Easter Sunday Worship 9 April 2023

Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today’s service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 

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Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Easter Sunday 9 April 

 
Today’s service is led by the Revd Paul Whittle 

 

Call to Worship
 
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!     He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
 
One:         Rejoice, heavenly powers!   Sing, choirs of angels! 
Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus, our King, is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation!
 
Many:      Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!

One:         Rejoice, O Earth, in shining splendour, radiant in the brightness of our King! Jesus has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!
 
Many:      Rejoice, heavenly powers!  Sing, choirs of angels!
 
One:         Rejoice, O holy Church! Exult in glory! The risen Saviour shines upon you! Let this place resound with joy,  as we sing, echoing the mighty song  of all God’s people!
 
Hymn    Christ The Lord Is Risen Today
Charles Wesley (1739) sung by Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band
 

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, thou earth reply, Alleluia!

 

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Vain the stone, the watch, the seal; Alleluia!
Christ hath burst the gates of Hell;  Alleluia!
 
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!
 
Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the Cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
 
King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

Introduction
 
Welcome to Easter worship.  It’s good to be celebrating this special day with you.  My name is Paul Whittle and I am the Moderator of the National Synod of Scotland, a post which I have held for a little more than two years now. Though not a Scot, I was brought up in the west of Scotland, but moved away in 1983, so it’s been good to be back after a long gap. Today, I am sharing worship from my home in Cambuslang, just south of Glasgow.
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
 
Risen Lord Jesus, we celebrate this day. May we know Your joyful presence in our time of worship. Help us as we look to share something of the light, joy, peace and hope of Easter.
 
Loving God, with the Psalmist we praise Your majesty. Oh give thanks to God who is so good, to God whose steadfast love endures for ever. Oh God, You are our strength and our might. You have become our salvation. Open to us the gates of righteousness that we may enter through them, and give thanks to You, our God. Give us light.
 
And God, may that light shine through us, illuminating those things that are wrong in what we do, what we say, how we live. Forgive us our failings. Help us to live as a forgiven people.
 
We remember that the Scriptures tell us: if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  Thanks be to God.
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Living God, may your light guide and direct our path. In Jesus’ Name we ask it.  Amen.
 
St John 20:1-18

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’s 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 touch 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.
 
Hymn    Christ is Alive  
The Revd Brian Wren © 1968, 1978 Hope Publishing Company sung by the Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church Portsmouth New Hampshire Virtual Choir and used with their kind permission.
 

Christ is alive! Let Christians sing.
The cross stands empty to the sky.
Let streets and homes 
with praises ring.
Love, drowned in death, 
shall never die.
 
Christ is alive! No longer bound
to distant years in Palestine,
but saving, healing, 
here and now,
and touching every place and time.
 
In every insult, rift and war,
where colour, scorn 
or wealth divide,
Christ suffers still, 
yet loves the more,
and lives, where even hope has died.
 
Women and men, 
in age and youth,
can feel the Spirit, hear the call,
and find the way, the life, the truth,
revealed in Jesus, freed for all.

 

Christ is alive, and comes to bring good  
to this and every age,
till earth and sky and ocean ring with joy,
with justice, love and praise.
 
Sermon
 
‘Mary!’ Have you ever jumped when somebody has unexpectedly said your name? Have you ever had a meeting where someone has unexpectedly recognised you?  About a couple of years ago, early in my time as Moderator of the National Synod of Scotland, I was in an online meeting of Scottish church leaders, on zoom, when a private message came in the chat – there was a Paul Whittle in my class at Paisley Grammar School.  And, yes, George Whyte, then principal clerk to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was in my registration class at Paisley Grammar School. Indeed, as Whittle and Whyte, in a day when boys sat alphabetically by surname, not only were we in the same class, but we were often in adjacent seats.  It was about 49 years since we had seen each other, and I can claim the slightly more unusual surname as a valid reason why he recognised me first.
For Mary, we don’t know exactly how long it was since she had seen Jesus, but it was probably just a few days. But what a lot had happened in those few days, indeed in many ways more than in the 49 years between George and my days as schoolboys and as church leaders.
 
For Mary, and the others, it had all ended on Friday. The bottom had fallen out of her world these last few days. She had gone through a devastating experience. It had been so good. For once she had felt that she belonged. Being part of the wider group of Jesus’ disciples had left her excited, hopeful, valued.  She thought, as they all did, that this was the beginning of something great. God was intervening in human history. 
 
Things were going to be different. Mary had enjoyed listening to Jesus, the stories he told, the insights he offered. She had marvelled at his engagement with all sorts of folk, not least the many times when he brought healing. She had seen the crowds come to be part of this great adventure. And then it was as though the whole world had crashed in on her. A few short days had seen Jesus arrested, tried, though rather a sham of a trial, and then, horror of horrors, crucified. Nothing made any sense any more. She was inconsolable. There wasn’t really anything that could be done, but it seemed only right to try and offer some last offices of love, to take some spices to anoint his body. 
 
But even that hadn’t worked out. It was all going wrong. The body wasn’t there. She could only think that it had been stolen. It all added to her sense of devastation. They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.
 
Mary shares the news with Peter and another – unnamed – disciple who immediately rush to the tomb to see for themselves. Peter goes in first. His focus is on the linen wrappings, a point that John makes in writing his gospel to stress that they have been discarded because they are no longer needed. Someone who is alive does not need the wrappings of the deceased. There is an interesting contrast with the story of Lazarus who emerges from his tomb still wearing his graveclothes, and conjuring up for us a rather strange picture. The implication is that these graveclothes can be removed from Lazarus, for now – but it’s for now. The difference in what happens with Jesus is that they are completely left behind because they are irrelevant. The risen Jesus does not need graveclothes – and is not going to.  
 
Peter is followed by his colleague disciple. It is interesting to note that it is actually the other disciple who got to the tomb first, but clearly wasn’t sure what to do, so paused at the entrance to the tomb. Peter, impetuous as ever, doesn’t hesitate but goes straight in. The other disciple then does the same and enters the tomb – and then we have a fascinating little comment: he saw and believed. The question though is: just what did he believe? In the next sentence we are told that they didn’t yet understand about the resurrection. It would seem that the claim here of this disciple is not exactly that Jesus is risen, but that Jesus is ascended, or at least in the process of that new, or recovered, way of being with God.
 
And, as John’s telling of the fantastic Easter good news continues, that all fits. The two disciples go off home, probably because they don’t know what else to do. I wonder if we sometimes miss something special because we go off somewhere because we don’t know what else to do.
 
I can’t help wishing that they had stayed a bit longer with Mary, simply because they would then have shared the amazing experience that came next for her. Hardly able to see through her tears, she first looks into the tomb and sees two angels, two messengers who ask why she is crying. As she turns, having given her explanation, there is someone else in the garden. She assumes it’s the gardener. That’s reasonable – and maybe, just maybe, he’s the one who has moved the body, and so she asks that question.
 
But what happens next is beyond her wildest dreams as Jesus speaks her name. Mary! He didn’t need to tell her who he was then. She knew that voice. Teacher! Rabbouni! And, just to link with our little comment about the ascension and the likely thinking of the disciple who ran faster than Peter to get to the tomb, the explanation that Jesus gives Mary is not about resurrection, though that is certainly involved, but about ascension. 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.’ 
 
The turning-point was surely when Jesus spoke Mary’s name. I wonder what is the turning-point for you and me this Easter and what we are going to do with what God might want to say to us? I am sure that Mary wanted to give Jesus a hug. That would be a natural response. But it wasn’t for that moment. And that’s why Jesus says do not hold on to meand explains just a little of the miracle of the moment. And Mary’s task? To share the good news. To tell what she has experienced. I have seen the Lord. And so, as Archbishop William Temple says in his commentary on John’s Gospel: “This forgiven sinner becomes the messenger of Christ to the apostles.” What a reminder that God uses us, yes, even us. May we, in word and action, this Easter and always, proclaim that Jesus is risen!
 
Hymn    Now The Green Blade Rises
John Macleod Campbell Crum 1872 – 1958 © Oxford University Press, sung by the Smoke Fairies
 
Now the green blade riseth 
from the buried grain, 
wheat that in the dark earth 
many days had lain; 
love lives again, that 
with the dead has been,
Love is come again, like 
wheat that springeth green. 
 
In the grave they laid him, 
Love whom hate had slain, 
thinking that never 
he would awake again,
laid in the earth like 
grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, 
like wheat that springeth green. 

 

Forth he came in quiet, 
like the risen grain,
he that for three days 
in the grave had lain; 
quick from the dead 
the risen Christ is seen:
Love is come again, like 
wheat that springeth green. 
 
When our hearts are wintry, 
grieving, or in pain, 
Christ’s touch can call us 
back to life again,
fields of our hearts that 
dead and bare have been: 
Love is come again, like 
wheat that springeth green.

 

Affirmation of Faith
 
As followers of Jesus Christ, living in this world—which some seek to control, but which others view with despair—we declare with joy and trust: 
our world belongs to God!
 
From the beginning, through all the crises of our times, until His Kingdom fully comes, God keeps covenant forever. 
Our world belongs to God!
 
We rejoice in the goodness of God, renounce the works of darkness, and dedicate ourselves to holy living, for 
our world belongs to God!
 
As committed disciples, called to faithful obedience, and set free for joyful praise, we offer our hearts and lives to do God’s work in his world, for 
our world belongs to God!
 
With tempered impatience,  eager to see injustice ended, we expect the Day of the Lord. And we are confident that the light which shines in the present darkness will fill the earth when Christ appears for 
our world belongs to God!
 
Intercessions
 
Living God, we pray for the church, your people, called to shine as your light, to give flavour as your salt. Help us, your people, called out of darkness into your marvellous light, aliens and exiles in this world, to bring the joy and hope of Easter into the communities in which we are set.
 
We pray for the world, a world which you created, and which we have so damaged. We pray for justice and peace. We pray for those in positions of government and influence that they may work for the good of all. We pray for those living in fear of violence and conflict, for those sufficiently desperate to risk life and limb and become refugees, for those who experience abuse because of who they are. Help us to do what we can, little though it seems, to make this world a better place.
 
We pray also for those we know, and those we don’t, who have especial need of our prayers – those who are sick; those facing particular challenges, opportunities, struggles, possibilities; those who are lonely; those who have been bereaved.
 
God of life, help us to be people of hope. Make us influencers for good. Enable us to play a tiny part in the building of your kingdom. Fill us with the joy of Easter as we celebrate all that you do for us. So, bless us now and always.
 
Lord, hear our prayers, the prayers spoken aloud, and the unspoken prayers of our hearts, which we bring now in the Name of Jesus, in whose Name we pray, and in whose words we further pray now:
 
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Offertory
 
We come to our offertory.  As we think of all God’s gifts, we offer back what we can.
 
Let us pray:
Lord, we pray for all work that is done in your name, and indeed all work that cares for others, offering gifts as we can.  We pray for the work of the church, offering to you the gifts by which we support it, money, yes, but also time and talent, love and service.  Take us, and our gifts of all sorts, to do your work in the world.  Accept the praise we offer; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
 
Hymn    Jesus Invites His Saints            
Isaac Watts (1674-1748) Sung by Phil & Lythan Nevard and used with their kind permission.
 

Jesus invites his saints to meet around his board;
here pardoned rebels sit, and hold communion with their Lord.
For food he gives his flesh, He bids us drink his blood;
amazing favour, matchless grace of our descending God!
 
This holy bread and wine maintains our fainting breath,
by union with our living Lord, and interest in His death.
Our heavenly Father calls Christ and His members one:
we the young children of His love, and He the first-born Son.

 

We are but several parts of the same broken bread;
our body has its several limbs, but Jesus is the Head.
Let all our powers be joined His glorious name to raise;
pleasure and love fill every mind and every voice be praise.
 
Holy Communion 
 
Introduction
 
As we come to Communion, I remind you that it is far more about what God does, than the elements we use.  As I remember, I once celebrated Communion with custard creams and coke.  Certainly, a biscuit, as easily as a piece of bread, can become a sacrament, a cup of water or tea a remembrance of God’s redeeming love.
 
Invitation
 
For Holy Communion today, I invite you to lend Christ your table. That was how it was in the days that Jesus lived on this earth. He borrowed the tables of Zacchaeus, of Mary. Martha and Lazarus, of the owner of an upper room, of a couple who lived in Emmaus,  and with that last, at their table, he took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them, and then their eyes were opened. So, in your many kitchens, and living rooms, rest your hands lightly upon these elements which we set aside today to be a sacrament. 
 
Prayer of Thanksgiving
 
Let us ask God’s blessing upon them.  Let us pray.
 
Gentle Redeemer, send your Spirit of life and love, power and blessing upon every table where your child shares elements of Communion, that this Bread may be broken and gathered in love and this Cup poured out to give hope to all.   Risen Christ, live in us, that we may live in you. Breathe in us, that we may breathe in you. God of all those who are scattered and broken, you call us to wholeness. We thank you for the love demonstrated in giving your son, that we might be united with you. We thank you that in Christ you enter into the pain, uncertainty, and fear of our world; and that your arms are open in loving embrace, gathering us to you as a mother hen gathers her brood under her wing, as a shepherd gathers his flock. We thank you for bread and wine, symbols and signs for us today, of your faithfulness to your people through all generations. Loving God, whatever our elements of communion today, bless them, and if we are partaking of bread, or something like it, of wine, or something like it, or if we are not, bless us all.  Sustain us.  Nourish us with your grace.  In Jesus’ Name we ask it.  Amen.
 
The Institution
 
We remember that Paul the apostle wrote letters to congregations throughout places  we now call Greece, Turkey and Macedonia, and they were the first “remote” worship resources. Our digital service has a long heritage.  The Communion words sent to the church at Corinth were these:
 
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, 
that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks,  he broke it and said, 
“This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 
In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, 
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood. 
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, 
you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 
 
The Sharing
 
Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Bread of Heaven.
The Body of Christ is the Bread of life.  As you eat, remember that.   
 
Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Cup of Blessing.
We are one in Christ in the cup we share.  Let us drink thankfully.  …..
 
Post-Communion Prayer
 
Spirit of Christ, you have blessed our tables and our lives. 
May the eating of this Bread give us courage to speak faith and act love, 
not only in church sanctuaries, but in your precious world, 
and may the drinking of this Cup renew our hope. 
Wrap your hopeful presence around all whose bodies, spirits and hearts need healing, and let us become your compassion and safe refuge. Amen
 
Hymn    Thine be the Glory  
Edmond Budry (1904) BBC Songs of Praise
 
Thine be the glory, 
risen, conquering Son,
endless is the victory 
thou o’er death hast won;
angels in bright raiment 
rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave-clothes 
where thy body lay.

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won.
 
Lo! Jesus meets us, 
risen from the tomb;
lovingly he greets us, 
scatters fear and gloom;
let the Church with gladness 
hymns of triumph sing,
for her Lord now liveth; 
death hath lost its sting.


Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won.
 
No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of life;
life is nought without thee: aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors, through thy deathless love:
bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above.
 
Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won.

Blessing
 
Be blessed. Have hope. Know that despite our failures, despite our disappointments, despite our brokenness, Jesus is risen. The joy of the Lord be your strength. And the blessing of God Almighty, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, be with each one of you, now and always.  Amen. 

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