WELCOME TO A DIFFERENT WAY OF WORSHIPPING
April 4, 2021
First, a word on fancy words. In worship we have this phrase we use called liturgy that feels like a formal way of having a worship leader saying stuffy things about God. The word means, “the work of the people” and liturgy is meant to be held, and owned by the worshippers, i.e. you. This service is planned to give you a path, a guide to pray, interact with scripture, wrestle with it – wrestle with God – and in so doing, have a moment of coming face to face with the divine right here, right now.
So, come and lay all the worries of the day aside. Take a deep breath, and we will start with a prayer.
PRAYER OF ADORATION
Glory to you, O God: you have won victory over death, raising Jesus from the grave and giving us eternal life. Glory to you, O Christ: for us and for our salvation you overcame death and opened the gate to everlasting life. Glory to you Holy Spirit: you lead us into the truth. Glory to you blessed Trinity, now and forever. Amen.
CALL TO CONFESSION
Christ himself bore our sin in his body on the cross, so that free from sin, we may rise to live for righteousness.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Lord, bring new life where we are worn and tired; new love where we have turned hard-hearted; forgiveness where we feel hurt and where we have wounded; and the joy and freedom of your Holy Spirit where we are prisoners of ourselves.
Consider your own silent and private confessions…
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Say the bold phrases out loud
To all and to each, on his community and on his friends, where regret is real, Jesus pronounces his pardon and grants us the right to begin again. Thanks be to God! Amen.
PROCLAMATION OF THE WORD
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Lord, we do not always find it easy to recognize your coming to us. Come, reveal yourself to us. Meet us in the breaking of the bread. Set our heavy hearts on fire with love for you, and send us on our way rejoicing. For your name’s sake, Amen.
I know I can only speak for me, but I get a sense that a lot of us are raised with a view of the Easter story that tries to put all the versions together… sort of synchronizing them into one, cohesive story. This composite picture is a good thing because it gives us, especially as children, a single “big picture” story to get our hands around so we can focus on what matters – namely, the message that life is stronger even than death.
But each of the different gospel stories tells it differently, sometimes in the details and sometimes – as we will soon hear – the differences change everything. In Matthew and Mark there is only one angelic figure, while in Luke there are two. Matthew adds guards and an earthquake, while John turns the scene into a long, almost cinematic experience. Mark, the oldest of the gospel stories does something that none of the others do. As we will find in just a moment, Mark’s version ends with uncertainty on whether or not anyone would ever find out that Jesus had risen.
Let me set it up for us, before we read. You see, Mark’s gospel has two official endings, the so-called Shorter and Longer Endings of Mark’s Gospel. Some leading scholars have suggested that the original ending may either have been lost to history, or that the end was what we will read today, and that the shorter and longer endings were later additions by scribes who were dissatisfied with how Mark ended things. This is understandable, because, as we will see, if Mark ends with the Easter story as written, our whole faith hinges on a cliffhanger.
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
There Are No Words
Rev. Jeremy Jinkins
Jesus Christ is Risen Today
SUNDAY SCHOOL AT HOME
Although we can’t be in the same proximity physically, we can be together in spirit. We are happy to be able to provide to you age appropriate Sunday school lessons each week for you to do with your children. Click the Sunday School button to be directed to our weekly lessons.
STAYING CONNECTED FOR ADULTS
Faith Formation is pleased to announce the following adult learning opportunities that are meeting “virtually” while we “shelter in place”. Anyone is welcome to participate. Contact information and more details can be found by clicking the Adult Opportunities button.
RESPONDING TO THE WORD
Profession of Faith
In life and in death we belong to God. Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, we trust in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel, whom alone we worship and serve. We trust in Jesus Christ, fully human, fully God.
Jesus proclaimed the reign of God: preaching good news to the poor and release to the captives, forgiving sinners, and calling all to repent and believe the gospel. Unjustly condemned for blasphemy and sedition, Jesus was crucified, suffering the depths of human pain and giving his life for the sins of the world. God raised Jesus from the dead, vindicating his sinless life, breaking the power of sin and evil, delivering us from death to life eternal. With believers in every time and place, we rejoice that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Prayers of the People and the Lord’s Prayer
O Holy God, beyond our imagining and yet near to us as flesh to fingernails, we come before you this Easter day in gratitude. We confess, O God, that we like to think of Easter as a sunny and warm day, full of light and sweetness, redolent of all that is fragrant in springtime. Yet no matter what the weather outside, on this day your world remains in so many corners a dark and stormy place, sunk deep into the cold winter of sin and evil. Those who first witnessed your Son’s resurrection found it to be a fearful and fearsome event. For you, O great God of surprises, crashed into our reality with something new and unexpected. But on this morning we do not want to forget the darkness of last Friday afternoon and the way by which the Easter victory, about which we so happily sing this day, came about. We cannot forget the sacrifice, the bloody death, the God-forsaken pain of it all. This clash between your kingdom and this world was fierce.
Today we do praise you for all the might, power, and creativity by which you won the victory, Father. We praise you for raising from the dead our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the great shepherd now of all of us sheep who follow him. But because we cannot and must not forget also the darkness of sin that even still is around us, we make petition this morning for all people anywhere and everywhere who continue to feel crucified by a cruel world and yet do not perceive any Easter.
We pray for refugees, for tortured prisoners, for the innocent victims of war. We pray for abused children and battered women, for stricken families from whom a loved one has disappeared without a trace. We pray for the homeless poor and those victimized and diminished by racism, discrimination, and oppression of all kinds. We pray for all those who can see no Easter light because all that is good and lovely has been eclipsed by a depression that will not lift, by chronic pain that will not abate, by a stretch of unemployment with no end in sight, or by a job that is slaying the spirit day by day because the work seems so meaningless. O Lord, the things that led Jesus to the cross have not yet disappeared from the face of the earth. The need for resurrection remains stubbornly present in the lives of millions. Make us, O Spirit of the living God, life-giving spirits to minister to those in need this Easter Sunday and always.
Right here in this congregation there are also needs aplenty. So, we make petition for the widow or widower who marks this Easter for the first time without a beloved spouse who died since last we observed this holy day. Be with anyone who feels that he or she needs to believe in the resurrection more than ever but is finding it more and more difficult because the absence of that dear person is too real to deny, too total to grasp. We pray for those who are sick this day or who are worried about a loved one who is very ill. And be with each of us gathered for to worship. But above all we thank you for the presence of the Spirit of the living Lord, Christ Jesus. As we encounter nothing short of your very self here this morning, may we know for sure that we have indeed been in your sacred presence, and may this encounter in turn embolden us to live an Easter life not only now but also in the days to come and forevermore. Help us to take what we experience and learn here and to allow it to set a holy tone for us always and everywhere. We pray in the name of Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
You are invited to silently lift the names of particular people or situations that weigh heavily on your soul at this time.
We seal these prayers with the one our Lord, Christ Jesus, taught us, saying together:
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 power and the glory, forever Amen.
How can we pray for you?
Click the button to send us your prayer concerns and joys and stay connected.
OFFERING OUR GIFTS
You know, over the last year a lot of communities have suffered, including our own, and a lot of churches have struggled to respond - often because they lacked the resources, energy, or inclination. Things were different here. Many of you know how this church scrambled to reposition our service ministries so that we could continue helping neighbors in Elizabeth, and how we formed a whole new initiative to help feed families right here in Westfield called Agape Local.
Beyond food, we worked to maintain connection with members of all ages, even though in-person has not always been an option. Our church leaders also stayed committed to ensuring that no employees would lose jobs, our school maintained its high level of excellence through this ordeal as well.
Thank you for making it happen. Your generosity - this year perhaps like no other in recent history - made a difference, not only for members of our church, but for the much larger community. You made it possible for our church to make a difference in a year like no other. As the days and weeks ahead allow us to engage in-person more and more, I expect our light to shine brighter and brighter. A new day is dawning, thanks to you.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the one who calls us to new life; the love of the Father, who calls us back to abundant life; and the communion of the Holy Spirit, who sustains us still with every breath we take, be with you now and always. Amen.
PASSING THE PEACE
Peace be with you
Please pass the peace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, to your neighbors.
Some liturgies and prayers for this worship service were supplied by The Worship Sourcebook and the Book of Common Worship (2018 edition). These beautiful worship resources continue to bless worshippers of all ages with their wisdom, depth, and authentic witness to God’s presence and agency in the world.