Easter Sunday – 12 April 2020

Owing to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are not able to meet at Headingley St Columba until further notice. For this Easter Sunday, we have recorded a slimmed-down version of Morning Worship that you can listen to here:


Organ Prelude: William Walond – Voluntary in G – Allegro


In our Tenebrae service on Maundy Thursday we extinguished all the candles. Today, if you are able, light a candle now. We pause while that is done… We light a 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 forevermore.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Christ the Lord is risen today!
All creation, join to say:
Raise your joys and triumphs high,
Sing, O heavens, and earth reply,

Love’s redeeming work is done,
Fought the fight, the battle won,
Death in vain forbids him rise,
Christ has opened paradise.

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven!
Praise to you by both be given,
Every knee to you shall bow,
Risen Christ, triumphant now.

Charles Wesley (1707-88)

Lord God almighty, on this different 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 to your right hand, worshipped by the angels and heavenly beings. So we come to worship Him too, and bow before your throne of grace. Open our hearts to you this morning, open our lives to live for you. 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 HS, 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 Lord’s Prayer

Our first reading is one of the gospel resurrection accounts, written by the apostle John, an eye witness. It is read to us by Jane Rastall: John 20.1-18

Our second reading is a recorded testimony of another of the witnesses to the resurrection, the apostle Peter. It is to the household of a God-fearing Roman Centurion, Cornelius, who had a vision of an angel who told him to send for Peter. Peter too had a vision, the vision of the large sheet filled with all sorts of animals, including ones forbidden to Jewish people to eat. This vision was just as Cornelius’ servants were about to call out for him at his gate. God told him to go willingly with them, and so we have the first recorded testimony to Gentiles, read to us by Aleck Brownjohn: Acts 10.34-43

Organ Interlude: Alfred Hollins – A Trumpet Minuet (Conclusion)

SERMON – Witnesses of the Resurrection
Today is that wonderful day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I always well up with excitement! No, not at the thought of all those chocolate Easter eggs, but because Jesus is alive! How fantastic is that!

This Easter day is very different. The joy may be tinged with sadness as we can’t worship and share our joy together, and family members can’t visit. We’re in the school Easter holidays, and for our young people, each day may seem the same, today included, apart from the chocolate!

I’m also reminded of the persecuted Church. Easter is a time we often remember them especially. Many of them are unable to go to Church ever, let alone on this special celebratory day. I wonder if we can understand a little more of what it’s like for them, not to be able to worship with others at this time. Of course, for us, we can be open in our worship, even if it is in a different way. But we can think of how it is for them all the time, behind closed doors.

That’s how it was for the disciples after the crucifixion, hiding away behind closed doors.

This morning I’m drawing out the theme of witness from our passages. We think again of the persecuted Church, continuing its witness despite personal risk, because what they have found in the living Lord is so precious. Many are forced to worship in secret because of ultra-oppressive regimes, but many seek ways to share their faith with people they work with or family members.

There was a group of Iranian Christians at Brian’s Church when he ministered in Huddersfield. Some of them came to faith because they noticed the difference in a friend or someone else. For one, I remember, he came to faith because of the generosity shown by a car mechanic, uncharacteristic of others, who also seemed to have an aura of joy. On asking about this with the mechanic, he found out the mechanic was a Christian. Through the conversation, he was invited to an underground Church, and came to believe too. The witness of the mechanic was not in words to start with, it was in his actions – generosity and displaying joy. But then, he was brave enough to tell of his faith when asked.

The witness of the resurrection begins this very first Easter Sunday morning. Our readings have given us glimpses of 3 people, and our thoughts and other parts of the New Testament show us their continued witness. These people were Mary Magdalene, John and Peter.

Mary was at the tomb first, just before daybreak. Just a couple of days before, she had stood near the cross as Jesus had hung there dying, and she had watched as His body was taken down and laid to rest. As I think of that Good Friday scene, I think of people today, many of whom can’t be at the bedside of a dying loved one. The feelings of helplessness and grief must be so much more than even Mary felt at this time. We can reach out to them.

As Mary came to the tomb, she could see the stone was rolled away. But she didn’t go in and we’re not told what she thought. Instead she ran, may be for fear and panic – I think I’d do the same! She went to Peter and the disciple Jesus loved, whom we know to be John. Maybe she thought they would know what to do, how to find out where Jesus’ body had been taken.

Full of fear and apprehension no doubt, Peter and John ran to the tomb. John got there first, looked in, but went no further, maybe he was too afraid to enter. Peter, who we know as the bold one who was sometimes a little too forthright, ran up behind and went straight in. He saw the linen wrappings and the head cloth rolled up by itself. We can only wonder what he thought. Then John seems to pluck up courage to go into the tomb. We’re told he saw and believed.

I’ve often wondered what John actually believed at this point, as the next verse says they didn’t understand Jesus was to rise from the dead. Did he believe that Jesus had risen, or what Mary said about Jesus’ body having been taken? The word used in the original Greek language is apparently about believing in something, rather than believing about something like Mary’s statement. So John must have had a little spark of understanding in what he saw, to believe that Jesus had risen, although he kept it to himself at this moment.

Despite this, the guys went back home, not much good to Mary, nor as witnesses at this point, and Mary is left weeping. She then peers inside the tomb and sees 2 angels, who ask her why she’s crying. She’s still on track with this idea that Jesus’ body has been taken and laid somewhere else. Now if 2 angels asked me a question, I think I might be just scared stiff. But Mary doesn’t even seem to notice the significance of the holy arrivals. In fact, of course, she’s still just too full of grief to take anything else in.

But then Jesus appears to her. It wasn’t until He said her name, and she turns around, that she recognizes the risen Lord. She is the first witness to Christ’s resurrection. She went back to the disciples and tells them all that He had said to her. And that’s actually all we hear of her witness in the New Testament. There’s nothing else at all. No doubt she told all her family and friends, and her neighbours, but we don’t hear anything about it.

John then. John had that spark of belief, confirmed by Mary, and the subsequent resurrection appearances of Jesus. We know of John’s witness in the gospel itself, a written witness, also of his companionship with Peter in Acts, his letters to Churches later on in the New Testament, and in his vision in Revelation at the end of the New Testament. He tells us in the first Chapter of Revelation that he was on the island of Patmos because of his testimony to Jesus. He was exiled there. As an apostle, he would have been one of the main witnesses to our Lord’s resurrection.

And then Peter. He didn’t know what to make of the empty tomb and the grave clothes lying there, but maybe Mary’s testimony spoke to him. Then of course he was there in the room, as John was, where Jesus appeared to the disciples twice, and again by the lake. It was then that Jesus forgave his denial in the courtyard of the priest’s house, and gave him a new commission.

In Acts, Peter’s testimony stands out in the records of his preaching, as we have in Acts Ch 10. He was bold to tell everyone the good news. In Acts 10, he is called to share the gospel with those outside the Jewish faith. His witness is first hand, of the resurrection, as one of those Jesus appeared to along with others, and who ate and drank with the risen Lord. After the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, no-one could shut up Peter’s witness.

Three characters, all different, all witnesses in different ways, but all who stood out, like the Iranian mechanic.

All our witness is different today. Yet it too, needs to stand out. Maybe at this time our witness is in how we are to our friends and neighbours, those maybe who have never shown interest in Church. The difference in our lives needs to stand out. Maybe the Church in our country, and in all countries, have a witness at this time which will draw many to believe in the risen Lord.

We are not first-hand witnesses to the resurrection, yet that witness to the risen Christ has come down the centuries and is still ours today. It is the witness not just of the stories in the Bible, but also of our own stories of how Jesus has impacted our lives.

And so we share the witness of the early Church; we share the witness of The Church, the witness of our lives, lived as resurrection people; we share the hope, the love, the joy, the generosity, as we live out our lives in these different times.


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 believe in you, to follow you, to honour you, to live in new life through your HS, and to be your witnesses.
Lord hear us,
Lord graciously hear us

We pray for our world, at this time for the families of the tens of thousands who have lost their lives to the new coronavirus, for the millions who are already in poverty and suffering even more through this time, for all those who have lost livelihoods and for whom the future is uncertain, and for those suffering from mental illness for whom isolation is more difficult than for most. We give thanks for all those called to work in essential services, whether medical services or the food industry, and others besides, many who work despite the risk to themselves.
Lord hear us,
Lord graciously hear us

We pray too for those situations in our world which have taken a back seat. For The people of Yemen who are starving; for the displaced and the dispossessed especially those in refugee camps; for rough sleepers with no safe space to obey the rules of lockdown in so many cities worldwide; and for migrant workers, especially those in India where a lock-down was imposed at 4 hours -notice, and who have had to walk home.
Lord hear us,
Lord graciously hear us

We pray for the persecuted Church world-wide, remembering them especially in their isolation as we ourselves experience a little of that. We pray they may find fresh strength in the good news of Easter; protect them and give then courage in all you have done.
Lord hear us,
Lord graciously hear us

We pray now for those on our hearts, whom we know are in need of your comfort and strength, spending a few moments in quiet remembering them…
Lord hear us,
Lord graciously hear us

For Christ the Lord is risen today! ALLELUIA! Amen


The Peace
The peace of Christ be with you, and in your homes
And also with you

Words of Confession and Assurance of Pardon
Let us confess our sins to God and ask for forgiveness.

Lord God most merciful,
we confess that we have sinned,
through our own fault,
and in common with others,
in thought, word and deed,
and through what we have left undone.
We ask to be forgiven.

By the power of your Spirit
turn us from evil to good,
help us to forgive others,
and keep us in your ways
of righteousness and love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


The Lord says: See, I am making all things new.
If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.
In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself
Through Him our sins are forgiven.
Amen. Thanks be to God.

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 grace poured out through
Christ on the 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
Holy Lord,
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 HS, and refreshed in your resurrection life, to live
for you, for your glory. Amen.

We come to share the bread and wine:
We break the bread to remember Christ’s broken body on the cross…
We eat together remembering we are all part of the one body of Christ: His body broken for us

Christ’s blood was poured out that the world might have new life…
We drink together remembering we are all part of the new covenant:
We have new life in His blood

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.

Thine be the glory,
Risen, conqu’ring 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 the church with gladness,
Hymns of triumph sing;
For her Lord now liveth,
Death hath lost its sting.

Thine be the glory,
Risen conquering Son,
Endless is the victory,
Thou o’er death hast won.

No more we doubt Thee,
Glorious Prince of life;
Life is naught 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.

Thine be the glory,
Risen conquering Son,
Endless is the victory,
Thou o’er death hast won.

Edmond Louis Budry (1854-1932)
tr. Richard Birch Hoyle (1875-1939)

(Romans 15.13)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And now may the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us now and with those whom we love, now and always. Amen.

Organ Voluntary: J. S. Bach – Fugue in G (Gigue)