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Sermon and Liturgy for Easter Sunday - Year A
The Celebration Of The Resurrection
Acts 10:34-43, Matthew 28:1-10
"Looking Into The Tomb"

READING:  Acts 10:34-43, Matthew 28:1-10
SERMON :  "Looking Into The Tomb"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-ea01se 481000
     The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
     for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
     found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
     SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

     Sources: The sermon is based "Three Truths", a meditation found
     in 'The Clergy Journal', Vol LXII, no. 7, May\June 86., pp 40-41 
     The Eucharistic prayer is one based on one found in John 
     Maynard's "Prayers and Litanies for Easter Sunday, Year A" as 
     sent to the PRCL List in 1999.

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)

L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.

SCRIPTURE SENTENCES: (based on Psalm 118:1-2,14-24)
L  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; 
   his steadfast love endures forever!
P  His steadfast love endures forever.
L  The Lord is my strength and my might; 
   he has become my salvation.
P  There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous. 
L  I shall not die, but I shall live, 
   and recount the deeds of the Lord. 
P  The Lord has punished me severely, 
   but he did not give me over to death. 
L  Open to me the gates of righteousness, 
   that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. 
P  This is the gate of the LORD; 
   the righteous shall enter through it. 
L  I thank you that you have answered me 
   and have become my salvation. 
P  The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the chief cornerstone. 
L  This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes!
P  This is the day that the LORD has made; 
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.

CHOIR:  "This Is The Day!"   (VU 175)

Lord God - we gather in the name of the Risen Christ to pour forth
our praises in glad Easter Celebration.  We rejoice that you have
not left us without hope - but have come back to us in the victory
of the resurrection and given us the assurance of eternal life with
he whom you lifted from the tomb.  Praise be to your name - both
now and forevermore.  Amen.

* HYMN:   "Welcome, Happy Morning"                       - VU 161

-- From Death to Life (Dead Bones To Living Flesh)
-- Placing Lilies Upon The Cross & "This Is The Day"     - VU 412

   Two Sunday's ago, when we considered the miracle of the
   raising of Lazarus from the dead by Jesus, shortly before
   his own death, and told the story of how God granted to
   Ezekiel a vision of the valley of dry bones, each person who
   attended worship that day was asked to draw an outline of
   their hand upon a piece of paper.  That was done.  The
   Sunday School then took those hands and did something very
   special to them -- as God brought life to the dry bones and
   put flesh upon them and the breath of life into them and
   raised them up as a new creation - and as Jesus turned the
   weeping at the tomb of Lazarus into rejoicing - so Wendy and
   Mickey and the Children took those hands - and made them
   into an emblem of our Easter Faith - into Easter Lilies. 

   Today as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ - and
   how his death gives us life - and his life means that we
   shall never die - we have before us, against the pulpit the 
   sign and symbol of his love for us - a cross.  Now we are
   going to transform that cross into one of the most enduring
   of all Easter Symbols - by tacking to the cross those lilies
   - and to help us do that - we need the children - and the
   adults that they hand the lilies to.  Let us stand and sing
   "This Is The Day" until it is done.  And let us rejoice and 
   be glad in our singing and our actions, now and always.

   - This Is The Day - VU 412

   (NRSV)  Then Peter began to speak to them: "I truly understand
   that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone
   who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 
   You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching
   peace by Jesus Christ--he is Lord of all.  That message
   spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism
   that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
   with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing
   good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God
   was with him.  We are witnesses to all that he did both in
   Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on
   a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed
   him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were
   chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him
   after he rose from the dead.  He commanded us to preach to
   the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as
   judge of the living and the dead.  All the prophets testify
   about him that everyone who believes in him receives
   forgiveness of sins through his name."

L  This is the Word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.

CHOIR: "Easter Fanfare" 

   (NRSV)  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 
   worshiped him.  Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go 
   and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

L  This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

SERMON: "Looking Into The Tomb"

       Bless thou, the words of my lips and the meditations
       of our hearts that they be of profit to us and
       acceptable to thee, oh our Rock and our Redeemer. 

Where the gospel according to Matthew ends, the Christian faith
begins - in the resurrection of our Lord.

The resurrection exhausts our capacity to imagine and it pushes our
reasoning ability to the breaking point.  However we don't have to
explain the resurrection.  Rather it explains us, it establishes
who we are and why we are here today.  Because Easter happened,
because the resurrection happened, the church happened.

The story of Easter is so familiar that we sometimes fail to hear
some of the details of the account.  Today I want us to look at
three of those details as they are found in Matthew's account of
the first Easter morning.

First, the stone was rolled away - not to let Jesus out - but to
let us in.

I say this because the idea that God rolled the stone away from the
door to let Jesus escape is inconsistent with the resurrection
appearances of Jesus recorded elsewhere in the scriptures. -
appearances in which he suddenly appeared in the midst of the
disciples, even when they were behind closed doors.  Closed doors
never kept Jesus in or out.

Matthew makes this clear in today's reading.  In his account of the
resurrection it was after Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had
come to the tomb that "there was a great earthquake, and an angel
of the Lord rolled away the stone and sat upon it."

For centuries the curious have always wanted to look into the dark
depths of death, but the tomb has been sealed with secrecy.  The
tomb has always mocked us.  It has always stood as the "dead end"
of all our efforts to peer beyond this life into the life to come. 

The angel tells the two women on the first Easter morning to look
inside the tomb, saying to them: "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."

Easter rolls the stone door of the tomb away for us so that we
might penetrate the mystery of death.  It makes of the tomb a
tunnel - a tunnel into the heart of the eternal and shows us that
the holy heart of God is love and life.  God rolls the door of the
tomb away not to let Jesus out - but to let us in - to allow us to
see that Christ's promises are true.

Second - the tomb is not completely empty - Christ's body is not
there, but the place is filled with the words of the angel, the
words we just heard, the words that say, "Look, he is not here, he
is risen."  The words that continue on saying:

   "Come, see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell
   his disciples - he has been raised from the dead and is
   going ahead of you to Galilee, and there you will see him."

If the women on that first Easter morning had looked into an empty
and silent tomb, then our resurrection faith would be a belief
based on human speculation, an assumption of the moment, an
argument based on negative evidence.  

But no!  Our faith is based on a word spoken to us by God.  It is
based on God's holy promise, spoken by Christ before he died, and
upon God's holy assurance - spoken by the angel on the first Easter

That same word that echoed and re-echoed in that Easter tomb still
fills the emptiness of world today.  "He is risen".  The tomb has
become a trumpet proclaiming the victory of life over death, and
the continuation of Christ's presence and mission in this world -
first in Galilee, and ultimately to the ends of the earth. 

The third detail is this - because of Easter we can turn our backs
on the grave. 

Matthew tells us that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, having
heard the angelic assurance, "He is risen", turned their backs on
the grave and ran "with great joy" to tell the disciples.

Joy is the key word here.  Christ was buried, but he wouldn't stay
dead.  The tomb could not hold him - and because of him - the tomb
cannot hold us either. 

This indeed is what Jesus promised to us before he died,
a promise that seemed at the time totally incredible,
a matter, at best, of metaphor, and hyperbole,
but which - because of the first Easter morning,
we now know to be a matter of fact and substance.

The stone of was rolled away from the tomb, not to let Jesus out,
but to let us in, to show us that death is not the end - but rather
a new beginning.

A beginning that proclaims the victory of life over death, and
which allows us to turn our backs on the grave and face our future
with faith and hope, confident that all of God's promises will
indeed bear fruit

* HYMN: "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today"                    - VU 155

L  We are not alone, we live in God's world.
P  We believe in God: who has created and is creating,
       who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, 
       to reconcile and make us new, 
       who works in us and others by the Spirit. 
   We trust in God.
       We are called to be the Church,
        to celebrate God's presence, 
       to live with respect in creation,
       to love and serve others, 
       to seek justice and resist evil, 
       to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, 
       our Judge and our Hope.
   In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. 
   We are not alone. Thanks be to God.

We thank you O God, that the night is over - that through the
resurrection of Jesus a new day has dawned - a day in which your
light dispels even the darkness of death.

Grant courage, we pray, this day to those who struggle with pain
and suffering.  Give strength to those seek justice and resist evil
- even to the point of death.  Grant them the vision of your
eternal kingdom, and show to them in their bodies and in their
souls the victory that Christ has won for them and for all his
faithful servants.

God we thank you that we are not alone - that you are present and
work in us - as you worked in Christ Jesus - to reconcile and make
new all who live in your world.  Help us to always share the peace
that we know through him with those who are in conflict --  to pour
out your love upon those who are lonely and afraid -- and to share
the bounty you have granted us with those who are in need.

Gracious Father - we pray to you this day that you would make our
praise a matter of both word and of action
and that our faith, being established by the truth of Christ's
resurrection, might result in new life within us, and in glory
and honour always being ascribed to thee -
we ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen

DUET:  "Now The Green Blade Rises" (VU-186)

* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: The Offering; the Doxology: "We Give
Thee But Thine Own" (Red 296); and the Prayer of Dedication

   God of life, no gift we bring is adequate to return the love
   you have given us through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Anoint, we
   pray, these expressions of our thanksgiving with power to
   accomplish your will among our neighbours and in your world. 
   Thanks be to you, O God - both now and forevermore.  Amen. 


* HYMN: "Alleluia, Alleluia, Give Thanks"               - SFGP 34

L  The peace of the Lord be with you.
P  And also with you.
L  Lift up your hearts.
P  We lift them up to the Lord.
L  Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P  It is right to give God thanks and praise.
L  Loving and Compassionate God, we give you praise for the care
   and grace which you show toward all that you have made.  We
   thank you for acting to deliver us from the power of sin and
   death through Jesus Christ your only begotten son, our Saviour
   and Lord.  With all creation, and with all the company of the
   redeemed, we magnify your glorious name, evermore praising
   thee, saying:
P  Holy, holy, holy, Lord,
   God of power and might,
   Heaven and earth are full of your glory,
   Hosanna in the highest.
   Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,
   Hosanna in the highest.
L  Eternal God, we trust in you.  We thank you for raising Jesus
   from the dead, the first fruit of all who have fallen asleep. 
   His ascension into heaven to sit at your right hand we confess,
   and his coming again in triumph we await.
P  Come Lord Jesus, come.
L  We remember, O Father, in accordance with his command, how
   Jesus on the night he was betrayed, took bread and blessed it,
   broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take, eat,
   this is body, broken for you".  We remember too how in the same
   manner he took the cup and gave it to his disciples saying,
   "This cup is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, poured
   out for you.  As often as you drink it, do so in remembrance of
P  Worthy is the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain, to receive all
   power and wealth, wisdom and might, honour and glory and
L  Worthy indeed, O Lord, is thy Son Jesus Christ, who died so
   that we might live and who rose from the dead so that we might
   be one with him in your sight.  We pray that our lives may
   always proclaim the mystery of faith:
P  Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
L  Loving God, send your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts
   that the bread we break may be for us communion in the body of
   Christ, and the cup of blessing which we bless may be for us
   communion in the blood of Christ; and that being built up in
   love we may be strengthened in the unity of the faith and come
   to full maturity in Christ our Lord, who taught us to pray
   together - singing:
P  Our Father...

RECEIVING THE SACRAMENT  - The choir will take communion first and
   then sing "Eat This Bread" (VU-466)  as the entire congregation
   comes in a double line up the centre aisle communion in a
   double line, receive the elements, and then return to their
   seats by the side aisles.

L  Let us pray
P  We thank you, O God, for the life and the hope you have given
   us.  Watch over us, make us the people you want us to be -
   through Christ our risen Lord.  Amen.

* HYMN: "The Strife Is O'er"                             - VU 159

* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now
   go forth into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of
   God, the body of Christ.
Go in peace
- and the blessing of the Ever-Present God be upon you, 
- the power of the Risen Christ be within you, 
- and the wisdom and gentleness of the Holy Spirit surround you and
uplift you
both now and forevermore...

* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                    - VU 964

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1999 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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