A Service for Easter Sunday

If you would like to see this service run in YouTube, (I apologise for the lack of words for the hymns) then you can watch it here:

We may not be able to share this service as we would wish, together, in the churches we have grown to love and feel comfortable in, but we can still light our own Pascal flame, even putting in a window as a sign of Easter resurrection joy for all to see (but don’t set fire to the curtains!).

LIGHTING OF THE PASCHAL CANDLE

Eternal God, who made this most holy morn
to shine with the brightness of your 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.

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

The light of Christ.
Thanks be to God.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

HYMN Jesus Christ is risen today

The COLLECT
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.

EPISTLE
Colossians Chapter 3
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

HYMN The strife is o’er the battle done.

GOSPEL
John Chapter 20
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 toward the tomb. The 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? Whom are you looking for?” 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.

SERMON
John’s telling of the story of the first Easter morning is wonderfully graphic, there’s lots going on – lots of to-ing and fro-ing – and there at the centre is the moving figure of Mary Magdalene. The only other time she’s mentioned in this gospel is as one of the women standing by the cross, watching Jesus die.
According to St John, she was the first to Jesus after his death – although she didn’t know him till after he spoke her name. But things don’t go on as before – he doesn’t give Mary a hug and say it’s all alright, let’s find the others and go back to healing the sick. Things won’t be the same.  The new life, the post-resurrection life, isn’t a cure for death – the way out of darkness isn’t backwards but forwards – only by moving ahead. And the only person who can lead the way is he who has risen before us.
The question that Easter asks of us is not "Do we believe in the doctrine of the resurrection?" Frankly, that's not particularly hard.  Our doctrines bend easily, and before long our beliefs are reduced to sentimental claims about "new beginnings", all bunnies and chicks.  Or we make the opposite mistake of insisting only on belief in the historicity of this event.  It's all just a way of begging the question.  What the Gospels ask is not "Do you believe?" but "Have you encountered the risen Christ?"  Have you heard him call your name yet?
Jesus told Mary to let him go, not to forget him, not to lose him, but to relate to him in a new way, untethered, not limited, released, made free. This letting go is scary, releasing the bird in hand is a frightening thing to do, escaping the norms of this world is very difficult, the norms of possession and physicality. Perhaps that's why Jesus told his disciples to believe, and that it was through belief that they would find freedom. That belief would open new doors, new possibilities, new ways to see life not bounded by the physical, not restricted to what can be grasped and held on to.
We get the feeling that Mary was never the same after that Sunday morning. Neither is anyone who has learned that what matters is not that we are confident in our hold of Jesus, but confident that he has hold of us. Accepting that, we are ready for anything.
And the good thing about Easter is that, unlike Christmas which is celebrated just once a year, we celebrate Easter every week, every Sunday, usually as we gather to share Christ’s body and blood. But even in these challenging times we can remind ourselves each Sunday that we are Easter people, believers in resurrection, believers in Christ’s transforming power to turn even death into life. And in these times we need to do that as much as we ever have before.

 

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
Let us declare our faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the scriptures;
he was buried;
he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles:
this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen.

1 Corinthians 15.3-7

Almighty God, we thank you for our fellowship in the household of faith with all those who have been baptised in your name. Keep us faithful to our baptism, and so make us ready for that day when the whole creation shall be made perfect in your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

HYMN The day of resurrection

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
We have arrived at the end of our Easter journey. We have travelled from death to life; from despair to hope; from fear to trust.  Separated as we are from our church families and not surrounded by the ritual symbolic outbursts of colour, yet we pray that our hearts and minds are open to joyously receive the message of Easter: “The lord is risen!”
Lord in your mercy….
HEAR OUR PRAYER.

God our father, with awe and with gratitude we witness those working in the NHS and all key workers. We offer up our most earnest thanks for all they do and ask that you guard them and stay  with them, as they guard us and stay with us.
Lord in your mercy……
HEAR OUR PRAYER.

We pray for the leaders of our nation,  bestow on them, we beseech you,  the wisdom to learn and to listen- to be resolute and act for the common good as they steer us along this untrodden and unknown path, remembering specially the prime minister as he recovers from the virus.
Lord in your mercy…..
 HEAR OUR PRAYER.

God our mother, we bring before all who anxious, all who are fearful and all who mourn. We know that you are a light to lead us  in the darkness of the night  that you are a hand outstretched, waiting to be grasped.
We remember especially Catherine, Jackie and her family, Lucy, Diane, Ray and Christopher-and those in our lives for whom we are anxious.

Lord you have been with us through all the changing scenes of our lives, we place ourselves in your hands as we have travelled with you through Lent to the cross, may we experience the joy of your Easter resurrection.
“The Lord is risen.”
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our saviour Jesus Christ. Amen


As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

BLESSING

HYMN Thine be the glory

Father, we have celebrated our Saviour's death and resurrection.
Help us, for whom he died,
to live his life that has no end.
We have offered the Church's sacrifice of praise.
Help us, who have received the bread of life,
to be thankful for your gift.
We have greeted the new dawn of hope.
Help us, who light these candles,
never to forsake the light of Christ.
We bless one another in your name.
Help us, who now go in peace,
to shine with your light in the world.
Thanks be to God! Amen.

To End
Sing Joyfully by William Byrd - Voces8