04-12-20 Easter Sermon

Gathering

INTRODUCTION

On this day the Lord has acted! On the first day of the week God began creation, transforming darkness into light. On this, the “eighth day” of the week, Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. We celebrate this new creation in the waters of baptism and in the feast of victory. With great joy we celebrate this day of days, even as we begin the great fifty days of Easter. Filled with hope, we go forth to share the news that Christ is risen!

GREETING

P: Alleluia! Christ is risen.

C:Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

P:The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God. and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

C:And also with you.

CONFESSION AND FORGIVENESS

All may make the sign of the cross, the sign marked at baptism, as the presiding minister begins.

P: Blessed be the holy Trinity, + one God, who gives us a new birth into a living hope, who raises us with Christ from death, who fills us with the Holy Spirit.

C:Amen.

P: Let us repent of our sin and claim the promise of God.

Silence is kept for reflection.

P: Living God,

C:we confess before you and one another our futile ways, our pursuit of perishable things, our own part in crucifying the Lord Jesus. Forgive us, O God; renew the face of the earth; and give us the assurance that you have rescued us from the power of sin and made us alive in the Spirit forever. Amen.

P: Christ suffered for sins once for all in order to bring you to God. Now you are God’s people; now you have received mercy. In the name of the risen + Lord Jesus, I declare to you that your sins are forgiven. Lay aside guilt, put away shame, for you are chosen and precious in God’s sight. Live in the marvelous light of Christ.

C:Amen.

GATHERING SONG He Arose!

PRAYER OF THE DAY

P: O God, 

C:  you gave your only Son to suffer death on the cross for our redemption, and by his glorious resurrection you delivered us from the power of death. Make us die every day to sin, that we may live with him forever in the joy of the resurrection, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Word

FIRST READING  Acts 10:34–43

Peter’s sermon, delivered at the home of Cornelius, a Roman army officer, is a summary of the essential message of Christianity: Everyone who believes in Jesus, whose life, death, and resurrection fulfilled the words of the prophets, “receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

34Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,  35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.  36You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ — he is Lord of all.  37That 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.  39We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree;  40but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear,  41not 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.  42He 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.  43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

L: The Word of the Lord

C:Thanks be to God.

PSALM  118:1–2, 16–17

1Give thanks to the LORD, for the LORD is good;

God’s mercy endures forever.

2Let Israel now declare,

“God’s mercy endures forever.”

16The right hand of the LORD is exalted!

The right hand of the LORD acts valiantly!”

17I shall not die, but live,

and declare the works of the LORD.

SECOND READING      Colossians 3:1–4

Easter means new life for us as it first meant new life for Christ. His resurrection reshapes the entire focus and motivation for our lives, since we are now hidden with the risen Christ in God.

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,  3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

L: The Word of the Lord

C: Thanks be to God.

GOSPEL John 20:1–18C:Glory to you, O Lord.

John’s gospel describes the confusion and excitement of the first Easter: the stone is moved, disciples race back and forth, and angels speak to a weeping woman. Then, Jesus himself appears.

1Early 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. 2So 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.” 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.

  11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and 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. 13They 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.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus 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.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus 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.’ ” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

P: The Gospel of the Lord C:Praise to you, O Christ.

SPECIAL MUSIC—   Another Hallelujah!   

SERMON                                                                           

APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried;  He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION

P: Uplifted by the promised hope of healing and resurrection, we join the people of God in all times and places in praying for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

A brief silence.

P: God of resurrection, from the very beginning you give the church the gift of women as your witnesses: as preachers, teachers, and leaders. Open our ears to their proclamation this day and always. Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

P: All your creation praises you—the earth hums, the seas pulse, the stars shine, and the galaxies whirl in glorious harmonies to honor you. Let us hear and blend our voices in the song. Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

P: The countries of the world experience disunity and conflict; we set our minds on fear and greed rather than on your rule of justice and steadfast love. Build up all countries on your cornerstone of peace. Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

P: We still weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn. Cradle the fearful, the suffering, and the dying, assuring them of your loving presence (especially those affected by the CoVid-19 virus). Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

P: Bless the creative and helpful service of worship leaders this day: musicians, ushers, greeters, worship assistants, preachers, readers, and all others who provide welcome and hospitality in these separating times. Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

P: Risen Lord, you went ahead of us into the grave and defeated the powers of evil. We remember those who have died trusting in you. Inspire us to live our lives in this resurrection hope and draw us to you in our final days. Lord, in your mercy,

C:hear our prayer.

P: With bold confidence in your love, almighty God, we place all for whom we pray into your eternal care; through Christ our Lord.

C:Amen.

BLESSING

P:  As you go on your way may Christ go with you.  May he go before you to show you the way; May he go behind you to encourage you; Beside you to befriend you; Above you to watch over; Within you to give you peace.  In the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. Amen.

STREAMS THEME SONG

See the streams of living waters, 

springing from eternal love, 

well supply your sons and daughters, 

and all fear of want remove.  

Who can faint while such a river 

ever will their thirst assuage? 

Grace which, like the Lord, the giver, 

never fails from age to age.

PASTOR’S SERMON

EASTER SUNDAY 4.12.2020 – MATTHEW 29:1-10

There is a story about a famous British pastor named Charles Spurgeon who pastored a very proper church in London in the late 1800s. Spurgeon was known for his sense of humor. Sometimes in the middle of preaching, Rev. Spurgeon would just roar with laughter. Some members of his very proper British congregation got upset about this. One day, a few men pulled him aside and confronted him about his outbursts of laughter. Spurgeon replied, “Oh, gentlemen, if you only knew how much I held back, you would commend me.”

Those are some of the shockwaves of joy that began on Easter morning more than 2,000 years ago, and they’re still being felt by believers today. 

Speaking of holding back our joy, there’s something I’ve been waiting for the past forty days to do, and I hope you will join with me. Around the world, it is customary for some Christian congregations to eliminate one word from their vocabulary during the season of Lent.

For forty days, we have waited for this moment when we could celebrate the risen Christ. And today, with Christians around the world, we get the opportunity to say that one special word together, even though we are physically separated. And that word is: “HALLELUJAH,” the Hebrew word that means “Praise You, Lord!”  So, I invite you to say it with me now—Hallelujah! Let’s say it again with a little more enthusiasm: Hallelujah!

Hallelujah is the ultimate Easter word. But we would have to say that “Hallelujah” was probably the last word the women were thinking about as they headed to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his broken body that first Easter morning. Imagine their surprise when they found an angel there waiting for them.

There are so many stories in the Bible of people waiting on God. They’re waiting to hear God’s voice, to receive God’s provision or guidance. So, I think it’s interesting that the Easter story is one of the few stories in the Bible when God waits for us.

The women find an angel sitting on the stone bench. Why did he sit down on the stone? He wasn’t tired. The angel was sitting there waiting for the women to arrive. What do you reckon he was doing while he waited?

One thing wedo know is that he was not practicing what he was going to say to the women. We might do that, but not an angel.

I read recently that some very famous actors use cue cards or assistants off-stage to feed them their lines through hidden earpieces. When Tom Cruise was filming the film Days of Thunder, the scriptwriter changed the script on an almost-daily basis. So, Cruise taped pages of the script to the dashboard of his race car. Unfortunately, he was so busy reading while driving that he crashed the car. Smart move.

Angels may have a fairly hard job, but memorizing their lines should be easy. Almost every angel, at least in the New Testament, has the same opening line: “Do not be afraid!” “Do not be afraid!” Four words and an exclamation point. This is how you know God is near. Wherever God is near, people get very afraid.

Imagine the women coming to the tomb in the early morning darkness. Their eyes are swollen and tender from weeping. Their hearts are breaking. It’s a journey they hoped they would never have to make.

They walk to the tomb with heavy hearts, fearful of harassment by the guards, worried about how they would move the stone and grieving because the man who was the Way, the Truth and the Life was now dead and in the grave.

And then they saw the angel waiting who says, “He is not here, he is risen.” And then Jesus, whose bloody, tortured body they had prepared for burial, was standing before them alive.

And nothing in human history has been the same since that moment. Shockwaves of joy are still reaching through time, across nations, into human hearts. If every believer shouted “Hallelujah!” on Easter Sunday morning with all their might, we might create the greatest explosion of joy this world has ever experienced.

Dr. Billy Graham once told a reporter for Time magazine, “If I were an enemy of Christianity, I would aim right at the Resurrection, because that is the heart of Christianity.”

Jesus’ resurrection from the grave and his promise of an eternal life for all those who put their trust in him is the very heart of Christianity. That’s why we can say “Hallelujah!” today and every day. Hallelujah! He arose and lives for evermore! Praise the Lord!

We can say hallelujah, first of all, to the victory of love over hate.The world turned against Jesus in the last week of his life. Why didn’t he give up on humanity right then? In those last, lonely hours of his arrest and torture and crucifixion, why didn’t he put a stop to it all? Why would he remain faithful when we were faithless? Why would he remain courageous when we became cowards? 

Why would Jesus still love us when we betrayed him? Because love is God’s basic nature. Love is God’s greatest weapon to defeat evil. Love is why God created the world in the first place and how God will save the world at the last. God’s faithful love never gives up on us.

On the cross, Jesus forgave those who put him there. He gave his life for the very people who hated and rejected him. Hate eventually hits a dead end where it poisons both the victim and the perpetrator. But love has an endless capacity to heal and transform and bring new hope and life to both its giver and its recipient.

Martin Luther King Jr. in his essay “Loving Your Enemies” wrote, “To our most bitter opponents we say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you . . . One day we shall win freedom but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.’”

Christ’s victoryon the cross was a double victory. It was a victory of love over hate; it was also a victory of life over deathEven in the Middle East the shockwaves of his victory over both hate and death are still being felt today. Let me give you an example.

The people of Lebanon and Syria have been enemies for decades. A few years ago, Pastor Leanne Friesen visited Lebanon, and she heard story after story of Syrian soldiers killing and harassing Lebanese people. She met a pastor whose father was killed by the Syrians. She met a woman who was holding her infant child in her arms while a Syrian soldier held her at gunpoint. One church leader described the suffering in their town when Syrian soldiers invaded the town and cut off access to food and medical supplies for 100 days. Pastor Friesen never expected that these stories of violence and death would turn into stories of hope and new life.

But there is something you need to know. She writes, “That pastor whose father was killed now has a church that reaches out to thousands of Syrian families. He invited a Syrian refugee forward so he could wash his feet in front of the whole congregation, to remind them what it means to love and forgive. His church has grown from 60 to 900 people and two thirds of them are refugees. The woman who (was held) at gunpoint is part of a church that cares for 500 displaced Syrian families.”

Other churches have started food programs and job training for Syrian refugees. One church has even started a school for Syrian children in Lebanon. A Christian man whose brother was killed by Syrian soldiers drives the bus that brings Syrian children to school. His colleagues say that he loves the Syrian children with all his heart.

In the face of hatred and death, the Lebanese Christians are offering new life to their enemies. That is a Jesus kind of outcome. In Jesus’ suffering on the cross and his willingness to forgive those who put him there, we can say “Hallelujah!” to the victory of life over death and love over hate.

And finally,we can say “Hallelujah!” to the victory of hope over despair.Even in the Middle East. Let me give you one more example.

When government-backed soldiers ravaged the Dinka villages of southern Sudan a few years ago, they murdered and kidnapped villagers, burned down the Dinka homes, destroyed their crops. They left behind grief and devastation. But the elderly women of the Dinka village who were left behind to clean up the damage and bury the dead, set about creating crosses out of sticks and string. And they planted those crosses over every grave as a symbol of their hope.

The Jesus they believe in faced powerful enemies. The Jesus they believe in also died a brutal and unjust death. And the Jesus they believe in rose from the dead. He left behind an empty cross and an empty tomb as a reminder that hatred and sorrow and even death had no power over him.

And as his followers, hatred and sorrow and death no longer have any power over us. And now we can say “Hallelujah!” to the hope of resurrection and eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Only when you are sitting beside a tomb do you really understand the value of life. Only when you have stared hatred in the face do you really understand the value of love. Only when you have experienced the depths of despair do you understand the power of unshakeable hope, the hope that can only be found in the character and promises of a loving, faithful and powerful God.Today and every day is Easter for the followers of Jesus. Once we understand the power of his resurrection, we live the rest of our lives “just outside the fullness of God’s grace in life everlasting.” The fullness of God’s grace is found in an empty tomb. The fullness of God’s grace is found in the victory of love over hate, of life over death, and of hope over despair. Today and every day, we can say “Hallelujah and Amen!” to the victory found only in Jesus Christ. AMEN.

SPIRITUAL COMMUNION

The Book of Common Prayer reminds us that if one is unable to actually consume the consecrated bread and wine due to extreme sickness or disability, the desire is enough for God to grant all the benefits of communion (BCP, p. 457). When being present at a celebration of the Eucharist is absolutely impossible, this act of prayer and meditation can provide the means by which you can associate yourself with the Eucharistic Action and open yourself to God’s grace and blessing.

Blessed be God, + Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever. Amen.

Let the power of the Holy Spirit come upon me, O Lord, to mercifully cleanse my heart and defend me from all adversities; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle: Revelation 3:20

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door I will come in to you and eat with you and you with me.

The Psalm: Psalm 23:5-6

You prepare a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over. Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

The Gospel: John 15:5

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me, you can do nothing.

If time and circumstances permit, confess your faith with the words of the Apostles’ Creed.

In your own words, pray for your own needs, for those on your heart, for the peace of the world, and for the Church. 

After offering these intercessions, continue with the

Act of Contrition

O God, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you and for all the wrongs I have done and the good I have not done. Especially I confess….Forgive me for Jesus’ sake, and grant me strength and wisdom to amend my life. Amen.

Act of Reception

In union, blessed Jesus, with the faithful gathered at every altar of your Church where your blessed Body and Blood are offered this day, (and remembering particularly my own parish and those worshiping there) I long to offer you praise and thanksgiving, for creation and all the blessings of this life, for the redemption won for us by your life, death, and resurrection, for the means of grace and the hope of glory.

And particularly for the blessings given me…. I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament, and, since I cannot at this time receive communion, I pray you to come into my heart. I unite myself with you and embrace you with all my heart, my soul, and my mind. Let nothing separate me from you; let me serve you in this life until, by your grace, I come to your glorious kingdom and unending peace. Amen.

Our Father…

Come Lord Jesus, and dwell in my heart in the fullness of your strength; be my wisdom and guide me in right pathways; conform my life and actions to the image of your holiness; and, in the power of your gracious might, rule over every hostile power that threatens or disturbs the growth of your kingdom, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep my heart and mind in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ my Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, + the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with me now and always. Amen.

Spiritual Communion is excerpted from Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book.