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URC Daily Devotions Service for Easter Day 2022 – The Revd. Dr Elizabeth Welch

Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church
Service for Easter Sunday 2022
 
Photo Credit Pisit Hent/Unsplash
 
The Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch
 
Opening Music:       St Andrews music group sing Alleluia
 
Introduction
 
Happy Easter! May this day be filled with Alleluias in the presence of the Risen Christ! I’m Elizabeth Welch, a URC minister for many years. The service is coming from St Andrew’s URC in Ealing, where I am now a member.   The life of each church witnesses to the presence of the risen Christ in our midst, raising us up again out of death and suffering. As part of our worship, we will be sharing in communion. You are welcome to have bread and wine to share at home.

Call to Worship
 
The tomb is empty.  The stone has been rolled away.  Christ is risen! 
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
 
Once we were no people.  Now we are Christ’s people.  Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed!  Alleluia
 
The Son of God has been offered for us.  God’s love is greater than death!
Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!
 
Not only two thousand years ago, but here present today, Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!
 
Hymn       Christ The Lord Is Risen Today
Charles Wesley (1739)     
 
sing Alleluia after each line

 

Christ the Lord is risen today,
Earth and heaven in chorus say,
Raise your joys and triumphs high,
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply,
 
2. Love’s redeeming work is done,
Fought the fight, the battle won,
Death in vain forbids him rise,
Christ has opened paradise,
 
3. Lives again our glorious King,
Where, O death, is now thy sting?
Once he died our souls to save,
Where’s thy victory,
boasting grave?
 
4.  Hail the Lord of earth & heaven,
Praise to thee by both be given,
Thee we greet triumphant now,
Hail the Resurrection, thou,

 

Prayer of Adoration
 
Loving and life-giving God, we praise you for the resurrection of Jesus.
He was faithful unto death and rose again to new life.  We give you thanks that you invite us to share in his risen life.  Your love touches our hearts in the darkest of times.  Your promise of new life lifts us up in times of suffering and death. You come to us, as we are, and where we are. We come to you with hearts open and ready to receive you. We offer you our praise and our worship.
 
Prayer of Confession
 
But as we come before you, we are aware of our faults and failings. We offer our prayer of confession. Forgive us when we have doubted your promise of new life, and tried to rely only on the life we are used to. Forgive us when we have struggled to sing ‘alleluia’ in response to your grace-filled presence.  Forgive us when we have failed to allow the whole of our lives to be filled with your transforming love.
 
Words of Forgiveness
 
Christ is risen!  Christ offers forgiveness, healing and love.  In his name we are set free of all that burdens and binds us.  To his name be the praise and the glory for ever and ever.  Amen
 
Reading   St John 20:1-18  
 
Narrator:          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, 
 
Mary:                ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ 
 
Narrator:          Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards 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,
 
Angel:               Woman, why are you weeping?
 
Narrator:          She said to them,
 
Mary:                They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him. 
 
Narrator:          When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her,
 
Jesus:                Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?
 
Narrator:          Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him,
Mary: Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.
 
Narrator:          Jesus said to her,
 
Jesus:                Mary!
 
Narrator:          She turned and said to him in Hebrew, 
 
Mary:                Rabbouni!
 
Narrator:          (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her,
 
Jesus:                ‘Do not hold on 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.”’ 
 
Narrator:          Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples,
Mary: I have seen the Lord
 
Narrator:          and she told them that he had said these things to her.
 
Hymn                Good Christians All, Rejoice and Sing!
Cyril Alington (1931)

 

Good Christians all,
rejoice and sing!
Now is the triumph of our King!
To all the world
glad news we bring:
“Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

2 The Lord of life
is ris’n today;
death’s mighty stone
is rolled away;
let ev’ry tongue rejoice and say:
“Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

 

3 We praise in songs of victory that Love, that Life, which cannot die,
and sing with hearts uplifted high: “Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

Sermon
 
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen.
 
Here we are on Easter Sunday, hoping that the gradual opening up of life as the pandemic starts to diminish will continue to happen.
 
When we gather on today, we come to celebrate that life has already been opened up for us, at one time and for all time. Life has been opened up, not in a simple and easy and pain free way. We each face the reality of death, as we have done over these past two years, sometimes with close family and friends. At Easter we come to see the reality of the new life that God offers, life that is possible even in the midst of the sadness and grieving of death.
 
Easter is the heart of the Christian year. Easter marks the ultimate overcoming of death and despair. It does so in a way which is not just about optimism, but is about hope being fulfilled. It’s about hope being fulfilled, because it is a specific movement from the suffering of the cross, to the reality of new life on the 3rd day, the rising again of Jesus.
 
From outside the faith, people could well say – aren’t you just living in the past? Anything that happened took place 2000 years ago. What’s the point of revisiting an event from such a long time ago, every year?
 
For Christians, the history of faith isn’t just about a straight line, progressing from one event to the next, leaving behind the last event as soon as it is over.  The history of faith is about the continual renewal of a specific past event in each present moment.
 
Jesus had broken the bonds of death itself. His new life was released into the world at one time, for all time. Easter is not just about commemorating the past, it’s believing that this risen Jesus is still present, through the Holy Spirit, with us today, and will be with us in whatever lies ahead. We celebrate the past, not because we want to live in the past, but because we trust in Christ’s transforming presence with us in the here and now.
 
Today when we celebrate Easter, we go back to the stories of particular people who encountered the risen Jesus. We start with Mary Magdalene. Here’s a woman who’s been the subject of some debate. Was she a prostitute? Or was she a wealthy woman? Was she condemned by those who were critical of women?
 
Filled with grief at the loss of the one who has already given her the promise of new life, she walks in the garden and encounters someone she thought was a stranger, probably the gardener. It’s only when she heard her name called, she realised who was speaking. She saw in front of her the risen Jesus.
 
Jesus begins by appearing, not to the powerful or successful of this world; not to kings or governors, not even to the male apostles. Instead, he first appears to a woman.
 
I’m interested that in recent years Pope Francis has referred to Mary Magdalene as an Apostle to the apostles. The Resurrection is not about confirming the status quo of this world, but overturning the ways of the world so that people can see and experience life in new and unexpected ways.
 
Easter is about the transformation of the old ways of death and vengeance and anger and hatred, of oppression and climate injustice into new ways of life and love and hope and peace, for all people and the whole of creation.
 
Jesus comes to us as we are, he speaks to us in our need, he responds to our individual personalities, he addresses our strengths and weaknesses, he comes to us in our doubts and our bewilderments as well as our joys and our faith.
 
Two phrases from today’s reading stand out that still bring home today the meaning of Easter.
 
Firstly, the simple way that Jesus’ speaks Mary’s name. Mary can’t believe that the one she sees is Jesus. She thinks he’s the gardener. It’s when he says ‘Mary’ that she recognises him. The present reality of Easter is about God speaking each of our names. When God speaks our name, it’s not just a name, it’s about the whole of who we are. That same love and encounter that Jesus had with Mary are opened up for us once more on Easter Sunday.
 
Secondly, Jesus says ‘don’t hold on to me’. He has yet further to travel in his risen life. He hasn’t become one person’s possession. He’s there for all people. Jesus is present with us in his risen life today. Yet we can’t hold on to him in the sense of possessing him for ourselves. Jesus is always calling us onward, he’s always other than us, he’s always bigger than us – we can’t pin him down to make him fit our size.
 
So today, let’s not just look at the things which pin us down and confine us. Let us rise with Christ to his unpinnable down new life.  Let us sing again Alleluia, alleluia. Amen.

 
Hymn       Get Your Coat On
                The Rev’d Anne Sardeson
 
Get your coat on, and come and see what’s going on
in the garden, where we left him for dead!
Get a move on, and come and see what we have found,
that the one who gave us life has conquered death!

 

Early in the morning,
just as day was dawning,
we went down
to the garden in a mess.
We wondered as we wandered,
moving the stone
seemed quite beyond us,
but what did we see next? –
You’ll never guess.
 
2: Peter – you could lie in,
wond’ring how you could deny him,
feeling sad about
the dreadful things you said.
Or you could get up
from your sadness, come and see
what seems like madness,
and go and tell the world
he’s risen from the dead!

 

3:  James, the son of Zebedee,
and Brother John –
you come with me,
and Philip, Andrew,
Matthew and the rest.
Thomas isn’t here today,
 (it’s such a shame –
he’s gone away)
you’ll have to fill him in –
so do your best!

4: A thought that is now dawning,
on this glorious Easter morning,
is that the worst of human stuff
can be redeemed!
Although our lives
are filled with worry,
that’s going nowhere in a hurry,
we know with God such things
are not the end they seem!

 

Prayers of Intercession
 
God of new life, we bring our prayers for the life of the world.
 
We remember that the first Easter began, not with praise, but with people running, weeping, and afraid. We hold in prayer people who are running and weeping today, from conflict, from hunger, from natural disaster, from the decisions of others;  those who live in fear, those who have no safe place to call home.  Meet their distress with your risen love.
 
We think of Mary, not knowing who Jesus was or how to respond to him.
We who are called to be your body, confess that people do not always see Jesus in the church today.  In our own weariness and failing faith, may we look to your transformation; meet our hesitancy with your risen power.
 
We see how Jesus revealed himself in speaking Mary’s name, the living Word of Creation bringing new life, hope and joy.  Breathe again through your whole creation, lead it to renewed flourishing.  Meet our wounded planet with healing and wholeness.
 
We hear the call not to cling to what we know, but to face the unknown in faith and trust.  Strengthen our support for one another; bring comfort and healing to people we know who are struggling.  Meet human hearts with holy compassion.
 
We turn to the risen Jesus, in wonder and love, And offer our prayers in his holy name.  Amen.

 
Hymn       Now The Green Blade Riseth
John Macleod Campbell Crum © Oxford University Press
 

Now the green blade riseth,
from the buried grain,
wheat that in dark earth
many days has lain;
Love lives again,
that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like
wheat that springeth green.
 
2 In the grave they laid Him,
Love who had been slain,
Thinking that He never
would awake again,
Laid in the earth like
grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again like
wheat that springeth green.
 
3 Forth He came at Easter,
like the risen grain,
Jesus who for three days
in the grave had lain;
Quick from the dead
the risen One is seen:
Love is come again like
wheat that springeth green.
 
4 When our hearts are wintry,
grieving, or in pain,
Jesus’ touch can call us
back to life again,
Fields of our hearts that
dead and bare have been:
Love is come again like
wheat that springeth green.

 

Holy Communion
 
Invitation
 
After walking with the disciples on the Emmaus Road, Jesus went into the house with them, took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him.   St Luke 24.30,31
 
Open our eyes O God, that we may see Jesus as we break bread, wherever we are today.
 
Prayer of Thanksgiving
 
One:         Lift up your hearts
Many:      We lift them to the Lord.
 
One:         Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
All:            It is right to give him thanks and praise.
 
We thank you, loving God. You are present with us, joining us together as your people, wherever we might be. In your grace, in the risen power of Jesus,  you open the fullness of life to each one of us. We gladly thank you with everyone who believes in you, with the saints and the angels, we rejoice and praise you, saying:
 
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
 
Gracious God, you are holy, Your loving holiness offers us new life,  on this Easter Sunday and day by day. For this we thank you.
 
Jesus brings us together to one table and asks us to do share as he shared. Holy God, pour out your Spirit  upon these gifts of bread and wine and make them holy, that they may become for us the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
 
On the night before he died for us, he had supper for the last time with his disciples. He took bread and gave you thanks, he broke the bread and gave it to his friends, saying: Take this, all of you and eat it: this is my body, which will be given up for you.
In the same way, he took a cup of wine. He gave you thanks and handed the cup to his disciples, saying: Take this, all of you and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all people so that sins may be forgiven. Then he said to them: Do this in memory of me.
 
Let us proclaim the mystery of faith
 
Many:      Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
 
Loving God, we remember with joy all that Jesus did. In this holy sacrifice which he gave as a gift to the Church, we remember his death and resurrection. 
 
Many:      Loving God, you have called us
to receive the body and blood of Christ at this table
and to be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit.
Through this sacred meal,
give us strength to please you more and more.
                  All glory and honour is yours,
                  almighty God, for ever and ever.  Amen
 
The Lord’s Prayer
 
Our Father in heaven
hallowed be your name
your Kingdom come
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the Kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and forever, Amen.

The Breaking of the Bread

The bread which we break is the communion of the Body of Christ.  The cup of blessing which we bless is the communion of the Blood of Christ.

Distribution
You are invited to share the bread and wine wherever you are

Prayer after Communion
 
Loving God, in our sharing of bread and wine, we have received the life of Jesus Christ your Son.  We ask you that, strengthened by him, we may live in love and peace so that he may be present wherever we speak words and we may become his body in this world for ever.  Amen.

Hymn       Thine Be the Glory    
Edmond Budry (1904)
 

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: 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: 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:



Blessing
 
May the God who shakes heaven and earth,  whom death could not contain, who lives to disturb and heal us, bless you with power to go forth to proclaim the Gospel.  Amen
 
The blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest upon each one of you, now and always. Amen.

Closing Music by the St Andrews organist

 
 
 
Sources: Opening responses: John van de Laar © 2009 Sacredise, altd. Opening prayers and Holy Communion words, (based on a traditional pattern): Elizabeth Welch
 
Thanks to Revd Sue McCoan, minister at St Andrew’s, for helping to organise the service and for writing and leading the prayers of intercession; Revd Anne Sardeson for composing and singing the song Get your coat on © A.J. Sardeson. 2005 & 2019 Pots of possibility; Kaye Barker, for playing the organ and Margaret Johnson for leading the singing; members of the St Andrew’s Music Group – Jamie McCoan, Margaret Johnson and Peter Skerratt for singing Now the Green Blade riseth; church members – Neville Rashid, Anne Byfield, Margaret Johnson and Peter Skerratt for reading the Gospel; and to Jamie McCoan for the filming.
 

 

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