Collect for Easter Day

God of glory,
by the raising of your Son
you have broken the chains of death and hell:
fill your Church with faith and hope;
for a new day has dawned
and the way to life stands open
in our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 28:1-10

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he* lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead,* and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’

 

Easter Day – ‘Practice Resurrection’
Reflection from Fiona Haworth

I can’t remember another Easter like this.  The closure of our churches and places of worship has unmoored us from the rituals and the practices that have come to shape our lives.  The rhythm of Holy Week has always provided a way into Easter, a way of engaging with the shock and the joy of the first Easter Day.  Even living in the light of the resurrection, the drama of Holy Week does at least offer a way of engaging with the events of that last tumultuous week in Jesus’ earthly life. 

There is something too about the continuation of tradition, knowing that we gather and worship in patterns laid down centuries ago.  Egeria, a wealthy young woman from what is now Spain, travelled to the Holy Land in around 380 AD, and wrote a letter home describing the worship she shared in during Holy Week and Easter.  We would recognise much of what she describes; the joyful procession with palm branches on Palm Sunday, the poignancy of Maundy Thursday, the solemn veneration of the cross on Good Friday, the expectancy of the Easter vigil, and the explosion of joy and light on Easter Day.  Down through the centuries Christians have gathered to worship in ways Egeria would recognise, until this year. 

So how do we approach Easter?  Perhaps in this time of global uncertainty and fear, we have an opportunity to enter the experience of the first Easter in new and challenging ways.  Reading through the gospels, for all that Jesus spoke openly about his coming death, the disciples seem to have been completely unprepared for the arrest, rigged trial, torture and very public death of Jesus.  How much more then, were they taken aback by the resurrection. 

The gospel accounts of the trial and death of Jesus are largely in agreement.  There are small details drawn out in each, different emphases that shape our understanding of the events that led to Jesus death.  This changes when the gospels come to recount the resurrection.  There are differences in their accounts that are hard to reconcile.  How many women went to the tomb?  How did the news get out when the women witnessing the empty tomb fled, and terrified, said nothing?  Who first saw Jesus, Mary Magdalene alone, or two or more women? 

The people living in this story were deeply traumatised.  The world they knew had come crashing down around their ears.  Their expectations, their hopes, had been comprehensively dashed.   Their own lives were at risk.  It was easier to piece together an account of how it had all ended, than, in the depths of their shock and grief, to account for the new reality they found themselves living.  Encountering Jesus, risen, went beyond any rational explanation of the world, so they didn’t try to explain it, they simply lived it. 

Each of the gospel accounts has a different perspective on Easter Day.  This reading from Matthew has a playful take on those momentous events.  Two intrepid women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, set out for the tomb.  There may well have been a curfew in operation to quell unrest during the Passover.  They leave as dawn was breaking when the streets were quiet, slipping through the shadows.  Did they know a guard had been posted at the tomb to ensure no foul play?  How did they expect to move the stone?  Had they given any thought to what they were doing, or were they compelled by a need to be close to the body, to do for it what they had been prevented from doing because of the Passover?  We are not party to their thoughts. 

And then, suddenly, God intervenes, sending an angel to roll away the stone, and to top this dramatic earth-shaking gesture, the angel uses it as a seat.  I like to imagine the angel taking his time, nonchalantly crossing his legs and arranging his clothing before turning to the women.  The living guards tasked with watching a dead body fall as if dead themselves.  The world is turned upside down.  The angel tells the women, grief stricken, shaken by earthquakes, confronted with apparently dead bodies, not to be afraid, then invites them on a whistle stop tour of the empty tomb, ‘Look, he was here, now he’s gone.  Go!  He has been raised, as he said.’  They leave the tomb and tellingly are described as feeling great joy and fear.  They are at sea, shocked to their core, probably unable to process what they have seen and heard.  The tomb is empty.  Jesus has been raised, but he is not here, he is going to Galilee where they must join him. 

It is as if a giant game of hide and seek has been initiated.  Jesus is going ahead of them to Galilee; yet suddenly he is here in front of them.  Jesus seems to have resisted the urge to say SURPRISE! and offers the more prosaic, ‘Greetings!’ Then he reiterates the message that the angel has given them.  They fall to the floor and worship him, holding on to his feet as if his feet, loved and wounded as they are, are their only anchor in a shifting world. 

This raw mix of emotions experienced by the women is also mentioned elsewhere.  Luke’s gospel says of the gathered disciples, ‘While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.’  At the time of the Ascension, Matthew tells us that as the disciples saw Jesus, they worshipped him, but some doubted.  The resurrection is not an easy thing to comprehend.  Perhaps it cannot ever be really understood, but only lived.  The first followers of Jesus lived in complex times.  The resurrection of Jesus changed the way that they experienced the world, but it did not change the world they lived in.  Palestine remained an occupied land with a reputation for trouble.  Belief in Jesus as Messiah placed his followers at odds with their neighbours, their fellow Jews.  Life was no doubt hard and challenging at times.  It is little wonder that they struggled to live in the new life opened to them by Jesus’ resurrection.  Perhaps their doubt can be understood not as disbelief in the reality of the resurrection but as doubt in their ability to live it. 

We live in challenging times.  Our mooring points have been sept away by the pandemic.  It is not surprising if we come to this Easter carrying a complex mix of emotions, joy, sorrow, despair, anxiety, hope, fear, guilt.  Perhaps we are closer to the experience of the first Easter now than at any time in our lives.  There is no chart for where we are, anymore than there was a chart for the first followers of Jesus.  We will make mistakes and get things wrong.  The farmer poet Wendel Berry writes,

‘Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

We must learn to be a people who practice resurrection.  We look for life in unexpected places and in unexpected people.  We watch for angels and learn to be surprised by holy laughter, turning the world upside down.  We bring our faith, our joy, our doubt, our wondering, just as those first followers did, and we go out into the world and live for Christ, with Christ, trusting that his life will flow through us and out into the world.  We practise resurrection because how else can we live.  Alleluia, Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed, alleluia.

Loving God,
you raised Jesus from the dead to resurrection life,
unsettling his friends,
shaking them into a new experience of the world,
waiting for them to catch up and be transformed.
Unsettle us, shake us into new life,
that we may follow where you lead,
wait for us as we work out where we’re going.
Help us to be a people
who practice resurrection,
living with you and for you
in all the change and challenge of the world,
as signs of your life-giving love.
This we ask in the name of our risen friend and saviour,
Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

Intercessions, prepared by Paddy Panton

Introduction to the intercessions:

Perhaps it is hard to believe on this particular morning, but this is the most wonderful day in our Church’s calendar! Jesus Christ is risen today – ‘Alleluia!’

 

We have renewed our Baptismal Promises - we have had our dramatic and joyful Gospel Reading for the day – we have applied our minds to our Sermon - and now we have reached the relative calm of the Intercessions, this special moment in our Service when the people of God join close together to intercede on behalf of the whole world. It is a moment when we can pray to Him with confidence, knowing that He will use our prayers in ways which are good, just and kind. We may not know precisely what will happen in the days ahead, but if God is with us, then the situation we pray for will undoubtedly be changed for the better. One of the wonderful things of Intercession is to know that it is a moment when we can rejoice in the presence of God. We are not alone this morning, God is at work here and God cares for us.

 

For Easter

O Almighty God, we give you thanks and praise for the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and for his appearances to his loved ones. We rejoice with the whole Church in the joy of the risen Lord.

May we, who know the Good News, go and tell others that he is risen. Grant us that your Church may help to bring peace and hope to a troubled world. May the risen Lord Jesus watch over us this day.

 

We pray for ourselves

O Lord, be with us all this Easter morning. We thank you for your ever protective hands and for love and guidance in our daily lives. Dwell in our hearts each day of this coming week, no matter what difficulties we may face, and help us to stay true to you in the business of our daily lives. Help us to reach out to those around us and try to share the many blessings that you have bestowed upon us.

 

We pray for your Help

O Almighty God, as this Covid-19 virus causes such disruption, uncertainty, anguish, and distress in our lives, we pray especially for all those working with such devotion and courage throughout the National Health Service, in Nursing Homes and Care Centres, and for all those trying so hard to maintain the essential services in our community. We pray for all those manning Supermarkets and Food Banks, and for so many others still working in all areas of our lives, often at great personal danger to themselves. Give them courage, consideration and kindness for others, and unfailing faithfulness in Thy will. 

 

We pray for the sick – we go before God on their behalf

Lord Jesus our Healer, we place in your hands all those on our Church Prayer List this morning who are sick or struggling with illness. We pray especially for those who care for them in times of such stress and worry.

We pray for Pam, Simon, Janet, Brian, Martin and Val.

Where it is possible, ease their pain, give them courage, and be present with them at this time of need.

 

We pray for the departed.

We pray for all those who have died recently, including Isobel Brasier, John Gibson, Betty Inman and Cherry Winter;

and from our ‘Year’s Mind’ list at this Eastertide: Madeline Woodrow, Botright Chaplin, Jim Drane and Delphine Hubbard.

We hold them in our hearts and remember them with gratitude and love. Grant them your peace and let perpetual light shine on them all.

 

Finally, in a few moments of precious silence, let us bring before God our own personal prayers and concerns. Perhaps we pray for someone we know who needs God’s special help to-day. Perhaps we have things on our minds that we hesitate to mention to anybody else. We can be assured that our Heavenly Father understands our needs and that He is surely listening to our prayers. As we pray to Him, let us try to listen to Him speaking to us.

 

God our Father, help us to go out into the world facing all the difficulties that this day may bring, with the light of hope in our eyes, with the knowledge of your trust in our minds, and with the flame of your love in our hearts.

 

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