Lighting the Christ Candle
In the darkness before the dawn, Mary made here way to the tomb.
But the darkness will not last. Light returns.
In tears and sorrow Mary mourned his death.
But sorrow will not last. Life returns.
The light that was extinguished, burns again. (Christ Candle is lit)
Hallelujah, Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!
Opening Hymn: Christ the Lord is Risen Today VU#157
Call to Worship: ~ written by Ann Siddall
We were not eye-witnesses to the event, as were Mary and the disciples were. We have not journeyed through a dangerous city to seek comfort with others who share our sorrow. We have not seen angels gathering at the dawn of the day, or wept in a garden as morning broke because we could not find Him.
But we are here to testify to a story that has not lost its power during twenty centuries of change and conflict.
We are here because those before us carried this story as if it were precious gold;
cherished it as if it were the key to a hidden wisdom.
Today we take our places with them in celebration and in awe. We will listen once again to that story that has the capacity to change the world. Our presence here attests to the rising up of life from the tombs of despair to the joyous possibilities of resurrection.
This is Easter morning. Come let us worship together.
God of empty tombs and risen lords, of shattered stones and of resurrection, for some of us it is easy to believe. For others it is beyond belief. But for most of us, we wonder.
We wonder what might be possible.
If love is the greatest power in the universe, we wonder.
We wonder what might be possible.
If love chooses to carry on loving even those who try and kill it, we wonder.
We wonder what might be possible.
And if love decides to give of itself for the sake of others, we wonder.
We wonder what might be possible.
And so, in our wonder and in our longing for such a love as this, that changes everything, may we dare to believe in what seems impossible.
May we dare to live impossible lives in the conviction that the love that rose at Easter continues to live and work within us, challenging us to dare to live that same love each and every day of our lives. Amen.
Hymn This Is the Day that God Has Made #175
Scripture Reading John 20:1-18
Perhaps the best loved of all the Easter Resurrection stories is the story found in the Gospel According to John. It is John who tells of Mary Magdalene weeping in the garden, of her encounter with a stranger who turns out to be the Risen Christ and of how she recognized him only when he lovingly spoke her name.
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 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.’” 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.
Thank-you all so much for coming to visit your old Aunt Mary today. I feel so blessed. Some people feel sorry for me because I never married and had a family of my own. When I was young it just wasn’t possible, but that’s not the story you want to hear today. I know which story it is. I know you want to hear about the last time he spoke my name, but in order for you to understand, I need to go back to the very first time.
I remember it so clearly. We had all heard about him, this great healer who had seemed to appear out of nowhere, but it was not his power to heal that captured my heart. It was how he spoke. It was his fierce gentleness. Now that may sound strange like a bit of a contradiction to you but his gentleness was never weak. There was a strength and power about him that no one could question, but he was never hard. He was always gentle.
I longed to become one of his followers, but I had nothing to offer, after all I was only a woman. I had been sitting there most of the day listening to him. The crowd was beginning to disperse when he approached me and said, “Come Mary, join us.”
From that moment I never left him. I discovered there were other women who were also part of his band of disciples and we did what we could to help. We cooked and care for him and the others. And we listened. I came to know in my heart that he truly was sent by God.
Unfortunately, as you all know, the idea that God would speak through someone other than the temple priests, frightened those in authority and they conspired to have him killed. I cannot even begin to describe how horrible that time in my life was. I lost everything. I had already left behind my family and by doing so had lost any hope that they would ever find me a suitable husband. I had no security and no hope for the future. But I didn’t care. He was gone and nothing else mattered. If I could have died with him, I would have. Instead, all I could do was weep.
The day they crucified him was the day before the Passover Sabbath. When the Romans confirmed that he was dead one of our number, a man named Joseph of Arimathea, who was actually a member of the council of the Sanhedrin, when to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.
I’m not sure why Pilate agreed. I know he had never believed that Jesus was guilty of anything deserving death. Perhaps he did it to get back at the high priests and temple authorities for backing him into a corner where he had no choice but to agree to have Jesus crucified. Turning his body over to someone from that very council who wanted to give him a proper burial would have certainly infuriated the high priests. Maybe that’s why he did it.
But whatever the reason, Joseph and another secret believer named Nicodemus, took Jesus’ body wrapped it in linen and spices and laid it in a tomb in the garden. Because it was almost the Sabbath, it had to be done quickly and not all the ritual preparations could be done. None of us had been given the chance to mourn him properly. That’s why I went to the tomb the next day.
And I know this is the part of the story you wanted to hear. I told you that all I had been able to do was weep and I’m not exaggerating. I had cried so much that I don’t think I had any tears left, yet still my soul wept. I went to the tomb to be near him. I went to whisper the prescribed prayers over his body. I went to do all the things I would have already done if the circumstances of his death had been different. I hoped it would help, that it would make a difference.
But when I got to the place where they had laid him, the stone blocking the entrance to the tomb was gone. Someone must have broken in during the night and stolen his body. I knew there were those who worried that the place would become a shrine, but to steal his body! I was terrified. I ran back and told Peter and John. They immediately took off running and I followed as fast as I could.
Apparently, John got there first and stopped to look in but typical of Peter, he just barged right it. The linens that had been used to wrap Jesus’ body were still there, but Jesus was gone. By the time I arrived, they were already leaving the tomb, shaking their heads and heading back home. What else could they do? He wasn’t there.
But I couldn’t leave. I didn’t know what to do. The tears that I had though were gone came back. I just stood there weeping. Finally, I bent down to look in and see the wrappings for myself. But I was not prepared for what I saw. Sitting there, where Jesus’ body should have been, were two shinning figures. I can’t think of any other way of describing them. It almost seemed like they were made of light. I know now that they were angels but at the time I was too stunned to even begin to comprehend. One of them asked, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
I could barely speak. I stared to stammer and then I just blurted out, “He’s not here. Someone has stolen his body. I do not know where he is.”
As I said these words, I heard a noise behind me and as I turned around, I saw him. I assumed he must be the gardener, the caretaker of the property. He said exactly the same thing the angle had said, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
“What have you done with his body? Where have you put him? Tell me and I will take him. I will look after him.” If he was the caretaker he had to know. If he didn’t have Jesus’ body at least he could tell me who did.
That’s when I heard him speak my name again. “Mary!”
He was not the gardener. In that moment, when he called me by name, I knew who he was. It was Jesus. I cannot explain why I didn’t immediately recognize him or why, after hearing him speak, I knew who he was. I can’t explain what was different about him, but none of that mattered. It was Jesus. And I fell down on my knees before him and grasped the hem of his robe. “Teacher” I said.
He looked down at me with such love and then he quietly said, “You can’t hold on to me, you must let go. Go and tell the others that I am returning to the One who sent me. I am returning to God, my God and your God.”
With that he was gone, but so were my tears. I didn’t need to stay in the garden any longer. He was not there.
I went back and told the others everything that had happened. I don’t think they believed me. How could they? When they had left me in the garden, I was hysterical, overcome by my grief, frantic to find out where they had taken Jesus body. Now I was returning to them calm, excited and completely at peace. I’m sure they thought I had lost my mind. Yet even then, I could see the flicker of hope in their eyes. Even then I could sense their questions. “Was it really possible?” “What if it was true?”
Later that night, Jesus appeared to them as well. But I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I had been the only one to see him, if I had been the only one to hear him speak my name.
There are still those who try to convince me that it was all an illusion. They try to tell me that it was just my mind trying to cope with the unimaginable, that it never really happened. Even when other began to come forward to say that they had also seen him, there were those who insisted that either we had made it all up or it was a case of mass hysteria. And there are still many today who insist that it’s all a lie. I have to admit that in my darkest house there are time that I even begin to ask how much of it was real.
But you see, it doesn’t really matter. Something inside me changed that day. Somehow, I knew down to the very depth of my soul, that Jesus was not simply a teacher, or a healer, or a prophet. He was more. He knew God … not like the priests or the scribes or those who studied the scriptures. He knew God on an intimate personal level and because of this he was able to reveal God to us.
And what he revealed, is that God is love. Not a jealous love that demands to be loved in return, but a deep, caring, passionate love that seeks to bring joy and fulfilment to each and every one of us. It is a love that is willing to do anything, to make any sacrifice, in order to make us understand how deeply we are loved.
That day, when I heard him call my name, I somehow understood. That day I was touched by that love.
And I learned something else that day. I learned that when you have been touched by such a deep, overwhelming love, you can’t help but pass it on to others. That’s why it didn’t matter how Peter and the others responded, I had to tell them. That’s why I have spent my life sharing that love, not only with my words but in any way I can to help bring a bit more of that love into the world. And that’s why I’m telling you this story once again.
It’s all about love. It’s about a love that is so deep and overwhelming that it changes everything. It’s about a love that is so powerful that not even death on a cross could kill it. It’s about a love that is still alive and vibrant today within all those who have been touched by it.
You know this story. You’ve heard it often. But I hope, no I pray, that the story will be more than words for you. I pray that it will reach in and touch your heart, just as it has touched mine, and that you will know, at the very depth of your being that this story is really, all about you.
Gift of Music Thine Is the Glory VU#173
We Offer Our Gifts
Easter is a celebration of new life. Our offering each week helps us to plant seeds of new life in our own church, in our community and around the world. On this Easter Sunday, let us celebrate the new life given to us through Christ’s resurrection by sharing our gifts. Here at Beacon, we do that by placing our gifts the offering plates at the back of the church, or by making arrangement to give through Par or through online donations. So, as we join in our offertory response let us bring forward those gifts.
Offertory Response What can I do? What can I bring? MV#191
What can I say? What can I sing?
I’ll sing with joy. I’ll say a prayer.
I’ll bring my love. I’ll do my share.
God, as we gather here today, we are filled with hope on this Easter Sunday as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection. May our offerings be signs of hope in our broken world and may they help to bring new life and new growth wherever they go. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
And now let us take a moment to offer silent prayers for all those named in our prayer jar and all those named in our thoughts, our minds and our hearts on this Easter Sunday … Amen.
Easter Message from the Moderator of the United Church of Canada
Prayers of the People
In the joy and hope of this Easter morning, we offer our grateful praise as we sing Alleluia. Christ is Risen! Love is stronger than Death!
In the joy and hope of this Easter morning, in the midst of our singing and praise,
we know there are those who are hurting and sad. We pray for those that feel no hope, for those who suffer from depression, loneliness, and fear … We pray for those places in our world where death seems to rule, where imperial powers ignore the poor, where war never ends, where children go hungry and parents grieve because they cannot provide, where senseless death seems to abound … We pray for those held hostage by addictions or by chronic pain and illness that debilitates them and seems to steal away their joy and hope …
In the joy and hope of this Easter morning, we realize the depth and breadth of what it means to be your Easter people. For we are the ones who are called to go into the places in our lives and in our world where hopelessness, fear, loneliness and sorrow diminish life and destroy joy. We are the ones called to work for justice and life for all of Creation. It is up to us to bear witness to the promise of resurrection, and to hold tightly to the belief that Love is indeed stronger than death …
In the joy and hope of this Easter morning, O God, grant us the courage to take your living Love in every corner of our lives, so that together, we may not only live your resurrection promise but share it with everyone we meet, wherever we go. In the name of the Risen Christ, we pray. Alleluia and Amen.
Gift of Music This Joyful Eastertide VU#177
When resurrection takes hold of us, it doesn’t let go,
it shakes the dead awake, it shakes the darkness into light,
it shakes the silence into song, and it wrestles death out of all that is dying.
Let us go out into the world, into the upheaval of resurrection
with joy in our hearts, faith in our souls and the resurrected love of Christ
in our hands and on our lips, ready to share it with all we meet.
Let us go into the new life that Easter offers us trusting that we are not alone.
The Risen Christ walks with us now and always. Go with God.
Choral Blessing VU#416
Forth in your name, O Christ we go, our daily labour to pursue,
You, only you, resolve to know in all we think, or speak, or do.