Easter Service, April 4
Updated: Apr 22
Hello Union Church Presbyterians,
Easter Service this Sunday, April 4 will be outside in the garden and livestreamed on YouTube. The weather forecast looks good for now, so that's our plan. Please bring your own chairs, or if you can't carry them (or you forget) we will have chairs available as well. Masks are still required and please set your chairs in family groups that are socially distant from others.
We will have Communion, with individually packaged elements available to all attendees.
For those viewing at home: please have a cracker/bread of your choice and juice/beverage on hand to join in this sacrament.
Full video: https://youtu.be/nU3nKVy5Uv8
HOW TO VIEW ON YOUTUBE: YouTube broadcast will begin at 10:25 am.
For ALL devices: https://www.youtube.com/user/NewburghPresby
VIRTUAL FELLOWSHIP on ZOOM at 11:30 am
For computers: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/2536635871
For smartphones and tablets, download and install the Zoom app.
If prompted: Click “JOIN Meeting” and enter:
Meeting ID: 253 663 5871 Passcode: NOT REQUIRED
ORDER OF WORSHIP
Union Church, Newburgh NY
April 4, 2021 10:30 am
We are glad that you are joining us today and hope you feel God’s blessings. If you do not have a church home, we sincerely invite you to be a part of the Union Church fellowship.
No in-person service on Sunday, April 11. Instead, we will have a video worship service provided by HRP (Hudson River Presby) Green: “Healing Our Sacred Sites, Newburgh” which explores Newburgh as a sacred site in need of, and in the process of healing as people come together to learn, know, love, and save their home and their environment.
On April 11 at 4 pm, we will be hosting a “Model Seder” with Rabbi Jacob Rosner of Congregation Agudas Israel, Newburgh and sponsored by the Greater Newburgh Interfaith Council. The Rabbi will demonstrate the ritual of the Seder and explain some of the relationships with our Communion.
Fundraising: Outdoor Garage Sale Sat. May 22, 8-4 pm in our parking lot.
25 spaces available at $25.00 per space. Tables available for rent. Refreshments will be available. CONTACT: Jeff Bousche (845) 913-8434 or the church office (845) 562-0954.
Food Pantry operates every other week. Next: Mon. April 12 and Wed. April 14 from 9:30-11:30 am. Serving LOTS of people! If you would like to help, contact Kathy or Debby.
VIRTUAL Fellowship Time: Begins immediately after worship. If you have joined worship on Zoom you don’t need to do anything more. Zoom Questions? Call Pastor John at (914) 474-0722.
ORDER OF WORSHIP
PASTOR: Christ is Risen!
PEOPLE: Jesus Christ is Risen Indeed!
PASTOR: May the Lord Be with you
PEOPLE: And also with you
ALL: HALLELUJAH, He is Risen!
PRELUDE Jesus Christ is Risen Today Association of Lutheran Musicians
CALL TO WORSHIP Adapted from Psalm 118 LEADER: O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! PEOPLE: Let Israel say, "His steadfast love endures forever." LEADER: This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. PEOPLE: I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. LEADER: The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. PEOPLE: This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. ALL: This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Dear Lord, this is your doing: Christ has passed through the gates of death, but today you have brought him through the gates of life. Now, you open those gates even for us, who nailed him to a tree. Let the gates swing wide that all might enter with praise and thanksgiving. This we pray in Jesus’s name, Amen.
CALL TO CONFESSION
As we rejoice in the Hallelujah of Resurrection, we hide in the shadows of our own sins and shortcomings. Let us join together in confession to our God.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Compassionate God of All, we confess our regrettable tendencies to live as though we are still under the covering and veil of death, rather than as those who share in your victory in Christ over death and all its powers. Forgive us, we pray. Make us once again witnesses to your miraculous garden gift of Easter. Fill us with eternal life that sprang forth on that wonderful morning as we pray in His name, Amen.
(A moment for silent personal confession)
ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
Friends, even as he defeated death Jesus brings us a new hope for our lives. By the grace of God and the Love of Jesus, we are forgiven.
GLORIA PATRI Traditional, Second Century
PASSING OF THE PEACE
HYMN OF PRAISE Easter Chant Combined Union Choirs
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Gracious God, as we turn to your Word for us, may the Spirit of God rest upon us. Help us to be steadfast in our hearing, in our speaking, in our believing, and in our living. Amen.
OLD TESTAMENT READING Isaiah 25: 6-9 Dan Olson
NEW TESTAMENT READING John 20: 1-18 Dan Olson
SERMON Four Views of Easter Morning John Redman, CRE
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE & THE LORD’S PRAYER
Dear Lord of Heaven and Earth, we come before you as your people, rejoicing in the arrival of Spring and the Hope of Easter as it approaches. We ask for your continuing watch over all those who are bringing us vaccines and help to overcome this terrible plague that has held us in its grip for an entire year, even as we caution one another to be careful in our vigilance to remain healthy for each other. And dear God, please watch over those in need from loss of income, or homes, or health and bring comfort to those in grief and mourning. And Lord, we ask for your special smiling countenance on those we name here, for
And Lord we pray for those in our own hearts whose names you already know, for their own healing and comfort, in your name and that of our redeemer Jesus Christ, who taught to pray, saying:
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 debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
COMMUNION HYMN Gathered in the Upper Room Union Chancel Choir
Invitation to the Table
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Words of Institution
Prayer after Communion
OFFERTORY ANTHEM Now the Green Blade Riseth Union Ringers
You can support the work of Union Church by mailing donations to 44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh, NY 12550 or visit newburghpresby.org/donate to donate online.
PRAYER OF THANKS
DOXOLOGY Union Chancel Choir
POSTLUDE Hallelujah Chorus Union Chancel Choir
INVITATION TO FELLOWSHIP
SERMON TEXT FOUR VIEWS OF EASTER MORNING
On this Easter morning, I must simply point out that today marks 52 years since the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. And as we begin, I would like to have moment of silence for Dr. King and for all those who have died following in his cause.
The Bishop John Shelby Spong is a prolific writer on the Gospels, and he asks and answers: “When will we see Jesus? When our eyes are open to the meaning of God in the midst of life, in the expression of love, and in the courage to be.”
Each of the Gospels have their own versions of Easter morning, and while they vary in detail, they all involve an empty tomb. Let’s go backwards through the four Gospels, shall we?
In John’s gospel, on that first morning, it’s the women who have the courage and the dedication to attend to the body of Jesus. The men are still in hiding, figuring that they might be next for condemnation or crucifixion. But in John’s version, Mary Magdalene says, “I have seen the Lord.” This is after two angels have been in the tomb, and Peter and another disciple, presumably John, have raced there and seen the empty tomb. And then after she has mistaken him for the gardener, Jesus speaks to her. And she still has a hard time believing it. After all, who would expect Jesus to be here, alive? In an age of superstition and fear, where science doesn’t really exist, who would expect to see someone who has died? But they have seen that empty tomb, and that has to be troubling indeed.
In the Gospel of Luke, there are also two angels to announce that Jesus is no longer there, asking “why do you look among the dead for the living?” And on the road to Emmaus, a village some seven miles outside Jerusalem, these two believers encounter a man on the road who joins their conversation, asking what they are so concerned about. They ask him if he has no idea of the events of the past three days, about the crucifixion of the teacher from Galilee. These two are so blinded by their emotion that they can’t recognize Jesus. And who knows? Maybe they didn‘t actually witness the crucifixion. After all, who could conceive of someone who was dead now being alive?
In the story from Mark, the earliest Gospel, the Easter story ends with the women seeing an empty tomb and being so frightened that they run away and say nothing to anyone. But that’s the original ending in Mark, in the sixteenth chapter, verse 8. After a couple of centuries, another ending was added with verses 9 through twenty where Jesus appears to the disciples much as he does in Matthew, whom we will visit next.
Matthew based his account of Easter on Mark’s gospel, with some of his own embellishments of the story. Here, we have an angel who rolls back the stone, then sits on it to welcome the women and to stun the soldiers guarding the tomb so that they fall down and faint as though they were dead.
The angel tells them that Jesus is no longer in the tomb and that there is nothing to fear. And as they take the angel’s advice to go tell the disciples, they rush to do so, and who do they encounter right in their way? You guessed it, it’s Jesus. And when they fall down at his feet, he says, “Don’t be frightened, go tell my brothers to meet me in Galilee.”
So where are we in all of these four different accounts of that wonderful morning? Well, we have an empty tomb, and we have four different experiences of those brave ones, the female followers of Jesus, who never get enough credit for their courage and resolve. And it’s only after the women’s statements that the men, including Peter and John, can gather the courage to go and see the empty tomb for themselves.
But let’s also think for a moment what that Silent Sabbath, that Saturday must have been like for all of Jesus’s disciples, the men and especially the women. There would have been the conflict of sitting shiva, the Jewish period of mourning, on a sabbath, especially one of Passover. And as they sat in a silent darkened room, weeping and wondering what would come next, did they think about the death of Jesus, or did they cower in fear for their own lives? My guess is that the women wept and mourned the death of Jesus while the men worried about their own futures.
Then after the tomb is empty, we find Jesus in various places, mainly back in Galilee, to welcome his disciples. And they are dumbfounded to see him each time. Is their problem seated in their lack of belief? No, it’s just that it’s difficult to realize that Jesus is alive and with them. But was he literally alive and with them, or was it his powerful spirit and message of undying love and unending grace?
Contemporary theologian Bishop John Shelby Spong writes: “the real message of those white-robed figures at the tomb is that you will see the meaning of resurrection when you return to your homes and go about the business of your life. Resurrection, you see, was not just something that happened to Jesus; it is also something that happens to and in, each of us. For us, as for Jesus, resurrection is a subjective understanding, not necessarily an objective event.” Bishop Spong goes on to say as I opened my message this morning, with the quotation: “we will see the resurrected Jesus when our eyes are open to the meaning of God found in the midst of life, in the expression of love, and in the courage to be.”
The Easter experience opens our eyes to the idea that death can be defeated. The Roman method of crucifixion was a cruel and painful display to others who might want to rebel. In fact, our word excruciating comes from the Latin for the intense pain suffered in crucifixion. It was meant to send a message of there you are, up on that cross, and now you are over and done with, forever.
But Jesus is a huge exception to that idea. His message could not be killed or erased, and in fact it began to spread. Within twenty years of the crucifixion, at the time Paul was writing his letters and journeying on his missions, early Christianity had spread across the empire and even to Rome itself. And Mark’s Gospel with its barren empty tomb won’t appear for another twenty years. And about ten years after that, Matthew’s narrative will be the first time a resurrected Jesus is seen by anyone in the entire Bible. This is a full fifty years after the day of resurrection, but clearly people have believed in that message of resurrection and eternal life for half a century without any mention of actually seeing a physically embodied Jesus.
But we humans have to have an explanation for everything don’t we? So, from Matthew we go another few years and Luke’s Gospel has Jesus, as a very physical presence who eats, drinks, walks, talks but he also seems able to dematerialize into thin air. This is a strange experience indeed, but then the question becomes if Jesus is physically alive again, how will he move from the earth to the throne of heaven? That answer is in Luke’s Ascension story, but why not have Jesus just disappear as in his Emmaus account? And perhaps Mary Magdalene can’t recognize Jesus because her eyes are nearly blinded by her tears and her constant weeping over the past two days have her eyes nearly swollen shut.
The duo on the road to Emmaus can’t recognize Jesus because they are blinded by their emotions. So don’t be blinded by your emotions, your circumstances, or your unbelief.
As the conclusion of John says, there are so many things that Jesus did, that if they were all written down there aren’t enough libraries in the entire world to hold them all. Things that Jesus did – not just Jesus himself, but all the things done in his name., in his memory, in his spirit of resurrection and eternal life and in the commandment to love others even as he loves us. Those are the things that Jesus did, and that he continues to do, right here in this place, this room, outside in our garden, in your own homes, as he is resurrected in us and with us.
Commentator Clarence Hardy said in an article I read last week: “Open your eyes to the truth of Christ. God emptied Heaven to fill the manger; He emptied the manger to fill the cross; He emptied the cross to fill the tomb; and He emptied the tomb to fill our hearts!” I wish I had come up with that.
And with that, on this joyous Easter morning, I share these thoughts and words with you by the Love of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the healing power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
John Redman, CRE
Mobile: (914) 474-0722
44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550
Phone: (845) 562-0954 Fax: (845) 562-0955