The Easter Joy

CALL TO WORSHIP: Give thanks to God; His love lasts forever.
He has raised Jesus from the dead! This is the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Gracious God, loving and life-giving, today we shall hear how Mary and the disciples went to the tomb and found that it was empty. They were amazed, but did not understand what had happened. We have come to church today thankful for what they learned, for through the good news that they told, we know that Jesus is alive.

Help us to offer our praise and our worship with full and glad hearts. Show us how to understand better the wonder of what happened on that first Easter morning. We ask this in the name of our risen Saviour, Jesus our Lord. Amen

HYMN 298: CHRIST THE LORD IS RISEN TODAY -StF.

PRAYER OF ADORATION: Almighty God, we come before You today with songs of celebration on our lips and joy in our hearts.

Lord, we praise You; for You are amazing,

And You have done wonderful things.

You created the world in which we live with all its richness and variety. You made people in Your image and fixed in them a longing which is only satisfied by knowing You.

Lord, we praise You; for You are amazing,

And You have done wonderful things.

You gave Your law to show people how to live. You sent prophets to guide people; You sent Jesus, Your Son, to live as one of us and to show us what a human life looks like when someone obeys You completely.

Lord, we praise You; for You are amazing,

And You have done wonderful things.

Although Jesus did no wrong, He died on the cross for us so that we might be forgiven. His friends laid him in the tomb and grieved for Him. But on the third day, He rose again, and now He is alive for ever.

Lord, we praise You; for You are amazing,

And You have done wonderful things.

You send Your Holy Spirit so that we may know that we are never alone. You guide us every day, helping us to choose what is right and resist what is wrong. You never stop loving us.

Lord, we praise You; for You are amazing,

And You have done wonderful things. Amen

TALK FOR ALL: AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME

It's Empty!

Object

A small juice glass half-filled with juice.

Scripture

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!" John 20:2 (NIV)

As you can see, I have a glass with some juice in it. There are two ways of looking at this glass of juice. Some people would look at the glass and say it is half empty. There are others who would look at the glass and say it is half full. (Drink all of the juice in the glass.)

Well, we solved that problem, didn't we? Now everyone who looks at this glass would say that it is empty, but guess what? Everyone still wouldn't look at the glass in the same way. Some would look at the glass and grumble and complain because it empty. Others would look at the glass and see it as a glass just waiting to be filled with good things to drink. I guess there are always different ways to look at any situation.

On the Sunday morning after Jesus was crucified, a woman named Mary went to visit the grave where the body of Jesus had been laid. When she got there, she found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. She ran to find someone to tell them what she had seen. She found two of the disciples, Peter and John, and she said to them, "They have taken our Lord out of the tomb and we don't know where they have put him."

The three of them immediately ran to the tomb. When they got there, they all saw the same thing, but they didn't all look at it in the same way.

Peter looked and was curious. The Bible says Peter went in the empty tomb and looked around. He saw strips of linen laying around and the cloth that Jesus had been buried in folded neatly and placed where the body had been. "Hmmm, very interesting," Peter might have said to himself.

Mary looked and was sad. The Bible tells us that Mary didn't even go inside the empty tomb. She just stood outside the tomb and wept because she feared that someone had stolen the body of Jesus.

John looked and believed. The bible says that John went inside the tomb and he saw and believed. Now, I don't know exactly how much John understood, but I think he believed that Jesus had risen from the grave just as he said he would.

Three people -- they all saw the same thing -- one was curious, one was sad, and one believed. I think that is pretty much the same way people react to the story of Jesus today. Some people hear the story and they are curious, others hear it and think it is sad, others hear it and believe. How do you look at it?

Dear Lord, today we look into an empty grave. Help us all to see and believe that Jesus has risen just as he said he would. Amen.

HYMN 305: LOW IN THE GRAVE HE LAY-StF

PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING: Today, in our prayers of Confession and Thanksgiving, we will remember how Mary came to the tomb on the first Easter day.

Let us pray.

Loving Lord, we think of how Mary stood weeping and did not recognise Jesus, even though he was standing in front of her. We have come to say sorry, because we know that we do not always recognise Him either.

He calls us to see Him in the poor and those who are treated unjustly but we look away, because we do not want to be disturbed.

He sends His Holy Spirit to live in each one of us but we speak sharply to each other, and do not see Him in our brothers and sisters.

He wants to speak to us through all kinds of people and situations but we make our minds narrow and miss seeing him in surprising ways.

Lord, forgive us when we are not ready to see Jesus in the places and the people around us.

Thank you that You spoke to Mary and she recognised You by Your voice. May we all hear His voice saying ‘Your sins are forgiven.’

Through the Holy Spirit, make us alive to everything that You are doing in our lives, and all around us. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen

READINGS: JOHN 20: 11-18

HYMN 309: SEE WHAT A MORNING, GLORIOUSLY BRIGHT- StF

SERMON: THE EASTER JOY (John 20:1-18)

CHRIST IS RISEN!

HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

Many of us have lost dear ones. We know the experience of loss. Shock and disbelief are followed by numbness, depression, loneliness and lostness. The husband or wife, mother, father, grandparent, child, grandchild, is no longer there. There will be an empty spot at the holiday table and in the heart.

Phil Williams writes in When a Loved One Dies,

“We may have been moving through a journey slowly, doing well, and then the reality hits us – this death – hits again. There is no going back, there is no recapturing or retrieving what was lost. Our loved one is gone. The wounds open wide and we despair.”

There is an awful finality about death. Stephen Graham tells a story of a poor Russian peasant woman who was found sobbing on her husband’s grave, a whole year after his death. She clutched at the earth; poured out her soul in sobs, telling him that he must come back, that she needed him, that the children needed him, that she could not live without him. It is an exaggerated response because the tombstone speaks of the finality of death. The loved one is never coming back, never coming back. We are left with memories, photographs, mementos, that is all.

Early in the morning on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb of Jesus. John doesn’t tell us why she has gone – perhaps to stand at the grave and remember one she had loved. Tradition tells us that Mary Magdalene was a great sinner but that Jesus had forgiven her, accepted her, welcomed her into his circle of friends. We know she was possessed of seven demons that Jesus cast out to heal her. When Mary got to the tomb, she found the stone rolled away. In despair, she ran to Simon Peter. It seemed the final indignity, that Jesus’ tomb was despoiled. Peter and the Beloved Disciple ran to the tomb and found it empty. The grave linens were still there but not the body of Jesus. So far there is nothing to cheer us as we consider the losses we have had, the people gone from us, the broken circle and broken heart.

But we are not left there in the story. Easter morning is more than the sorrow of the disciples and the unexplained emptiness of the tomb. The meaning of Easter is much more for us than just memories blessed. Yes, God comforts us in our sorrows, blesses our memories and gives us strength and peace. It is part of the Christian message that death may end a life but does not end a relationship. A mother who lost her son put it this way, “All my loved wasn’t wrapped up in my son. He will be with me as part of me, but my love will not be limited. It never has been.” There is healing of pain and sorrow.

But this Easter morning the message is greater than that. For Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb. She found there two angels and one whom she did not recognize. He turned to her and said, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener, but it was Jesus, risen from the grave. He called to her, “Mary,” and she recognized him. The Lord had risen that first Easter morning and the world would never again be the same. Mary ran back to the disciples with the glorious news, “I have seen the Lord.” From that small group the Gospel would go to the corners of the earth even to this place, Leicester, the United Kingdom. It has come down the centuries to us, now. Death, the final enemy, has been defeated. Those who have gone before us in faith are not really dead but alive in the Lord. We follow Christ to the cross and the tomb and then to everlasting life.

“Let not your hearts be troubled,” Jesus said, “Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Christ has gone before us to prepare a place for us in the Father’s house of many mansions.

We are God’s people. Nothing can separate us from the love of God, nothing today, nothing tomorrow or ever. The tomb is empty. The grave clothes are lying there but Jesus’ body is not to be found. Christ is risen and lives and reigns eternally. Death is not the end for him or for us but eternal life. We do not mourn overmuch for those who die in Christ. We do not sorrow as people who have no hope. Christ is risen. Listen to St. Paul. His words are for you:

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting?

O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Sin and sickness, depression and despair, pain and sorrow, even death itself have been destroyed. The tomb is empty. Christ is risen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

HYMN 207: REJOICE AND BE GLAD! THE REDEEMER HATH COME– HP

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION: Lord Jesus Christ, we remember the trauma which your suffering and death brought to your followers, a grief which went beyond words and which seemed beyond healing.

We recall how Peter wept bitterly when he realized he had denied you as you predicted. How the women sobbed on the way to the cross, and as they watched you die. How Mary broke down in the garden, overwhelmed with grief-each one a symbol of the desolation and despair so many felt at your death.

But we recall also how Peter rejoiced as, three times, you repeated your call, how your followers celebrated as you stood among them, risen and victorious. How Mary’s heart soared with wonder as you called her name.

Gracious Lord, wherever there is sorrow, grant your joy

We pray for those who suffer today- all who endure constant pain, who wrestle with illness, who are victims of violence or whose bodies are broken by accident or injury.

Gracious Lord, wherever there is sorrow, grant your joy

We pray for those who feel betrayed today, cheated by loved ones, deceived by those they counted as friends, or let down by society.

Gracious Lord, wherever there is sorrow, grant your joy

We pray for those who grieve today, their hearts broken by tragedy and bereavement, their lives torn apart-many of whom tears are a constant companion, laughter and happiness like some distant memory.

Gracious Lord, wherever there is sorrow, grant your joy

Lord Jesus Christ, reach out into our world of so much pain, heartache and sadness. May your light scatter the shadows, your love lifts the burdens, and your grace brings life in all its fullness.

Gracious Lord, wherever there is sorrow, grant your joy

HYMN 313: THINE BE THE GLORY, RISEN CONQUERING SON -StF

BLESSINGS: Glory be to You Almighty God, For You raised Jesus from death.

Glory be to You Lord Jesus, For You died and now You live forever. Glory be to You Holy Spirit, For You are with us always.

And may the Blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon us and remain with us, this Easter Day and evermore. Amen