to hear about Oscar Romero. He was appointed Roman Catholic Archbishop in El Salvador in 1977 and was considered to be a good conservative appointment by the establishment. However following the murder of his friend, a Jesuit priest named Rutilio Grande he changed. He reflected upon the good work he knew his friend was doing for the poor and he said
"When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, 'If they have killed him
for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path'

Oscar Romero became openly critical of the exploitation of the poor, the assassinations and torture used by the government. He was critical of President Carter for sending American financial aid to the government to fund oppression. He preached a sermon calling on the soldiers of El Salvador to obey God rather than their military commanders and to stop violating human rights. The following day he was shot whilst standing at the altar celebrating mass. In our lecture we saw the blood soaked robes which he wore, bearing the hole from the assassins bullet. We heard about the efforts to preserve things from his life, his frugal personal belongings which mean so much to those who knew and cared for him.
Things have changed in the Roman Catholic Church and slowly there has been a growing appreciation of the martyrs who stood out against injustice. In 2000 Pope John Paul II declared him to be ‘That great witness of the Gospel.’ Pope Francis has now declared that Oscar Romero will be made a saint on 23 May this year. He will be made a saint not because he wanted to change a government, but rather because his faith refused to allow him to keep silent when God’s children all around him were treated with such cruelty and injustice.

Writing about Easter Day, Gutierrez says, ‘How are we to celebrate Easter joy with all the human suffering, especially of the poor and the have-nots, which seem to choke our shouts of joy in our throats.’ He goes on to reflect that much of what is said about Easter sounds hollow because those who write about Easter have never experienced unjust death, as known all too frequently by those in Latin America. In the midst of whatever difficulties we find ourselves, even death itself, we will be liberated ourselves as we resolve to alleviate the suffering of others. Paschal joy comes to those who like Oscar Romero, seek to bring life to others through their faith. Charles Royden

Hymns

  1. Christ the Lord is risen today

  2. Led like a lamb to the slaughter 

  3. Jesus Lives!

  4. Thine be the glory

  5. All creation joins to say

  6. The day of resurrection

  7. Jesus lives thy terrors now
     

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead>

Prayer encouragement in the Christian life

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,

if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die

 

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. Amen

Risen Lord Jesus, as Mary Magdalene met you in the garden on the morning of your resurrection, so may we meet you today and every day: speak to us as you spoke to her; reveal yourself as the living Lord; renew our hope and kindle our joy; and send us to share the good news with others. Amen

Today we rejoice in the salvation of the world. Christ is risen; let us arise in him! Christ enters new life; let us live in him! Christ has come forth from the tomb; Let us shake off the fetters of evil! The gates of hell are open, the powers of evil are overcome! In Christ a new creation is coming to birth, Alleluia! Lord make us new, Alleluia! Amen

Living God, you have given us a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead: grant that we, being risen with Him, may fix our hearts on heavenly things and share eternal life. Amen

The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the eternal covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight; and may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen
 

Additional Material

 

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.

 

Liturgy for the lighting of the Paschal Candle

Minister: Jesus 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.

All: By his holy and glorious wounds may Christ our Lord guard and keep us. Amen.

The candle is lit as the Minister says the following words

May the light of Christ, rising in glory banish all darkness from our hearts and minds

Minister: The light of Christ
All: Thanks be to God

Minister: Alleluia! Christ is risen.
All: He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

The Easter Blessing used at the end of our Easter Service
The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the eternal covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight; and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.
All: Amen.

 

Easter Worship

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  

Prayers

Risen Lord Jesus, as Mary Magdalene met you in the garden
on the morning of your resurrection,
so may we meet you today and every day:
speak to us as you spoke to her; reveal yourself as the living Lord;
renew our hope and kindle our joy;
and send us to share the good news with others. Amen.

God our Father, we come today to worship you and confess that devotion to you is often far from our minds. This morning may we refocus our attention upon our love for you and how we show that love. Help us Lord to be more willing to pour out our lives as fragrant offerings of love. We lay our lives before you and ask that we might know that love which does not count the cost.

Lord God, as we wait upon you now, as we listen for your voice in the silence of hearts and as we offer our prayers to you we think of those people in our lives who have loved us with a generous love we think of those who like Mary have not counted the cost of what they have given us; of those who given all of themselves to us as Christ gave himself for the world; and we thank you for them - and ask you to bless them and for you to make us like them.

As we go into this week, O God, help us to have a focus, a purpose that is beyond that of just getting by; beyond that of just trying to make it through another week; show us we pray what you would have us do; reveal to us our own personal and unique ministry—and help us to do it.

Bless O God those in our midst and those around the world whom we name in our hearts before you at this time; we especially ask for those who are poor in the basic needs of daily living; and for those who are poor in love; hear too the prayers we ask for those who need healing or hope in their lives, those who need justice, and those who require mercy.

Lord God - we gather in the name of the Risen Christ to pour forth our praises in glad Easter Celebration. We rejoice that you have not left us without hope - but have come back to us in the victory of the resurrection and given us the assurance of eternal life with he whom you lifted from the tomb. Praise be to your name - both now and forevermore. Amen.

Grant to us, O Lord, that most excellent of all virtues, the gift of your divine love. Let love be in our thinking and our speaking, in our daily work and in the hidden places of our souls. Let love be in our friendships and in our life with those it is hard to bear. Let love be in our joys and in our sorrows, in our life and in our death. Amen. William Temple, 1881-1944

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

Meditation

John Baptist De La Salle was born in Rheims,France, 30th April 1651, and died on 7th April 1719. He was declared patron saint of teachers in 1950. 

300 years ago he wrote these words for teachers: “Take even more care of the young people entrusted to you than if they were the children of a king.” His words remind all of us of whatever age to respect one another’s dignity as unique individuals. 

A few years ago, a black South African teacher talked of working with black South African schoolchildren. He had spoken to one lad who looked miserable, and said to him: “You are created in the image of God. Don’t walk round with your eyes cast down.” 

It has been said that the task of Christians is not to make people into something that they are not, but to convince them of who they already are. We are all children of God and worthy of dignity. When we look into the eyes of another person we see the image of God, no matter that it might be marred and disfigured. For this reason alone we must treat all people with respect and kindness, in the same way that we would like to be treated. 

Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, you invite each of us by name and you call us “friends”. Lead us to show as much respect and care for others as we would like them to show for us. Help us to look for and bring out the best in all who share our lives this day. Moreover may we learn to see your likeness in the people whom we meet. Amen.

Meditation

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

Meditation

No one saw it happen. The early writers are very forthcoming about that. If they had wanted, they could have sketched a real Spielberg scene: “The rocks seemed almost ‘uneasy’, trembling. Then they began to shimmer and quake etc. etc.” But they were honest enough not to. All we have is the testimony of the people who claimed to have encountered Him alive after He had been demonstrably dead. What’s more, they often went to horrifying deaths rather than deny that experience of Jesus risen. All they had to do was say, “We were fooled. We made it up to get a following.” But they didn’t. Something earthshaking had happened to them. That’s undeniable. Good Friday, they cowered like rats behind the locked doors of the upper room. Then, in little more than a month, those same despicable turncoats were out on the streets! Preaching fearlessly of their experience. Daring imprisonment, ostracism, rejection from the Temple that had been the focus of their lives. Because they claimed to have experienced the inconceivable: a man come back from the dead. Every one of their martyrdoms was a death bed confession to that experience. I tend to believe those.
William J O’Malley in Lenten Prayers for Busy People  

Commentary

Ashes to Glory

The journey through Lent has taken us from the Ashes of Ash Wednesday, through the Passion and the cross of Palm Sunday and Good Friday, to the Glory of the resurrected Christ on Easter Sunday. It is the story of out Christian lives, from Ashes to Glory. Later will come power as we experience Pentecost. Ashes, glory, power. It is the cycle of our Christian lives as we come to realise the ashes of our fallen nature; are drawn to the cross to confess our sins and fallibilities; and are restored to reflect and share in Christ’s glory through the forgiveness of our sins and a new beginning in Christ. A cycle of our Christian lives as day by day and week by week we confess our sins from the ashes of our fallen lives; as we are forgiven in Christ; are bestowed with His glory; to be sent out in the power of the Holy Spirit to demonstrate God’s incarnational and indestructible love for the world. Glory, an expression of the manifestation of the visible presence of God that inspires a response. Glory in our lives; the manifestation of the visible presence of God in our lives that inspires a response, from ourselves and from others. Ashes, glory, power.

At Easter, perhaps more than at any other time of the year, we are reminded of the new life we are given in Christ. We are called to share in the glory of the resurrected Christ. As Christians we are an Easter people. But the message of Easter also reminds us that without ashes there can be no glory. As Ash Wednesday is followed by Easter Sunday, so our glory follows the transformation of the ashes of our lives as we experience God’s forgiveness. Unless we acknowledge who we are and our need to continually meet with the risen saviour we can never experience the glory which God has for each one of us. Ashes, glory, power.

The invitation of Easter is to experience once more that new life and glory which God offers us through His Son. Experience the glory through a Christ who is risen from the dead and is alive for evermore. The reading from Acts reminds us that God has no favourites, but accepts us as we are, irrespective of background, creed or nation, if we trust in Him. All who believe in Christ will receive forgiveness of sins in his name and experience His glory to be used in His service. Ashes, glory, power.

Easter is not just a story or a tradition which we have been passed down for us to repeat glibly and unthinkingly each year. It is a message of cosmic significance which only truly makes sense if we are part of it. This is not to suggest that we change the resurrection accounts in the New Testament to make them fit our own worldviews, tendencies, experiences, desires and wishes but rather that we need to interleave our own story into the resurrection story that has come down to us from long ago so that we can experience in our own lives that life giving transformation from Ashes to Glory. Ashes, glory, power.


For Christians everywhere Easter is a special season, the time when we recall a Jesus that rose from the dead, leaving the stone rolled away from the entrance of the tomb so that the world could look in and see the empty grave. The unbelievable had happened. The transformation of a crucified Christ to a risen Lord. Gentle, yet powerful. From Ashes to Glory. The same transformation that happens in our lives each time we let the Easter Christ in as our risen Lord. From our Ashes to His glory, and on to power. The story and cycle of our Christian year and of our lives. Ashes, glory, power. Sam Cappleman

 

Commentary

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)


Commentary

Lesslie Newbigin warned about the misunderstanding created by the medieval crucifix, which shows Jesus as a drooping, defeated, pain-drenched figure - a symbol of abject submission and defeat. This picture of the cross as the defeat of goodness by the powers of evil has been enormously influential in Spanish Christianity and is part of the background of Latin American liberation theology. In English, when we want to express our pity for a helpless victim of circumstances, we are inclined to exclaim: 'Poor devil.' The Spanish equivalent of this expression is 'Poor Christ!'
But the earliest representations of the crucifixion do not portray it like this. They depict Christ with head erect, the warrior beating down the powers of death and hell, the victorious challenger of all the powers of evil. This is the > understanding of the cross as the New Testament teaches us. The cross is not abject submission to the power of evil; it is the price that paid for a victorious challenge to the powers of evil.
And so the final act of this triumph on the cross is celebrated today in the events of the resurrection. The battle has already been won but the disciples do not yet know it. The resurrection is nothing more than conformation of something that Jesus had shouted from the cross was 'finished'. In a sense the resurrection is therefore not a miracle at all, it is the natural consequence of the defeat of death which Jesus secured-on the cross. That was the turning point -'crux'- this is now the proof. Praise God.

Commentary

Graveyards are not happy places. They might be places for contemplation, even perhaps places of natural beauty, but they are by their nature bathed in tears. The women go there in our story today full of the normal feelings which surround bereavement, grief and anguish. They were at home in a graveyard because they were mourning and full sadness. Their mood was made more intense by the events surrounding Jesus death, the pain, suffering and violence of one betrayed and officially murdered. Yet the following events turned that sorrow into a quite different experience. 

The women encounter not a dead idol, but a living Lord. The graveyard is transformed from a place of sorrow into a Garden in which dreams come true. Resurrection morning is about that transformation. 

There is much speculation surrounding what kind of resurrection took place that first Easter morning. Did Jesus rise from the dead in a physical way, or was he just discovered anew in the hearts and minds of the believers? We could ponder many things but I leave you to consider just two. 

That event which transformed the women and subsequently the other disciples, must have been of immense power. They were frail and frightened human beings, even in the presence of Jesus, when he was arrested in the Garden. Suddenly they became willing to lay down their lives in the service of Christ after his death. They became convinced that death held no power over them any longer. The resurrection brought about that transformation. 

The risen body of Jesus was certainly different, he could suddenly appear in a locked room. Yet the disciples told that it was the physical risen body, it had scars and holes and Jesus ate with them. 

Much has been made of the resurrection as a metaphor for the risen faith of the disciples. Truthfully we know that such people were unlikely to find courage and a willingness to die for such a theological metaphor, no matter how clever the theory might sound in theological colleges. 

But, if the risen body was able to move through walls, why was the stone removed? Not to let Jesus out, since he seems no longer confined by tombstones. Perhaps just to let the women in, so that they could see the truth of the resurrection for themselves and be witnesses. Today we must ask God to remove the tombstone afresh from our eyes, that we might discern the truth of the risen Lord Jesus. Charles Royden

Commentary

Easter is an exciting time for children and adults alike! As the Spring comes with the possibility of longer, sunnier days, so nature responds with new flowers and new birth. God is everywhere in this creative rebirth, and we praise Him for His generosity to us.


We Christians recognise Spring as a powerful metaphor for the Resurrection which we celebrate upon this happiest of mornings. The transforming miracle of Jesus leaping from death and the tomb is repeated in smaller ways in a thousand small resurrections in the lives of people. God comes to them with His transforming power, healing the broken, offering companionship to the lonely, bringing hope and new life. Resurrection is offered to the people of God. 
 

Spring is also an important metaphor because it reminds us that it has to be preceded by the dark time of winter. Sometimes we have to experience the darkness before we can truly appreciate the light, we need to feel the absence of God before we can properly feel His Presence.
Joan Crossley
 

Meditation

John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress includes this famous incident:
"Up this way, therefore, did burdened Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back. He ran thus till he came to a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a Cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a Sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the Cross, his burden loosed from his shoulders, and fell off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the Sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more. Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by His death."  Bunyan concludes, "Then Christian gave three leaps for joy, and went on his way singing." Easter is a time for joyful leaps and singing hearts.

Meditation

“God…can bring thee summer out of winter though thou have no spring. Though in the ways of fortune and misunderstanding, or conscience thou have been benighted till now, wintered and frozen, cloudy and eclipsed, damp and benumbed, smothered and stupefied, now God comes to thee, not as the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of spring, but as the sun at noon to banish all shadows….” John Donne


Today we light the Paschal Candle for Easter 2004, it takes its name from the Hebrew word ‘Pesach’ meaning Passover. Passover was that time when the Israelites celebrated their exodus from slavery in Egypt. It was the feast celebrated by Jesus with the disciples (Maundy Thursday) on the night before he died. The Paschal Candle is then lit for every service in our church during the full 50 days of Eastertide. After the solemn weeks with purple colours of Lent we wear the white of Easter and the brightness of the candle symbolises the joy of the resurrection.
The sight of a living creature emerging from an egg has long been cherished as a graphic example of the wonderful new life which is proclaimed at Easter. The enclosed shell of an egg came to remind people of the sealed tomb from which the risen Christ emerged victorious over death.
 

Prayers

O unfamiliar God, we seek you in the places you have already left and fail to see you even when you stand before us. Grant us so to recognise your strangeness that we need not cling to our familiar grief, but may be freed to proclaim resurrection in the name of Christ. Amen (Janet Morley)


O God who loves us, we offer this day into your keeping: our plans into your providence, our words into your silence, our activity into your stillness. Look upon us in your steadfast love and grant us you saving health, so that we help others and grow to wholeness in your praise. Amen
 

Listening God, closer to me than my nearest friend. Draw near to me, in trouble or need. Stay with me in health or sickness. Love me in joy or sorrow and bind me closer to you. And love me through each and every phase of life and beyond its end. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen
 

Today we rejoice in the salvation of the world. Christ is risen; let us arise in him! Christ enters new life; let us live in him ! Christ has come forth from the tomb; Let us shake off the fetters of evil ! The gates of hell are open, the powers of evil are overcome ! In Christ a new creation is coming to birth, Alleluia ! Lord make us new, Alleluia !
 

Grant that it may be our meat and drink to do the will of our Father who is in heaven. Grant unto us to take up whatever cross is laid upon us and gallantly and gladly to carry it. Grant that as we may share his cross, so we may share his crown; as we share his death, so we may share his life. And so grant that having suffered with him, we may also reign with him. This we ask for your love's sake. Amen.
 

 

Hymns for Sunday

Christ the Lord is risen today

There is a Redeemer

My God and is thy table spread

If Christ had not been raised

Thine be the glory

 

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia.
our triumphant holy day, Alleluia.
who did once, upon the cross, Alleluia.
suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia.

Hymns of praise then let us sing
unto Christ, our heavenly King,
who endured the Cross and grave,
sinners to redeem and save.

But the pains which he endured
our salvation have procured,
now above the sky he's King,
where the angels ever sing.

Easter jubilation fills the streets and towns,
celebrations have begun.
Hear the music and the dancing now,
join the laughter and the fun!
Oh, raise a joyful shout!
Clap your hands and dance,
let your feelings out.
Oh, hear what it's about:
Christ, the Lord, has come
to let us free. *Hoy!

Put aside your sorrows, wipe your tears away,
for a better time will come.
There's a promise of a better day,
join the laughter and the fun!

Easter jubilation fills the streets and towns,
celebrations have begun.
Hear the music and the dancing now,
join the laughter and the fun!

The day of resurrection,
Earth, tell it out abroad!
The passover of gladness,
The passover of God!

From death to life eternal,
From earth up to the sky,
Our Christ has brought us over
With hymns of victory.

Our hearts be pure from evil,
That we may see aright
The Lord in rays eternal
Of resurrection light;

And, listening to his accents,
May hear, so calm and plain,
His own 'All hail!' and, hearing
May raise the victor strain.

Now let the heavens be joyful,
Let earth her song begin,
The round world keep high triumph,
And all that is therein;

Let all things seen and unseen
Their notes of gladness blend,
For Christ the Lord is risen,
Our joy that has no end.


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 his 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 nought 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.