09 April 2023
And so we finally come to what may be thought of – in some senses at least – as the most important Sunday of the year. If resurrection is just about a miraculous event that happened to Jesus long ago, or if it’s only about something that happens to some people at the end of time, then it has little real value, no matter how fascinating it may be. But, of course, resurrection is about far more than this. It’s the promise of God’s life available to us both now and forever. And it is the call for us to follow Christ by becoming life-givers and agents of resurrection in our families, communities and our world. What a glorious and miraculous challenge!
May the empty tomb be more than an event for us as we worship this year, and may our worship lead us into a real and transforming encounter with God’s irrepressible life!
Acts 10:34-43: Peter preaches to the Gentiles in Cornelius’ house & reminds them of Jesus’ life, death & resurrection.
OR Jeremiah 31:1-6: A prophecy of hope and restoration in which God promises that God’s people will once again be happy, and will enjoy God’s blessings.
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24: A song celebrating God’s mercy and strength, and celebrating the restoration of God after struggle – foreshadowing “the stone that the builders rejected” who “became the cornerstone”.
Colossians 3:1-4: Paul encourages believers to remember that they have been raised with Christ, that their life is with Christ in God, and that they should therefore concentrate on the things of heaven.
OR Acts 10:34-43 (see above)
John 20:1-18: Mary finds the empty tomb and reports it to the disciples. Peter and John investigate and witness the empty tomb, but Mary remains and becomes the first to meet the Risen Christ.
OR Matthew 28:1-10: The two Marys go to Jesus’ tomb, and find it open with an angel sitting on the stone who instructs them to go and tell the disciples that Jesus is risen. As they head off, they are met by the risen Jesus.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
It goes without saying that the theme for Easter Sunday is the resurrection of Christ. But, more than just a historical event that happened to Jesus years ago, the readings make it clear that the resurrection is also something that happens for us today. All of the Old Testament readings speak of restoration and new life that can be experienced by those who have been broken. In Acts, Peter reminds the gathering in Cornelius’ house of Christ’s resurrection as part of his call for them to believe. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, reminds them that they too are raised with Christ, and that they have life that lasts beyond the grave. So, even as we walk with the women and the disciples through the resurrection story, we are called to remember that, as we receive Christ, it becomes our story too.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: It’s easy to make the resurrection an intellectual exercise that focuses on details, doubts and questions of evidence. Equally, it is easy to make the resurrection little more than a touchstone of belief – of intellectual agreement – that qualifies us to call ourselves Christians. But, as the readings today show, the resurrection is far less about what goes on in our minds than it is about what goes on in our lives. The two big challenges for us as believers are to open our lives to this resurrection life of Christ, to allow God’s life to break in and free us from all the little deaths that seek to control our lives. Then, as those who have experienced life, we are called to be those who bring life in all the places in our world where death is at work. Also, we need to face the ongoing question of how resurrection can be experienced for our diseased planet, how resurrection can come to those who live in dire poverty, or who have been trafficked as sex slaves or child workers on farms, or who live with the burden of dread diseases. One thing is certain, God’s resurrection life will only come to those people as we – the people of the resurrection – carry it into the world.
LOCAL APPLICATION: It is crucial that Easter Sunday is not allowed to become just an interesting academic exercise. In every community, and in every life, we struggle with both life and death. The beauty of resurrection is that death is not so much opposed or destroyed as transformed and absorbed into life. And so, as we celebrate resurrection this Sunday, we are also called to live resurrection in our own lives. This means that God is challenging us to face the death within us – the self-centredness, apathy, destructiveness and cynicism that keep us and others from life – and allow it to be transformed into life. It also means that we be prepared to bring life to others wherever we can through our compassion, hospitality, listening, giving, friendship, involvement and advocacy. When we become aware of how our actions bring life or death to others, we find ourselves making different choices. If our use of energy robs the planet of life, we will seek to be more responsible and careful. If our choice of products or our tendency to consume more than we need leaves others in poverty, or leads to people not receiving fair pay for their work or products, we will shop more compassionately. And if simple acts like voting, signing petitions (like those from Avaaz.org) or engaging our local government officials can help to make our communities more just and peaceful, we have brought life to others. Then, flowing from these works, we can speak – with actions having backed up our words – of the eternal life that can be experienced through Christ.
RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Committing To Life
Christ The Lord Is Risen Today
Hail Thou Once Despised Jesus
Up From The Grave He Arose
Crown Him With Many Crowns
We Shall Go Out With Hope Of Resurrection
Mighty To Save (Link to YouTube video)
Crown Him (Link to YouTube video)
Lord, I Lift Your Name On High (Link to YouTube video)
A Liturgy for Easter Sunday
Because He Lives
He Is Risen (An Easter Benediction)