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Order of Service
Welcome and Notices
Call to worship
In our Tenebrae service on Maundy Thursday, we extinguished all the candles. Today, if you are able, light a candle now . . .
We light this candle again to remind ourselves that the darkness is over, the light of Christ won over the darkness. He was not extinguished for ever, but was raised from the dead and lives for ever more.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son
Text: Edmond Louis Budry (1854-1932); tr. Richard Birch Hoyle (1875-1939)
Tune: Maccabaeus – G. F. Handel (1685-1759)
Prayers and Lord’s Prayer
Lord God almighty, on this Easter morning, we do indeed give you thanks and praise for raising Jesus from the dead. We praise you that he was willing to go to the cross for us, leaving the throne of heaven in his birth, to live and die for us, to bring us back to you. And now Lord, he is exalted at your right hand, worshipped by the angels and heavenly beings. So we come to worship him too, and bow before your throne of grace.
As we bow, we know that so often we ignore you in how we live, and dishonour you in the things we say and do. We dishonour what you have done for us. We are sorry, Father God, wanting to follow Jesus more closely, and yet always falling short. Yet because of the cross and resurrection, we can stand before you forgiven once more, always accepted by you because of our adoption in Jesus. We offer our grateful thanks and praise.
As we worship this morning, we pray that our hearts will be open to hear once more the words of life. Give us that joy of knowing you, of knowing the risen saviour in our lives. Help us to be expectant that you will speak to us, through your Holy Spirit, and refresh us in your presence. For we ask in name of our risen Lord Jesus, Amen.
I invite you to join with me in the words of the prayer which Jesus taught us . . .
Introduction to the first reading
In Mark’s gospel, the resurrection story is there, yet we get quite an abrupt ending, leaving us on a cliff edge. Many Bibles give more verses to end with, verses which may have been added later, we don’t know why. With hindsight we know what happens next, but the women in the story didn’t. As you listen to it, try to be in their shoes.
Reading – Mark 16: 1-8
Organ Interlude: Trumpet Voluntary – Andante Largo – John Stanley (1713-86)
Introduction to the second reading
This next reading is with hindsight and the thinking mind of the apostle Paul. He’s not just sharing what Christ has done, but is showing its meaning for his readers then, who were driving him mad with their behaviour as Christians, and its meaning for us.
Reading – 2 Corinthians 5: 14-21
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Except that wasn’t the first thoughts of those who found the tomb empty. The women who went to anoint Jesus’ body were in mourning. They had seen Jesus die, and the tomb where he’d been placed. Their only concern was how they were going to roll the heavy stone away, to do for Jesus what was honouring to his body.
Imagine their surprise when they saw the stone was already rolled away. If you were them, what would you be thinking? . . . For me, I’d be wondering who had done that, had other disciples we didn’t know been there earlier, had we got the wrong tomb—questioning our own certainty—a lot of anxiety and questions surfacing as to what had happened.
Still these women pressed on to find out for themselves what had happened. On going into the tomb and seeing the young man dressed in a white robe, they were alarmed, Mark’s gospel records. Alarmed is a strong word, more than the just afraid of Matthew’s gospel, or the running to tell the disciples that the stone had been rolled away of John’s gospel. In Luke’s gospel we hear the word ‘terrified’.
Alarmed and terrified are words which we don’t associate with the wonderful truth of the resurrection. But these were women who weren’t expecting this, grieving, and for whom seeing a man dressed in white in place of the body of Jesus, must have been a very traumatic experience. So traumatized were they, that they fled the scene, ran away as fast as they could back to the rest of the disciples. Mark records, in what two of the original manuscripts found have as the last verse before a couple of different endings to the gospel, that the women said nothing to anyone because they were so afraid.
The other two endings are both in slightly later manuscripts. In the shorter gospel ending, they did tell the disciples briefly what had happened. In the longer ending, the women weren’t believed, nor were the two Jesus appeared to on the road to Emmaus. Then Jesus appeared to them in the locked room, and told them off for their lack of faith and stubbornness!
But how do we get from this picture in the Mark resurrection reading, of terror and amazement we read in verse 8, to joy and belief? As we leave Mark’s gospel as the original may have been, it seems to be the end of the story. The women are too terrified to talk, and all there is, is a promise from the young man dressed in white, of seeing Jesus in Galilee. That’s it. Maybe Mark was planning to write more and something happened. Maybe the postscripts were written by Mark later on.
Of course, for us, the resurrection appearances are recorded in the other gospels and we see that disbelief turn to joy. Before we go on to the joy though, and the other reading we had for today, let’s pause with Mark’s abrupt ending, because, actually, that’s all we have: a promise that Jesus has been raised from the dead, and we will see Him face to face one day . . .
Yet we do go on, and for us, we have that Easter Sunday joy of the resurrected Christ. In many senses, it’s not just a promise because we have those written records—the other gospels, the testimony of Paul in Acts and his letters to the churches, the testimony of the early Church in Acts as well, the rest of the letters to the churches and the vision of the apostle John. And those are the source of our joy as we read on and see the effects of the resurrection in the pages of the New Testament, and as we experience ourselves the effects of the living Christ in our lives and in the world around us.
We go on to Pentecost to get the real sense of what happened. As the disciples saw Jesus alive, we see their grief and fear turn to joy, a human joy of relief and pleasure. But once the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, that was the point it all became real, and the joy became infectious. As people heard about the story of Jesus, about God’s love and forgiveness, people could see the joy in the faces of the disciples, the witness of the disciples. And that joy has been passed on through generations. We don’t just have the written record but the joy of today’s believers as a witness to Jesus’ resurrection.
We might not describe it as joy, but it’s something tangible. It’s not just a love that is shared through good works, or a cerebral belief in God through Jesus. It’s an event we base our lives on: it affects our whole lives.
And so we come briefly to that passage from 2 Corinthians. Paul firmly roots what he says in belief in the resurrection of Christ. That’s the base-line which defines the Christian Church. From that Paul goes on to describe the change it makes to our lives, and the new life we live in Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Paul sees new life in Christ as a new creation. We are new creations, no longer held by anything in our pasts, but held in God’s hands, recreated in Christ. I once asked, in a Bible study I was leading in one of my London churches, if anyone thought they’d never sinned. To my surprise one lovely elderly lady put her hand up. She really couldn’t remember anything she’d ever done wrong in her life.
As we look at our own lives, for those of us who have been brought up in the faith, maybe it is hard to see where the old life was and the new life is, or maybe we have been so brought into that new life from birth that we’ve only ever been new creations. Of course, we all do still do wrong, even that lovely lady I’m sure, and Paul entreats the original hearers and us, to be reconciled to God, to be those new creations. The reason is because in all we do, we show Christ to others—as God’s ambassadors.
Easter joy isn’t just for ourselves. It is to show the resurrected Christ and what he has done, to those around us. I pray that we will all know that resurrection joy with us today, and wherever we go this week, this month, this year. I pray too that our joy may be infectious to others, as we live as God’s ambassadors, and so draw others to the Lord who died for us and was raised to bring new and eternal life to all.
Prayers of Intercession
O Lord Jesus Christ, who on this day conquered death and rose from the dead, and who is alive for ever more, help us never to forget your risen Presence forever with us.
Help us to remember,
That you are with us in every time of uncertainty to guide and to direct;
That you are with us in every time of sorrow to comfort and console;
That you are with us in every time of temptation to strengthen and inspire;
That you are with us in every time of loneliness to cheer and befriend;
That you are with us all our lives through.
We thank you that through the cross, we are forgiven, that you turn our darkness into light. Help us to follow you, to honour you, and to share your love with others, to be true ambassadors for you.
And so we pray for our world, bringing to you all those situations where there is death and destruction, and where your good news of new life is so needed.
We pray for those countries struggling especially with Covid.
We pray for those places where there is fear and hatred.
We pray for those places where there is war and famine.
We pray for all who have fled violence and oppression.
May their darkness turn to light, their fear to joy, their war to peace, through the work of your Holy Spirit through your people of peace.
We pray too for those we know in need of healing, comfort and peace . . .
And we pray for our families and friends, asking that this resurrection day may be a real time of celebration of new life in you.
For Christ the Lord is risen today! ALLELUIA
Christ the Lord is risen today
Text: Charles Wesley (1707-88)
Tune: Easter Hymn Last verse arr, Noel Rawsthorne (1929-2019)
As we come now to remember the last supper where Jesus asked us to remember him in bread and wine, we remember the meals he shared with his disciples after his resurrection, and look forward to the wedding feast when the Church will be fully united with Christ the bridegroom.
The peace of Christ be with you, and in your homes.
And also with you
Come then to this table, not because you must, but because you may;
Come, not because of who you are, but because of who God is.
Come, not because you are righteous, but because of God’s love through Christ, who was obedient to death on a cross.
Words of Institution
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’
Prayer of thanksgiving
We praise and thank you so much that you came to earth for us and gave yourself on the cross for our forgiveness. Help us never to forget what it cost you, bearing the world’s sin in yourself, separated from the Father.
We praise and thank you for new resurrection life that gives us hope in our lives and for the future. We thank you for that assurance of new life in you, a new life we can share in many different ways at this time with others.
We give thanks now for this bread, symbolising for us your body, and ourselves as your body here, to be broken for others, to be witnesses to your resurrection.
We thank you for this wine, symbolising for us your blood, poured
out in love for the world, as we are poured out to bring life to those around us.
We ask that as we share this bread and wine, we may be filled anew with your Holy Spirit, and refreshed in your resurrection life, to live for you, for your glory. Amen.
Sharing the Bread and Wine
As we break the bread and share the wine, we will eat and drink together.
We break the bread to remember Christ’s broken body for us on the cross . . .
[pause to break the bread]
Christ’s body broken for us
[pause to eat]
Christ’s blood was poured out that the world might have new life . . .
[pause to lift the cup]
And we remember as we drink together that we have new life in his blood
[pause to drink]
Prayer after Communion
Most gracious God,
we praise you for what you have given and for what you have promised us here.
You have made us one with all your people in heaven and on earth.
You have fed us with the bread of life, and renewed us for your service.
Now we give ourselves to you; and we ask that our daily living may be part of the life of your kingdom, and that our love may be your love reaching out into the life of the world;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Let us talents and tongues employ
Text: Fred Kaan (1929-2009)
Tune: Linstead Market – Doreen Potter (1925-80)
Jesus calls us in, sends us out.
So we go with resurrection joy in our hearts and on our lips.
And may the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us all and those whom we love, now and always.
Organ Voluntary: Prelude in G major (BWV541) – J. S. Bach (1685-1750)