Easter Sunday Worship 31 March

 
Today’s service is led by the Revd Matt Stone

 
Call to Worship

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

On this glorious Easter Sunday morning, united with God’s people everywhere, we join together in our first hymn to declare and celebrate the world-changing resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Hymn     Christ the Lord is Risen Today
Charles Wesley, Public Domain, sung by Maddy Prior 

After each line please sing “alleluia!”
 
Christ the Lord is risen today, 
Earth and heaven in chorus say, 
Raise your joys and triumphs high, 
Sing, ye heavens, thou earth reply, 

Love’s redeeming work is done, 
Fought the fight, the battle won, 
Vain the stone, the watch, the 
Christ has burst the gates of Hell, 

Lives again our glorious King, 
Where, O death, is now thy sting? 
Once he died our souls to save, 
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? 

Soar we now where Christ has led, 
Following our exalted Head, 
Made like him, like him we rise, 
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, 
 
King of glory, soul of bliss,
Everlasting life is this,
Thee to know, thy power to prove,
Thus to sing, and thus to love,

Prayers of Approach and Confession

Loving God,  Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
We praise you this morning for all that you are, 
and all that you have done. 
We thank you for coming to us in Jesus Christ, 
and for Jesus’s willingness to journey to the cross for us. 
We cannot fully comprehend your suffering or sacrifice,
but we give thanks for amazing grace,
and we celebrate his glorious resurrection.
Through Jesus, we can be in no doubt of your love for us.
Through Jesus, we receive your forgiveness and mercy.  
Through Jesus, there is victory over sin and death.
Through Jesus, we are adopted into your family.
Through Jesus, we can be filled with your transforming Spirit. 
Through Jesus, there is hope. 
Forgive us, Lord, when we forget all that you have done, 
or fail to live differently in light of your good news.
Breathe your living Spirit into our hearts today, that we might not only hear, but respond to your life-changing hope. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

We share in the words of the Lord’s Prayer…Our Father…

Having asked the Holy Spirit to speak to us, and to change us today, we listen to our Gospel reading:

Reading     St John 20:1-18 

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 towards 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 round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ 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.

Hymn     Thine Be the Glory
Edmond Budry (1904) Translator: Richard Birch Hoyle.  Public domain.
Sung by the Northern Baptist Association and used with their kind permission.

Thine be the glory, risen, conqu’ring Son;
endless is the vict’ry 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, conqu’ring Son;
endless is the vict’ry Thou o’er death hast won.

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb.
Lovingly He greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
let His Church with gladness hymns of triumph sing,
for the Lord now liveth; death hath lost its sting. 

Thine be the glory, risen, conqu’ring Son;
endless is the vict’ry Thou o’er death hast won.

No more we doubt Thee, glorious Prince of life!!
Life is nought without Thee; aid us in our strife;
make us more than conqu’rors, through Thy deathless love;
bring us safe through Jordan to Thy home above. 
 
Thine be the glory, risen, conqu’ring Son;
endless is the vict’ry Thou o’er death hast won.

Sermon

The Natural History Museum in London used to have an earthquake simulator. You’d stand in the middle of a pretend Japanese supermarket and the floor would move, literally, under your feet. You’d get jolted back and forth. It always felt a little bit tame – I suspect they didn’t want anyone to hurt themselves and sue them – and I imagine the real thing would be a lot more frightening. When there’s a real earthquake, nothing is the same again. The tectonic plates beneath our feet will be in a different position to how they were before. Sometimes a whole new island or set of islands might be produced. Sometimes there are landslides or avalanches. Sometimes great buildings fall to the ground and whole cities are razed. 

The resurrection was a seismic, world-changing event – Matthew’s Gospel (28:2) even mentions an “earthquake” on Easter Sunday – and yet many of us live as if it was merely a simulator. The resurrection signalled the start of a new age. There is a lot of apocalyptic imagery over the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday – rocks being split in two, the dead being raised, the earthquake, the angel like lightning – to those who experienced it, it must have felt like the end of the world. We know it wasn’t the end, but it was certainly the beginning of the end, the start of a new era – as the world was invaded by God’s Kingdom; as God’s victory over evil began to reverberate through the powers and principalities. 

As this new era takes hold, we see three big shifts in John 20: 

First, we see the shift from disciples to family

The first shift is one that’s easily overlooked. Almost entirely through John’s Gospel, Jesus’ followers are called “disciples”. However, when Jesus appears to Mary, he refers to his disciples in a new way. He refers to them as “brothers” (v.17). It’s a subtle, but profound shift. The disciples are no longer just apprentices, they’re family. Why? Because through Jesus’ death on the cross, because of the forgiveness they have been shown, they have been adopted as God’s sons and daughters. They are brothers and sisters with Jesus himself.

This was God’s plan all along. The good news of God is not just that we are forgiven of our sins. The forgiveness of Good Friday is the means to the end, not the end in itself. The end is the new creation, which started on Easter Sunday. And at the centre of the new creation is a new family:

We are God’s family, and as family we join the family business – which leads to our second shift:

Secondly, we see the shift from holding to going

When Mary sees Jesus in the Garden, we can surmise that she takes hold of Jesus, holding him tight. In response, Jesus says to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go…” (v.17, my emphasis).

This amazing news is not just for Mary, and it’s not just for us – it’s for all people. And so the risen Jesus says to you and to me: “Go!” There’s work to be done.

This too was always a part of God’s plan. Resurrection and mission go together. In Isaiah 52:13, at the start of one of the Servant songs that looked ahead to Jesus, to His death and resurrection, 700 years in advance, we read “See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up.” And then after the song, in Isaiah 54, we read the results of Jesus’ suffering and exaltation: “Sing…burst into song, shout for joy… Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left… Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth… For your Maker is your husband—the LORD Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer” (NIV). 

This is amazing news, news that wasn’t just for the first disciples, or for Israel, or even for us – but for the whole earth. So our worship can’t stay confined to the walls of the church. We can’t just spend our lives cocooned from the world at the feet of Jesus. It might be pure coincidence that the resurrection does not happen on the Sabbath, the holy day, the day of worship and rest. Resurrection happens on what was the first day of the week, a working day.  So resurrection is not just for Sunday mornings in church. Resurrection is for our frontlines, for the stress and the anxiety, the busyness and the activity – the ordinary, everydayness of life. 

Jesus isn’t confined, Jesus isn’t cocooned in our church buildings or services. Jesus’s heart is passionately for the world – for bringing resurrection hope to broken people. So, if we want to be faithful to Jesus, if we want to be where he is, we have to go with him. We have to go, sharing the good news in word and deed. 

In the Great Commission, the promise “I am with you always” is connected to the “Therefore go” (Matt. 28:19-20). It’s in going, that we encounter the fullness of the presence of Jesus. Yes, we need time to rest, time to be at Jesus’ feet, time to receive from God. But we also, just as crucially, need time to go, to serve, to give, to bless – to be Jesus’ hands and feet. It’s not either/or. It’s not that some of us are reflectors and some of us activists. We need to both receive and give – and sometimes, paradoxically, it’s in the giving that we receive most. 

We need to let Jesus change us – we need that seismic shift – from having (to quote the missionary Jackie Pullinger) “hard hearts and soft feet”, to having “soft hearts and hard feet.” We need to let worship lead us into mission. 

Thirdly, we see the shift from grief to joy

Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb expecting to anoint a corpse. Mary was broken and grieving, weeping for Jesus, but by the time Mary leaves the tomb she is full of joy that Jesus is alive. In her delight, Mary grabs hold of Jesus. Afterwards Mary excitedly declares the astonishing news “I have seen the Lord” (v.18), and “the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (v.20). 

That joy doesn’t go away. It spreads even more infectiously than Covid-19. Through the book of Acts, we see joy as people come to faith. We see joy as the disciples carry on Jesus’ work in the face of opposition. Paul, despite facing horrendous physical and emotional hardship, is full of joy – calling for rejoicing, even whilst in chains. 

Easter is a time of joy; we should be people of joy. Because Jesus is alive! God’s new creation is breaking in. I’ve left this point to last, because I think joy is crucial to mission. I don’t know about you, but I’m not inclined to make a big purchase – whether a house or a car or an appliance – from a sales person who’s not enthusiastic about their product. Jesus is not a product to sell, but there is something of an analogy. I have a theory that one of the biggest differences between many growing churches and declining churches is joy. Churches that are constantly lamenting decline will continue to decline. Because who wants to join a community like that? Whereas churches that are full of the joy of the Lord, churches that are full of resurrection hope and good news, churches that are willing to change and embrace the future that God has in store – will grow and flourish. Why? Because the world is crying out for joy and hope. They’ll look at us and say, “I want what they’ve got.”

It’s a bit like the film Sister Act. Deloris Van Cartier (played by Whoopi Goldberg) enters a convent as part of a witness protection programme. Deloris is a lapsed Catholic, and her life is a bit of a mess. But God uses her to bring joy to that community: transforming it from an inward-looking community in decline, to an outward community of joy and hope and transformation. 

We can’t manufacture joy, but we can receive it by living faithfully, day by day, for Jesus Christ. By trusting in him, and him alone. Jesus will turn disciples into family; holding into going; our grief into joy… and it will change us, seismically! We will never be the same again. And hopefully that change will overflow into our communities. In Acts 17, Paul and Silas are accused of ‘turning the world upside down’ as they proclaimed the good news about King Jesus. My prayer is that the same will be said of us. We will turn the world upside down, as death become life; as lives are touched and transformed by the Risen Saviour.  Amen

Hymn     Come and See
Graham Kendrick © 1989 Make Way Music sung by Graham Kendrick and used with kind permission.  Printed and Podcast in accordance with the terms of OneLicence # A-734713  
 
Come and see, come and see,
come and see the King of love.
See the purple robe and crown of thorns he wears.
Soldiers mock, rulers sneer
as he lifts the cruel cross;
lone and friendless now he climbs towards the hill

We worship at your feet,
where wrath and mercy meet
and a guilty world is washed
by love’s pure stream.
For us he was made sin.
Oh, help me take it in.
Deep wounds of love cry out ‘Father, forgive’.
I worship, I worship
the Lamb who was slain.

 
Come and weep, come and mourn
for your sin that pierced him there;
so much deeper than the wounds of thorn and nail.
All our pride, all our greed,
all our fallenness and shame.
And the Lord has laid the punishment on him

We worship at your feet,
where wrath and mercy meet
and a guilty world is washed
by love’s pure stream.
For us he was made sin.
Oh, help me take it in.
Deep wounds of love cry out ‘Father, forgive’.
I worship, I worship
the Lamb who was slain.

Man of heaven, born to earth
to restore us to your heaven,
here we bow in awe beneath
Your searching eyes.
From your tears comes our joy,
from your death our life shall spring,
by your resurrection power we shall rise.

We worship at your feet,
where wrath and mercy meet
and a guilty world is washed
by love’s pure stream.
For us he was made sin.
Oh, help me take it in.
Deep wounds of love cry out ‘Father, forgive’.
I worship, I worship
the Lamb who was slain.

 
Holy Communion 

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said: ‘Peace be with you!’  Then they were glad when they saw the Lord.

Alleluia! The peace of the risen Christ be always with you.
And also with you. Alleluia!
Here is bread, God’s good gift. 
It will become for us the bread of life.
Here is wine, God’s good gift. 
It will become for us the cup of salvation.

Blessing and honour, glory and power,
are rightly yours, all-gracious God.
By your creative word you brought the world to birth; 
in your generous love you made the human family, 
that we might see your glory and live for ever in your presence.

Blessing and honour, glory and power, 
are rightly yours, all-gracious God.

When we wandered from you in our sin 
you sought us with your steadfast love and did not give us up.
In the fullness of time you sent your Son 
to be our Saviour and Deliverer.
Made of flesh and blood, he lived our life
and died our death upon the cross.
Death could not hold him
and now he reigns at your right hand.

Blessing and honour, glory and power, 
are rightly yours, all-gracious God.

Therefore with angels and archangels  and all the company of heaven
we bless and praise your glorious name, saying:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, 
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessèd is he who comes in the name  of the Lord. 
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessèd indeed is the Lord Jesus Christ who, at supper with his friends, 
took bread and gave you thanks, broke it, gave it to them and said: 
‘Take this, all of you, and eat it. This is my body given for you. 
Do this in remembrance of me.’

When supper was ended, he took the cup and gave you thanks,
gave it to them, and said:
‘Drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, 
poured out for you and for everyone,  for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this in remembrance of me.’
Dying, you destroyed our death. 
Rising, you restored our life.
Lord Jesus, come in glory.

Therefore, Father, we celebrate this Passover of gladness; 
for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 
Accept, through him, our great high priest, this, our sacrifice of praise.
Send your Holy Spirit that these gifts of bread and wine
may be for us the body and the blood of Christ. 
Gather us, who share this feast, into the kingdom of your glory
that with all your people in every time and place 
we may praise and worship you for ever; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
by whom and with whom
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
all honour and glory are yours,
heavenly Father, now and always.  Amen.

The breaking of the bread

Alleluia! Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.
Therefore let us keep the feast. Alleluia!

We meet the risen Christ in the breaking of the bread. 
Draw near with faith.

The sharing of the bread and wine
The body of Christ, broken for you.
The blood of Christ, shed for you and all God’s people.

Music for Communion     Come You Faithful Raise the Strain
St John of Damascus (675-750) Public Domain sung by Chris Brunelle and used with his kind permission.

Post Communion Prayer

We thank You Lord that You are here where two or three are gathered in Your name.  We thank You that we have remembered Your sacrifice and Your love.  Help us as we rise from this table to know Your presence with us as we go and to share Your goodness.  Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

Resurrecting God,

We pray for your resurrection power to be at work in your church today.
Remind us that you have adopted us into your family; 
you turn our grief into eternal joy; 
and you send us to proclaim your good news to all the earth.
May we, like Mary Magdalene, be obedient and proclaim, in word and deed, the truth that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!
Give us your boldness, and may your love, joy, and hope flow from us.

We pray now for those who need your resurrection power and hope in their lives today…
…those who are grieving the loss of loved ones. 
…those struggling with poor physical and mental health. 
…those facing personal battles with addictions.
…those trapped in poverty and systems of injustice. 
May they know your presence, 
receive your hope,
and be touched by your joy.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Our final hymn reminds us of our call to go and serve in Christ’s name, sharing the good news of the Kingdom.

Hymn     From Heaven You Came
Graham Kendrick  Frodsham Methodist Church  Accompanied by Andrew Ellams and produced by Andrew Emison used with their kind permssion.  Printed and Podcast in accordance with the terms of OneLicence # A-734713  

From heaven you came, helpless babe,
entered our world, your glory veiled,
not to be served but to serve
and give your life that we might live.

This is our God, the Servant King;
he calls us now to follow him,
to bring our lives as a daily offering
of worship to the Servant King.

There in the garden of tears
my heavy load he chose to bear;
his heart with sorrow was torn,
‘Yet not my will, but yours,’ he said.

This is our God, the Servant King;
he calls us now to follow him,
to bring our lives as a daily offering
of worship to the Servant King.

Come see his hands and his feet,
the scars that speak of sacrifice,
hands that flung stars into space,
to cruel nails surrendered.

This is our God, the Servant King;
he calls us now to follow him,
to bring our lives as a daily offering
of worship to the Servant King.

So let us learn how to serve
and in our lives enthrone him,
each other’s needs to prefer,
for it is Christ we’re serving.

This is our God, the Servant King;
he calls us now to follow him,
to bring our lives as a daily offering
of worship to the Servant King.
 

Offering and Blessing

We’re finishing with our offering today as we want to go from worship offering all that we are to God: time, talents, and treasures. 
So let’s pray:

Gracious God,
In Christ, you have blessed us with every spiritual blessing.
We are chosen, made holy, and adopted into your family through his death and resurrection. We receive the priceless gifts of your love, joy and hope. From this place of blessing, may we overflow to bless others, sharing our time, talents and treasures for the sake of your kingdom and your glory. Amen.

May the blessing of God, 
Father, Son and Spirit,
be with us all today and evermore. 
Amen.

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