Christ is risen: He is risen indeed.
This will be Easter with a major difference. I trust that this time of limited contact with each other and with family will provide the opportunity reflect deeply on the events and meaning of Easter – of Jesus crucified, dead, buried, and risen.
I will start with 3 Easter hymns:
“Christ the lord is risen today” Charles Wesley
Christ, the Lord, is risen today: Hallelujah!
Let the whole creation say: Hallelujah!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Hallelujah!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Hallelujah!
Love’s redeeming work is done, Hallelujah!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Hallelujah!
Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Hallelujah!
Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Hallelujah!
Lives again our glorious King, Hallelujah!
Where, O death, is now your sting? Hallelujah!
Once He died our souls to save, Hallelujah!
Where your victory, O grave? Hallelujah!
Soar we now where Christ hath led, Hallelujah!!
Following our exalted Head, Hallelujah!!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Hallelujah!!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Hallelujah!!
“Alleluia, alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord” D.E. Fishel
Alleluia, Alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord,
Alleluia, alleluia, give praise to His name.
Jesus is Lord of all the earth.
He is the King of creation. Alleluia …
Spread the good news o’er all the earth.
Jesus has died and has risen. Alleluia …
We have been crucified with Christ.
Now we shall live forever. Alleluia …
God has proclaimed the just reward:
Life for all men, alleluia! Alleluia …
Come, let us praise the living God,
Joyfully sing to our Saviour. Alleluia …
“I know that my Redeemer lives” Samuel Medley
I know that my Redeemer lives;
what joy the blest assurance gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my everlasting Head.
He lives, to bless me with His love,
He lives, to plead for me above,
He lives, my hungry soul to feed,
He lives, to help in time of need.
He lives, and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death;
He lives, my mansion to prepare;
He lives, to lead me safely there.
He lives, all glory to His name!
He lives, my Saviour, still the same.
What joy the blest assurance gives,
“I know that my Redeemer lives!”
And you might like to try (to the tune of Clementine):
Happy Easter, happy Easter,
Jesus lives, he is not dead.
Happy Easter, happy Easter,
Jesus lives just as he said.
The scriptures for Easter day are rich and numerous:
Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24 ©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net
Thank you, LORD, thank you!
……..Thank you for your goodness!
……..Thank you for your love —
…………….rock solid and timeless!
May all your people recognise
……..that your love and loyalty last forever.
Our energy and strength come from you, LORD;
……..our peace and safety were won by you.
The sound of singing rings out
……..from the homes of all who are honest and true.
They sing of what you have done, LORD,
……..for you raised your hand and saved the day.
Now we know that our lives are safe;
……..we will live to tell of what you have done.
You gave us the tough medicine we deserved, LORD,
……..but you didn’t let death get its claws into us.
The minute they open the city gates
……..— the gates of justice —
we’ll be the first through, LORD;
……..eager to tell you how thankful we are.
These gates belong to you, LORD,
……..those you have put right can come on through.
Thank you for answering our prayers, LORD;
……..for coming to our rescue and putting us right.
From a rejected stone found in a rubbish pile
……..you cut and polished a priceless jewel.
This is obviously your work, LORD,
……..and we can hardly believe our eyes!
Today is your day, LORD, a day to honour you;
we will celebrate with joy and laughter.
“This is the day that the Lord hath made”
This is the day, this is the day
That the Lord hath made, that the Lord hath made.
We will rejoice, we will rejoice
And be glad in it, and be glad in it.
This is the day that the Lord hath made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
This is the day, this is the day
That the Lord hath made.
John 20:1 – 18 The Passion Translation (TPT)
20 Very early Sunday morning, before sunrise, Mary Magdalene made her way to the tomb. And when she arrived she discovered that the stone that sealed the entrance to the tomb was moved away! 2 So she went running as fast as she could to go tell Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. She told them, “They’ve taken the Lord’s body from the tomb, and we don’t know where he is!”
3 Then Peter and the other disciple jumped up and ran to the tomb to go see for themselves. 4 They started out together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He didn’t enter the tomb, but peeked in, and saw only the linen cloths lying there. 6 Then Peter came behind him and went right into the tomb. He too noticed the linen cloths lying there, 7 but the burial cloth that had been on Jesus’ head had been rolled up and placed separate from the other cloths.
8 Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first went in, and after one look, he believed! 9 For until then they hadn’t understood the Scriptures that prophesied that he was destined to rise from the dead. 10 Puzzled, Peter and the other disciple then left and went back to their homes.
11 Mary arrived back at the tomb, broken and sobbing. She stooped to peer inside, and through her tears 12 she saw two angels in dazzling white robes, sitting where Jesus’ body had been laid—one at the head and one at the feet!
13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” they asked.
Mary answered, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve laid him.”
14 Then she turned around to leave, and there was Jesus standing in front of her, but she didn’t realize that it was him!
15 He said to her, “Dear woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”
Mary answered, thinking he was only the gardener, “Sir, if you have taken his body somewhere else, tell me, and I will go and . . .”
16 “Mary,” Jesus interrupted her.
Turning to face him, she said, “Rabboni!” (Aramaic for “my teacher”)
17 Jesus cautioned her, “Mary, don’t hold on to me now, for I haven’t yet ascended to God, my Father. And he’s not only my Father and God, but now he’s your Father and your God! Now go to my brothers and tell them what I’ve told you, that I am ascending to my Father—and your Father, to my God—and your God!”
18 Then Mary Magdalene left to inform the disciples of her encounter with Jesus. “I have seen the Lord!” she told them. And she gave them his message.
Of the many presentations of the resurrection in the New Testament (for example, Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke24, Acts 10:34 – 43, 1 Corinthians 15) there are consistencies and inconsistencies – who saw the risen Christ first, how many angels, the occurrences following the Sunday morning. When something extraordinary happens, the details will not all coincide.
This event was life changing, almost beyond ordinary description and assured the followers of Jesus that a new power of love was let loose in the world and particularly in their lives.
We cannot but notice that the women, the least important of adult society at that time, typically were the first witnesses to the resurrection; and that places the ministry of women squarely at the centre of God’s mission of love.
And we can also note the incredulity of those first witnesses so that we can bring God our times of doubt and unbelief knowing that he receives our “unbelief” as the window into a new life of faith.
A story for celebrating resurrection
I was going to include the story of Jennifer at the wedding having her life changed by hearing Paul’s description of love (1 Corinthians 13) recited as a poem on love at a wedding; the memory of a couple of people assure me that it has already been included in sermon.
Here’s another story which, because it is a popular one, has several versions. The version I know – The French Bishop – has a bishop delivering his Easter sermon saying I want to tell you a story of three young students walking past a Paris cathedral during Holy Week. They saw the faithful queuing up for confession and their conversation moved to the futility of the whole activity. Not surprisingly the leader, well, the most outspoken, of the group of three, a young man, found himself being dared by the other two to go into the confessional and tell the priest how that he and his mates thought this whole thing was a ridiculous farce and a waste of time. He could hardly back down; so he joined the queue. When he entered the confessional, he told the priest about his prior conversation.
The priest told him to step outside the confessional – “After all this is not really a confession.” Once outside the confessional the priest then offered his challenge: “You see the crucifix down there, I want you to go and stand in front of it, and say to it three times, ‘You did all this for me, and I don’t care a thing about it.’ Then come back to me.” Again, the young student couldn’t back down. So, he went and stood in front of the crucifix and repeated the words, “You did all this for me, and I don’t care a thing about it,” and returned to the priest.
The priest then reissued the challenge saying, “If it means nothing to you, go and do it again and come back.” The young man could not back down and repeated the words, this time with a little less ease than the first time. And the priest met him with a repeat of the challenge, “just one more time, after all it means nothing to you.” This time the young man went and stood in front of the crucifix; and words would not come out.
The bishop concluded his sermon: “And that young man was myself.”
As I have pondered the need for an alternate story, the thought has come to me the death and resurrection of Jesus turn our world upside down. We are easily caught up in our society’s adulation for and hankering after power, importance, prestige and influence. When a prince or princess gets married, we turn on our television to watch what the important people in the world. But Jesus went to the cross and rose again for everyone; and, from my reading of the gospel, for the powerless particularly. In the word from Paul in Philippians 2 – he did not think that equality with god was something to be grasped. Instead of his own free will he gave it all up, taking on the role of a slave, an obedient human being, obedient all the way to death on a cross. Then (miraculously) God raised him to the highest place above; and gave him a name that is greater than any other name. For that reason everyone, the whole creation, will bow in worship to proclaim, “Jesus is Lord.”
I have to remind myself that, whenever I take part in a Kairos short course in Christianity in jail, I am there because God’s love in Jesus for these people is equal to that love for all people. I have no greater importance that they do.
“I Believe in God” Peter Woodward, 1992
“I believe in God
So the priest intones
And we should also chorus
“the Father Almighty…”
But what do I believe?
Seeing is believing, so they say
Cogito ergo sum
I think therefore I am
the wise Descartes
Tried to make sense of it all
But what do I believe, really believe?
Tooth fairies and Santa Claus
Easter Bunnies and childish fantasies:
I believe in childlike optimism;
But I need depth,
Something deep to cling to
And build my life on
‘Jesus took a hold of my life
And he won’t let me go.’
Too easy to sing –
In the right company
With nice church people.
Oh, I believe in a God who understands;
I believe in a God who outlives our finite world;
I believe in God for ever and ever –
Almighty everlasting God for ever and ever and ever. Amen.
But did you introduce yourself to us?
Did you say, ‘Here I am…?’
In a baby?
In a child?
In a man?
In the crucified one?
In the living one –
Alive forever more?
Oh God of the ages;
I believe, help my unbelief.
I need you to be the burden bearer
Of selfish desire,
My angry criticism,
My jealousy, my fear, my worries.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God;
Have mercy on us,
Have mercy on us.
Grant us your peace.
The poem is also attached.
Loving God, we rejoice in the Good News of Easter:
Christ is risen: He is risen indeed.
We rejoice that lives are changed and that your love makes a world of difference
because Jesus rose from the dead.
When doubt and confusion come to us,
as they did to the disciples on the first Easter morning,
we are so glad that you do not leave us alone;
but reassure us with your loving presence.
We pray for those caught in challenges of the Corona Virus pandemic –
the suffering, the grieving, medical staff,
government officials and ordinary people
caught in the anxiety of it all.
Grant to all the assurance of your love –
the love of the crucified and risen One. Amen.
God bless you all for Easter an on through this time of disruption,