Prepare a Hot Cross bun and juice plus a small Easter egg (preferably hollow)
Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!
Call to Worship
Who are you looking for in this place today?
We are looking for Jesus of Nazareth.
Christ is risen! The tomb is empty.
Christ is alive. Our new life begins.
God of all, as the sun rose on the first Easter morning, you intervened in the world and disrupted the assumptions about what life can be. What was known was reassessed, what was understood was challenged and changed, what was broken was remade.
When all hope seemed gone, you raised Jesus from the grave. We come before you today longing for your life-giving presence. Raise us up with all your people. Lift us from the tombs of despair and doubt so that we rejoice in your power over death and step out on your resurrection path. In the name of Christ, Amen.
HYMN: TIS 370 Christ the Lord (Charles Wesley 1707-88 alt. Public Domain)
Christ the Lord is risen today
Christ the Lord is risen today: Hallelujah!
Let the whole creation say: Hallelujah!
Raise your joys and triumphs high: Hallelujah!
Sing now, heaven, and earth reply: Hallelujah!
2.Love’s redeeming work is done; Hallelujah!
fought the fight, the battle won; Hallelujah!
vain the stone, the watch, the seal: Hallelujah!
Christ has burst the gates of hell. Hallelujah!
3.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!
4.Soar we now where Christ has led, Hallelujah! following our exalted Head; Hallelujah!
made like him, like him we rise: Hallelujah!
ours the cross, the grave, the skies. Hallelujah!
Scripture Readings: 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11; Mark 16: 1- 8
Prayer of Confession
Living God, this is a day full of the extraordinary, yet extraordinary things are hard to grasp. When the amazement of God’s Easter moment immobilizes us and leaves us dumbfounded:
Be with us.
When we are afraid that the tomb empty is an ending not a beginning:
When the terror of stepping into the unimaginable stops us from moving ahead into this miracle of grace:
Gently urge us on.
When, because of our discomfort, we put the kybosh on mystery:
Appeal to our inner knowledge of you.
When skepticism means our hallelujahs are forced from tight lips and hard hearts:
Stir our souls with joy.
When we fear that a love that can conquer all is impossible:
When the audacity of faith in resurrection is a bridge too far:
Open our hearts to recall the promise that
nothing is impossible to God.
Words of Assurance
The promise of Easter is that there is no stone locked in place blocking our way into relationship with our eternally loving God, all obstacles are rolled away, and we are invited into the assurance that God’s forgiveness endures beyond anything that would separate us from God. Open your hearts to the wonder of God’s love and grace and let it guide your way, for your sins are forgiven. Thanks be to God.
Sermon “They said nothing…for they were afraid.”
Now that is a very strange way to end the gospel of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1: 1) All the way through the gospel, the writer of Mark has been keeping us on our toes with action following action: immediately …, as soon as…, straight away… and now an abrupt finish to the story. It was obviously so dissatisfying to the early church, two other endings soon appeared in manuscripts with stories from the other gospels. Let us stay with the first author’s ending for a while to see what it may mean for us now in 2021.
Do you know other documentaries or stories that finish abruptly? How do you react to that – is it upsetting, or unsettling, or intriguing? Do you want to make your own ending – to finish an unending story with something more comfortable? or more adventurous? Filmmakers sometimes have multiple endings and try them out on test audiences so the final ‘cut’ has the best effect.
Evidently when the TV drama “The Sopranos” concluded a few years ago, many fans were upset. The main character, Tony, is waiting for his family in a diner, restlessly watching in case someone is coming to shoot him. The drama shows a stranger walking into the bathroom. Tony looks up as the kitchen counter bell rings… and the camera cuts to black then the credits roll. What happened next? Emptiness, nothingness. Unfinished story – you can decide.
Endings pose all sort of difficulties and they are not a trifling matter in Mark’s gospel. Mary Magdalene, Salome and Mary the mother of James, who had watched the stone being rolled across the tomb in Chapter 15: 47 dutifully return to Jesus’ grave early on Sunday morning. They are bringing spices to carry out ritual anointings but were concerned that no one would be able to help them roll away the rock that covered the tomb’s opening.
But the stone is moved, the tomb is empty. Instead of the body of Jesus, they encounter a young man clad in a white robe. They are naturally alarmed – terrified. He tells them not to be alarmed – “Don’t be afraid” seems to be the traditional response of angels in Scripture, but every human is afraid of them. The man/angel goes on, revealing he knows their intention but Jesus is not there – he has been raised. They are to go and tell his disciples and Peter, that Jesus will go ahead of them to Galilee, as he had told them. The women fled from the tomb in terror and amazement, and said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Does that seem likely to you? In hindsight, we know they did tell the disciples and Luke says in chapter 24:11 that the disciples thought it was all nonsense and they wouldn’t believe. It took Peter and John to confirm the women’s story. In ancient Israel, it needed two women witnesses and here we had three but… it seemed an impossible ending to the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and death.
Let’s remember the timing of the writing of the gospel – soon after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans because of Jewish insurrection between 66 and 70CE. Jews and Christians were scattered – they fled in fear from the city. Maybe the author of Mark was arrested and never had the chance to finish his work. Or perhaps this is the ending the author intended. What will become of Jesus’ followers?
In his recent commentary on Mark, biblical scholar Warren Carter analyzes several feminist theories of Mark’s gospel, including one offered by Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza. She argues that the women are fleeing from the tomb — but not the resurrection. The women would have been right to be afraid of being near the empty tomb of an executed prisoner, but that does not mean that they were hesitant in relaying their experience of the resurrection. (Carter, Warren. Mark (Wisdom Commentary Series) p. 636. Liturgical Press.) Instead of looking back at death, Mark is pointing the church forward. The disciples are to leave Jerusalem behind and continue declaring the reign of God in Galilee. Mark may be saying, “You want to find Jesus? He is risen and is going ahead of you.”
Chris Keating writes: ‘This view does not render the women as helpless and silent, but instead empowers them to be witnesses to the resurrection. These are not the witnesses we may have expected, but then that has been central to Mark’s theology. They are the witnesses who will break the silence and change the world. They are the courageous ones who had provided for, and looked after Jesus in Galilee; who followed him to Jerusalem; who stayed with Jesus at the cross and watched him being buried (Mark 15: 40-47.) They fled in ‘terror and amazement’ or the Greek terms might be translated as ‘trauma and ecstasy’ today for those have the same Greek roots. The women are models of how the church can begin breaking its own terrifying silence on injustices and violence today.’
Keating comments on the mass shootings and gun violence in USA with persecution of Asian American women who are now speaking out as the Me too and Black Lives Matter movements also refuse to be silent. Here in Australia, the scandals of abuse of women in the parliaments and by parliamentarians in their electorates are being exposed and women are no longer afraid to tell others, despite the continuing negative effect on their future careers and their families. What can we do as Christians to respond to the unravelling of respect and order in our society? How do we best help our society to re-examine its values and behaviours towards women and minority groups who have been abused and oppressed?
The role of the Churches in society has been diminished, but we have many members in our congregations who may be encouraged and challenged by the example of Jesus in his relationship with women and the role they were able to play in the early church as described in the book of Acts. We are called to be like Jesus – not judging or condemning but determined to save all people and give them back dignity and respect. God’s laws for community wellbeing in the Hebrew scriptures – the Ten Commandments and Moses’ instructions in his sermon in Deuteronomy – summarised by Jesus as ‘Love God and Love your neighbour as you love yourself’ then ‘love one another as I have loved you’ – provide for us a vision of what healthy community life can be. Love and forgiveness are essential for the new life Easter offers to us. Guilt and shame no longer hold us captive and silent as Christians. New life is possible and Jesus is the answer for transforming our world.
Have you been like the women, too afraid to tell anyone about Jesus, for fear of ridicule or social ostracism? Unlike many human heroes and leaders today, Jesus has an exemplary record in dealing with women and outcasts and foreigners in the gospel stories. Do you
need to learn empathy? Look at what Jesus did in his life among us and for us. Speak out for him this year.
“The Lord is Risen! He is risen indeed!” is a message that sends us out into the world, breaking the silence on the true power of the Resurrection. Like the women who gathered at the tomb, that is the message Mark entrusts into our care this Covid Easter morning.
HYMN: TIS 387 Christ is alive Brian Arthur Wren 1936 – © 1999 Hope Publishing Used by permission CCLI licence 217268 CCLI song #317373
1.Christ is alive! Let Christians sing.
The cross stands empty to the sky.
Let streets and homes with praises ring;
Love, drowned in death, shall never die.
2.Christ is alive! No longer bound
to distant years in Palestine,
but saving, healing, here and now,
and touching every place and time.
3.In every insult, rift and war,
where colour, scorn or wealth divide,
Christ suffers still, yet loves the more,
and lives, where even hope has died.
4.Women and men, in age and youth can feel the Spirit,
hear the call, and find the way, the life, the truth,
revealed in Jesus, freed for all.
5.Christ is alive, and comes to bring
good news to this and every age,
till earth and sky and ocean ring
with joy, with justice, love and praise.
- A) Cheques to be made out to ‘St Lucia UCA Parish account’ and posted to 7 Hawken Dr, St Lucia Qld. 4067, please. OR
- B) direct deposit to ‘St Lucia Uniting Church’ BSB: 334 040 acct#: 553 842 259 (St George Bank)
Prayers for others
God of resurrection, you take what is broken and reform it in love.
Hear our prayers for the brokenness of the world, this nation and our community. In places of hopelessness: break through with the promise of new beginnings. In places of hatred and despair: re-shape hearts with love.
In places of fear and mistrust: renew relationships to bring peace.
On this day of joyful celebration, we pray for places that long for change and seek new ways of living. (Silent prayer) Bring transformation that all may flourish, holy God.
We pray those we love whom we know are struggling with grief, with fear, with health issues. (Silent prayer) May your loving presence surround them.
Secure in the knowledge of your all-pervasive love, we pray for our own lives and for our Church community. Remind us of the new life that you offer to us. Hold us in grace and call us to be your Easter people in the world. We ask through Christ, giver of life and source of light. Amen.
HYMN: TIS 526 © 1960 Josef Weinberger Ltd. Used by permission CCLI licence 217268
Lord Jesus Christ,
you have come to us, you are one with us, Mary’s son;
cleansing our souls from all their sin, pouring your love and goodness in,
Jesus, our love for you we sing, living Lord.
2Lord Jesus Christ,
now and every day teach us how to pray, Son of God.
You have commanded us to do this in remembrance, Lord, of you:
into our lives your power Breaks through, living Lord.
3.Lord Jesus Christ,
you have come to us, born as one of us, Mary’s son;
led out to die on Calvary, risen from death to set us free,
living Lord Jesus, help us see you are Lord.
4.Lord Jesus Christ,
I would come to you, live my life for you, Son of God.
All your commands I know are true, your many gifts will make me new,
into my life your power breaks through, living Lord.
Sacrament of Holy Communion (have your Hot Cross bun or bread and juice/wine ready)
Be present, risen Lord Jesus, as you were with your disciples, and make yourself known to us
in the breaking of the bread; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Lord be with you. And also with you.
Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.
Thanks and praise, glory and honour are rightly yours, our Lord and God, for you alone are worthy. In you, the hope for our redemption was born, and in Christ Jesus, it is accomplished. By your Spirit, keep us in that faith until your kingdom comes in glory.
And so, with all the faithful of every time and place, we join with choirs of angels in the eternal hymn:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the lord. Hosanna in the highest.
We thank you Loving God, for these gifts of your creation – this bread and wine – and pray that we who eat and drink them in obedience to our Saviour Christ, may be partakers in his body and blood, and be made one with him and with one another, in peace and love.
We remember how on the night of his betrayal, Jesus took bread, and broke it saying:
“Take, eat, all of you. This is my body given for you.
Whenever you eat it, do so in remembrance of me.”
After supper, he took the cup, and again giving you thanks, gave it to his disciples saying: “This is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for the forgiveness of sins and the healing of the world. Whenever you drink it, do so in remembrance of me.”
And so, in remembrance of your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we proclaim the mystery of faith:
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us, and on these gifts of bread and wine.
Make them be for us, the body and blood of Christ, that we may be one in Christ, and one in ministry in the world, as we pray together:
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. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen
Breaking the bread
The bread we break is a sharing in the Body of Christ.
The cup we take is a sharing in the blood of Christ. God’s gifts for God’s people.
Jesus, Lamb of God have mercy on us.
Jesus, bearer of our sins, have mercy on us.
Jesus, redeemer of the world, grant us your peace.
The Distribution (eat a portion of bun/bread and drink your juice/wine)
The life of Christ, living in you. (bread)
The love of Christ, flowing through you. (juice)
Prayer after Communion
This has been no ordinary meal. It has been one in which we have been fed and nourished with the life of Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord. May we go from here, refreshed and eager to share that life with others. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Hymn: TIS 380 Yours be the glory Edmond Louis Budry 1854-1932. Tr: Richard Birch Hoyle 1875-1939 alt. © 1982 The Jubilate Group (Admin. by Hope Publishing Company). Used by permission CCLI licence # 217268
1.Yours be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
endless is the victory over death you’ve won;
angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave-clothes, where your body lay.
Yours be the glory risen, conquering Son
endless is the victory over death you’ve won.
2.See, 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 the Lord is living, death has lost its sting.
Yours be the glory risen, conquering Son
endless is the victory over death you’ve won.
3.No more we doubt you, glorious Prince of life;
life is naught without you: aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors through your deathless love;
bring us safe through Jordan to your home above.
Yours be the glory risen, conquering Son
endless is the victory over death you’ve won
May God, our Creator, renew, reform and reshape us;
May Christ, giver of life and source of light, grow with in us;
And may the Spirit, presence of joy and hope, lead us in the ways of love.
And the blessing of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be with us evermore. Amen.
Now break open with joy the Easter egg and celebrate the Life of Christ with us.
NOTE: traditional hot cross buns or Easter buns contain bread and dried grapes (Holy Communion elements) and spices (women at the tomb Easter Sunday) so are good symbols to enjoy along with the hollow chocolate Easter egg like the empty tomb and the stone rolled away, as well as eggs being symbolic of new life.
Resources used in this service include Words for Worship Easter Day year B 4th April 2021 by MediaCom (subscription of Rev Dr Elizabeth Nolan) and The Abingdon Worship Annual 2021 edited by Mary Scifres and B.J. Beu, Abingdon Press, Nashville USA (owned by EN); and Uniting in Worship People’s Book by Uniting Church Press (JBCE) 1988 Melbourne and The Australian Hymn Book multiple copies owned by the St Lucia Uniting Church congregation. Copyright license 217268.
sent by my friend, Dr Gisela Triesch in Germany