April 4th Service, Easter

Sunday Worship Service 





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Service for the Lord’s Day

~ Easter Sunday~ 
April 4, 2021  10:00 a.m. 
Worship Leaders:
Pastor Joan Priest , Worship leader
Mr. David Warfield, Director of Music Ministry
Elder Joe Jackson,  Liturgist

 Recording Operations
PRELUDE                Were You There?                                   Arr. Diane Bish                                                                             

CALL TO WORSHIPThis is the day:
when tears are wiped away, shattered hearts are mended,
fears are replaced with joy.
This is the day the Lord:
rolls away the stone of fear, throws off death’s clothes,
goes ahead of us into God’s future.
This is the day the Lord has made:
death has no fear for us, sin has lost its power over us,
God opens the tombs of our hearts to fill us with life.
This is the day – Easter Day!
Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed!  Hallelujah
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              *HYMN  #232                                      Jesus Christ Is Risen Today                     EASTER HYMN
  Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

 But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
our salvation have procured. Alleluia!
now above the sky he’s King, Alleluia!
where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

 Sing we to our God above, Alleluia!
praise eternal as God’s love. Alleluia!
praise our God, ye heavenly host, Alleluia!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Alleluia!
 It seems likely that this beloved Easter text began in Latin and moved through Germany before reaching English, where it combined with the present tune in the emerging English evangelical style, a reaction to the restrained one-note-per-syllable psalmody that preceded it.                           PRAYER OF CONFESSION                                 Risen Lord,
    we have seen the empty tomb,                                 
        and yet we sometimes act as if we have seen nothing.
    Why must we continue in fear?
    Why must we be afraid of death even after its defeat?
    Yes, this is a glorious day of mirth and song,
        but forgive us when we are quick to forget its Good News.
    Help us be a people of resurrection not just on this day but all days.
    Fill our hearts with your resurrection promise of life
        that we might turn from sin and be renewed.
    Eliminate from us the fear of sin
        that we might tell this glad story – 
        that Christ is risen, he is risen, indeed!
    This we pray in the name of your Risen Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
    hear the good news of the Gospel:
    the tomb is empty!  Our Lord and Savior has risen from the grave!
    That which has been dead is alive!
    No barrier, none whatsoever, can keep us from the love of God!
    I announce to you this day that our sins are forgiven!
HENCE WE PUT IT AT THE CENTER OF OUR WORSHIP.FIRST READING                                                                                                          Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24
O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! 
Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 
The LORD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 
There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly; 
the right hand of the LORD is exalted; the right hand of the LORD does valiantly.” 
I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. 
The LORD has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death. 
Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. 
This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. 
I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 
The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 
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. 

                                                                                                                        SECOND READING                                                                                                             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 toward 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 around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” 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 cling 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.

The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.                                                                                                                                                  PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION                                                                                                                       
SERMON                                                STILL ROLLING STONES      
Sunday, April 4, 2021

“Still Rolling Stones”
     I don’t know about you, but I love everything about this day – the banners, the hymns, the flowers, the music, Easter eggs, cards, baskets filled with chocolate, and my favorite Easter memories.  What are your favorite Easter memories?  Big family dinners?  Finding hidden Easter Eggs?  For me – the year it was raining and my parents decided to hide the hard boiled eggs inside the house but forgot to count how many they hid, so there was one in the couch that was there for maybe weeks – eww –  or the time my husband and I hid plastic eggs outside with pennies in them telling our kids one egg, one special egg, had a $20 bill in it – just to watch my child open and drop every egg scattering the pennies all over the ground, until she found the $20 and then, they were done.  I love Easter because it’s about resurrection, a new creation, new life, new hope, and the world around us is bursting.  Bursting with color – grass turning green, trees beginning to flower, bulbs blooming; and sounds – birds returning, spring peepers.  And especially on this day, especially in this church, in this time in each of our lives, we need this story, this promise, this new life before us.  We need the Risen Christ.
     As Rev. Deutsch states, that first Easter Sunday was so good because that Saturday had been so bad.  On Saturday, the enemies of Christ were confident they had put an end to this movement of Jesus.  His work was now a total failure.  On Saturday, Christ was in the grave.  His life was over, His tongue had been silenced and the miracles were finished.  Saturday had no courage, no hope.  None of the disciples were thinking ‘so what are you going to say when you see Jesus tomorrow?’ Or ‘I wonder what Jesus is going to look like tomorrow?’  No one was thinking they would see Jesus on Sunday, so Saturday was utter despair. 
     You would think someone would have remembered one of the many times Jesus promised He would come back on the 3rd day.  You would think someone would have remembered this and did the math?  Let’s see He died yesterday, today is Saturday, tomorrow is Sunday . . . okay, 1 day, 2 days, tomorrow is the 3rd day . . . ‘you know guys, I think we ought to get up early tomorrow.’  But nobody connected the dots.  Saturday had no hope; no courage.  And on Sunday, it is Mary, all alone, who goes to the tomb. That sure doesn’t seem like an Easter parade to me, does it?  It may have been Sunday morning, but they were all stuck in the hopelessness of Saturday. (1)
     Does it sometimes feel like our whole world is stuck on Saturday where there is no resurrection promise?  This whole year has felt like one huge hopeless Saturday!  And what about tomorrow morning, when the alarm clock goes off at 6 a.m. and your spirit just sinks; where is the resurrection then?  Where is the resurrection when we work night and day in a thankless job and yet find ourselves deeper in debt?  Where is the resurrection when our child gets caught in an ugly cycle of drugs and alcohol, or is being bullied and there seems nothing we can do?   Where is the resurrection when we wake up one morning and know somethings wrong, a sense of confusion, a fever, a new pain, real fear?  Where is resurrection when we enter those years of retirement only to feel no sense of purpose or meaning?  (2) Where is resurrection this year?  What do you do to lift your spirit out of the Saturdays and into the Sunday Resurrection?   
     Is this world, is your life stuck on Saturday?  What I know and believe with all my heart is that God is using this time, this time we are in and moving us into Sunday and creating a new people.  A new way of doing everything we have become so used to.  God’s creation is changing, and it’s our job to face it and embrace it and strive to see Christ in it.  We need this story, this truth, with all its confusion, grief, pain, joy, mystery, telling, and miracle, because it’s also the story of our life today.  Recall the story we just heard once again.
     On the first day of that week, Sunday morning, Mary comes while it is still dark.  Mary, arms full of aromatic oil and spices, cinnamon, cassia, myrrh, walking the dark path, the sky just beginning to lighten. And she sees in the semi-darkness not a closed tomb but a gaping hole!  Alarmed, she looks inside, seeing that Jesus’ body is gone. How could this be? Grave Robbers? Some final act of blasphemy against her Savior?  She drops what she is carrying and runs to find the disciples.  Peter and John come racing back, entering the tomb and see Jesus is not there. Confused and not knowing what to do, they leave to go tell the others. 
      But to Mary belongs the glory of being the first person to see the Risen Christ.  Mary, who starts to gather up her spices and decides to look one more time into the tomb, but this time, there wasn’t darkness, but light!  And she sees two angels sitting where Jesus’ body should be; and they ask her – of all ridiculous things, why are you weeping?  Why? Seriously?  Then she senses another person behind her, and she turns, eyes full with tears, into the daylight and cannot see who is in front of her.  Assuming he is the gardener, she asks, “Where is Jesus, tell me if you know!”  And then he says her name, Mary, and she recognizes him.  Not dead, not lifeless, not gone.  Right before her, looking into her eyes.  And he talks about her God and our God and she gets it. This is not God far away, not God not listening, but God present, God doing impossible things, God making morning miracles out of death’s darkness.  And he asks her to go, go and tell the others.  So she throws her spices on the ground – no need for them now, and starts running with the beautiful, wonderful words of promise, “I have seen the Lord!  I have seen the Lord!”  (3)  Saturday is gone, Sunday has arrived.
     Like Mary, each of us is called to walk with God into the future – into our world, with its pain and sorrow, our world, with its isolation and fear, our world with its new crazy way of communicating and gathering, and try, try to see resurrection every day, practice it, and try to live as Christ’s disciples in this new world, because God is still rolling stones away from the tombs of our lives. 
     In the words from a favorite song by Laura Daigle:
All at once I came alive
This beating heart
these open eyes.
The grave let go
the darkness should have known
you’re still rolling stones
Oh Lord, you’re still rolling stones. (“Still Rolling Stones”)
    On that blessed Easter Day, Jesus’ disciples, including Mary, discovered a new world suddenly full of hope and possibility.  Their stones of fear and doubt were rolled away onto a path of hope, for God’s love had broken through time and space, and their spirits were lifted into a new way of life.   
    There is a huge hill in back of our house, its actually our neighbor’s property, easily seen from the back of ours.  And just around Easter every year, thousands of daffodils come into bloom.  Thousands of them.  Except for their lawn workers, I don’t think anyone sees them but myself.  I walk back there every day.  It lifts my spirit.  What lifts your spirit?  Many of my seeds are planted and I have little seedlings growing.  It fills my spirit with new life.  What fills your spirit with new life?  I have 4 bird houses on my property and half of them are already occupied, ready for baby birds to be born.  It brings my spirit from Saturday into the glorious Sunday of new life.  What brings your spirit from a Saturday into Sunday?
     Sometimes our dark spirits are resurrected when we find ways to not let things like fear, doubt, anger, negativity, things that shut us down, weigh us down, that keep the spirit from working in our hearts.  Deep down our spirits yearn for joy, yearn to soar.  But life gets in the way, dreams get destroyed, hopes dashed, this past year of fear and isolation, and our spirits are crushed.  We remain in Saturday.  But here is the good news of Easter morning.  The risen Christ can take our heavy hearts, our deflated spirits, our pain, our loss, our disappointment and bring them into new life.  Easter brings to each of us a second chance.  A chance to see the life force in our midst.  A chance to recognize the risen Christ right in front of us.  A chance to start again.  A resurrection promise.  We are emerging my friends, the stone is being rolled away, slowly, but we are being made new.  But that doesn’t dismiss the darkness we have been through, the Saturdays you have faced, the losses of this past year.  Recall how the disciples stumbled around in the half-light, confused and afraid and that is where Easter really begins.  With fear, bewilderment, pain and a profound loss of certainty. 
     “Early in the morning, while it was still dark.”  Jesus comes in the darkness and sometimes it takes a long time to recognize him.  He doesn’t look the way we expect him to look.  He doesn’t let us cling to our old ideas, our old ways.  He disappears again just as we are about to hold onto him.  But he comes, he calls our name and, in that instant, we recognize him.  The question of Easter isn’t do you believe in the bodily resurrection, but have you encountered the risen Christ?  What I see in the resurrection is people having profoundly individual encounters with Jesus.  I saw that here Thursday.  I saw that here Friday.  And the encounters don’t look identical.  When Peter sees the empty tomb, he runs away.  When John sees it, he believes without understanding.  When Mary sees it, she weeps and waits for more.
    The story of that blessed Easter day continues with the recognition that something mysterious happened.  After the confusion and grief, after the dark of Friday, the pain of Saturday, there was miracle and mystery.  The Risen Jesus comes, and he brings you the message that says, Saturday’s come, but Saturdays are always followed by . . . Sunday’s!  Right?!  What was yesterday?  Saturday.  What’s today?  Sunday.  Look it happened again.  Saturdays are always followed by Sundays.  And his message to us goes further because Jesus moved the entire world into Sunday, and He wants you to follow.  It’s not Saturday anymore.  It may be Saturday in your state of mind, it may be Saturday in your outlook and in your emotions, but actually God has already flipped the calendar page.  And we’ve moved out of the state of death and sin and we’ve moved into a new era of life and grace. 
     2,000 years ago, death changed.  Death “turned from a dead-end street to a simple exit ramp.  From this life to the next life, the best life.  Saturday’s sadness turned into Sunday’s beauty.  And the beauty of Sunday stood up in the tomb and the beauty of Sunday stepped out into the Sunday morning dawn and told person after person, ‘oh, its Sunday, and I don’t have to be afraid of the grave any longer and I don’t have to live in guilt anymore.  My sins are forgiven, my death is defeated.  It’s Sunday, and that’s good news”.  (4)
    We love that today is all about the alleluias and banners and hymns and joy – but tomorrow, tomorrow there is a real and ever-changing world outside these doors waiting for us.  In order to move into our Mondays, we need to believe the rest of the story – that Easter Sunday continues every day, every single day.  For every Easter reminds us of the most important promise ever given – that there is no force on earth, no force on earth, especially the powerful forces of our own doubts and unfaithfulness and confusion and grief, no force that can keep the Risen Christ from us.  And this promise is not an idea, a principle, a concept, but a person, a real person risen before us, a person that shows us more love than we’ve ever known, more hope than we’ve ever imagined.  Nothing will ever be the same again.  And God, God is still rolling stones away.  It’s Sunday and every day is Sunday because Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!  Amen.
 Deutsch, The Rev. Michael.  “Easter Sunday!  He is Risen”.  2/6/2012.Sparks, The Rev. Susan Sparks.  “Resurrection Biscuits.”  4/4/2010.Penner, Carol.  “Mary on Easter Morning.”Deutsch. 

TODAY.                                                                                                 * HYMN#267                              Come, Christians, Join to Sing                                  MADRIDCome, Christians, join to sing:
Alleluia! Amen!
loud praise to Christ our King:
Alleluia! Amen!
let all, with heart and voice,
before his throne rejoice;
praise is his gracious choice:
Alleluia! Amen! Come, lift your hearts on high:
Alleluia! Amen!
let praises fill the sky:
Alleluia! Amen!
He is our guide and friend;
to us he’ll condescend;
his love shall never end:
Alleluia! Amen! Praise yet our Christ again:
Alleluia! Amen!
life shall not end the strain:
Alleluia! Amen!
on heaven’s blissful shore
his goodness we’ll adore,
singing forevermore:
Alleluia! Amen!
Like many other hymns of praise, this text was originally addressed to children but has been embraced by adults as well.  Although the tune’s repetitive elements suggest folk origins (possibly with alternating groups of singers), no specific source has been identified.                                                                                               PRESENTING OUR TITHES & OFFERINGS         (If you’re joining us via Zoom,
we invite you to make your offering online.
Thank you to everyone for your generous support!)
Generous and surprising God, when we thought that death had claimed your only Son, you amazed us with the resurrection.  Surprise us again with your ability to turn these humble offerings into gifts that will transform the world through our witness to your love.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
  HYMN#826                                             Lift High the Cross                                            CRUCIFER Refrain:
Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
till all the world adore his sacred name. Come, Christians, follow where our Savior trod,
our King victorious, Christ, the Son of God.
Refrain All newborn servants of the Crucified
bear on their brow the seal of Christ who died.
Refrain O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree,
your death has brought us life eternally.
RefrainSo shall our song of triumph ever be:
praise to the Crucified for victory.
RefrainThis majestic hymn celebrates the paradox that for Christians q means of painful death has been transformed into a symbol of renewed life; a sign of defeat has become an emblem of victory.  With the cross traced on our foreheads at baptism, we are marked as Christ;s own forever.  George W. Kitchin wrote the original version of this text in 1887 for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. SENDING     WE HEAR THE CHARGE, RECEIVE THE BENEDICTION, AND ARE SENT TO CARRY GOD’S WORD INTO THE WORLD.CHARGE & BENEDICTION     

POSTLUDE                                  Procesión Alegre  (Joyful Procession)             Garry A. Cornnell