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Time Lapse Easter

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For April 4, 2021:

Mary AustinTime Lapse Easter
by Mary Austin
John 20:1-18

Easter has come slowly for Joseph M. Stewart, a devout Catholic, and a descendant of the enslaved people who were sold by Georgetown University in the 1800’s, in an effort to raise money to keep the university going. Mr. Stewart had to hold together the pain of his ancestors and the culpability of his church in order to move past his first reaction. “I had to process that this was done by the Catholic Church to my ancestors,” he said. Then Mr. Stewart started working on the business of resurrection, in the form of acknowledgment and reparations. He started focusing on the Jesuits, the order of priests who founded Georgetown University, “looking for a way to hold them accountable.” His work, combined with the labor of others, have made the Jesuits and the University take note, and make plans for reparations.

Easter is slow work, and the first glimpse never holds the fullness of the later view.

As John tells the story, the first thing Mary sees is an empty tomb, and her first thought is that someone has stolen Jesus’ body. Even when she meets Jesus in the garden, Mary fails to recognize him at first. There is no instant Easter on that first Sunday, or for us.

In the Scriptures
Mary must be exhausted by the end of this day! She goes to the tomb, then runs back to get the other disciples, and they run back to the tomb. When the other disciples leave, Mary stands at the tomb, weeping and weeping. The grief of Jesus’ death is compounded by the apparent theft of his body. She persists in her errand, asking everyone she meets where Jesus’ body might be.

Delightfully, she even asks Jesus himself her question about where his body might be. She is focused on her errand at the tomb. The other disciples return home…and the story never says whether they are equally puzzled, or frightened, or moved by some other emotion. The disciples see the empty tomb and “believe,” and what they believe is just the first chapter of the story. They finally understand that the body is gone. But other layers of belief wait. There is much more to unfold for Mary who persists.

Mary keeps weeping and asking questions until she gets to a deeper layer of truth. If she had gone home with Simon Peter and the other disciple, she would have stayed stuck at the first, incomplete level of belief…at least until Jesus made himself known in another way, as he does. Jesus is risen, and Mary’s persistence allows the revelation of the truth. She and Jesus are in a partnership to uncover the deeper truth of what happened.

In the News
The City of Evanston, Illinois recently approved a plan to provide housing support to the descendants of Black people who faced housing discrimination in the city. The program “will make reparations available to eligible Black residents for what it describes as harm caused by "discriminatory housing policies and practices and inaction on the city's part.” The City Council approved the Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program, which will “grant qualifying households up to $25,000for down payments or home repairs, according to the city, and is the first initiative of a city reparations fund that was established in 2019. "The Program is a step towards revitalizing, preserving, and stabilizing Black/African-American owner-occupied homes in Evanston, increasing homeownership and building the wealth of Black/African-American residents, building intergenerational equity amongst Black/African-American residents, and improving the retention rate of Black/African-American homeowners in the City of Evanston," reads a draft of the resolution.” The effort is funded by taxes on recreational marijuana use.

The targeted plan is based on a “historical report on city policies and practices affecting Black residents from 1900 to 1960 and through the present day. The 77-page report, written by Dino Robinson Jr. of the Shorefront Legacy Center and Jenny Thompson of the Evanston History Center, detailed decades of segregationist and discriminatory practices in areas including housing, employment, education and policing. The authors wrote that in addition to impacting the daily lives and well-being of thousands of city residents, such policies dictated their occupations, wealth, education and property in ways that shaped their families for generations.”

This is believed to be the first reparations program baked by any level of government – local, state or federal – and some have criticized it for the lack of direct payments to individuals, which would give the recipients more choice ore how to use the money. The City of Evanston says that they did not want to create a tax burden for the recipients. Others have criticized the program for being too small, with the program starting with $400,000 to spend. Others fear that the effort will end here, and never progress. “Sebastian Nalls, a 20-year-old junior at Purdue University who ran unsuccessfully for Evanston mayor, said he worried that the current plan was not expansive enough and that other cities would mimic the housing program and refer to it as reparations.” He says, “It’s detrimental to the larger movement of reparations. Because media and municipalities will take this program at face value and they will use it as a blueprint. Giving $400,000 to 16 Black people in a town of 12,000 Black residents is not reparation.”

The Jesuit order of Roman Catholic priests has also committed to paying reparations to the descendants of people enslaved by members of the order. This “prominent order of Catholic priests has vowed to raise $100 million to benefit the descendants of the enslaved people it once owned and to promote racial reconciliation initiatives across the United States. The move by the leaders of the Jesuit conference of priests represents the largest effort by the Roman Catholic Church to make amends for the buying, selling and enslavement of Black people, church officials and historians said.” The leader of the order, Rev. Timothy Kesicki,  says,“This is an opportunity for Jesuits to begin a very serious process of truth and reconciliation. Our shameful history of Jesuit slaveholding in the United States has been taken off the dusty shelf, and it can never be put back.”

The money will be held and distributed by a foundation “established in partnership with a group of descendants, who pressed for negotiations with the Jesuits after learning from a series of articles in The New York Times that their ancestors had been sold in 1838. The order relied on slave labor and slave sales for more than a century to sustain the clergy and to help finance the construction and the day-to-day operations of churches and schools, including the nation’s first Catholic institution of higher learning, the college now known as Georgetown University. Father Kesicki said his order had already deposited $15 million into a trust established to support the foundation, whose governing board will include representatives from other institutions with roots in slavery. The Jesuits have also hired a national fund-raising firm with a goal of raising the rest within the next three to five years, he said.”

In the Sermon
In typical years, Easter comes to us with the trill of the trumpets in the church sanctuary, and the rustle of guests squeezing into unfamiliar seats. This year, our second Easter in Covid-tide, we are reminded that the first Easter came in stages, and our Easter is delayed, too. Our first glimpse of Easter Sunday will show only a partial truth about our congregations, ourselves and our Lord.

The sermon might talk about how we are in the same incomplete place where Mary found herself, believing that Jesus was dead and that his body had been stolen. Her deepest aim at that moment is to grieve and move on. The appearance of a risen Christ instantly makes those ambitions too small. Right now, we talk about getting back to normal lives, and that goal is too small, too. If we are attentive, and fortunate, we have the opportunity to hold onto the better prats of our pandemic lives.  Some of us have been privileged enough to work from home, to have more time with family, to connect with far away friends on Zoom, to have time for exercise and thought. If those things were gains, how can we maintain these pieces of resurrection in our post-pandemic lives?

Mary also offers us a model for grief, which we all have in abundance as we emerge from Covid. Many people have lost friends, family members and colleagues. Some communities are decimated by multiple losses. Mary standing at the tomb weeping is emblematic for all of us. We need this time to weep before we move forward into whatever is next. Mary’s weeping opens the door for her to see Jesus. She stays there after the other disciples go home, and her tears begin a conversation with Jesus. Even the risen Christ tells Mary not to hold onto him – there’s no going back to the relationship they had before his death.

Or the sermon might look at the way truth requires hard work to bring it to life and to light. Mary could have gone home with Simon Peter and the other disciple, and some deeper longing compels her to stay and to keep asking questions. There are truths in our world that demand the same hard work. We have to keep seeking and asking, looking beyond the first layer of explanation until the deeper truth emerges.

Mary’s concern for Jesus’ body shows her looking back to the familiar, instead of ahead to the surprising new thing God is doing. She mirrors our own constant looking back to our lives before the Covid lockdown. Jesus is calling her to look in a different direction, to see something she has never experienced before, and he calls us to the same kind of leap into new life. The Easter morning promise is that she isn’t doing it alone. Jesus calls her by name, and turns her focus toward the unexpected truth of his resurrection. I trust that he is doing the very same thing for each of us, this Easter and beyond.


Chris KeatingSECOND THOUGHTS
Breaking Silence
by Chris Keating
Mark 16:1-8

As the final scene of the series finale of HBO’s “The Sopranos” began in 2007, New Jersey mafioso and family man Tony Soprano arrives early at a diner for a family dinner. Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” comes on a jukebox, and Tony takes his seat as he waits for the family to gather.

Never one to be patient, Tony restlessly watches as customers enter the restaurant, always looking for someone who might be looking for him. Eventually the family begins to arrive: first his wife, Carmela, then son A.J. His daughter Meadow parks her car outside as a plate of onion rings is dropped at their table. Underlying drama flows through the scene as a stranger enters the bathroom. Viewers are on edge, waiting for Meadow, and wondering if the mysterious bathroom visitor has been sent to shoot Tony. Then, as Meadow reaches for the door, the diner’s kitchen counter bell rings. Tony looks up…and the camera cuts to black.

It was a moment, writes television critic James Hunt, that frustrated millions of fans — many of whom were convinced that their cable had gone out. Hunt notes that creator David Chase “Chase left audiences in total blackness for 10 seconds of confusion, surprise, and even anger, before the end credits started rolling. And just like that, The Sopranos was over. Not with a bang nor a whimper, but simply... vast nothingness.”

Endings pose all sort of difficulties for fans and readers. Having formed strong attachments to the characters of beloved novels, readers grieve even the most satisfying endings. Even worse are the unsatisfying endings that leave more questions opened than an episode of NBC’s “Dateline.” When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed his beloved sleuth Sherlock Holmes in the 1893 serial “The Adventure of the Final Problem,” more than 20,000 fans cancelled their subscriptions to the “Strand” magazine where the story had been published.

Endings are not a trifling matter. Mark’s abrupt ending of the Gospel in chapter 16 is a case in point. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome dutifully make the trek to Jesus’ grave on Sunday morning. They are bringing spices to carry out ritual anointings but are concerned that no one will be able to help them roll away the rock which covered the tomb’s opening.

It turns out that moving the stone will be the least of their worries. That morning the real heavy lifting will come later. As we all know, the stone is moved, the tomb is empty. Instead of Jesus, they encounter a young man clad in a white robe. He tells them to not be afraid. It’s what angels always say, of course. When you meet an angel, you’re going to be afraid – and that is exactly what happens.

He commissions the women to bear the Good News of the resurrection, sending them back to Galilee, the place where Jesus told them he would see them. The women head back to the disciples, yet Mark’s story ends on a most ambivalent note: “So they went out and feld from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Cut to black, roll credits.

It is a most unsatisfying way to end a story, let alone the gospel. In fact, the early church was so embarrassed by Mark’s ending that within a few years additional verses were appended. Additional endings to Mark’s gospel have also been found in other manuscripts. Early commentators seemed as eager as anyone to splice a nice, tidy ending to the ambiguously confusing ending offered by Mark.

It’s anyone’s guess why Mark chose this ending. Maybe his pencil broke. Perhaps the original ending was lost, or someone didn’t hit save. Maybe the author was arrested and never had the chance to finish his work. Or perhaps this is the ending the author intended.  

Scholars who suggest this theory argue that things are not as confusing as they seem. In his recent commentary on Mark, 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, Fiorenza notes. 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. Kindle Edition.)

In other words, Mark is remaining consistent with his rather quirky literary style. Instead of looking back at an empty graveyard, 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.”

This view is particularly attractive because it does not render the women as helpless bystanders, 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.

And they are models of how the church can begin breaking its own terrifying silence on injustices and violence.

Case in point: the shootings in Atlanta and Colorado have rightly dominated the news. Less attention has been given to the fifteen additional mass shootings that have occurred in the United States since Boulder. This number will undoubtably increase by the time this article is published. (See https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/mass-shooting) Filled with fear, the church too often maintains silence on these incidents — too often saying “nothing to anyone.”

In the scripture, the women fleeing the tomb would have been compelled by a similar culture of silence, notes Warren Carter. He compares their fear-based silence to the silence culture imposes on many modern Asian American women. “Fear of identity-based disadvantages can lead Asian American women to mask their ethnicity using techniques ranging from shifting performance to gain leadership positions to altering aesthetics to increase media appeal,” he observes. (Carter, Warren. Mark (Wisdom Commentary Series) (p. 641). Liturgical Press. Kindle Edition.)

But in wake of the shootings in Atlanta, as well as the increase in hate acts and xenophobia toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, some are finding their voices. In Atlanta, and elsewhere, younger generations of Asians are pushing back against the stereotype of the differentially quiet, head-bowed immigrant.

“They are tired of the expectation that Asian immigrants should keep their heads down and not complain,” write Sylvia Foster-Frau, Fenit Nirappil, and Amy B. Wang in the Washington Post. “They are tired of a model minority myth that erases the struggles of immigrants trying to survive in low-wage work and the weight of bigotry on those who do find economic comfort. And they are tired of being viewed as foreigners in the place they call home.”

Mark’s ambiguous ending may be the sort of silence-busting reminder that the church needs to hear. Mark’s Easter sermon is clear: “The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!” It’s a message that sends us out into the world, breaking the silence of the resurrection’s power. Like the women who gathered at the tomb, that is the message Mark entrusts into our care this Covid Easter morning.



ILLUSTRATIONS

Tom WilladsenFrom team member Tom Willadsen:

Mark 16:1-8
Who is that white-clad man?

In Mark’s gospel the young man who is in the tomb when Mary, Mary and Salome arrive early on Sunday morning is not identified as an angel. In Matthew an angel “in bright raiment” rolled the stone away. The angel’s appearance caused the guards to faint and then the angel told Mary and Mary that Christ had been raised. In Luke it is two men in dazzling clothes who appeared beside the women who are not named. Here’s what The Jewish Annotated New Testament says about the individual who addressed the three women in Mark’s gospel, “the figure is dressed as a vindicated martyr,” a reference to Daniel 11:35, “And some of [them that are wise shall fall, to refine them, and to purify, and to make them white, even to the time of the end; because it is yet for the time appointed.” (American Standard Version)

* * *

Mark 16:1-8
Alarmed, terror, amazement

There are a number of very strong words indicating the three women’s level of surprise at finding the tomb empty.

At the end of 16:5 is the Greek ἐξεθαμβήθησαν which can be rendered “they were greatly amazed;” the NRSV has it “they were alarmed.”

In 16:6 the white-clad man tells the women not to be ἐκθαμβεῖσθε, using the same Greek verb.

In the final verse of Mark 16:8 the women had been seized by τρόμος “trembling” and ἔκστασις “amazement.” The Greek terms are the roots for the English words “trauma” and “ecstasy.”

* * *

John 20:1-18
“…as yet they did not understand the scripture…”

It is not obvious what scripture from the Hebrew Bible the author of John is alluding to. Some scholars contend it is Psalm 16:10:

For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.


Other argue for Leviticus 23:10-11:

Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall raise the sheaf before the Lord, that you may find acceptance; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall raise it.

Personally, I think the author of John was bluffing, a first-century equivalent of “If it’s not in the Bible somewhere — it oughta be!”

* * *

John 20:1-18
Jesus’ voice

Initially Mary does not recognize Jesus in the garden. It was dark; she wasn’t expecting him to be alive; she could only assume that Jesus’ body had been taken away. She saw Jesus, but did not recognize him. Jesus spoke to Mary, but she did not recognize his voice. Only when he called her by name, did she discern that it was Jesus there in the garden at first light. This is an echo, or perhaps the first realization of John 10:3 “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

* * *

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
This sounds familiar

Chances are you used Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 during worship last week on Palm Sunday. This collection of verses from Psalm 118 is appropriate on Easter also. The first two verses are a kind of introduction to giving thanks to God. Verses 14-18 are words of triumph, perhaps spoken by a king returning from battle victorious. Verse 18:

The Lord has punished me severely,
but he did not give me over to death.


hints at escaping death, not much of a stretch to be seen as foreshadowing the Resurrection. The last verses of this reading

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.


Share these words at some point in your Easter message. Linger over “marvelous” and “rejoice.”

* * * * * *

Dean FeldmeyerFrom team member Dean Feldmeyer:

Mark 16:1-8
Happy Scared

“Dean, you’re starting at center.”

I tried to look nonplussed. Casual, you know. I nodded. Of course I was starting at center. Where else would I start?

Inside, my stomach was rolling over, my heart was in my throat, my hands were shaking.

I was that guy who was always good enough to make the team but never good enough to actually play in a game. I was the eleventh man on an eleven-man team. Fourteen years old and six feet tall, I had grown too much, too fast. I was clumsy and awkward. Dribbling a basketball was a skill that eluded me.

Yet, here I was on the team.

When our starting center sprained his ankle in practice, I truly expected the coach to shift players around so that one of the starting forwards would move to center and I, the second-string center, would continue to watch the action from the bench.

But now, the coach surprised everyone, just a few minutes before the game began. “Dean, you’re starting at center.”

I was both elated and terrified.

(I played the whole game. Scored 8 points. We won the game. By the next week, the starting center was back on the floor and I was back on the bench but my life was changed forever.)

* * *

Mark 16:1-8
A Never-Ending Story

Mark’s abrupt ending in chapter 16 reminds us that the Gospel is a never-ending story that relies on us to keep it going. It’s not unlike the movie by that name: “The NeverEnding Story.”

Wolfgang Peterson’s much beloved 1984 movie is about a young boy named Bastian who is bullied at school and, one day, ducks into a bookstore to escape. There, he is introduced by the proprietor to an old book called “The NeverEnding Story.”

Bastian retreats to the attic of his school where he begins reading the book and discovers that it is about a fantasy land called Fantasia that is being threatened by “The Nothing,” a thick darkness that destroys everything it touches.

As Bastian reads on, he discovers that Fantasia can be saved only by a human boy and, when he reads the description of the boy, it is himself. Is it possible that Fantasia is real and only he can save it?

* * *

John 20:1-18
All Of A Sudden, Like A Surprise

Grace, like the Resurrection, often comes as a surprise — suddenly and unexpectedly.

When I was about thirteen-years-old I was standing next to my father in church and we were singing a hymn, “All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name.”

Standing next to Dad, singing hymns was not a new thing. I’d been doing it every Sunday for most of my life up to that point and it was one of my favorite things. My father had a robust baritone voice and he enjoyed singing nearly as much as those standing around us enjoyed hearing him sing. Often, if there was another strong voice nearby, Dad would harmonize.

On this particular Sunday, as we sang that particular hymn, it suddenly occurred to me that I could hear, in my head, the tenor harmony to the hymn. A few seconds later, I could hear the bass harmony. This happened all of a sudden, with no warning. One minute I had no clue about harmony, the next minute I could hear it as though a switch had been thrown.

I started to sing the tenor part, hesitantly at first, and then louder. My dad looked at me and winked.

* * *

John 20:1-18
Or Gradually, A Little At A Time
While grace can strike suddenly, like the Resurrection, sometimes it takes us a while to absorb and appropriate it as a reality in our lives. In his book The Tipping Point, Malcom Gladwell shows how, in a culture, a trend can grow slowly until it reaches a tipping point and becomes and epidemic:

In the early 1990s, Hush Puppies were selling only about 30,000 pairs a year and the brand was in danger of disappearing altogether. Around that time, teens in New York City’s SoHo and the East Village began wearing the brand specifically because they were not in style. Fashion mavens likely contributed to the spread of Hush Puppies in these neighborhoods, noticing the ironically un-trendy trend and alerting friends.

Two popular fashion designers noticed the budding trend among those New York City teens and were inspired to use Hush Puppies to complement their designs. The well-known designers broadcast images of the shoes to a massive audience and a small, obscure trend in one corner of New York’s SoHo and East Village city, became a nationwide “epidemic.”

Soon celebrities were wearing Hush Puppies and they became a mainstream trend. The company sold 430,000 pairs in 1995. Sales quadrupled in 1996, and increased again the following year.

* * *

Mark 16:1-8
The Gospel: A Song That Never Ends

Many scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark ends abruptly because the author wants the audience to understand that, while this particular telling has an ending, the gospel itself does not. It is like “The Song that Doesn’t End.”

One of our kids favorite in-the-car songs, along with “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” was “The Song that Doesn’t End,” also, often referred to as “The Song that Never Ends.” It is an anonymously authored children’s song that, literally, never ends. Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:

"…a self-referential and infinitely iterative children's song. The song appears in the album Lamb Chop's Sing-Along, Play-Along by puppeteer Shari Lewis. It is a single-verse-long song, written in an infinite-loop motif in a march style, such that it naturally flows in a cyclical fashion, repeating the same verse over and over. It is still a very popular tune, typically sung during long car rides.”

You can find it on YouTube. The video is (no kidding) ten hours long.



* * * * * *

George ReedWORSHIP
by George Reed

Call to Worship:
One: O give thanks to our God who is good.
All: God’s steadfast love endures forever!
One: There are glad songs of victory among the righteous.
All: “The right hand of God does valiantly;
One: This day our God has acted!
All: Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

OR

One: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
All: Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
One: The good news of Easter is breaking upon us.
All: We find it hard to take in all that this means.
One: Rest in the goodness of our God as the joy comes to us.
All: We await all that the resurrection means for our world.

Hymns and Songs:
Christ the Lord Is Risen Today
UMH: 302
H82: 188/189
PH: 113
AAHH: 282
NNBH: 121
NCH: 233
LBW: 130
ELW: 369/373
W&P: 288
AMEC: 156
STLT: 268

The Day of Resurrection
UMH: 303
H82: 210
PH: 118 
NNBH: 124
NCH: 245
CH: 228
LBW: 141
ELW: 361
W&P: 298
AMEC: 159/160

The Strife Is O’er, the Battle Done
UMH: 306
PH: 119
AAHH: 277 
NCH: 242
CH: 221
LBW: 135
W&P: 290
AMEC: 162

Now the Green Blade Riseth
UMH: 311
H82: 204
NCH: 238
CH: 230
LBW: 148
ELW: 379
W&P: 311 
STLT: 266

In the Garden
UMH: 314
AAHH: 494
NNBH: 116
NCH: 237
CH: 227
W&P: 300
AMEC: 452 

Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain
UMH: 315
H82: 199/200
PH: 114/115
NCH: 230
CH: 215
LBW: 132
ELW: 363

Christ Is Alive
UMH: 318 
H82: 182
PH: 108
LBW: 363
ELW: 389
W&P: 312
Renw: 300

Alleluia, Alleluia
UMH: 162
H82: 178
PH: 106
CH: 40
W&P: 291
Renew: 271

We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations
UMH: 569
NNBH: 416
W&P: 562

Ye Servants of God
UMH: 181
H82: 535
PH: 477
NCH: 305
CH: 110
LBW: 252          
W&P: 112

He Has Made Me Glad
CCB: 3     

Holy Ground
CCB: 5     

Music Resources Key:
UMH: United Methodist Hymnal
H82: The Hymnal 1982
PH: Presbyterian Hymnal
AAHH: African American Heritage Hymnal
NNBH: The New National Baptist Hymnal
NCH: The New Century Hymnal
CH: Chalice Hymnal
LBW: Lutheran Book of Worship
ELW: Evangelical Lutheran Worship
W&P: Worship & Praise
AMEC: African Methodist Episcopal Church Hymnal
STLT: Singing the Living Tradition
CCB: Cokesbury Chorus Book
Renew: Renew! Songs & Hymns for Blended Worship

Prayer for the Day/Collect
O God who brings new life out of the darkest times:
Grant us the grace to see you at work among us
bringing new life and new ways of being to our world
even though we see it only haltingly;
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

OR

We praise and bless your name, O God, because you bring us new life. In the midst of all the darkness and despair around us, you call us to join Jesus in proclaiming new life. Give us faith to trust in you and to work with the Risen Christ in our communities and world. Amen.

Prayer of Confession
One: Let us confess to God and before one another our sins and especially living in fear.

All: We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. We are the Easter people and yet we seem stuck at the cross. We bemoan the terrible shape the world is in but we ignore the Risen Christ’s invitation to join him ‘in Galilee’ the place of ministry and teaching. We want the world to change but we want it to happen while we are safely sheltered in our temples. Forgive us our weak faith and renew the power of the Risen Christ within us. Amen.

One: The Risen Christ is, indeed, waiting for us in Galilee. There he continuing the ministry he has always been about and inviting us to join in that work. Receive God’s grace and invitation and go share the good news with all.

Prayers of the People
We worship and adore you, O God, who brings us new life. Out of the chaos of darkness your light shines brightly in the Risen Christ.

(The following paragraph may be used if a separate prayer of confession has not been used.)

We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. We are the Easter people and yet we seem stuck at the cross. We bemoan the terrible shape the world is in but we ignore the Risen Christ's invitation to join him ‘in Galilee' the place of ministry and teaching. We want the world to change but we want it to happen while we are safely sheltered in our temples. Forgive us our weak faith and renew the power of the risen Christ within us.

We thank you for all the ways in which you have renewed our lives. We thank you for the joy of the resurrection and the promise of your continued presence in our lives. We thank you for those who have shared you love with us and for the opportunities you send us to share it with others.

(Other thanksgivings may be offered.)

We pray for all your children and, especially, for those who find themselves in dark places. We pray for those who are struggling with illness and death and the tragedies of violence. We pray for those who find it so difficult to hope. 

(Other intercessions may be offered.)

All these things we ask in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together saying:

Our Father....Amen.

(Or if the Our Father is not used at this point in the service.)


All this we ask in the name of the Blessed and Holy Trinity. Amen.

Children’s Sermon Starter
Sometimes we might see a plant push its way up out of the soil and then slowly grow until it develops a bud that eventually opens into a beautiful flower. Other flowers seem to come up and bloom all at once. One day we don’t see anything and the next day there is a flower in bloom. Easter morning was that way for the disciples. Some of them understood it right away and for others it took some time to understand that Jesus has risen from the dead. It is still good news and we want to share that good news with everyone.


* * * * * *

Katy StentaCHILDREN'S SERMON
Children's Sermons
by Katy Stenta

Object Lesson Options
Tell one of the below lessons and have an Easter egg with seeds in it. After you've finished the lesson, ask the kids to guess what’s inside the egg (emphasizing the sneaky or secret/surprise element).

Open it to find a seed, discuss how Easter is something that grows the more you learn about it, like a seed, and that it’s planted in your heart all year long. Easter is so complex no one fully understands it, but we all have its seeds to nurture and grow.


Sneaky Easter, Sneaky Easter Bunny
John 20:1-18

Supplies: Tomb, two male disciples, Mary and Jesus

We think of Easter happening all at once, but in reality, the first Easter was super sneaky. No one even knows exactly when Jesus left the tomb. Jesus was sneaky like the Easter Bunny is sneaky. By the time Jesus’ friends and disciples got there, they were confused.

No one knew where Jesus was! Everyone started to look for him, like we look for Easter eggs in the morning.

John tells the story of Mary Magdalene making her way to the tomb, and Simon Peter and John running to the tomb and finding nothing. They went away confused. (Race Peter and John ahead of Mary to the Tomb, have them leave confused)

Mary Magdalene caught up and saw the tomb was empty, and stayed there to cry. (Have Mary get to the tomb. Cover her eyes with your hands as though she is crying)

Someone asks her “Why are you crying.” Mary says, “They took away Jesus, please tell me where they have taken him.” (Have Jesus ask while she is turned and crying.)

Then the man said “Mary?” Like he knew her, and she realizes its Jesus!

Even with Jesus right in front of her, Mary couldn’t see him for a minute. You ever look for something, like an Easter egg or even a toy or a book and later realize it was right in front of you?

Easter is like this — it’s something we practice celebrating all year long, but sometimes we forget or lose track, so we have a big holiday to remind us to help us practice celebrating


* * *

Secret Easter
Mark 16:1-8

Supplies: Tomb Picture, Physical Rock

(Start with tomb with covering the rock.) Did you know that the first Easter was a secret? No one knew that Jesus had risen. Mary, Mary Magdalen and Salome brought myrrh to dress Jesus’s body so it would not smell bad. On the way they wondered how they would get in since there was a rock sealing the cave of the tomb.

The women got there and poof (take the tomb off) the rock was already rolled back.

How do you think the women felt when they saw that?

What do you think happened?

What do you think the women thought had happened?

Then in the tomb an angel came, and said, “Fear Not, Jesus is risen, go and tell the disciples.”

Why do you think the angel said “fear not?”

What do you think the women were afraid of?

How surprised do you think they were when they saw Jesus?

So then the women ran away. And they were so surprised they didn’t tell anyone for a while.

Why do you think they ran away?

Did you know that Easter was a big secret for a while?

What is surprising about Easter for you?


Let us pray:

Dear God,
Thank you
For Sneaking Jesus
And Love,
Into our Hearts
Remind us
That you are with us
Even when
We can’t see you.
In Jesus name we pray.
Amen.



* * * * * * * * * * * * *


The Immediate Word, April 4, 2021 issue.

Copyright 2021 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to The Immediate Word service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons and in worship and classroom settings only. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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