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  • Rev. Sandra Larson

Easter Service

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

EASTER An Easter worship video is also available on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) website: OR PC(USA) Facebook. This 37-minute worship service was compiled by several noted Presbyterian leaders.

Thanks to Fred and Nancy Stelling for the video and awesome music archives!

In The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, the Who’s of Whoville gratefully celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, despite the Grinch stealing all the baubles, presents and feast. Today, in this time of loss due to pandemic, we have an opportunity to gratefully celebrate the joy and promise of Easter.

In this time of crisis, we can pray and open our hearts to deep trust and connection with God. Only then can we faithfully address what is happening—both the tragic and the transformative. From a place of humility, God can work through us to help our loved ones, neighbors and vulnerable people near and far…and possibly transform parts of the world to reflect God’s vision.


Words or picture reflection: What ‘Resurrection’ means to me and for my life


HANDBELL PRELUDE Now the Green Blade Riseth Union Ringers

CHORAL INTROIT Easter Chant Union Chancel & Children’s Choir

CALL TO WORSHIP Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

SCRIPTURE LESSONS Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

Matthew 28: The Resurrection of Jesus After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

The Report of the Guard While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.

The Commissioning of the Disciples

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Mark 16.1-8 and 16.9-18 The Resurrection of Jesus When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The Shorter Ending of Mark And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

Jesus Appears to Two Disciples After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

Jesus Commissions the Disciples

Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good new to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

The Ascension of Jesus So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it. Luke 23.50-24.12 The Burial of Jesus Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

The Resurrection of Jesus But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The womenwere terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. John 20.1-22 The Resurrection of Jesus 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’ 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.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene 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 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.’” 1Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

ANTHEM Christ Is Risen! Hallelujah! Union Chancel Choir

MEDITATION Jesus with Us NOW or see video here

SPECIAL MUSICAL OFFERING How Beautiful Are the Feet of Them Claudia Cummings, Soprano


Loving God, thank you for giving us Easter resurrection hope and Jesus’ presence with us always. Lord, help us trust that your resurrection power is always at work in the world and in our lives. Help us to trust resurrection hope to permeate our each and every day. With the women followers of Jesus, we have seen the stone of his tomb rolled away. We can celebrate the journey to renewed life and from lack of hope to unbounded joy! Praise be to you, Lord for this precious gift. In Jesus’ name, Allelulia! Amen. BENEDICTION Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Glory to God—whose power working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Amen.

CHORAL BENEDICTION Worthy Is the Lamb! Amen Union Chancel Choir

Optional additional Easter music

Blue hymnal 104-12 OR Red hymnal (see index in back of hymnal)

OR for sing-along/solo/anthem selections

Blue #104 Christ Is Risen ! Shout Hosanna *

Blue #106 Alleluia, Alleluia! Give Thanks

Blue #108 Christ Is Alive!

Blue #113 Christ The Lord Is Risen Today!

Blue #115 Come Ye Faithful Raise The Strain

Blue #118 The Day Of Resurrection

Blue #119 The Strife Is O’er

Blue #122 Thine Is The Glory

Blue #111 Good Christians all

Blue #123 Jesus Christ is Risen Today

CLOSING HYMN Blue 466 or Red 130 O for a Thousand Tongues

This Easter Celebration Carolyn Winfrey Gillette

Tune: The Church's One Foundation

This Easter celebration is not like ones we’ve known. We pray in isolation, we sing the hymns alone. We’re distant from our neighbors— from worship leaders, too. No flowers grace the chancel to set a festive mood.

No gathered choirs are singing; no banners lead the way.

O God of love and promise, where’s joy this Easter Day? With sanctuaries empty, may homes become the place we ponder resurrection and celebrate your grace.

Our joy won’t come from worship that’s in a crowded room but from the news of women who saw the empty tomb. Our joy comes from disciples who ran with haste to see—who heard that Christ is risen, and then, by grace, believed.

In all the grief and suffering, may we remember well: Christ suffered crucifixion and faced the powers of hell. Each Easter bears the promise: Christ rose that glorious day! Now nothing in creation can keep Christ’s love away.

We thank you that on Easter, your church is blessed to be a scattered, faithful body that’s doing ministry. In homes and in the places of help and healing, too, we live the Easter message by gladly serving you.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tune: Samuel Sebastian Wesley, AURELIA D (The Church's One Foundation) For music score, search Topical Index and Easter here:

Text: Copyright © 2020 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. Free use of this hymn by churches

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About Easter Eggs What does the egg have to do with Easter? How did the custom of painting and exchanging eggs at East? What is the meaning of Easter eggs?

The egg looks like a lifeless object, and yet it produces a live chicken or bird. That is a true miracle. Since eggs produce life, they became a symbol of spring.

After Jesus’ resurrection, Christians painted eggs and had them blessed and gave them to their friends and servants. t’s believed that King Edward I of England had hundreds of eggs painted and distributed to the members of his household for Easter.

People in many countries paint eggs with designs that have special meaning.

A rooster means the fulfillment of wishes, a sun means good luck and flowers stand for love and goodwill. People also exchange eggs with the greeting, “Christ is risen!’ The receiver responds, “He is risen indeed!”

May these words have real meaning for us throughout the year. We have hope, new joy and renewed life because Jesus lives in our hearts.

Now, who can tell how chocolate bunnies got started as a symbol of Easter?

MEDITATION Jesus with Us NOW or see video here Please read Gospels regarding the empty tomb and resurrection of Jesus. Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 23.50-24.12, and John 20.1-22 (above)

In John Masefield’s drama, The Trial of Jesus, Masefield depicts a Roman centurion who brought the news of Jesus’ death to Pilate. Pilate’s wife begs to hear how Jesus died. When the commander of the soldiers at the cross finishes his account, she asks, “Do you think he is dead?” The Centurion replies, No lady, I don’t.” “Then where is he?” she asks. “Let loose in the world, lady, where neither Roman nor Jew can stop his truth.”

Madeleine L’Engle of Wrinkle in Time fame, wrote an autobiographical book, The Summer of Great Grandmother. In it, she describes a bedtime conversation when her granddaughter, Lena asked, “Is everything going to be all right?’ Yes of course everything is all right, she replied. Lena asked again, Gram, is everything really all right? I mean really?” Madeleine realized that her granddaughter was asking a cosmic ?—a ? that goes beyond the safety of a home full of love and warmth. With strong Christian faith, Madeleine was confident to reply, “Yes, of course, everything is all right.”

“Is everything all right?” is an especially crucial in the midst of pandemic and serious economic uncertainty. Easter so clearly demonstrates the love of God that only one answer is possible: Yes, of course, everything is all right.”

Inevitably we get into messes, some mild, some catastrophic. Some problems are our own doing, sometimes, messes emerge thru no fault of our own. Our messes may include disappointment or anxiety and the depression that may result; physical limitation or illness; conflicted relationships or raw loneliness; loss of many kinds and the grief that follows. Thru God’s grace, we have resources to cope with almost all challenges, whether silly mix-ups or worldwide pandemic. The resources that God offers are so amazing that they’re even beyond our full grasp. God offers liberation and salvation, forgiveness and redemption. God even provides new life and resurrection—both now—immediately and forever—beyond the scope of our mortal life.

Does Easter mean renewed life in your life whenever you face challenges, losses …or joys? Easter brings God’s new creation, a whole new order—which continues to unfold and grow. Given all the historical evidence of the resurrection of Christ, many scholars note that no other historic incident is better documented and supported in diverse ways than the resurrection of Jesus.Yet imagination cannot grasp the reality of resurrection. Even so, we can trust that “Resurrection” is glorious and all-embracing, with everlasting implications: Death is not the end.

Although I do not have a clear picture of resurrection, I completely trust God's power and grace to provide an unimaginably wonderful destiny for us. God’s resurrection promise encompasses unimaginable unknowns. Yet we have hints: perfect celebration, joy and union with God and perfect reunion with those we love…and with strangers we have yet to meet. God’s promised reunion will surely be much more amazing than our limited vision.

What would life be like if we did NOT trust in resurrection—life after life AND renewed our life here and now? Even during a pandemic and in the midst the threat of serious economic uncertainty? For me, resurrection life now and trust in life after life give me unparalleled hope because I can trust God—no matter what.

A while ago, I tried to make chocolate mousse. But I forgot to add the gelatin-milk mixture that thickens the mousse. After the other ingredients were mixed and cooled down, I stirred in the gelatin—but did not stir well enuf. The mousse turned out runny with lumps like hard jello blox.

Our lives can be like badly stirred mousse if we incorporate Jesus only into parts of our life. Like my runny, lumpy chocolate mousse, when we leave Jesus out of parts of our life, then our life is often thin, glumpy, and offers little true enjoyment. And—unless faith is thoroughly mixed into all parts of our life, the spiritual part of us can stiffen and harden, making it hard to swallow.

Despite God’s promise of abundant life, we all know people with lumpy, hard or rather lifeless spirit. Maybe you are such a clumpy person. Life’s challenges can preoccupy us or beat us down to an inconsistent mire. In the midst of a pandemic in which we face so many unknowns, anxiety can seriously shake up or water down our faith. Over time, our spirits can become heavy or bland. Without substantive resurrection faith, folks can identify with the boy who stared blankly at his mathematics book saying, "I wish my arithmetic was done and that I was married and dead."

Without a vibrant resurrection faith, we may feel dis-spirited. Influences around us may lead us to become closed-minded or cynical. News and conversation almost inevitably address BAD news today. These souring influences are all the more reason to be firmly rooted in resurrection faith.

Resurrection faith is NOT just hope for after we die! God intends resurrection life to permeate our lives the minute we begin to understand it. If we fail to embrace resurrection life, we may resemble badly mixed chocolate mousse—and not be worth much to ourselves or to the world.

Emphasis on afterlife can diminish attention to this life: Focus on hope in life AFTER life can make life choices seem relatively unimportant, and otherworldly focus can devalue work towards a better world.

Resurrection faith trusts that God invests deeply in care for us…for eternity—starting NOW. The Bible emphasizes salvation in this life, even more so than life after life. The roots of the word salvation are rescue and deliverance in this life.

Resurrection faith offers hope when a family member or friend gets caught in a destructive lifestyle. Resurrection faith can help us deal with alcoholism, an unhealthy marriage or seemingly never-ending debt. Resurrection faith offers perspective when we are lonely or so discouraged that little seems to matter anymore. Resurrection hope can revitalize us when health limitations or depression dissipate our energy and initiative taking capacity.

Resurrection faith offers peace of mind when we are old enough that most of our family and friends are gone and we are left alone to negotiate in a world that moves much too fast and does not appreciate older people. Resurrection faith affords peace of mind even in the face of daunting unknowns of pandemic and the wide reaching effects of sheltering in place and overwhelmed health care systems.

Jesus is with us NOW. We miss a huge part of Christ’s salvation promise if we concentrate on “When we all get to heaven, what a glorious day that will be…”

In Surprised by Hope, NT Wright summarizes:

“Jesus' resurrection is the beginning of God's revitalization --not to snatch people away from earth to go to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.” Jesus taught this emphasis on the here and now in the Lord's Prayer template for all prayer: Thy kingdom come ON EARTH as it is in heaven! Resurrection is far better than returning from death, even. Jesus was resurrected for eternity. And Jesus promised resurrection for all who believe. After Jesus’ death, his disciples knew that Jesus was alive again. Jesus was not just resuscitated like Lazarus, although the miracle of being brought back to life is incredibly awesome itself. All four of the NT gospels tell of Jesus’ death and reappearance. And the shock and disbelief he encountered, even among his closest followers.

However much we see differences among the Gospels, they diverge from each other most in their opening chapters and in their accounts of the resurrection. In both places, each Gospel goes its own way. We should take some comfort that the Gospel writers convey the essence of the message, each in their own way to their own audience. Like with any telling of events, "getting the story straight" does not exist in objective isolation. Resurrection especially is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Nor does our understanding of resurrection come to us all at once, wrapped up in a nice package of doctrine with supporting evidence. Resurrection life reveals itself as we are open to grasping it and being grasped by it.

Despite the differences among the Gospels about the disciples' experience of resurrection, all four Gospel writers place the experience of the women front and center. Women were first grasped most powerfully and in life-changing ways by their encounter with the resurrected Jesus. The difference between the men and the women in these stories seems to be the women's willingness to acknowledge and accept their own vulnerability. For the men, it was an issue of what could be verified. The women trusted their own experience even in the midst of perplexity and grief.

Resurrection is not a doctrine based on the predictability of spring following winter or the plausibility of resuscitating corpses. It is a powerful, liberating experience of God's continuing love and presence. Our awareness of God most often arises out of fear or deep loss, or sometimes, great joy.

Disturbing events that make no earthly sense and make us confused and anxious often force us to reevaluate our resistance to the believability of resurrection and divine mysterium tremendum. The frightening uncertainty of a suddenly unknowable future inspires a soul-searching quest for truth that is otherwise too profound to explore in depth. We all have a spirit that yearns for joy and lightness—a spirit that yearns to soar.

Is resurrection life here and now, even in the midst of pandemic, too good to be true? What’s that new life like?

Each of us has experienced glimpses of Jesus’ presence with us—Jesus here with us now is a bit like falling in love, only deeper, like love that grows and deepens over decades. The experience of resurrection comes from faithful living, from openness to God's presence and summons in the midst of life's vagaries and grief, and from the conviction that our God is steadfast, loving, and purposeful. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.

How does resurrection faith shape your life?

And who might benefit from hearing your faith story?

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