Easter Sunday Service

Easter greetings from Kilbrandon and Kilchattan Church and the Netherlorn Churches. Christ is risen – he is risen indeed!
 
The link for our on-line worship for Easter Sunday is the following: https://youtu.be/lbYFdh-VX4M
 
For those who would like a copy, below is a script of the service:

SCRIPT 12 APRIL 2020

 

Opening music

 

Welcome and opening prayer

 

Good morning, and a very happy and blessed Easter to you all.  Welcome to our on-line worship from Kilbrandon and Kilchattan Church and the Netherlorn Churches on this very special day – Easter Sunday. The stone is rolled away, and the tomb is empty – the night has passed, and day has dawned, for Christ is risen – he is risen indeed!

 

Once again this Sunday, we all find ourselves having to stay at home and to remain separated from our friends, our neighbours, our wider families, and our churches – disappointing at the best of times, but especially sad on Easter Sunday.  But if Easter tells us anything, it is that we are not alone – we are part of a huge, world-wide community of Christians, who today are rejoicing in the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead and is alive and with us for ever.  And so no matter where we are, no matter our circumstances, we are glad to join together today to worship our Risen Lord.

 

During our on-line worship today, we will hear readings from the Bible.  We will hear music and singing, and maybe even join in with the singing.  We will reflect on the amazing events of that first Easter Sunday nearly 2,000 years ago.  We will hear poetry.  And we will join our hearts and minds together in praying for our families and loved ones, our communities and our nation, and our world, during these sad, difficult and dangerous times.  And afterwards, hopefully we will be able to continue celebrating Easter in our own homes – sadly, Myra and I haven’t managed to get ourselves an Easter Egg this year – but we do have some chocolate!  So wherever you are, and whatever circumstances you may find yourself in at Easter this year, a blessed Easter to you all.

 

Risen Lord Jesus, we greet you! 

Your hands still have holes in them;

your feet are wet from the morning dew;

and with the memory of each of our names, undimmed by death, you meet us, risen from the grave. 

This Easter morning you, the Risen Christ, have come to us –

not to answer all our questions,

not to solve all our problems,

not to confront us with those times when we have deserted you,

but to speak our names kindly and lovingly, one after the other, and to call each one of us to follow you. 

Risen Lord Jesus, we greet you – amen.

 

Bible readings

 

A reading from the Song of Songs, chapter 3 – seeking him whom my heart loves.

 

On my bed at night, I sought him

whom my heart loves.

I sought, but did not find him.

So I will rise and go through the city,

into the streets and into the squares –

I will seek him whom my heart loves.

 

I sought, but did not find him.

 

The watchmen came upon me

on the rounds of the city –

“Have you seen him whom my heart loves?”

 

Scarcely had I passed them

when I found him whom my heart loves –

I held him fast, nor would I let him go!

 

And now a reading from John’s Gospel, chapter 20 – Mary encounters Jesus in the garden

 

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.  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.”  Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb.  The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings there, but he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb.  He saw the linen wrappings lying there and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.  Then the disciples returned to their homes.

 

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.  As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb, and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and one at the feet.  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.”  When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?  For whom are you looking?”  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.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!”  She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).  Jesus said to her, “Do not touch me, do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to my sisters and brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”  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.

 

For the word of God among us, for the word of God within us – thanks be to God.

 

Music (CH4 360 © Wild Goose/CH4 417 © Oxford University Press)

 

Easter is something that has been celebrated over and over again in art – as we’ll be reminding ourselves shortly in our worship together – and in music and singing.  We have so many hymns and songs in our various hymnbooks about Easter, and one of the best-known ones is “Now the green blade rises”.  We’re going to hear the melody for that hymn now, with the words appearing on our screens, and maybe as we hear the melody and see the words, we can join in together and sing it as part of our Easter praise today.

 

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,

wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;

love lives again, that with the dead has been –

love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

 

In the grave they laid him, love whom they had slain,

thinking that never he would wake again,

laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen –

love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

 

Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,

he that for three days in the grave had lain,

quick from the dead my risen Lord is seen –

love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

 

When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain,

your touch can call us back to life again,

fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been –

love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

 

Reflection

 

I am alone again – John and Simon Peter have gone to fetch the others.

 

I am not afraid.

They say that once you’ve known the grip of evil, you are always able to recognise it when it comes again.

But here, this presence is not evil.

There is something good about it, like a blanket that enfolds you, like the warmth we used to feel when he was near.

 

Can it be that Joseph came again?

He might have thought this place too dangerous.

It could be he feared that they’d wreck the tomb.

So perhaps he came back again, and they allowed him to take the body back to Galilee.

 

There’s the gardener – he’ll surely know the answer.

I’ll go and ask him.

 

The Easter story focuses on women.  In our reading from John’s Gospel, early on that first Easter morning, it was Mary Magdalene who went to Jesus’ tomb – the other Gospels tell us that she had other women as her companions, Salome, and Mary the mother of James, the three of them going to the tomb together with spices to anoint the body of Jesus.  It was these three women who first saw that the stone had been rolled away and that the tomb was empty, and it was Mary Magdalene who was the first to be astounded – and overwhelmed with joy – by hearing and seeing the risen Jesus.

 

The scene of Mary Magdalene meeting Jesus in the garden has inspired many artists to depict that scene in their paintings.  Durer, Corregio, Titian – some of the greatest artists who have ever lived.  Go, if you can, to the website for the National Gallery in London (or better still, go to the Gallery itself once our coronavirus isolation is ended) and look at the way in which Titian, for example, paints this incredible scene.  Mary and her companions have discovered the empty tomb.  Everyone else has fled, and she is left all alone.  She doesn’t imagine for one second that Jesus can be alive.  All she knows is that her Lord’s body has disappeared, so someone must have taken it away or even stolen it.  She has come to the garden to care for his dead body.  She has brought spices to anoint the body – she just has to find his body and do this last thing for him.  She is weeping and in great distress. She is interrupted in her grief by the voice of a man she doesn’t recognise, and she presumes him to be the gardener.  As she pleads with him to tell her where he has taken the body of her Lord, he speaks to her – he speaks her name – and in an instant she recognises him.

 

In Titian’s painting, Mary is kneeling on the ground, one hand resting on a jar of spices – the spices which she had brought to anoint Jesus’ body – the other hand trying to touch Jesus.  Surprisingly, Jesus is carrying a gardener’s hoe, as though he had picked it up to reassure Mary that it was natural that she should mistake him for the gardener.   But there’s absolutely no doubt that it is Jesus – the marks of the nails can still be seen on his feet.

 

The words which Jesus speaks to Mary – “Do not touch me, do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.”  Are they a rebuff – is Jesus rejecting Mary, pushing her away?  Many artists show Jesus, at one and the same time, moving away from Mary, and leaning tenderly towards her and over her.  Mary can’t physically touch Jesus – but he is closer to her than she can possibly imagine, loving her more deeply and powerfully than she can possibly imagine.  We can’t physically touch Jesus, we can’t even physically see Jesus the way Mary did – but Jesus is closer to us than we can possibly imagine, loving us more deeply and powerfully than we can possibly imagine. 

 

Now of course, we can’t be physically close to each other this Easter – we can’t go up to each other, our family, friends and neighbours whom we know and love; we can’t do as we would long to do this Easter Sunday – smile directly at each other, talk to each other face to face, shake each other’s hands, give each other a hug or a kiss, feast and celebrate and share food together – we can’t even share coffee and cake and a good blether after our Easter church service.  Things which we have always done in more “normal” times – things which we maybe did without thinking too much about them, things which we maybe took for granted.  Things which we suddenly find ourselves missing hugely, valuing more than we ever did before, now that we’re stopped from doing them.  And this must surely make lots of us feel even more isolated during this coronavirus lockdown.

 

But I’m sure that, like me, many of you will have been discovering other ways of keeping contact with other people whom we know and love and miss.  I have to confess that, over the past three weeks, I’ve found myself contacting far more people and catching up with them, than I would have been contacting in “normal” times.  I’ve found myself phoning and speaking to friends – some near, some quite far off – with whom I’ve been completely out of touch for ages – years in some cases.  And you know what?  It’s been great to be in touch with them again – to renew friendships which would otherwise have been in danger of withering away through neglect.  So this Easter we do remain close to each other in spite of everything, loving and supporting each other, just as this Easter Jesus remains close to us in spite of everything, loving and supporting us.

 

Reading or hearing the Easter story, can make us react in different ways.  Maybe we are moved by it, maybe we are completely unaffected by it.  But this story of the first person to have an encounter with the risen Jesus does ask us questions.  Is it possible for us to follow Jesus’ journey through Holy Week towards his arrest and execution, and not be moved?  Is it possible for us to encounter the risen Jesus, and not be changed?  And is it possible for us to experience what we’ve been going through these past two or three weeks, and not be changed – to be more determined to value our friendships and relationships with other people, and to keep these relationships fresh and alive once this is all over?  Is it possible for our community, our nation, our world to experience what we’ve all been going through, and not be changed – to be more just, caring, gentle and loving towards each other?  On this Easter Sunday, we hear good news that Jesus is alive, that goodness is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death – victory is ours through him who loved us.  Thanks be to God.

 

Poem by Kenneth Steven

 

She had not slept for days.

She had forgotten food.

She barely knew her name.

Just lay and listened to the city sleep.

 

She went because she did not know what else to do.

She did not care or think which path she took;

if they should find her now what could they do:

the one she’d served and loved was dead.

 

A green star on the sky’s far edge

and a single bird sang darkness bright.

She found her way: would watch, keep vigil

until they came to chase her off.

 

She crouched so small so long

the cold crept sore through hands and feet.

Then somewhere on the eastern sky

a wound that opened like a window

and from it poured a broken light

that filled the valley red.

 

She saw the stone was gone, the body gone –

that even here they could not grant him peace,

and through her tore an iron grief

as though beneath deep water.

 

She saw in fragments that a man

stood there before her – doubtless come to mock

and from her poured a waterfall of words

that flowed into the uselessness of grief.

 

Only when he swam before her

and filled her empty eyes

did she fit together all the fragments of his voice

and hear her own name whole and new again.

 

Song

 

The story which we’ve been thinking about – Mary Magdalene encountering Jesus in the garden – is just the first of many stories in the Gospels of people who encountered Jesus on that first Easter Sunday.  Mary met Jesus at break of day – two other followers had a very different encounter with Jesus towards the end of that day, walking from Jerusalem towards Emmaus, meeting and talking with a stranger, realising that that stranger was none other than Jesus himself, and then rushing back to Jerusalem to tell the others, only to find that Mary Magdalene and the other women had beaten them to it.  This is a song from the Wild Goose Resource Group of the Iona Community about that encounter – sung to a traditional Scottish tune: the Silkie.

 

As we walked home at close of day,

a stranger joined us on our way.

He heard us speak of one who’d gone,

and when we stopped, he carried on.

 

“Why wander further without light?

Please stay with us this troubled night.

We’ve shared the truth of how we feel

and now would like to share a meal.”

 

We sat to eat our simple spread,

then watched the stranger take the bread;

and as he said the blessing prayer,

we knew that someone else was there.

 

No stranger he: it was our eyes

which failed to see, in stranger’s guise,

the Lord who, risen from the dead,

met us when ready to be fed.

 

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Alleluia! Alleluia!

As Mary and our sisters said,

the Lord is risen from the dead!

 

Prayers for others

 

Lord God, we join together in your presence at Easter – and yet not together as one body. Like the disciples we are alone behind closed doors. Let the light of Easter come alive in us like the light of the newborn sun after darkness. Open our ears and hearts to the sound of your voice and let the reality of your resurrection light the loneliness all of us are feeling at this time in different ways and to different degrees. Lord, what brings the gospel story alive to us is its honesty and truthfulness. It’s a story not peopled with perfect disciples: instead it’s a story of doubt and despair and darkness where the humans we encounter are so like ourselves. They are broken and they are anxious and they are frail. And yet, despite all the darkness and all their doubt, they have faith. Lord God, help us to remember that the more broken we are the more we are able to let in the light. Fill our broken humanity with all our faults and all our flaws, and give us the courage to go out into a world that needs you to show fragments of your light. Thank you for Easter: thank you that the story of Jesus did not end with the tragedy of his death but passed into the glory of his return.

 

Closing words and blessing

 

He who hung the earth upon the waters, was hung upon a cross.

He who was the king of angels, was crowned with thorns.

He who comforted the sorrowing, received a blow to the face.

He who wrapped the heavens in clouds, was wrapped in a shroud.

He who raised Lazarus from the dead, was laid in a tomb.

He who tasted death for all of us, was raised to life.

We who put our trust in him, will be raised to everlasting life.

 

And may the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us all, those whom we love, and those who love us, this Easter Sunday, the weeks and months that lie ahead of us, and for evermore – amen.

 

 

Closing music