Easter Sunday

March 31, 2024

Lectionary Texts

Acts 10.34-43 — Peter tells Jesus’ story

Ps. 118.14-24    —  God’s right hand does valiantly..open the gates…the stone the builders rejected

1 Cor. 15.1-11 — Christ died, and was raised, and appeared

Mk. 16.1-8 — Women come to the tomb. An angel says, “Go to Galilee.” They rush out, afraid—…
Jn. 20.1-18 — Mary comes to the tomb, then Peter and John. Mary encounters Jesus, and goes back and proclaims the risen Christ.

Preaching Thoughts

Not just the afterlife.
Whenever we talk about resurrection we’re always talking about both Jesus’ resurrection on that Easter day (though it wasn’t Easter, yet, was it?) and our own experience of resurrection. Our faith suggests there is some kind of mystery that we can think of as Life after we die. But we should be cautious about describing it. Honestly, we really don’t know what we’re talking about. Sure, there are reports of people who have “died and returned,” but I think of that as part of the death experience. What’s beyond that? We don’t know. But I trust it’s good. Sometimes people need to be comforted with belief in a lovely afterlife. I think that’s OK. But it’s not the point. Jesus seems to have been much more concerned with how we experience being alive that how we experience being dead. The point is how we live, now.

First you die
       The mystery of resurrection is not just a promise of the afterlife; it’s a guide to how we live. Resurrection is not a happy ending. It’s a new beginning after a tragic ending. It’s the mystery that when we surrender our lives in love God gives us a new one. Resurrection begins in death. Jesus literally, physically died on the cross when he said “Into your hands I commit my spirit” and breathed his last. But he “died” long before that. Jesus practiced saying “Into your hands I commit my spirit” every moment of his life. Remember he said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn. 12.224). That’s the heart of his desert temptations, and the heart of his prayer in Gethsemane: “Not my will but yours.” Long before Good Friday Jesus had already died and been given over to eternal life. It’s what gave him the love and trust and courage to go to the cross. So it’s true that on Good Friday the risen One was crucified.

A new beginning
       Our “worldly” life is dominated by the struggle for survival, power, security and belonging. (Think of Jesus’ temptations.) To “die” is to let go of “life in this world” as Jesus calls it in John 12, or “life according to the flesh” as Paul calls it in Romans 8. It means to let go of the delusion that we are lonely individuals separate from God, bound by our bodies and led by our egos. When we let that “self” die God welcomes us into a richer, deeper life of connection with God and others and all Creation. The resurrected life is free of selfishness and fear, full of love, generosity and power. Our worldly life can be threatened and controlled and even taken from us; but the resurrected life can’t be marred, diminished or taken from us. It’s eternal. To live the Risen life is to trust that grace, to be willing to give ourselves in love no matter what the cost and trust we will be given an even richer life.

Not a comeback but transformation
       Sometimes resurrection comes to us when we suffer an awful loss of something dear that is wrenched from us, like the disciples’ loss of Jesus, and sometimes it comes when we choose to let go, like Jesus’ own willingly facing the cross. Either way, resurrection comes to us out of loss and ends up in grace. (Think of the beatitudes…) And either way, resurrection changes us. Maybe that’s why Mary doesn’t recognize Jesus in the garden. (They didn’t at Emmaus, either.) He’s been changed. Resurrection isn;t about “coming back” to life. It’s about going on to a new life. Resurrection isn’t just about a happy resolution of a sad event; it’s about being transformed into people of deeper trust, greater power, and the radiance of love.

       Mark’s gospel ends so abruptly that we’ve wondered: did he mean to do that? Or are we missing a page? I think he meant to. For one thing it’s realistic to imagine the women’s first reaction is fear and confusion. Hopefully as we read that endingless ending, we feel the urge to finish the story that Mark doesn’t finish—which is his point. He’s shown us what resurrection is. Now when it happens, he doesn’t need to show us. He leaves it for us to finish the story: to internalize the good news and to get out there—go to Galilee— and live the good news for the world.

       In John Mary is the first Christian preacher to proclaim the resurrection. (The woman at the well was the first evangelist.) Being a woman, she will be ignored as a preacher for most of history, but there she is. (The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.) John tells us Peter and the other disciple saw the empty tomb but “did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” Mary apprehends Jesus from a different angle. Think of Peter as representing the rational mind with its need to understand, to analyze, and judge with dualistic thinking. The problem is, as The Cloud of Unknowing says, God can be loved but not thought. Mary isn’t trying to understand; she just loves Jesus. Maybe that’s what it takes to meet the risen Christ: not wisdom, learning or understanding, but love-or maybe even just the desire for love.

Call to Worship

1. I suggest using the gospel proclamation (Mark or John, either 20.1-18 or 1-10) as the first element of worship. The “Call to worship” is then a response to the gospel story.

Leader: Christ is risen.
All: Christ is risen indeed!
Love has conquered fear.
Life has overcome death.

By the powers of evil and injustice
the Beloved was crucified.
But by the power of grace
God has raised Christ from the dead.
Christ died bearing all our sin and fear.
But Christ rose in love,
and with Christ we too are raised
to life that is eternal, life that is new,
life in you, O God of love. Alleluia!

[You can do this with one reader. But to create a sense of crescendo, I like to have two readers read the plain type, alternating on the first two lines and reading the third together, as indicated here. You’ll want to remove the 1 / 2 business from the printed or projected version .]

Reader 1: Christ emptied himself and became obedient to death,
All: obedient to death on a cross.
Reader 2: But Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!
Both: He is not among the dead anymore!
The stone has been rolled away!
Reader 1 The Crucified One is risen again!
He has come out of the tomb!
Reader 2: Christ has conquered by the cross!
All our hope is in him! Alleluia!
Both: God has rescued us from the power of darkness,
and brought us into the dominion of God’s beloved Son.
Reader 1 Alleluia! Reader 2: Alleluia! Both: Alleluia!
Alleluia! ALLELUIA!


Loving 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 the power of love . By his glorious resurrection you have delivered us from the power of death. Eternal 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 in the company of the Holy Spirit, O God, our Creator and our Redeemer. Amen.

Loving God, we thank you for your grace. Raise us to new life with Christ. Forgive our sin, heal our sorrows, transform our despair, strengthen us in our struggles, and create us anew. Receive our death and give us life eternal, life in you. Grant that we may live new lives in Christ, free of our old ways, free of fear and distrust. God, you are our life, which is eternal. Sustain us with your mercy, fill us with your love, and bless us that we may serve you for the sake of healing, justice and joy in the name of Christ. Amen.

Holy One, Christ is risen, and we are in awe. You have burst the bonds of possibility. Death has lost its grip on us. Something stuck has slipped free. In the light of Christ rising, shame and fear evaporate like morning dew. Love is undiminished, undaunted, unending. You have set us free to live by the power of your Spirit alone. God of grace, raise us continually with Christ from the grave of our fears to the new, risen life of love, by the power and the mystery of your Spirit. Amen.

God of love and mystery, the Christ you have raised from the dead is the Christ who lives in us. By this mystery you give us courage to love, willingness to trust, and faith to endure. Your love can’t be defeated. Your presence can’t be taken from us. All the powers of evil and injustice, even sin, even death, are vulnerable to your grace. May Christ rise in our hearts, fill us with your light, and lead us with joy into new lives. We pray in the continually renewing Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Risen Christ,
though we do not recognize you,
in the garden
you call our name
and, deeper than we can understand,
you are present for us,
and we open our hearts.

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,
and crush beneath your children’s feet all evil powers.
Through your crucified and risen Christ, we pray for your church,
that, committing our spirit into your hands,
we may die and rise to newness of life.
We pray for all those who suffer, struggle or despair,
that they may find renewal, hope and peace.
Grant us the joy of your life-giving resurrection,
and make us by your grace a new and holy people. Amen.

Leader: Alleluia! God of Love, the sun of your grace rises upon us.
All: Alleluia! You have raised Jesus your Christ from the dead.
Jesus bore our sorrows, and shared our suffering;
and you raised him from the dead.
He accepted our mistreatment and bore our injustice,
and you raised him from the dead.
He confronted evil; and the powers of oppression killed him,
and you raised him from the dead.
He experienced our loneliness, and stood in the gap between us and you,
and you raised him from the dead.
We poured out on him all our judgment, yet he forgives us entirely,
and you raised him from the dead.
God of grace and miracle, you have joined us to Christ,
so that as you raised Christ from the dead by the power of your love,
you have raised us from the dead with Christ, to walk in new lives.
God of resurrection, fill us with the power of your love,
love that overcomes evil and death, love that is the light of life.
Spirit of love, create new hearts in us, and make us a new and holy people,
the Body of Christ, risen in love. Alleluia!

A prayer of Baptismal Renewal

When the sun rose upon the empty tomb,
it brought a new day,
Everything was changed:
there was a new Creation.
God of resurrection,
by the light of Christ’s rising,
grant us a new day.
By the mystery of your grace,
raise us up to new life
in the Spirit of Christ.

All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death.
Therefore we have been buried with him
by baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of God,
so we too might walk in newness of life.
By God’s great mercy
God has given us a new birth into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
and into an inheritance
that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.
Blessed be God!

[Here people may be invited to interact with baptismal water, for instance by touching it, or making a cross on their foreheads… or it may be sprinkled on everyone with greens.]

Eucharistic Prayer

[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 in love you called light out of darkness.
In mercy you brought Israel out of slavery.

By your grace you raised Christ from the dead.
And in your faithfulness you raise us with Christ, out of death and into new life.
In Jesus you have accepted the dough of our brokenness with love,
buried it in the oven of death, and raised us, bread of life, made new.
Therefore we come to feast on the bread of your grace,
singing your praise with all Creation:

            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        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 alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your love, and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He healed and taught with love; he confronted injustice with courage,
and he gathered a community of grace, forgiveness and healing.
He poured himself out for us. He loved us to death.
The powers of oppression crucified him—but you 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 or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

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 Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ, crucified and risen,
fearless in sharing the suffering of the world
and trusting the power of your love.
In this meal may we be transformed,
raised to new life, and filled with your light.

     [Spoken or sung]

—————  #2 ——————

[“Lift up…”]….

We thank you God, for out of darkness you brought light.
Out of the dust of the earth you made us in your image.
You made Covenant to be our God,
and out of slavery you came and set us free.
You are the One who brought Christ out of death to life,
who brings life out of hopelessness, joy out of despair.
You bring us out of our small lives to share in your joy.
Therefore we sing your praise with all Creation:


Blessed are all who come in your name, and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He loved and taught and healed, and by word and miracle
showed us your grace rising always out of our doubt and fear.
For his nonviolent acts against the power of oppression he was killed,
but you raised him up, affirmed his love, and brought him victory over death itself.

[The Blessing and Covenant…]*

     [Remembrance, Memorial Acclamation…]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup
that they may be for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Raise up your Holy Spirit in us, that with Christ’s love living in us,
we might be the Body of Christ, raised to new life,
unafraid of death, with gentle courage to love the world
in the name and the company and the Spirit of the living Christ.
All glory and honor is yours, loving God, now and forever.

____________ #3 _________

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 our need and brokenness 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:

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.
In his self-giving he has embodied your covenant
to be with us in love forever.

     (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]

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 Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
having died to our fear and become free of the power of 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.


* 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.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) By the mystery of your love you have raised Christ from the dead. Life has overcome death. Love has conquered fear and violence, and it is alive in and among us. We rejoice and give thanks. Send us out now to proclaim the good news, to live the resurrected life, to be the Body of the Risen Christ, by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) Like a grain of wheat that has fallen into the earth, Christ has died and been raised in us, and we are now the Body of the Risen Christ, continually reborn by your grace. Send us into the world to proclaim your good news, to love as you have loved us, to serve the poor, to work for justice, and to prepare your Realm on earth; in the name of the risen Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit, who live and reign with you forever. Amen.

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. May the glory of his rising encourage us that death has no 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)

Easter Eucharistic Responses Nine sets of Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation and Amen set to familiar hymn tunes appropriate for the Easter season.

See Easter Communion Songs, several songs of invitation and preparation for communion.
God of Wonder         (Tune: Infant Holy)

Alleluia! God of wonder, you have raised Christ from the grave.
You are faithful, always loving, always just and strong to save.
All our sin and all our sorrow can’t begin to stop your grace:
Christ is present here among us, speaking with us face to face.

Christ, we meet you; Life, we greet you! Alleluias loud we sing.
You invite us to your table. To the feast our gifts we bring.
Bread is broken; hearts are mended; truth is spoken; wine is poured.
In our love and joyful sharing we behold you, living Lord.

Holy Spirit, life eternal, gift of grace, all praise to you!
In this feast of resurrection raise us up to lives anew:
free, forgiving, deeply loving, gently living without fear,
Christ in us, alive, forever! Christ in us, your presence here!

Resurrection Light         (Tune: Joyful, Joyful)

     As always you can choose your verses.
     I’ve most often used these verses in various settings
     Sunrise service: 1, 2, 4, 5
     Brief service : 3, 4, 5
     Full worship: 3, 4, 5, 6

Lord, we come in early morning as the light begins to rise,
like the women bearing spices to the grave where Jesus lies.
Here we bring our shattered hopes, our broken hearts, our deep despair.
Lord, we come as tender mortals, needing you, in humble prayer.

Now we stand before the grave, the dark of death, the depth of sin,
all that would prevent our loving, all that kills the life within.
Here is buried our Beloved: wine poured out and broken bread.
But we find the grave is empty! Christ is not among the dead!

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.

God, you raise us up in glory! How we overflow with praise!
Christ within us, rising, mighty, scatters light throughout our days.
Make our lives your Alleluia, ever growing, deepening.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Joyful, we shall always sing!

                     Songs especially suited to a Sunrise Service

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.

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.

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!

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