4th April 2021

Resurrection Sunday!

Our readings for today are:
John 20:1–18 Colossians 3:1–4

You may like to get them ready in your own Bible.

Please acclaim these words aloud:
Acclamation
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!

Hymn Rejoice and Sing 232
1/6 Christ the Lord is risen today; hallelujah!
sons of men and angels say: hallelujah!
raise your joys and triumphs high; hallelujah!
sing, ye heavens; thou earth reply: hallelujah!

2/6 Love’s redeeming work is done,
fought the fight, the battle won;
Lo! our sun’s eclipse is o’er,
Lo! He sets in blood no more:

3/6 Vain the stone, the watch, the seal;
Christ hath burst the gates of hell;
death in vain forbids Him rise;
Christ hath opened paradise;

4/6 Lives again our glorious King;
where, O death, is now thy sting?
Once He died our souls to save;
where thy victory, O grave?

5/6 Soar we now where Christ hath led,
following our exalted Head;
made like Him, like Him we rise;
ours the cross, the grave, the skies:

6/6 Hail the Lord of earth and heaven!
Praise to Thee by both be given:
Thee we greet, triumphant now
Hail, the Resurrected Thou!
Charles Wesley (1707 – 88)

Prayer
O God, You summon the day to dawn,
You teach the morning to waken the earth.
Great is Your name, great is Your love.

For You the valleys shall sing for joy,
the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Great is Your name, great is Your love.

For You the monarchs of the earth shall bow,
the poor and persecuted shall shout for joy.
Great is Your name, great is Your love.

Your mercy and love shall last for ever,
fresh as the morning, sure as the sunrise.
Great is Your name, great is Your love. Amen.

Reading John 20: 1 – 18
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there,
7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped round Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’
‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ 14 At this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’
16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’
She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’).
17 Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her. NIV 2011

Our next hymn was first published in the URC Prayer Handbook 2008 “A chair pulled to the place of prayer.”
Tune “Angel voices”

Hymn
1/3Tell the world that He is risen,
Alleluias sing.
Jesus died but now is living
He is Christ the King.
We will glory in this morning,
with this dawning
praises sing.

2/3Not held on that Easter hillside,
freed from loss and pain.
Jesus lives, the Lord is with us,
He has come to reign.
From the cross he comes towards us,
He has died but
lives again.

3/3Alleluia, alleluia,
all your voices raise.
Alleluia, alleluia,
sing loud hymns of praise.
In our hearts we bring together
King of kings and
day of days.
Fredwyn Hosier

Sermon

This is a time like no other.

Due to the COVID 19 virus epidemic, a bit more than a year on from the first lock-down, we are again ‘meeting’ through sheets of paper and computer screens, to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. We are gathering together – yet in different places and times.

This is a time like no other.
Some time ago, while taking my daily walk, I found myself thinking: “Lord, how can the world be so beautiful, and yet in so much turmoil? So beautiful, while life as we have known it for most of our lives, for a while basically came to a grinding holt; and is now teetering on the edge of something different?”
This time last year, in some ways the world around us was much more at peace – yet that very peace was an absence of ‘normal’ daily life; rather than peace it was a ‘quietness’ that brought anything but peace for many.
Do you remember that strange eerie look of empty streets when we saw news reports from places that would otherwise be busy, and where there would be so many people going about their daily business. Some of us have hardly left our own homes in all these months.
And yet some people during this last year continued to behave as if there was nothing much wrong; behaving in such a way as to show complete lack of regard for those people that we share this world with, with a complete disregard for what was going on around. Even though they were being told what they should do to protect themselves and others; even though they were being told what the bigger picture was; the reason for what is being done about this pandemic. Even with all those factors, some people seemed to carry on as if there was no bigger picture; as if what they did didsn’t matter to the world, as if what other people were doing didn’t matter for them; as if they wouldn’t be touched by the COVID19 virus. I wonder now how many people actually haven’t known someone who had at least tested positive. Thankfully now the vaccination program is well underway, and the virus is under better control.

This is a time like no other.

There was a time like that once before, when much of the world was going about its own business; when some people were wondering what amazing thing could happen; while others saw what was going on but were just oblivious to its meaning; when some saw what was going on, and yet were not interested in its full meaning; or had no desire to grasp hold of the enormity of what was happening.
We heard a few moments ago, the passage from John’s Gospel, in chapter 19, verses 1 to 20, which will be read for churches all over the world today. Words which are familiar for many of us. But I hope will also be fresh.
They speak to us of a time like no other.
We are told of the bewilderment that those disciples felt. The evidence of the empty tomb transforming lives. The women disciples having arrived first; in John’s gospel we only hear of Mary Magdalene, because we are told of her very special encounter with Jesus, after Peter and John have left. I am filled with awe at the way in which Mary’s life is transformed when she hears her own name spoken, in the way that only Jesus could speak it.

It was a time like no other.

So, here we are today, pausing, I hope aware of the privilege that is ours, and has been possible to people for nearly 2,000 years; to meet at the feet of Jesus. To find through his death and resurrection the meaning of the bigger picture, each small part may seem insignificant, yet each part so amazingly significant. Each part with an impact that cuts across all of time, an impact for the whole of creation, for all people of all times. God with us, Immanuel journeying from cradle, to cross, to tomb, to new life.

A life like no other.

Today, may we worship God in Jesus, may we offer thanks for the incredible things that God has done for us; for the joy which is ours, knowing that we are loved so completely; that there has been nothing about our lives that was insignificant to God; there has not been anything that we have done, while unaware of what God was doing, that didn’t matter to God; further, there has not been anything we have done, and there will not be anything we will do, that can keep God from pouring out His extravagant love.
Let us consider a Bible passage that tells us what Jesus’ resurrection means for us:

Colossians 3: 1–4
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

The new life of Jesus that we celebrate today, is available to us, is for us, is ours if we accept it.
It seems very timely to be reminded to set our minds, not on earthly things, but on things above. In this time like no other, that is not about ignoring what is going on, but about trusting in God.
I do not say this lightly: no matter what may have happened, and may yet happen to us, or to our loved ones – God, through Jesus Christ, offers us new life; a life enveloped in His presence; Christ’s life in us – our life in Christ.
At this time like no other, may we give thanks to our Holy God on this day of Resurrection, as we remember the new life given by God, and renewed every day. This is a time when the world needs to know of God’s love more than in any of our lifetimes, to know the good news of the life that He gives. The life that gives more meaning to this life, and gives fullness of meaning beyond this life; joy, hope, peace, and love to share with all.

This is a time like no other.

Let us pray:
Holy God, as we come to You, as we turn our eyes again to the empty tomb, would You hold us in a new way; would You make this the most special Easter morning we have experienced.

As we experience ourselves, and see around us, pain and bereavement, we also see sacrificial care given by medical staff, and carers – may we see the sacrificial care that You give to us; the love that is without boundaries, the love that is without limits; the love that broke out of a tomb; the love that reveals more of You, each time we turn to You. Holy God, we are so thankful. Amen.

Hymn
Alleluia, alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord…
Donald Fishel (born 1950)
Copyright © The Word of God Music
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzZYJSsW2YY

Prayer
Lord God, early in the morning
when the world was young,
You made life in all its beauty and terror
You gave birth to all that we know.
Hallowed be Your name.
Early in the morning,
when the world was least expecting it,
a newborn child crying in a cradle
announced that You had come among us,
that You were one of us.
Hallowed be Your name.

Early in the morning,
surrounded by respectable liars,
religious leaders, anxious statesmen
and silent friends,
You accepted the penalty for doing good,
for being God:
You shouldered and suffered the cross.
Hallowed be Your name.

Early in the morning
a voice in a guarded graveyard
and footsteps in the dew
proved that You had risen, that You came back
to those and for those
who had forgotten, denied, destroyed You.
Hallowed be Your name.

Early in the morning
in the multicoloured company
of Your Church on earth and in heaven
we celebrate Your creation, Your life,
Your death and resurrection
Your interest in us:
so to You we pray:
Lord, bring new life where we are worn and tired,
new love where we have turned hard hearted,
forgiveness where we feel hurt
and where we have wounded,
and the joy and freedom
of Your Holy Spirit
where we are prisoners of ourselves.

Silence

To all and to each
where regret is real,
God pronounces pardon
and grants the right to begin again.
Thanks be to God. Amen.

Holy Communion
From 2nd United Reformed Church Order

Prayer of Praise
Loving God, in the company of all your people we come to you, and your presence is joy to us. We come here on this first day of the week to meet with you and with each other and to listen for your word for each one. We are ready to break bread and to drink wine, to remember again the stories of our faith, and to be changed by being here with you. As we worship in the company of angels, surrounded by the saints, and embraced by your love, let us give ourselves openly and freely, as you give yourself to us, in tenderness and love. Loving God, Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit, we worship you, the one holy and eternal God.
Silence

Prayer for grace
Eternal God, we believe the good news of your mercy and love, and rejoice that we are forgiven and free. Receive us as your children, as brothers and sisters of Jesus, part of your new community of love, and give us strength to do your will, today and always. Amen.

The invitation
Jesus was often a guest. He shared many meals with his friends, and they long remembered his words at the table. Though some disapproved of the company he kept, Jesus ate and drank with all kinds of people and showed everyone the love of God. Wherever people met together Jesus was glad to be welcomed and to be fed.
Today, we are the guests of Jesus. He welcomes us, whoever we are and whatever we bring, and he will feed us at his table. Old or young, rich or poor, joyful or in sorrow, Jesus invites us to share bread and wine with him, to remember the story of his life and death, and to celebrate his presence with us today.
On the night before he died, Jesus shared a meal with 12 of his disciples in an upstairs room in Jerusalem.
The Gospel writer tells us what happened that night.

The story of the Lord’s Supper
While they were eating, he took bread and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take: this is my body’. Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I tell you, I will never again drink the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

We are the friends and disciples of Jesus today. He invites us to break bread together, to remember him and to pray that God’s Kingdom will come.

Lord’s Prayer

Offering Prayer:
We bring this bread and this wine to the table of Jesus. And we bring our offering. With them we bring ourselves, all that we are and all that we own. We pray that the ordinary may become holy, and heaven be opened to the people of earth.
We thank you God for the gift of life, and for the gift of this bread and wine. For all these gifts we thank you and ask you to bless these elements of bread and wine to our bodies and our lives to your service. Amen.

When you are ready eat your bread and drink your wine.
Thanks be to God for his gift beyond words.

Let us pray:
Loving God, you have fed us generously at this table, as we have remembered Jesus and rejoiced that he is with us today. We are ready now to follow him, and to be your people in the world. May your Holy Spirit show us the way,
make us holy and fill us with love. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession for Holy Week
God of the palms
we give you praise and thanks
for the work of Jesus in our world and in our lives.
We pray for those in our church family,
especially our children and young people.
Lord of all hope, be with them and us we pray.

God of Bethany
you spent time with your friends and disciples
in the household of Lazarus who died and was raised:
we pray for those who find themselves alone
and for those who mourn the death of a loved one.
May the fragrance of your loving presence
be made real to them this week.
Lord of all hope, be with them and us we pray.

God of the seekers,
during your ministry there were many who came to you
to seek for answers and comfort in their lives:
we pray for all those who are seeking and searching this day,
for all who are troubled and need answers and comfort.
Be with them this day and give them strength for their search.
Lord of all hope, be with them and us we pray.

God of the Last Supper,
you washed the feet of your friends,
you broke bread in friendship and sacrifice:
help us to serve those in need.
We pray for those in our community who need help.
We ask that we may give our time and talent sacrificially for others,
as you gave your body and your blood for us.
Lord of all hope, be with them and us we pray.

God of the cross,
you suffered and died that we might know your love:
be with those who suffer and with those who are dying.
May they know the strength of your love for them.
Lord of all hope, be with them and us we pray.

God of Holy Saturday,
teach us the patience of waiting:
when the work is done but the time of resurrection has not yet come,
give us patient hearts
and a strong faith that supports us
and others in the times of darkness.
For ourselves and all who are without hope,
Lord of all hope, be with them and us we pray.

God of the Resurrection,
you burst forth from the tomb on Easter day,
bringing light and life to a needy and dying world:
enable your body here in this place and throughout the world to bring light and life to our needy and dying world today.
Lord of all hope, be with them and us we pray.

Lord accept all our prayers, spoken and unspoken,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hymn
1/3 Thine be the glory, risen, conquering 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.

2/3 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;

3/3 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.
Edmond Burdry (1854 – 1932)
tr. R Birch Hoyle (1875 – 1939)

Blessing:
May the God of peace,
who through the blood of the eternal covenant
brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus,
that great Shepherd of the sheep,
equip you with every good gift to do His will
and to work in you what is pleasing in His sight;
through Jesus Christ,
to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.