Easter Sunday 2020


Call to Worship (Pastor lead, everyone participates)

LEADER: Just as the body is one and has many members,

And all the members of the body, though many,

Are one body, so it is with Christ.

ALL: In the one Spirit we are all baptized into one body.

We are the body of Christ,

And individually members of it.

Opening Hymn

Jesus Christ is Risen Today! GTG 232

Jesus Christ is risen today! Alleluia! Our Triumphant Holy Day, Alleluia!

Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia! Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia! Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!

Who did endure the cross and grave, Alleluia! Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

But the pains which he endured, Alleluia! Our salvation have procured. Alleluia!

Now above the sky he’s King, Alleluia! Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

Sing we to our God above, Alleluia! Praise eternal as God’s love. Alleluia!

Praise our God, ye heavenly host, Alleluia! Father, Son and Holy Ghost! Alleluia!

Prayer of Confession (Pastor and Everyone)

Gracious God, our sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo. Forgive what our lips tremble to name, what our hearts can no longer bear, and what has become for us a consuming fire of judgement. Set us free from a past that we cannot change; open to us a future in which we can be changed; and grant us grace to grow more and more in your likeness and image; through Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

Words of Assurance: (Pastor)

Hear the good news! Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might be dead to sin, and alive to all that is good. In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Amen.

Apostle’s Creed (Everyone)

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Pastoral Prayer (Pastor)

Almighty God, in Jesus Christ you taught us to pray, and to offer our petitions to you in his name. Guide us by your Holy Spirit, that our prayers for others may serve your will and show your steadfast love; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord:

  • Let us pray for the world.

  • Let us pray for the church.

  • Let us pray for those who govern us.

  • Let us pray for world leaders.

  • Let us pray for the sick.

God of compassion, bless us and those we love, our friends and families that, drawing close to you, we may be drawn closer to each other, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Offertory

What are you afraid of today?

How might you share the good news of Jesus with others during this time of social distancing?

Scripture Reading (Lay reader)

Matthew 28:1-10 New International Version (NIV)

28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Sermon “Do Not Be Afraid” (Pastor)

Let us pray,

May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be pleasing and acceptable to you, our rock and our redeemer…

Our Scripture reading for this morning is the story of the first Easter morning. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus go early in the morning to Jesus’ tomb. They go to prepare his body for burial in accordance with Jewish customs. At the tomb, an angel of the Lord comes down from heaven and rolls back the stone. The angel tells the women:

Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’

Mary Magdalene and Mary were present for Jesus’ crucifixion. They watched the nails pierce his hands and his side. They watched him breathe his last. They know he died. That’s not the part that scares them. What scares them is that the tomb is empty. Because if the tomb is empty, it means that Jesus is God. Because only God has the power to rise from the dead.

The angel of the Lord tells the women to go quickly and tell Jesus’ disciples that Jesus has risen from the dead and that he will see them in Galilee. The women, afraid, yet filled with joy, hurry from the tomb to tell the disciples. The disciples, hearing the news, rush to go meet Jesus. They bow down and worship him. Jesus tells them to go and gather others and meet him in Galilee. So that they can be commissioned to share the good news with all of the nations.

What struck me as I read through this familiar text is how God continues to call ordinary people to share the good news of Easter. Remember how Jesus’ story started? God chose Jesus to be born of Mary, an ordinary teenager. When it comes time to announce Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the angel of the Lord does not appear to Jesus’ disciples. Men respected in the community. No, the angel comes to women tasked with the ordinary work of preparing a body for burial. These ordinary women become the first preachers. The first ones to share the good news of Jesus with others. Christ is Risen! Christ defeated death! Come and see that our God is alive!

I was also struck this morning with the fact that the good news of Easter- Christ has risen from the dead- that good news remains unchanged across all of human history.

But how we share that good news changes depending on what part of human history we’re living in. In the Ancient Near East, the angel of the Lord appears to women coming to prepare a body for burial because that was the most efficient way to get the news out into the community. But if we tried to get the message across this way today, it would not be as efficient because we live in a different moment in human history.

There’s no denying that we are living in a strange moment in human history. To help slow the spread of COVID-19, Pennsylvanians are ordered to stay at home as much as possible. This morning we’re celebrating Easter virtually instead of in our sanctuaries. Both churches have had to learn new ways to share the good news of Easter with one another as our usually ways of celebrating are not available to us.

One of the ways I’m navigating this strange moment in human history is by reading a biography of my favorite theologian, Mr. Rogers. The book is called, The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King. Fred Rogers lived during a transitional period in Pittsburgh’s history. When he was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 1928, Pittsburgh was at its peak as an industrial town. His father was a successful businessman and Fred enjoyed an affluent, albeit lonely childhood.

Fred’s family belonged to First Presbyterian Church in Latrobe. His family generously supported the various ministries of the church. In fact, ‘the Presbyterian values- hard work, responsibility and caring for others, parsimony, duty to family, ethical clarity, a strong sense of mission, and a relentless sense of service to God- drove every moment of Fred Roger’s life.’ (116).

It surprised no one when Fred decided to become a Presbyterian minister. He wanted to honor his family’s dedication to faith and service by answering God’s call to pastoral ministry. But when he was ordained in 1963, Pittsburgh was a very different city than it was in 1928. Manufacturing was on the decline. Fewer and fewer families were able to survive without two incomes.

Plus, there was this new technology- television. While many Christians at that time refused to embrace this new technology, Fred saw it as an opportunity to teach children how to be kind, compassionate, thoughtful members of our world. Instead of becoming a traditional pastor, Fred became a televangelist for toddlers. He often called the space between the child and the television ‘holy ground.’

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mr. Rogers during this strange moment in our history. How can we, like Mr. Rogers, look at the world around us, acknowledge that it’s changing, and use this as an opportunity to share the good news in a new way?

One way that our world is changing is that we’re all realizing that the church is not the building. It is the people, and the relationships among the people.

I see this in both church’s willingness to learn new technology. Technology that will allow us to see each other’s faces and hear each other’s voices.

I see that in the sacrifices you all are making in continuing to send in your donations so that we can continue to pay our staff.

I see this in your faithfulness in checking in with folks that you know are alone, sick, or scared.

These small acts of kindness are powerful witnesses to the good news of Easter during this strange moment in our history.

Friends I hope that you will find creative ways to celebrate the good news of Easter this day. Whether you’re Facetiming family, hiding Easter Eggs in your house, or learning to cook Easter dinner for the first time. I invite you to embrace the creativity this season of life requires. Knowing that we were created for tough things. That God is going to continue to call us to do tough things. And that because of Jesus, we can do those tough things.

Happy Easter.

Thanks be to God,

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Closing Hymn

Christ is Risen! Shout Hosanna! GTG 248

Christ is risen! Shout Hosanna! Celebrate this day of days! Christ is risen! Hush in wonder: all creation is amazed. In the desert all surrounding, see, a spreading tree has grown. Healing leaves of grace abounding bring a taste of love unknown.

Christ is risen! Raise your spirits from the caverns of despair. Walk with gladness in the morning. See what love can do and dare. Drink the wine of resurrection, not a servant, but a friend. Jesus is our strong companion. Joy and peace shall never end.

Christ is risen! Earth and heaven never more shall be the same. Break the bread of new creation where the world is still in pain. Tell its grim, demonic chorus: ‘Christ is risen! Get you gone! God the First and Last is with us. Sing Hosanna everyone!

Benediction (Pastor)

Remember, you go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you. Wherever you are, God has put you there. God has a plan and a purpose to you being there. Christ who dwells in you has something he wants to do, through you, wherever you are. Believe this and go in his grace, and love, and power.

Amen.

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