ALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: Christ is risen!
ALL: He is risen indeed!
ONE: Now there is a light instead of darkness.
ALL: Life instead of endless death. Eternal light as God's
ONE: The tomb is open. He lives! He lives!
ALL: Death is dead and night is done.
ONE: Earth shouts with joy and heaven gives its gift of
gold in the risen sun.
ALL: Roll back the clouds of hate and fling apart the
curtains of the night.
ONE: In hearts that love and souls that song,
ALL: Let Christ arise! Let there be light!
PRAYER OF INVOCATION:
This is the day you have made, Lord, and we rejoice!
Come. Let the world know you dwell with us. Stir our
souls with love and hope, and let our feet dance for joy
on Your good earth. Open our eyes to the hopes and
needs of this planet, and all who share its life. Embolden
our hearts to works of justice in Your name. Be present to
us. Empower us with Your resurrection life. Let the world
know, through our lives, that Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
All of creation is God's gift to us, including our very lives.
What we do with our lives and with creation is our gift to
God. Let us be about the business of building God's
realm, a healed Earth where there is enough for all. We
will now receive your offering.
Risen Christ, bless these gifts,
along with our very lives. May gifts and givers alike be
dedicated to Your work of love, hope, justice and peace.
SPECIAL MUSIC: The Holy City - Howard Welburn
CHILDREN'S TIME: "The Real Easter Bunny"
THE REAL EASTER BUNNY
There's no story in the Bible about a long-earred, cotton-tailed creature known as the Easter Bunny. Neither is there a passage about young people painting eggs or hunting for baskets overflowing with delicious Easter goodies. And REAL rabbits don't lay eggs, do they?
Today, I'm going to tell you about Jesus and how we all should try to be like Him.
I'm going to compare Jesus to a real Easter Bunny!
A real Easter Bunny:
Is white as snow because Jesus takes all sin away. Isaiah 1:18b — Your sins are red like deep red cloth, but they can be as white as snow.
Is gentle, kind-hearted and forgiving. Ephesians 4:32 — Be kind and loving to each other. Forgive each other just as God forgives you.
Has big ears that are quick to listen. James 1:19 — Always be willing to listen and slow to speak. Don't become angry easily.
Has big eyes to look carefully and choose what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 -- Test everything. Keep what is good.
Has no voice for complaining or arguing. Philippians 2:13 — Yes, God is working in you to help you want to do what pleases Him. Then He gives you the power to do it.
Is quiet in prayer, but hops with thanksgiving and rejoicing. Philippians 4:4-6 — Be full of joy in the Lord always. Let all people see that you are gentle and kind. Don't worry about anything. Pray and ask God for everything you need. And when you pray, always give thanks.
Has big feet to go tell others about Jesus so they can be like Easter Bunnies too.
Matthew 28:19-20 — So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything I have taught you. You can know that I will always be with you.
Eats what is healthy by filling up on God's word. Psalm 119:11 — 1 have taken your words to heart so I would not sin against you.
Luke 24:1-12 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Has Risen
24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again. ” 8 Then they remembered his words.
9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
1 Corinthians 15:20-28 New International Version (NIV)20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man,the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
ANTHEM: Every Morning Is Easter Morning - Choir
PRAYER: When our faith stands at the grave, grieving for a stone
that's rolled away, forgive us. When our faith is short of understanding though the truth is there to see, forgive us. When our faith, beset by doubt, sees no further than an empty tomb today, forgive us. Bring to mind the cry of Mary, "I have seen the Lord!" and grant us faith to believe.
Hallelujah! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! May this declaration resound not only in these walls but touch the lives of all we meet and forever be the truth of which we speak. Your love, once sown within a garden, tended for Your own people, neglected and rejected, now spreads its sweet perfume in this place and wherever it is shown. Hallelujah! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
RESPONSIVE READING: (Turn to #231 In your hymnal)
ONE: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings.
ALL: In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
All sing verse 1 of When I Survey The Wondrous Cross - #231
1. When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
ONE: And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
ALL: But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus
Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
All sing verse 2.
2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.
ONE: Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
ALL: And when they had made a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand: and they mocked Him saying, Hail, King of the Jews.
All sing verse 3.
3. See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
MEDITATION: An Easter Symbol
An Easter Symbol
Who is the Easter Bunny and does she really lay eggs? Now you're
probably asking yourself, "Why in the world is she talking about bunnies on Easter Sunday, and in church?" No, I haven't lost my mind and I will show you that there actually is a religious connection and it will be revealed shortly.
As a Christian, the first thing that comes to mind when we think about Easter might be the cross, or the empty tomb. But for others, who are bombarded with media advertisements and store shelves stacked high with Easter merchandise of all kinds, it's more likely that the Easter Bunny comes to mind. So how did a rabbit distributing eggs become a part of Easter?
Let's begin with the white lily, which has come to capture the glory of
Easter Sunday. The lily is often called the "White-Robed Apostle of Hope." Lilies were sound in the Garden of Gethsemane after Christ died on the cross. Now referred to as Easter Lilies, they signify the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the hop for eternal life.
Next, let's look at the word Easter. Its name comes from Eastre, the
Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. Spring festivals were held in her honour to celebrate new life, rebirth and growth. The date for Easter Sunday is
determined by the first full moon following the vernal equinox, which explains why Easter Sunday can fall anywhere from March 22 to April 25.
Now let's look at the Easter Bunny. In today's world, many children wake up on Easter morning to find that the Easter Bunny has left them baskets filled with candy and chocolate Easter eggs. So this makes the Easter Bunny a kind of rabbit-spirit, like Santa Claus. Many years ago he was called the 'Easter Hare.'
Hares and rabbits have frequent multiple births, so it's easy to see why they became a symbol of fertility. Easter comes in the Spring and celebrates birth and new life. The Christian meaning of new life is the come through Christ.
The rabbit's warren or burrow also helped it become an Easter symbol.
Believers saw the rabbit coming out of its underground home as a symbol for Jesus coming out of the tomb. This is just another example of taking a pre- existing symbol and giving it a Christian meaning.
The rabbit is often associated with fear, timidity, nervousness and fertility. This reminds us, as Christians, that we must learn to move through the fear, live by our own wits, receive the teachings and messages of Jesus and strengthen our intuition. The rabbit also represents humility, because it is quiet, soft and not self-asserting. The rabbit reminds us not to be afraid. Fearful thoughts reproduce, like rabbits, and bring forward the very thing we fear.
The inspiration for this morning's message comes from a beautiful story
written by Stephanie Williams Hope. My mother was a writer and she collected many short stories she found while researching her own work. I found this story in her collection, entitled "The Easter Symbol" and I believe it is worth sharing on this Resurrection Sunday.
It was the ending of a time and the beginning of a time. It was the
darkness, and it was the light. It was tears, and it was hope. It was the
crucifixion of Christ.
The sky was dark with hatred and prejudice, and mankind seemed to be upon the darkest hour.
Thunder rolled across the sky, and lightning sliced crazily through somber clouds.
Some men rejoiced, others wept, and in the mortal sense all men were at
The forest was alive with beasts, their senses tuned to something far
beyond their realm of understanding. They could smell the shame and error in the air.
The beasts converged upon the meadow. Once a grazing spot of
tranquility, it now embraced the darkness. The rumble of the sky was warning menacingly of a change. They crowded close, each a part of nature's scene.
From field mouse to mountain lion, they herds began to grow in number. They communicated silently, the confusion and the fear always present in their eyes.
Soon it was decided. They must discover why the sky was angry. Could
they be to blame for the holocaust upon the hill? They must send a courier. They would solve the mystery for themselves, but they must send him soon. They must know the reason for all the anger in the sky.
The meadow swiftly filled to its capacity with all God's creatures, and they began to choose. What beast could complete this task? He should not be too large for fear of discovery nor too small to comprehend everything. He must be fleet of foot and have coat that would conceal his presence among the rocks and trees.
A judgement was reached. It was decided that the rabbit would complete the journey. His brown coat would not attract notice, and his speed would bring the answer quickly.
The rabbit set about his mission with the speed granted to him by his
creator. Through the forest, over streams, and down the hills through the heavy air he raced. His nostrils twitched with apprehension. Then, he saw it in the distance, but what were those giant trees? They had no leaves and only one branch across the top. He sped closer; he must get a better look. The scent of death and evil pervaded his senses. He did not like the smell. It was the smell of man, a scent he had grown to fear.
He travelled faster now, he could observe three trees in the distance, but
men were a part of those trees. He was confused; his wonder was intense.
He saw men laughing, women grieving; he saw the sky turn blacker as the thunder attained its peak.
He reached the base of the strange trees and crouched beneath the bush
closest to the middle tree. He gazed upward; there was a gentleness and a sadness in the man's eyes. He did not fear this man. He knew He would cause no harm. He felt the wrong. He knew that mankind had erred, but he could not help. He glanced up again; it may have been beue of an instinct or and inner sense granted to all God's creatures that he knew this special man meant peace and love for all.
He remained motionless; his eyes returned again to the gentle man's gaze, and slowly hsi fur began to lighten from brown to gray to white, until it was as white as pure snow. This was the sign — he knew it was! Man and beast alike could still have hope. Ha paused once more in wonder to look at the face. The eyes could almost speak; the rabbit understood the silent message. It was all to clear, a reminder of man's ignorance and helplessness, and the rabbit would be that reminder throughout all the centuries to come. He would be the special sign; he would represent this day.
He began his journey back to the meadow and the anxious beasts. They
must know what he knew. His coat was now a winter white — this would be the symbol and the proof that man and beast alike would share this day forever.
As I told the children earlier; there is no place in the Bible about a long-earred, cotton-tailed creature known as the Easter Bunny. But the rabbit is gentle and kind-hearted, as is Jesus. Philippians 4:4-6 says "Be full of joy in the Lord always. Let people see that you are gentle and kind."
Let us pray: May the glory and the promise of this joyous time of year,
bring peace happiness and peace to you and your loved ones. May Christ, our Risen Saviour, always be there for you, to bless you most abundantly and to always be your guide. May the blessed Easter story of the Resurrection bring new hopes, new peace, new joy and love, and make your heart — "He Is Risen!"
ONE: Friends, today we have celebrated the glorious mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. Let us go forth, rejoicing in the knowledge that Jesus is alive.
Alleluia! Today, we look to the future-to the new dawn of Eastertide.
ALL: Let us go to live as people bathed in the light of resurrection. Alleluia!
ONE: Today, we remember the day when creation was made new, when God showed humanity its destiny.
ALL: Let us go as people living in the knowledge that through the triumph of Jesus over death the gates of heaven are re-opened. Alleluia!
BENEDICTION: And now may the celebration of resurrected life bring new hope to your being. May the victory over earthly death turn your eyes to the promises of heaven. May the empty tomb help you to leave your sorrows at the foot of the cross, so that God's hope, promises and forgiveness reign in your life forever.