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Reflections, Images, and Videos for Easter Sunday

April 22, 2017

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He is RisenWe shared awesome celebrations together at St. Paul’s on Easter Day – the pinnacle of the Church Year! Here, embedded immediately below, are the videos we played on the screens to help prepare us for worship. The third video features Christina Grimmie, who, tragically, was shot to death on June 10, 2016. The fourth video is of what is called the Garden Tomb, thought by some to be the actual site of Our Lord’s burial. (We replaced the audio with this video with an instrumental version of Handel’s “Thine be the Glory.” To duplicate this, you can mute the Garden Tomb video and play the Handel video at the same time.)

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We began our 10 a.m. Liturgy with the following 2 videos.

Our Opening Hymn at 8:30 and 10:00 was the great Easter masterpiece “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.” Like those at Hereford Cathedral in the video embedded below, we raised the roof with our praise!

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Our Gospel Reading was the Resurrection of Our Lord according to Matthew

Here’s this passage as depicted in The Visual Bible’s “Gospel of Matthew” film.

[Here’s an adapted version of the sermon I preached at 8:30 and 10.]

These past few days, we’ve seen on the news the terrible chemical weapons’ attacks in Syria, deepening threat of a nuclear war with North Korea, and vicious Palm Sunday attacks on 2 Coptic Churches in Egypt.

Good Friday also marked the third anniversary of the worst mass murder in Calgary’s history. These news broadcasts from the time gives a quick glimpse at who the 5 university students who lost their lives that night were, through the grieving friends they left behind.

At that time, neighbours, friends, and strangers formed a steady stream of mourners to the site of the killings, to place flowers and other trinkets on memorials for the victims. One visitor, herself the mother of two university-aged children, endeavoured to make the site a little more comforting with her contribution. When asked about it by a reporter from the Calgary Herald, she said: “I was thinking of those kids coming here at night in the dark and the snow,” driving, as she spoke, a row of solar lanterns into the ground. “I just thought they could use a little light.”

I think this is indeed the deepest need and longing that people have – for light in the midst of this darkness – even a little light, any hope, some good news in a world like this – a world where knives, bombs, chemical weapons, and even human fists kill young and old, women and men and children, and no corner of the globe is immune from this deadly sickness.

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The Easter Gospel says that “Yes!” there is indeed Good News for a world such as this, a message that meets the very deepest yearnings and needs of our hearts.

It was born in a world such as this. Good Friday nearly 2,000 years ago saw the murder of One who was innocent. Darkness spread across the land. But as our passage begins, now dawn is beginning to break.

The passage starts with a show of devotion, courage, and love for Jesus, as two women disciples put themselves at risk by going to the tomb. 

Verse 1 says: “After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary [the mother of James and Joses – see 27:56] went to see the tomb.”

They have continuing devotion, but it’s to a dead Lord. They went, it says, not to see Jesus, but “to see the tomb.”

Like the people placing flowers and other gifts as memorials in the videos we just watched, the women were going to Jesus’ tomb to remember, to grieve, to honour him. Jesus was the one they’d put all their hopes in, they’d known God through him, experienced the Presence of God in him; indeed they’d even felt themselves moved to worship him – and now everything was torn apart. They were filled with the darkness of grief indeed.

And then, it all changed. Their world was literally turned upside down. There’s an earthquake, then the appearing of an angel, who rolls away the stone.

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Matthew says in wonderful irony: “For fear of him the guards shook [the same word as the one describing the earthquake] and became like dead men.”

On Good Friday, evil had seemed so powerful. But in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had said he could call on the Father who would at once put at his disposal 12 legions of angels. A full Roman legion was around 6,000 – so we’re talking about 72,000 angels! Here, just one angel reduces the soldiers to the powerlessness of corpses.

True power is with love and life, not hate and death.

I like this Story about the sun and a cave:

A cave heard a voice calling to it: “Come up into the light… come and see the sunshine. The cave replied: “I don’t know what you mean; there isn’t anything here but darkness.” Finally the cave ventured forth and was surprised to see light all around. Looking up to the sun, the cave said: “Come with me and see my darkness.” The sun agreed and entered the cave….”Now show me your darkness.” But there was no darkness.

empty-tombAs Phillips Brooks said:

Tomb, thou shalt not hold Him longer;
Death is strong, but Life is stronger;
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right;
Faith and Hope triumphant say,
Christ will rise on Easter Day.

In the words of John’s Prologue: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.”

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On Good Friday, Jesus showed his love to be stronger than hate, as he took upon himself all its power, and it was unable to stop him loving. And now on Easter morn, he shows his life to be stronger than death, as he took all its power, and it was unable to stop him living.

This is where true power resides. It’s not just a nice story, a quaint bit of nostalgia. It’s the deepest reality!

This means that when we face the tragedies of life, including tragedies from human violence – when we face our own deaths, though we remember that life fragile, and precious, and that each day a gift, we also remember that the strongest power is not death, darkness, decay, and evil. Though death and darkness seem so strong, the paradox is that life is fragile, but it is also indestructible Love conquers hate. Life is victorious over death.

No wonder the angel said,  “Do not be afraid … he is raised as he said.”

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Because the One who loves us enough to die for us is so powerful that death cannot keep him bound, there is no need for us to fear!

We too are infected with darkness within. But we don’t need to fear that the darkness in us is too deep, too strong, to be dispersed. 

We can pray like St. Bonaventure:

Enter the darkness of my heart,
as your body entered the darkness of Joseph of Arimathaea’s tomb, …
driving out all … darkness that I may be filled with your light.

Jesus came to share his life with us, to take all our darkness and give us his light. We receive his life – we receive him – as a gift, and are filled with his life – raised from the death with him, never to die any more, for darkness cannot abide in the Presence of the Son.

We live in his light for now and for ever!

A phrase that should be removed from the English language is “It’s too good to be true.” For with Christ Jesus Risen, of nothing – absolutely nothing –  can this ever be true. Alleluia!

The passage continues: “So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.”

They were overwhelmed by it all. But as they came to realize it was not “too good to be true,” they came to realize it was too good not to share!

Think of the most overwhelming good news you ever had. In my case, I think of my daughter, Alyssa’s birth. I didn’t say: “This is overwhelmingly wonderful! I’m just going to sit here and feel thankfully overwhelmed.” I couldn’t NOT share it. When the news is so wonderful, we CAN’T keep it to ourselves!

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So they run to share the Good News.

Our passage doesn’t end with fear, but it doesn’t end here, either. Rather, the passage ends with encounter.

As the women decide with a mixture of fear and joy to go and share, on their way, they encounter the Risen Lord himself.

When Jesus meets them, he says to them: “Chairete.” This is the normal word of greeting, but its literal meaning is “Rejoice!” Jesus wants them to have joy. And so he says the same words spoken by the angel: “Do not be afraid.”  He wants them to be set free from fear, and know joy, worship, fellowship,intimacy.

The encounter transforms them. Earlier, the angel had told them not to be afraid, but it was still with fear, mixed with joy that they ran to tell the disciples. Now Jesus says the same words to them, and as Mary Hinkle Shore notes: This time the word as it is spoken by Jesus has the desired effect. It is the last anyone speaks of fear in the Gospel.”

Jesus wants us all to be witnesses, not just of what others have said – even angels – but of our own encounter with him, our own relationship of love with our living Lord.

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Jesus begins the message they are to deliver with: “Go and tell my brothers …”

The same wording is in John (20:17) – the only places where Jesus uses this term for the apostles. They remembered that Jesus had called them this! Why was it significant? Well, they’d forsaken and denied him. They may have expected a message more like, “Go and tell those so-and-so’s …”! But Jesus has for them these words of relationship, healing. Everyone we encounter is loved by God, is precious to God. We’re called to embody this truth, helping people hear words of relationship and healing – words of love – spoken through us, as we act as agents of God’s life and light in the world.

This brings to a close my sermon. But we really have 2 sermons today – at no extra charge! Earlier this week, I came across one of the most powerful sermons I’ve ever heard. It was shared by Fr. Boules George, a Coptic Priest, on Monday evening from St. Mark’s Coptic Church in Cairo. Its title is “A Message to Those Who Kill Us.” and shows more powerfully than I could ever do the difference the Resurrection makes for us and the world. Let’s watch it together to end this sermon time.

What difference does the Resurrection make for a world like this? All the difference in the universe!

The Lord is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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Easter Day Worship

[Here are some of the prayers we shared at our Sunrise (6:39 a.m.) Service in our Historic Chapel, adapted from these sources: http://lectionaryliturgies.blogspot.com; http://re-worship.blogspot.ca/search/label/Easter; http://www.bruceprewer.com; and http://www.rockies.net. ]

COLLECT

Early in the morning before chaos was awake, you tiptoed quietly past, Surprising God: and whispered the Word that caused grace and love to blossom into creation.

Early in the morning while the disciples slept, Jesus, Son of the Living God: you prepared a feast to fill their emptiness; you rolled away their hardened hearts to open them to your grace; you whispered their names to awaken them to new life.

Early in the morning while we are still drowsy, you sing your songs to us, Holy Spirit: hymns of hope, cantatas of compassion, psalms of peace, litanies of love.

God in Community, Holy in One, early this morning we offer ourselves to you. Amen.

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PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

O Risen Lord, with faces touched by the light of a new day, and hearts rejoicing in your new life, we come before you to pray for the needs of our world.

Into the light of Easter morning we raise those who are struggling with illness, with despair over their lives, or with the breakdown of relationships. (Silence)

O Risen Lord, may your light shine upon them.

Into the light of Easter morning, we bring those places in our world where war, violence, poverty and need are the experiences of everyday life. (Silence)

O Risen Lord, may your light shine upon them.

Into the light of Easter morning, we bring the headline news of this weekend. We hold in our hearts the pain of those suffering violence, bereavement, or conflict. (Silence)

O Risen Lord, may your light shine upon them.

And into the light of Easter morning we bring ourselves, the private struggles, the heart’s yearnings, the hidden dreams, the unfulfilled potential. (Silence)

O Risen Lord, may your light shine upon them.

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O Risen Lord, In the joy and hope of this Easter morning, we realize the depth and   breadth of what it means to be your Easter people. Give us the courage to bear your living love in every corner of our lives, so that your peaceable realm will be so, here on earth, as it is in heaven.

In your Name we pray. Amen.

Lord Jesus, we meet you, risen from the dead, victorious over sin and death, over suffering and shame, over all evil and wrong.

Lord Jesus, we meet you, risen from the dead, overcoming by the power of love, by patient trust and perseverance, by faith in God alone.

Lord Jesus, we meet you, risen from the dead, proving that nothing can separate us from God’s love, showing us how far that love will go, and suffering for the sins of the world.

Lord Jesus, we meet you, risen from the dead, and we offer you our thanks and our praise, our prayers and our worship, our devotion and our service. Amen.

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PRAYER OF COMMITMENT

Holy God our Salvation: you roll away the power of sin, bringing forth the One who makes everything alive. Out of the garden of violence and hate which evil has planted, bring forth, we pray, in our lives a spring harvest of love and forgiveness. 

Jesus Christ, Creation’s Gardener: you went into the grave to drive out the power of the world. Shut the doors of pain and death, and open the gates of glorious fellowship with you and one another, we pray, as we follow you as your disciples.

Holy Spirit, Anointer of new life: you speak and open our eyes to faith and touch our lips with glad songs of victory. Roll away our fears, we pray, so that we can tell everyone we have seen the Risen Lord.

God in Community, Holy in One, on this great day of Easter, may we hear your voice calling us your own, and calling us to share. Amen. Alleluia!

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At our 10 a.m. Service, we had the additional blessing of Baptizing Audrey Nixon. We share the joy of the Nixon family, and pray for God’s blessings ever to be poured out upon Audrey without measure! All of us were invited to dip our hands into the Font and make the sign of the Cross on our own foreheads as we came to receive Holy Communion, as a reminder of our own Baptisms. Thank you, Angela Richardson, for these photos of the reception we shared with Audrey and her family after the 10 a.m. Service (and for the cake we shared, also)!

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As we left our 10 a.m. Service, we listened to these songs that continued our celebration as an Easter people.

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After nearly 6 years and 813 posts, I’ve decided to take a break from blogging for the foreseeable future. Thank you to all who have followed or visited this blog (or will visit it in days to come). It’s been a great joy to be able to share the Good News of Our Risen Lord with you through this medium. I pray that he has used it to draw your hearts closer to him. To him be all the praise.

God bless you all, always.

Your Brother in Jesus,
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