Home Worship Guide for Easter Sunday
April 12, 2020

Welcome

Welcome to worship! On this is Easter Day, we celebrate God’s victory over sin and death by raising Jesus from the dead. In raising Jesus up, God validates Jesus’ new command that we love one another. Resurrection is God’s pronouncement to the world, once and for all, that forgiveness and peace cannot die. Reconciliation and healing cannot die. Faith, hope, and love cannot die. What a wonder and privilege that this resurrection message lives on in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. What a gift to have a share in God’s new creation with the gift of life, abundant and eternal.

Let go of the distractions and burdens you carry into this time. Rest in the unfailing presence of God, who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Call to Worship

Click here if you would like to view the text of the song as you listen.

 

Who but You
Could breathe and leave a trail of galaxies
And dream of me
What kind of love
Is writing my story ’til the end
With mercy’s pen
Only You

What kind of King
Would choose to wear a crown that bleeds and scars
To win my heart
What kind of love
Tells me I’m the reason He can’t stay
Inside the grave
You is it You
Standing here before my eyes
Ev’ry part of my heart cries

Alive alive
Look what mercy’s overcome
Death has lost and love has won
Alive alive
Hallelujah risen Lord
The only One I fall before
I am His because He is alive

Who could speak
And send the demons back from where they came
With just one Name
What other heart would let itself
Be broken ev’ry time ’til He healed mine
You only You
Could turn my darkness into dawn
Running right into Your arms

Alive alive
Look what mercy’s overcome
Death has lost and love has won
Alive alive
Hallelujah risen Lord
The only One I fall before
I am His because He is alive

Emmanuel the promised King
The Baby who made angels sing
Son of Man who walked with us
Healing breathing in our dust
The Author of all history
The answer to all mysteries
The Lamb of God who rolled away
The stone in front of ev’ry grave

Alive alive
Look what mercy’s overcome
Death has lost and love has won
Alive
I am His because He is alive
Alive

Prayer

Our God in Heaven, we gather as your church to celebrate your perpetual gift of new life to us. After the despair of the cross, the spectacle of the worst that lives within us, you remove the rock that encloses our tombs of doubt and remove the sting of death. In the light of your love we come to know that your Son is the true lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

And as we worship, we confess our shortcoming – our failure to live out that resurrection reality in our lives. We confess our lack of faith, which keeps us huddled near the empty tomb, peering into the hollow darkness of doubt while the world around us is blooming in new life, pushing itself out of the cold earth into the warmth of resurrected living.

O God, make real in us today the mystery and wonder of our resurrected Christ!

May the power of that first Easter morning, witnessed by few and believed by many, that morning when death lost its sting and fear lost its claim on our hearts, when despair was banished and hope rose resplendent like the morning sun – may that power come alive in our hearts today.

Hallelujah! Christ is risen. So may your name be praised this day as we offer our lives in prayer to you as the risen Lord taught us:

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 trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hymn – Victory In Jesus

On this Resurrection Sunday, we celebrate God’s victory over sin and death. It is a triumph only God could achieve. With grateful hearts, look upon God’s work of grace and rejoice in our salvation from sin and death, and learn to walk in that grace and share the Good News to the world. As we celebrate Easter today, may you grow in gladness and grace of it every day.

Click here if you would like to view the text of the song as you listen.

 

I heard an old, old story,
How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning,
Of His precious blood’s atoning,
Then I repented of my sins
And won the victory.

O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

I heard about His healing,
Of His cleansing pow’r revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again
And caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, “Dear Jesus,
Come and heal my broken spirit,”
And somehow Jesus came and bro’t
To me the victory.

I heard about a mansion
He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold
Beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing,
And the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I’ll sing up there
The song of victory.

Scripture Reading – John 20:1-18

1 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. 2 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.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 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. 13 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.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 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.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 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.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Meditation

Listen to the sermon audio using the player above, or click this summary to read the complete text. An archive of this and other sermons is found on the Yates sermon page.

 

From time to time, I look at the old videos we took of our children when they were very young. One of my favorites includes one of my sons sitting in the crook of my lap, back against my knees, drooling and trying to grasp his rattle. I’ll shake it, he notices and reaches for it. I hand it over, but he’s unable to grasp it. I’m encouraging, but it’s just impossible for him. He hasn’t developed the fine motor skills to get his fingers and thumb to work together with his will, and so that slobbery rattle slips around his palms like a greased watermelon. For those of us who have watched children grow, we know how significant it is for them to establish a personal grip on the physical world. It’s one of their first experiences of power and control.

Much of our life is spent around that goal, I think. We talk about it in different ways: if someone is acting out, we tell them to “get a grip.” If someone’s confused, we ask more questions in order that we might “grasp” what is being said. If we’re clumsy, we might say we’re “all thumbs.” The only way to maintain control, it seems, is to improve our grip.

Mary is the first to arrive at the tomb where they laid Jesus after he died. Can you see her taking each grim step, measuring her pace? We know that walk, we know how it feels: step after step, with no sense of secure footing, not wanting to move forward but painfully aware you cannot go back. Those days after a death, you know how lost you feel, even when you take the most familiar routes. You know the numbness, the shock, the sense of having to do something, with nothing left to do for someone you love.

Seeing the stone rolled away and the tomb empty, Mary starts running back to tell the disciples that Jesus’ body is gone. She has interpreted the empty tomb as further tragedy, a stake plunged into an already hurting heart. Not only had they killed Jesus, now someone had stolen his body, a horrible, awful last insult. Mary will not understand until she sees the risen Christ and hears him call her name, “Maria! Mary!”

The disciples stand in wonder by the empty tomb. In the garden, Mary comes face to face with the resurrected Christ, she reaches out to take hold of him. In a strange turn, Jesus tells 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.”

Let me go. Release me. Do not take hold of me. This is an Easter saying that is truly difficult for us to grasp. What I think we are to see is that the new life we celebrate at Easter is not simply an improvement of the way things were. It is not as if we have tidied up the ratty corners of the house and made it more presentable for company. Jesus’ resurrection is the inauguration of a whole new creation.

To proclaim resurrection, to embrace the living Lord, is to commit to a life that is transformed, made new in Christ. We must release our desire to control or contain him, to get him to do what we want. To live in light of the resurrection is to walk in a new way that leads us into the world led on God’s loving terms. Release your grip and live in the world according to God.

In his book Forgotten Among the Lilies, Ronald Rolheiser includes a poem called “Mary Magdala’s Easter Prayer,” which captures the mystery and power of this moment well:

I never suspected

Resurrection

to be so painful
to leave me weeping

With joy

to have met you, alive and smiling, outside an empty tomb

With regret

not because I’ve lost you
but because I’ve lost you in how I had you –
in understandable, touchable, kissable, clingable flesh
not as fully Lord, but as graspably human.

I want to cling, despite your protest

cling to your body
cling to your, and my, clingable humanity
cling to what we had, our past.

But I know that…if I cling

you cannot ascend and
I will be left clinging to your former self
…unable to receive your present spirit.

To receive the risen Lord into the world is a call to let go, to learn to let go of our own sin, and to allow God in Christ to forgive us and heal us. We can define ourselves not by the shameful things we’ve done but by the wondrous things God’s done. In letting go of our own sin also letting go of sins done to us, we walk in a new way that leads us into the world led on God’s loving terms. We start living in the world according to God. That is a bit of what Easter is for us individually.

But what about our church?

We know that to celebrate Easter this year presents a particular challenge, because we have lived a scattered, isolated existence for some time. For love’s sake, we stay at home, we do not gather and celebrate in the ways that bring us the comfort that familiarity and tradition always bring.

We are learning different ways of being the church. We continue to stay connected, seek out ways to mobilize on mission, practice our discipleship through prayer, study, worship and giving. And while I am certain that things will not always be this way, I have grown more convinced that we cannot go back to the way things were. If we are to celebrate Easter, especially this year, it is with a clear-eyed understanding that when we emerge from the tombs of our home quarantine, it will be a moment of resurrection power. Will we cling to what was? Are we listening and looking for the new thing that is being revealed to us?

Of course, I am talking about the change we cannot and should not avoid after all we have experienced. Churches have been notoriously difficult about change. About a year ago I attended a seminar about leading churches through change. I’ll never forget how he spoke against that. “People don’t fear change,” he said. “People fear loss and change always brings loss along with it.”

Whatever God is doing in us, right here and now, is going to require us to step into something new. The risen Christ had more, much more, to show Mary and the other disciples on this side of Easter. If they only clung to the Jesus they had known before the empty tomb, it would not have been enough. And as the risen Christ revealed what God is doing through the Advocate, the Holy Spirit he promised, I believe it is so for us, too.

Will you be able to set down the world according to you? Will we be able to set down the world according to Yates? Let us, in trust, look beyond the fear of letting go and look courageously at the world according to God – and proclaim the good news of this day: “He is risen. Alleluia!” Amen.

Response Through Giving

We encourage you to give your offerings online through Pushpay here, through the Yates app, or by mail (2819 Chapel Hill Road, Durham, NC, 27707). We are growing into new ways to be the church together and your giving allows us to keep being the church, even in the absence of our physical presence.

Response In Prayer

For the next few minutes, consider the question “What does ‘Letting Go’ mean?” Our ministers will share a few stories from their lives, but this question comes with an invitation to you, too:

  • In silence, ask yourself “What does ‘Letting Go’ mean?” Ask God, what is it in my life that I need to release in order to receive more fully the presence of the risen Christ on his terms?
  • If you are gathered with other members of a household, take time to discuss this question in light of what God has been saying to you in worship today.
  • If you are worshiping in solitude, consider this question and express your thoughts aloud or as a journal exercise.

Benediction

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” – Hebrew 13:20-21

We are grateful to the congregation of First-Plymouth Congregational Church in Lincoln Nebraska for making this sendingsong come alive for us in this video! Click here if you would like to view the text of the song as you listen.

 

In the deserts of your life, I’ll not desert you.
I will make a way beside a flowing stream.
Through the valley, do not fear, for I am with you;
My rod and staff to comfort and redeem.

In the darkness of your life, I will not leave you.
In the shadow, I’m your light, your lamp, your sun.
I will be the star that shines above to guide you,
a light unto your path to lead you on.

Do not be afraid, I go before you. Do not be afraid, I am by your side.
Be still and know that I am with you. Let your faith be stronger than your fear.

When you’re weary, when you’re faint, I will be with you.
I will raise you up to soar on eagle’s wings.
I will be the joy that seeks you through your sorrow.
Unending hope my resurrection brings.

When the storms of life assail, I will uphold you.
I will strengthen you; I’ll be the help you need.
Though the waters rage and foam, fear not, I’m with you.
I am the way, the truth, the life, indeed!

Do not be afraid, I go before you. Do not be afraid, I am by your side.
Be still and know that I am with you. Let your faith be stronger than your fear.

Do not be afraid, I go before you. Do not be afraid, I am by your side.
Be still and know that I am with you. Let your faith be stronger than your fear.

 

Blessings to you on this day of worship!

Click here to visit the worship experience from March 15, 2020.

Click here to visit the worship experience from March 22, 2020.

Click here to visit the worship experience from March 29, 2020.

Click Here to visit the worship experience from last week (April 5, 2020)