Easter Sunday

April 9, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Acts 10.34-43 Peter tells the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Psalm 118. A
song of God’s victory. What we thought was failure God has made triumph: “the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

Colossians 3.1-4 . We have died and been raised with Christ: be mindful that your life is “hidden in God.”

Matthew 28.1-10. T
he women come to Jesus’ tomb and find that he has been raised.

Preaching Thoughts

The Gospel readings
If there is both a sunrise service and a regular one, I recommend using one Gospel at each. The John reading lends itself to two scenes that may be separate readings: verses 1-10, Mary at the tomb; and 11-18, Jesus and Mary. I like to begin the service with the gospel reading (Mt 28.1-11, or Jn. 20.1-10) followed by a response as a call to worship.

Preaching Resurrection
It’s common to preach stuff that’s almost Resurrection but not really. For some folks Easter is some kind of victory party as if our team won the championship. Easter is about victory, yes, but not ours. It’s God’s victory over our sin, over our judgment of others, over our injustice and violence. It’s love’s victory over death and over our fear of it.

Resurrection is not just happy endings. Resurrection isn’t the same as “bouncing back.” There’s no “back” to it It’s about being plunged forward, into a new life that’s not just more of the old one. Resurrection is more like an unexpected beginning than a happy ending. God miraculously creates life where there was none—and no potential—before. Resurrection is not the same as near-death. It’s actual death. Failure. Surrender. It’s out of our brokenness that resurrection comes. Resurrection is not “return;” it’s transformation. (I think that’s why Jesus’ friends didn’t recognize him on Easter: he was changed.) Resurrection is the transformation that happens when we surrender to love. When we give our lives in love God gives us new ones.

It’s tempting to make resurrection the doorway to the afterlife, but it’s not only that, either. Resurrection is the doorway to this life. “Unless a seed dies and is buried it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn. 12.24). Jesus wasn’t interested in the afterlife—that is, being dead—but in living this life with love. “Eternal life” doesn’t mean immortality. (Are you kidding? People act as if they want to live forever but they can’t even abide a worship service that goes a few minutes over an hour—and they want to live for millions of years? No way.) Eternal life doesn’t mean life that’s long; it means life that’s infinitely deep. It means life with infinite life in it, with God in it. It means life that can’t be taken from us—not by what happens to us, not by our own actions, not even by death. It means harmony with the infinite love of God. When we abandon the selfish desires of our egos, and the illusion that we are separate individuals instead of members of one Body we enter into life that is greater than our own physical survival (see Romans 7 and 8).

Resurrection is also about the rejected stone that becomes the cornerstone. Again, I don’t mean the triumph of the underdog. I mean the Divine Presence in places we don’t see it, in situations we discount and people we reject. It’s about God’s justice that comes about even if we miss it.

We proclaim the resurrection of the body. Resurrection after this life is not just that we “live on” in people’s memories. It’s that the essence of who we are is embodied in a way that outlives our earthly bodies. What does this mean, exactly? Well, maybe it means we have a body like our old one… or a new one (Paul talks about an earthly body and a resurrection body)…. or we become part of the Body of Christ, which is a real, physical earthly body… But this is all speculation, and it drives people away if we pretend it’s fact. I think it’s important to both affirm that resurrection is both a reality and a mystery. Overall, I’d rather focus on resurrection not as the portal to the afterlife but transformation in this life.

Call to Worship

1.
As I mention above, I like opening worship with the Gospel proclamation—either Matthew 28.1-10 or John 20.1-10, followed by an Acclamation:

Leader: Jesus emptied himself, shared in our sufferings, and received our scorn. All: In humility and trust he became obedient to death, even death on a cross.
But Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!
God has raised the Crucified One to new life!
Death no longer has dominion!
God has rescued us from the power of darkness,
and brought us into the dominion of God’s Beloved.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! ALLELUIA!

2.
In love Christ became empty.
All: and obedient to death on a cross.
But Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!
Christ is raised from the dead by the love of God!
The Crucified One is risen!
Christ has conquered by the cross!
All our hope is in him! Alleluia!
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not,
will not,
can not overcome it.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia!
ALLELUIA!

* I like to do this with two readers, to provide for a sense of crescendo, like this:


Reader 1: In love Christ became empty.
All: and obedient to death on a cross.
Reader 2: But Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!
Both readers in unison: Christ is raised from the dead by the love of God!
The Crucified One is risen!
Reader 1:Christ has conquered by the cross!
All our hope is in him! Alleluia!
Reader 2:The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not,
Both readers: will not,
can not overcome it.
Reader 1:Alleluia! Reader 2:Alleluia! Both: Alleluia!
Alleluia! ALLELUIA!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
Holy God, we thank you and praise you for the mystery of your grace.
For on the cross Jesus your Christ bore all that separates us from you and from life;
yet sin and oppression and suffering and death were unable to defeat him.
By his glorious resurrection you have delivered us from the power of death.
Gracious God, make us die every day to sin.
Birth us anew, so that we may walk in newness of life with Christ,
in the joy of eternal life and the life-giving power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

2.
Holy Mystery, Sunrise of Love,
Daybreak of Justice, Miracle of Life, we praise you.
Into the grave of fear and death you have shone your light;
you have transformed our shadows into joy.
All that defeats and diminishes life you have laid in the tomb,
and emptied that tomb by your grace.
Christ has borne our sin into the earth, and risen, free and joyful.
Christ has borne our death into the grave,
and risen, living and radiant.
You have raised us with Christ, and we thank you.
We praise you. We worship you. Christ is risen! Alleluia!

3.
God of Love,
you have changed death into life.
You have changed our fear into courage.
You have changed despair into hope.
Change our hearts, that being raised with Christ
we may live brand new lives,
in the mystery and the power of your love. Amen.

4.
God of resurrection, we thank you,
for you have raised Christ from the dead.
To the poor in spirit you have given your Realm.
Those who mourn you have comforted with great joy.
Those who hunger for justice you have fed with grace.
To the merciful you have given tender mercy.

5.
To those who are persecuted you have given victory.
To the gentle now belongs the world.
We praise you for your grace.
May your spirit of resurrection guide and uphold us
now and always, in the company of the living Christ. Amen.

6.
The Day of Resurrection has dawned upon us, for Christ, our life, has risen. We give abundant thanks and praise to you, O God! In your victory, O Christ, help us shed all sin and death. In your rising, help us receive new life. In your power, direct our lives as your new creation. Grant that we may live new lives in Christ, free of our old ways, free of fear and distrust. Sustain us with your mercy, and bestow upon us your abiding peace and gladness, so that we may find joy in serving you. O Christ, you are our life, which is eternal. We thank you. Grant us grace to receive the gift of life, and by your Spirit to live as fearless servants of your love. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

God of Mystery, God of Glory, God of Life,
as Mary stood weeping at the tomb,
not seeing yet the living Christ beside her,
we enter the stillness of the garden
and gaze into the empty grave,
and listen in the hovering silence.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1. (1 Pet. 1.3; Eph. 2. 4-6 Rom. 6.4; Col. 3.3 Ps. 51.10)

Alleluia! Blessed be the God and Life-Giver of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Mercy God has given us a new birth into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
God, rich in mercy, out of great love for us, has made us alive together with Christ,
and raised us up and seated us with Christ.
We have been buried with Christ by baptism into death,
so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of God,
we too might walk in newness of life.
Gracious God, we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in you.
Spirit of Life, create us anew!
Create in us a clean heart, and put a new and right spirit within us.
Forgive our sin, and wash us clean in the water of new birth.
Heal us, redeem us, and set us free.
Spirit of Blessing, be our freedom and our life!
Through your risen Son grant victory over the enemies of life.
May your spirit of resurrection overcome all violence, injustice, hatred and greed.
Through your crucified and risen Christ, we pray for your church,
that, committing our spirit into your hands,
we may die and be raised to newness of life.
Grant us the joy of your life-giving resurrection,
and make us by your grace a new and holy people. Amen.


2.
God of love, you have raised Jesus from death to life!
Lead us always into newness of life.
Light of Christ, rising as the sun on a new day,
overcoming the darkness of sin and death,
shine on our path, chase away all darkness,
and lead us to the heart of God.
Light of Christ, rising in glory,
be the light of our hearts!
Spirit of Resurrection, grant us your grace.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Eucharistic Prayer

Click here for eight settings of the Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation and Amen to familiar tunes appropriate for the Easter season.

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]
1.
God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

We thank you, God, for in the beginning you brought light out of darkness.
From the dust of the earth you made us, lifted us, and breathed life into us.
You make us your people, and promise to be our God.
You walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death.
You condemn the forces of injustice and oppression, and set free the imprisoned.
You set us free from what binds us and go with us toward your new world.
You raise up what is dead and lift up those who are without hope.
Light out of darkness! Hope from despair! Life out of death!
This is your way. We give thanks, and with all Creation we praise you.
            [Sanctus, spoken:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
                     —or—
[sung, to the tune of “Joyful, Joyful”]
     Holy, Holy, Holy Yahweh, God of mercy, God of light,
     all Creation’s ra-diant with your loving presence shining bright.
     Blessed is the one who_ comes_ in your_ holy name, O God.
     Praise to God! Hosanna in the highest! Alleluia!


Blessed are all who come in your name, and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He loved and blessed, healed and taught.
Spurning privilege and exclusion
he created a community of love and reconciliation
whose power stood against the forces of empire and violence.
For this he was crucified—but you have raised him from the dead!


[The Blessing and Covenant … ]

Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.
As often as we break this bread and share this cup,
we remember his death and resurrection until he comes again.
Remembering these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a living and holy sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
                     —or—
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
                     —or—
             [sung, same tune]
Christ has died and Christ is risen. Christ will come again in love.
Praise to God! Hosanna in the highest. Alleluia!


Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
that we may be the Body of Christ,
who have died and have been raised to new life,
to serve you in love without fear,
in the power of your Holy Spirit
and the strength of eternal life.

     [Spoken:]
Amen
.
                     —or—
             [sung, same tune]

By your mercy you have raised us up with Jesus from the dead.
In your Spirit re-create us as your new, life-giving Bread.
Send us out to die with Christ in love, and raise us up again,
serving you, with praise and glory. Alleluia. Amen.


__________

2.
God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

Blessed are you, O God, Creator of all things,
ruler of the world and all that is to come.
You brought light out of darkness, Creation out of chaos.
By mighty acts you delivered your people from slavery,
and brought them back from exile.
In the fullness of time you sent your Son, Jesus Christ.
By the baptism of his death and resurrection
you made with us a new covenant,
that neither sin nor suffering nor death
shall ever separate us from your love in Christ Jesus.
You have doomed the powers of injustice and oppression,
and granted your children the freedom of eternal life.
Therefore with all Creation we sing as one voice:

            [Sanctus, spoken:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
                     —or—

(sung; tune: Christ the Lord is Risen Today)
Holy God, thou source of life, Alleluia!
All Creation bears your Light! Alleluia!
Praise, Hosanna! God above! Alleluia!
Blessed is the one who bears your love! Alleluia

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who is the resurrection and the life
In your Spirit he preached good news to the poor,
brought sight to the blind and release to the captives,
set at liberty those who were oppressed,
and proclaimed the time of pardon.
Though divine, he emptied himself
and took the nature of a servant; and in human form
he humbled himself and became obedient, even unto death.

[… The Blessing and Covenant …]

Christ being raised from the dead will never die again;
death no longer has dominion.
We have died with Christ; we shall also live with him.

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
                     —or—
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
                     —or—
                                          [sung, same tune]
Dying, Christ destroys our death. Alleluia!
Rising, Christ restores our life. Alleluia!
Christ in glory shall return. Alleluia!
Raise us; make our living new. Alleluia!

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
Grant that by the grace of resurrection imparted in this meal
we may die to sin and be free of all evil.
Set us free from all fear, oppression and idolatry,
that we may live anew each moment,
according to your will, to your eternal glory.
Establish your gracious Dominion in us,
that we may be the Body of Christ, crucified and risen:
one in your love, one in your Spirit,
and one in ministry, for the redemption of the world.

     [Spoken]
Amen
.
                     —or—
     [Sung, same tune]God, we give to you our hearts. Alleluia!
May your church your love impart. Alleluia!
Raise us up with Christ anew, Alleluia!
As Christ’s Body, serving you. Alleluia!

____________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.


Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
1.
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) May the Resurrection of Christ, the Bread of eternal life, be food for our souls. Send us into the world to proclaim the good news; to live lives of love and healing, made new by your grace; and to devote ourselves to the healing of the world, in the name of the crucified and risen Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) Christ is risen. As members of the Body of Christ, crucified and risen, may we embody love, embody resurrection, embody your victory over death and fear, over sin and injustice. May we embody your everlasting joy, to your glory, in the name and the spirit and the eternal companionship of Jesus. Amen.

3.
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) May the Resurrection of Christ be food for our souls. May the living presence of Christ be light for our feet. Having fed upon the eternal life of Christ, we give thanks that death no longer has dominion over us. Send us into the world to proclaim the good news; to live lives of love and healing, made new by your grace; and to devote ourselves to the healing of the world, in the name of the crucified and risen Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Communion Songs for Easter set to familiar tunes(
Eight songs of invitation to the table, set to these melodies:
All Creatures of Our God and King,
Infant Holy,

Be Thou My Vision,
The Gift of Love / Water Is Wide,
Morning Has Broken,

Fairest Lord Jesus,
Joyful Joyful.


Easter Eucharistic Responses
Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation and Amen set to:
All Things Bright and Beautiful
(Includes Preface)
Christ the Lord is Risen Today
Fairest Lord Jesus
Morning Has Broken

Now the Green Blade Rises


Children of the Resurrection (Tune: HOLY MANNA. Alternate: Ode to Joy)

Christ is risen! Baptized in his death and rising, so are we.
Children of the resurrection, we are one now; we are free.
Fear no longer holds us, and we live with love courageously,
giving gifts and sharing love for God, who loves eternally.

* In this feast we greet the risen Christ, who calls us all in grace,
gathered into one and fed with love, we now are mercy’s face.
Now we are Christ’s risen Body; for the world we now are light,
children of the resurrection, radiant with eternal life.

* Without communion: “With glad hearts we greet the risen Christ …”


Christ Is Our Sunrise (Tune: Morning Has Broken)

Christ is now living— Alleluia!—
wondrously giving life out of death,
hope gently spoken when we were hopeless,
when we were broken, life-giving breath.

God, you have sought us deep in our suffering,
and you have brought us out of our fear,
gently revealing your presence in us,
tenderly healing, drawing us near.

Christ, in your rising you are our sunrise,
drawing surprising green from the seed.
Still your light finds us, wrapped in our grave clothes;
from all that binds us, now we are freed.

God, your grace gives us brand new tomorrows.
As Christ forgives us we are made new.
Now liberated from sin and sorrow,
newly created, we follow you.


Like the Sun Rising (Tune: Morning Has Broken)

Christ, we surrender all of our living
into your tender, merciful grace
Baptized in you, we join in your dying,
and rising, too, in your life’s embrace.

Christ, you are living in us in mercy,
faithfully giving life that is true.
Like the sun rising, fresh every morning,
free and surprising, we are made new.

Great Holy Spirit, live in us daily,
free from the fear that once bound us in,
free now to love our neighbors with courage,
rising above our death and our sin.

Blest and forgiven and resurrected,
set free for living by grace alone,
may we live lives of gentle compassion,
with the same light that in you has shone.


Morning is Breaking (Tune: Morning Has Broken)

Morning is breaking, sorrowful morning,
as we are making haste to the tomb:
cold and despairing, numb and defeated,
painfully bearing darkness and gloom.

But in the dawning we see the grave now,
empty and yawning, bright like the sun.
Angels in glory say he is risen!
“Go tell the story: Death is undone!”

We came to grieve our crucified Jesus,
but, loving God, you opened his grave!
Jesus is living! Yours is the victory,
great in forgiving, mighty to save.

God, you have greeted sin with forgiveness;
you have defeated evil and fear.
Light of his rising, shine in our courage,
pure, energizing, radiant and clear.

Morning is breaking bright in our hearts now,
as we are waking, light in our eyes.
With him we offer love without fear, for
with him we suffer, with him we rise.


Resurrection Light (Tune: Joyful, Joyful)
[There are additional verses in the downloadable document, especially for a sunrise service]

Holy God, we sing your praises, and we give our thanks to you!
On this day of resurrection all things are created new!
Sin and death you have defeated, raising Christ from death to life.
All of life now shines, transfigured by your resurrection light.

In your mercy you have shattered every tomb we cannot flee.
From whatever binds and traps us, you have set your children free:
free to live in every moment life that is a gift from you,
life unfettered, in your Spirit, life unbounded, always new.

Help us to receive this life that rises up and soars above.
Grant us courage for self-giving; grant us trusting, fearless love.
Help us lose the lives we cling to; with compassion and delight
give our lives, receiving new ones, bright with resurrection light.


Spring Now Blooms (Tune: Now The Green Blade Rises)

Early in the morning we come to the tomb,
bearing sins and sorrows, wounds and hearts of gloom.
But what is this? The stone is rolled away!
And the tomb is empty! Wonder and dismay!

Verse 2, Synoptic version:
* Then an angel greets us, speaking to our fear,saying “Christ is risen. See, he is not here.”Now our despair itself has passed away,and we feel new life rise in the dawning day.

Verse 2, John version:
So we ask the gardener where the body is—
and we hear the voice and know that it is his.
“Why do you weep?” Such sadness fills our eyes.
Then we see and fill with joy and glad surprise.

Christ now stands before us, living as he said.
Oh, what hope he brings us, rising from the dead!
Night was so dark, but with the rising sun
everything is changed now, in this grace-filled dawn.

We give God our spirits, buried just like seeds,.
and emerge forgiven, healed, made new and freed.
Sorrow and dread are changed to joy instead.
Spring now blooms, for Christ is risen from the dead!