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Weekly Bible Notes and Worship Resources

Easter Sunday

Liturgical Colour - White/Gold


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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

 

Introduction

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 power 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 in the unity of the Holy Spirit be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity. Amen  Common Worship/Methodist 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

First Bible Reading Isaiah 25:6-9

O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvellous things, things planned long ago. You have made the city a heap of rubble, the fortified town a ruin, the foreigners' stronghold a city no more; it will never be rebuilt. Therefore strong peoples will honour you; cities of ruthless nations will revere you. 
You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall and like the heat of the desert. You silence the uproar of foreigners; as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled. 
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine- the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. 
In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation." The hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain; but Moab will be trampled under him as straw is trampled down in the manure.

New creation in ChristSecond Reading  Acts 10:34-43

Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached-- how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen--by us 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 whom God appointed 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."

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

 

Commentary

Easter Fact, Easter Faith
Sometimes it can be difficult to get our mind around Easter, the greatness and significance of the story, and to fully comprehend the immense sacrifice and power of the God we worship and through His Son, and the access we have to His immeasurable riches and power through His resurrection and the coming of His Holy Spirit.   It can be difficult to understand too that through the Easter drama we witness each year we are all invited and called to be His servants and disciples, so that others can come to know and grow in those same riches and power, as our lives, humanity and the entire cosmos continues to be renewed and transformed.  When Mary and the first disciples, Peter and probably John, arrived at the empty tomb they too found it difficult to get their mind around what was happening.  All they understood at the time was that the tomb that had contained the body of Jesus was now apparently empty with the stone rolled away.  Perhaps they had an inkling that this was a little different to the resuscitation of Lazarus they had witnessed when Jesus had raised his friend and brought him back to life but it would appear that initially the confusion and puzzlement of the events of the last few days was continuing.  In his gospel, John has been setting the scene for what was happening from the beginning.  It was ‘on the third day’ that Jesus had turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.  Shortly after, when He threw the money changers from the temple in Jerusalem Jesus had cried, ‘..destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days’.  Jesus went to raise Lazarus He had waited for two days before travelling to be with Mary and Martha in their distress.  It was the third day.  And in a foreshadowing of events that would follow, John tells us that Jesus even asks for the ‘stone to be rolled away’.  There is a deep and profound significance to the ‘third day’ in John’s gospel.  And in the story of the visit to the empty tomb we, like Mary and the disciples who arrived there, begin to get an understanding of the tumultuous events which took place there and the real significance of the ‘third day’ to which John had been pointing as he wrote his gospel.  In that quiet garden, on the third day, a new age of eternal life began.

Through His resurrection Jesus calls His followers to experience the energy and the power of this resurrection, His anastasis in the present moment.  Like our communion service, this is not by a recalling the past, but by experiencing and unveiling that energy and power today, especially on this Easter Day.  John starts his gospel with a wedding in Cana in Galilee on the third day, he ends it with a marriage of heaven and earth on the third day.  To being with Mary and the disciples see the events of our reading unfolding as spectators and observers, they finish beginning to see things differently, they finish with the beginnings of an inward revelation which will make them active participants in the resurrection too.  The disciples are no longer called friends or servants, but brothers.  Things have changed.  The word that describes Mary as she brought word to the disciples is the same word that is used for angel.  She becomes an angel, a holy messenger to the disciples as she begins to experience the power of the resurrection in her life.  When she reports that she has seen Jesus to the disciples she describes seeing Jesus not as someone who had observed Him but as someone who has seen and experienced first-hand His resurrected presence.

In Mary, and the early disciples we see both the Easter fact and the Easter spirituality revealing themselves.  The fact of the resurrection is that God had won the ultimate victory over the powers of sin and death, over the very things that separate us from God.  The barriers were removed and access to God for all creation restored.  The things which worked to mar and destroy God’s creation had been overcome and Jesus had opened the gate to heaven.  Easter Day is the day that confirms the mission of God is accomplished.  God has reclaimed creation and all that is in it.  Through Christ’s life, death and resurrection Christ opened up a new life for the whole world.  Jesus did not say that there was a resurrection, He said ‘I am the resurrection’.  Mary and the disciples were just becoming to understand what this meant, beginning to understand this new creation and the calling of all people to live a new life in it.  But as John indicates in the language he uses in His gospel, the reality of Easter is not just in acknowledging the Easter facts and third party observers, as people who agree with the facts of Easter, it’s about our own participation in the Easter spirituality made available to us through the Easter facts.  The pattern of death and resurrection made real in our own lives, not through an acknowledgement of the facts but as participation in the miracle. 

Through our death to sin and being raised to new life, an offer available to all we are invited to be part of that new created order.  As Christian believers, we know God not just through an understanding of the Easter story but though our active participation in the story itself.  By being part of the resurrection and the new creation Christ brought about through His death and resurrection.  As difficult as it can be to get our mind around Easter the fact remains: we are truly an Easter people, God has made all things new, and we have been raised with Christ to a new and eternal life.
Sam Cappleman

 

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
 

Hymns

  1. Christ the Lord is risen today

  2. Led like a lamb to the slaughter 

  3. Jesus Lives!

  4. Thine be the glory
     

 

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  

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

 

 

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

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 - Mission Praise

(1).Christ the Lord is risen today 76 (2). There is a Redeemer 673 (3). My God and is thy table spread-on notices (4). If Christ had not been raised-on notices (5). Thine be the glory 689