Easter Sunday 2020

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

If you cannot join us on our Facebook live stream of Sunday worship, you can join us in spirit! Why not find hooters or bells or a saucepan-and-spoon drum and join us outside at 10am on Easter Sunday to proclaim “Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, ALLELUIA!”

You might then want to sing two wonderful Easter hymns with Christians across the UK as part of Churches Together “Sing Resurrection”! https://ctbi.org.uk/sing-resurrection/

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

First Reading: Acts 10:34-43 (NLT)

34 Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. 35 In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. 36 This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. 38 And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

39 “And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, 41 not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. 43 He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”

Gospel Reading John 20:1-18 (NLT)

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home.

11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

16 “Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

17 “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

This is the Gospel of the Lord! Praise to you, O Christ!

Noli me Tangere by Titian approx 1541 – now held in the National Gallery


The image above is of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the garden, when a distraught Mary realises that the one who addresses her is not the gardener but her risen Lord. Its title means “do not hold on to me” – the words Jesus says to her, as her first impulse is to cling to her friend. It is an image of aching loss, desperate longing, glimmering hope and the joyous love which overcomes death.

During WW2 when bombs rained down on London, the collection of art from the National Gallery was removed from the capital to be keep safe in a Welsh slate mine. But in 1942, the Gallery reopened with just a single “Picture of the Month” on display as a letter to The Times explained: “Because London’s face is scarred and bruised these days, we need more than ever to see beautiful things.” The first picture they chose to display was this one.

Almost 80 years later, in the midst of another national crisis, we too live in a world filled with loss and longing, hope and love. It is not easy to shout our Alleluias when we are scared and confused. Don’t feel guilty if today isn’t a straightforwardly celebratory as it has been in the past – it may be a sign that you are closer to Easter than you think. Those first disciples felt fear and confusion alongside their hope and joy too.

Easter erupted into broken lives, among broken people in a broken country. It did not solve every problem, restore every loss, heal every hurt and right every wrong. But it is a sign and a promise that all these things are held by the God who will, one day, restore all that is lost, heal all that has been hurt and right all that is wrong. This is true. This we can cling to.

The writer of Hebrews says “faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being sure of what we do not see.” It is in faith we shout our Alleluias. Not in denial of the pain and grief that surrounds us, but because we know that pain and grief are not the end of the story. In Easter, we see the desolation and despair of Good Friday overcome by the life and love of God, and know that all we ever experience is held within that story of hope.

A couple of weeks ago, there was phone video of footage of Brazil in lockdown and an entire city block singing from their balconies. The song they sang was an old Gospel song I used to sing with my grandmother. It is a bit cheesy and oversimple, but its words seem more pertinent than ever to me this Easter and I share them with you now:

And so, because Jesus lives, let us in faith and hope proclaim this truth:

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!


In joy and hope we pray.
We pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That our risen Saviour may fill us with the joy of his
glorious and life-giving resurrection,
and in these days of uncertainty and worry
help us to be people of hope,
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That isolated and persecuted churches
and those Christians who must isolate during this crisis
may find fresh strength in the good news of Easter
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That God may provide for those who lack food,
work, or shelter
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That by his power war and famine
may cease through all the world,
and that those fleeing conflict
will be protected and provided for
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That he may reveal the light of his presence to the sick,
the weak and the dying,
to comfort and strengthen them,
sustain and protect all those who care for the ill,
and daw near to those who grieve
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

That he may send the fire of the Holy Spirit upon
his people,
so that we may bear faithful witness to his resurrection,
we pray to the Father.
Hear our prayer.

Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour,
Jesus Christ.

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