ST. STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH APRIL 12, 2020

Rev. Sabrina Ingram RESURRECTION SUNDAY

WORSHIPPING TOGETHER AT HOME

Call to Worship: 2 Samuel 22: 47 & 50

The Lord lives! Blessed be my rock,

and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation,

For this I will extol you, O Lord, among the nations,

and sing praises to your name!

Prayer of Adoration and Confession:

Christ is Risen: The world shrouded in darkness now has light.

Christ is Risen: Where there was despair, there is hope!

Christ is Risen: O death, where is your victory? Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty Christ is Risen from the dead, the first of the sleepers, Glory and power are his forever and ever!

Risen Christ, our Saviour and our Lord, we are often not the Easter People we should be, living in the certain knowledge of your great mercy and love. Distracted by the world around us we fail to hear your voice and we hide when our faith is challenged. Caught up in our own lives we are focused on what we fear and miss the opportunities to show your love to others. Imprisoned in our insecurity, we keep the amazing news of your resurrection life to ourselves. Forgive us. Restore the love that we first had. Strengthen our faith so we can endure all things. Keep our eyes fixed on you, Lord. With you at our right hand we shall not be shaken.

We thank you that Easter is not about a people, but all people; your love and your salvation are for all who confess with voices, hearts and lives that the tomb is empty because Jesus is risen. Through his resurrection all may know forgiveness and have the opportunity to be reborn. Lord Jesus, may your name be glorified, now and for eternity. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: 1 Corinthians 15: 20 – 26

The truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries. There is a nice symmetry in this: Death initially came by a man, and resurrection from death came by a man. Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes alive in Christ. But we have to wait our turn: Christ is first, then those with him at his Coming, the grand consummation when, after crushing the opposition, he hands over his kingdom to God the Father. He won’t let up until the last enemy is down—and the very last enemy is death!

Prayer for Illumination:

Spirit of Power and New Possibility, open our minds to understanding, our hearts to loving, and our wills to carrying out the mission of the Risen Christ, God’s Living Word. Amen.

Scripture Readings:

Jeremiah 31: 1 – 6

Ephesians 2: 1 – 10

Matthew 28: 1 – 10

Message: Starting Fresh

Have you ever gone outside early in the morning as the sun was coming up? I imagine all of us have at some time, but if you haven’t, you need to do it just once in your life. It is usually still outside; perhaps there’s just a trace of a breeze. The air is fresh and cool. Everything glistens with dew. There’s the growing glow of sun’s rays lifting over the east rim of the Earth. With it comes a sense of lightness. There is a feeling of possibility. A new day is beginning. Anything may happen.

Three days after Jesus’ death, his female followers stepped into the early morning light. They barely noticed the sunrise. They were headed for the grave to wash and anoint Jesus’ body for a proper burial. This wasn’t a new day filled with promise. It was the end of hope. Their hearts were heavy with grief. Their heads ached. Their eyes were puffy from crying. They were steeped in sorrow. And now they’d left the shelter of the upper room, and they were afraid. In fact, fear permeated everything. For two days, they’d huddled with the disciples behind locked doors out of fear. As the door closed behind the women, they quickly shut it tight. Worry for the women’s safety was increasing with each passing minute. Then, as the women got closer to the tomb, the ground shook, the earth shifted. Earthquakes are scary. The women stopped in their tracks, clinging to each other as they waited for the quake to pass. Alternately, they gasped, screamed and held their breath. Cautiously, they continued forward. When the grave came into view, they saw the stone rolled away. Feelings of confusion and panic overtook them. The Roman guards, whom they had dreaded encountering, were lying on the ground. They appeared to be dead. Even the tough Romans – the guys with all the power – had been terrified by what they’d seen and felt. But seeing them on the ground was a cause for alarm in the women. Were they dead? Should they check? Would they be accused of murder? Then they noticed something even more alarming. An angel sat on the stone – “Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white.” (Matthew 28:3). The women responded with – what else? – fear! We know this because the angel spoke to them, “There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.” (vs. 5f) The women were too traumatized to argue, so they bent down and entered the crypt. The tomb was indeed empty. Still trembling, they started to run to tell the disciples. Then out of the blue, Jesus appeared to them. What a shock! Only an hour earlier, the women had been certain they’d never see Jesus again. Yet there he was: Risen! Alive! whole! Trembling, the women fell on their knees and grabbed his feet. Jesus teased them, “You’re holding on to me for dear life! Don’t be frightened like that. Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, and that I’ll meet them there.” (vs. 10).

We live in fear-filled times. Like the disciples in Jesus’ day, the CoVid 19 pandemic has people huddled behind closed doors, afraid to touch or even encounter another human being. Western universities have dis-invited speakers because their opinion made some students feel “unsafe”. In light of this, others are worried about freedom of speech and fearful of the demise of basic democratic (i.e. human) rights. Parents shepherding their children are unable to let them run free in the pasture out of fear. Churches grow anxious as their numbers grow smaller. Since 9-11, travellers are fearful of terrorist attacks and on the alert for abandoned baggage. We’re afraid of being mugged. Afraid of being emotionally hurt. Afraid of being unheard. Afraid of being irrelevant. Afraid of getting injured. Afraid of pain. Afraid of suffering and of seeing someone we love suffer. Recently, I had a friend tell me that just going out of the house had induced a panic attack. In fairness, she acknowledged that wasn’t healthy. And, more than anything, we’re afraid of death.

Easter is God’s remedy for fear. Because Jesus is risen, we “never again” have to be fearful. Resurrection means a new day – a new reality – has dawned. The world is fresh and new and full of promise. Resurrection is a new beginning. Everything is possible. Anything may happen. And with it comes a sense of lightness. United with Christ, we too are made new. In Christ we are starting fresh. As Paul tells us, “Immense in mercy and with an incredible love, God embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!” (Ephesians 2: 4 – 8)

Resurrection casts out fear because it is a sign that God is with us and God is for us. In reflecting on God’s revelation to Moses where God said, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14), the Jewish scholar Martin Buber noted that the name for God can also be interpreted as “I SHALL BE THERE”. He wrote, ‘From the moment of our baptism to the end of our days on earth, the name of our God is I SHALL BE THERE. When we face all the dangers and difficulties, all the hazards and hardships of life, the name of our God is I SHALL BE THERE. When we are lonely or afraid, and overwhelmed with worry and anxiety, the name of our God is I SHALL BE THERE. When we face sickness or sorrow, or heartbreak or even death itself – the name of our God is I SHALL BE THERE. When our last breath leaves our body and we are laid out in the grave, the name of our God is I SHALL BE THERE. And when the day of [our] resurrection comes, with the sound of the trumpet blaring and

a billion suns shimmering in a cloudless sky, the name of our God is I SHALL BE THERE.” The resurrection of Christ is the seal of God’s promise. It guarantees that “I AM WHO I AM” and that I SHALL BE THERE.

Because of “the great love with which I SHALL BE THERE loves us”, we can receive this gift by faith without being frightened by life as we know it. There is no where we can go that Christ isn’t with us. We fear when we give power to the “dangers and difficulties, the hazards and hardships of life”. We look around us and that’s all we see. Like the women at the tomb our perspective needs to be made new. We have already been “raised up and seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. That is where power lies. Faith isn’t looking up from the midst of our fears; faith is looking down from the position of assurance knowing “that in the ages to come I SHALL BE THERE will show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”. Christ is risen, we are starting fresh. Do not be afraid.

All glory be to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Amen.

Offering:

Generous God, we thank you with grateful hearts, recognizing how much you have given us in Christ and what that gift has cost. Bless us and all we have so we may help spread the hope and joy we feel today in the world you love so dearly. In the name of your greatest gift, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession:

God of love and grace,

We come today with hearts overflowing with the joy of Jesus’ resurrection. You have made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with him. You give us the greatest honour of seating us with him in the heavenly places. Now and in the ages to come you show the immeasurable riches of your grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

We thank you that we have been saved by grace through faith. This is not our own doing. It is not the result of our works or our goodness. It is your generous gift. Through Jesus’ resurrection you have re-created us to be and live according to your desire. Help us to be your new creation, living well and serving others to your glory.

Renew and revive us in Christ.

God of power and possibility, you broke open the tomb that held our Lord. Now break into your church where your people are distracted by old quarrels, meaningless diversions, or unhelpful divisions. Give us a clear calling to mission and service.

Renew and revive your Church!

God of resurrection and new life, you broke into the hearts of Jesus’ fearful friends. Now break into our relationships with one another. Where they are vibrant and life-giving, nurture them. Where they are strained by old hurts and misunderstandings, or carelessly taken for granted, help us to repent and forgive.

Renew and revive our life together!

God of might and mercy, you broke the schemes of those who stood in the way of your love. Now break into the governance of your world. Stir the minds and hearts of leaders to work for justice and equitable sharing. Where laws are corrupt, or people suffer under harsh rule, bring good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken,

announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners and comfort those who mourn.

Renew and revive the nations of the world!

God of healing and hope, you broke the bonds of death which tried to shackle new life. Now break into situations of illness, pain, grief, and loss. Wherever people are sick in body, mind, or spirit, and wherever someone mourns the loss of any relationship or dream, send your healing Spirit.

And break into the circumstances, places, and lives we name in the silence of our hearts…

Renew and revive our lives!

God of Rebirth and Regeneration, you broke the bonds which imprisoned people in their lives of sin. Now break into the hearts of those who do not know you, those who reject you, those who hate you. Soften the soil of their souls so that they may come to know your saving grace and inherit your kingdom.

Break into the minds and hearts of those we name before you….

Renew and revive the world you love and those for whom you died!

God of Resurrection and Rejuvenation, you have broken into our lives again this day. Break into all our moments of celebration and joy. Give us gratitude, the impulse to share, and a spirit of grace and understanding.

Renew and revive our souls and spirits!

Renew and revive your resurrection people!

Now we pray in one voice the words that Jesus gave us:

The Lord’s Prayer

Invitation to Mission:

Halleluia! Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed! May this declaration resound in our hearts

and on our lips

to touch the lives of all we meet

and forever be the truth of which we stand.

May we glorify you forever.