April 4, 2021 – Easter Sunday
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Message from the Rev. Bob Smith
Welcome to worship on what is the most important date on the Christian calendar – Easter Sunday. It is that day when we would try to get to church early to be sure to get a seat, a day on which our victorious singing would raise the roof, so people walking by out on Guildwood Parkway would be sure to know that something special was happening.
But alas, our church is empty and quiet this morning, and what’s worse, it is the second Easter in a row that this has happened. However, as Helen pointed out last week on Palm Sunday, nothing can stop the singing, and the declaring of the good news that Christ is risen. The story cannot be contained. It is still told, and the hope, new life, and joy that it brought to so long ago are still the foundation of the life of the church today.
Covid restrictions may make this all seem a bit artificial, but we are still gathered, in print and online, by the power of the Holy Spirit who makes us one. And together we still dare to sing, to pray, to reach out to one another and to the world, and to announce the good news that Jesus lives and is with us still.
Hallelujah! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!
Easter blessings to you all,
Rev. Bob Smith
Call to Worship: PWS&D Liturgy
You can listen to the audio recording with Rev. Bob Smith, joining in unison with him and Rev. Helen Smith, while consulting the text below; or just use the text.
Spoken by One (L) / Spoken by All (P)
L: Christ is risen!
P: Christ is risen, indeed!
L: He was dead and now he lives.
P: Hallelujah, Christ is risen!
L: The tomb is empty.
He was dead and now he lives.
The journey begins again Come, let us follow him.
L: And let us start the new journey with prayer:
All: God of life, you came to us and you redeem all things. And now we give ourselves to you and continue your work of good news and reconciliation in the world. Give us the strength to follow you on the mission you have called us to.
In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.
Book of Praise – 243 “Jesus Christ is risen today”
- Video with no on-screen words; sung words identical to those in the hymnbook; click white triangle in the video to start it playing, then use printed text just below to sing along.
Words to hymn
Jesus Christ is risen today, hallelujah!
our triumphant holy day, hallelujah!
who did once upon the cross, hallelujah!
suffer to redeem our loss, hallelujah!
Hymns of praise then let us sing hallelujah!
unto Christ our heavenly King, hallelujah!
who endured the cross and grave, hallelujah!
sinners to redeem and save, hallelujah!
But the pains which he endured, hallelujah!
our salvation have procured; hallelujah!
now above the sky he’s King, hallelujah!
where our angels ever sing, hallelujah!
Sing we to our God above, hallelujah!
praise eternal as his love; hallelujah!
praise him, all ye heavenly host, hallelujah!
Father, Son and Holy Ghost, hallelujah!
- “Jesus Christ is risen today”. Originally written as the Latin hymn “Surrexit Christus hodie” by an anonymous author in Bohemia in the 14th century. First English translation (1708) by Irish cleric John Baptist Walsh (c. 1750–1825) for his hymn collection “Lyra Davidica”; verses revised by John Arnold in 1749; alternate verse 4 written in 1740 by English Methodist leader Charles Wesley (1707–1788) was later adopted into the hymn.
- Music (1708; tune: “Easter Hymn”) from the “Lyra Davidica”.
- This recording made by First-Plymouth Congregational Church, Lincoln, Nebraska, on Easter Sunday, 2013, to an arrangement by their Associate Minister of Music Jeremy Bankson.
Prayers of Adoration, Confession, Lord’s Prayer
Gracious God, we come before you on this morning of resurrection. We expected to find your son among the tombs and graveclothes of the world, but he is alive. Sin could not hold him. Death could not bind him. And just as we have been weeping and mourning that he has been taken from us, he meets us in the garden of the new life and sends us running to share the good news of the gospel to the very ends of the earth. His is risen indeed. We have seen him, and so we believe that joy comes from grief, and life is ours in him. And so we praise you, O God, Creator, Redeemer and Spirit, one God forever.
Almighty God, in raising Jesus from the grave, you shattered the power of sin and death. We confess that we remain captive to doubt and fear, bound by the ways that lead to death. We overlook the poor and the hungry, and pass by those who mourn; we are deaf to the cries of the oppressed, and indifferent to calls for peace. Forgive us, God of mercy. Help us to trust your power to change our lives and make us new, so that we may know the joy of life abundant given in Jesus Christ, our risen Lord. And hear us now as we join in the prayer that he taught us:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those
who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and forever.
Declaration of Pardon
Friends in Christ, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead demonstrates the power he has over even sin and death. By his grace, forgiveness is assured, and we are given life in abundance. Thanks be to God.
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
(And also with you.)
- “Now Let the Vault of Heaven Resound”. Words by American pastor and editor Paul Zeller Strodach (1876–1947). Music (tune: “Lasst uns erfreuen”) from “Auserlesene Katholische Geistliche Kirchengesänge” (Cologne, Germany; 1623); harmony (1906) by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958). Words, tune and harmony in the public domain.
- Performed by the GCPC Senior Choir and Rachelle Risling (keyboard), who also handled audio production.
- Audio recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
It was always a little hard to get a handle on Jesus, for his friends as well as his enemies. He was always on the go, moving from place to place, sleeping on a friend’s couch one night, under the stars the next, going where the Spirit led him, and the people would receive him.
And pin him down on anything? Forget it. Just when you think you have him cornered in an argument, he turns it around, stands the whole thing on its head and then hands it back to you to decide what to do. No one could figure him out, either friend or foe.
Jesus, choose between God and Caesar. No. Both have a claim on our lives. Jesus, do I have to forgive seven times? Not quite. You have to forgive until the cows come home. Jesus, help us condemn this sinful woman. I don’t think so. Let’s find a way to forgive her. Jesus, we’ll never let anything bad happen to you. Think again. I will suffer and die for you.
Jesus was a loose cannon, trouble wherever he went. In the end, the people who found him most troublesome figured the only way to get a handle on him was to nail him to a cross, once and for all.
So they did. Pin him down for good. Maybe that way we can keep an eye on him. Problem solved… they thought.
But that was Friday, and this is Sunday. And guess what? He’s gone. Slipped through their fingers one more time. The women come to visit the tomb, and find the stone is rolled back and the body has vanished.
They’re terrified — a pretty reasonable reaction, I’d say. And if they’re afraid, just think about how those who engineered his death must feel.
“We thought we fixed him. He was dead and buried, he was last week’s news. We thought on a cross, in a tomb he would sit still, but he’s on the loose again.”
And where is he? Well, the one place we know he’s not is where we left him, in the tomb. Reports over the next few day have him popping up all over the place.
He chats with two people on the road, but for some reason they don’t recognize him. Then he has supper with them, and as soon as they figure out who he is, he disappears. He meets some by appearing with them in a room where the doors are locked. He has breakfast with others on a beach. It’s like he’s playing hide and seek — he’s here and then he’s gone, he’s in one place and then another.
He’s on the loose again, and back to his old tricks. Back at the tomb, the women have not come looking for resurrection, so that’s not what they see. They come looking for death, and find even less than that — they find emptiness, loss, terror. Even the little they think they have to hang onto — a dead Saviour — is gone.
There’s a young man at the tomb. “Don’t be afraid,” he says — (easy for him to say!) “You’re looking for Jesus? He’s not here. He’s been raised. Go and tell the others that he’s alive, and that he’ll meet you all back in Galilee.”
That’s an important piece of information. They don’t even get it immediately, that he’s alive. In fact, they’re so afraid at first, they don’t tell a soul. But slowly it sinks in. And with him appearing all over the place, word gets around, the Saviour is alive!
But knowing where to look for him is a helpful detail, don’t you think? After all, what good is a risen Christ if you don’t know where to find him? If Jesus is on the loose again, then how will we catch up with him?
By going back to Galilee. Back to the places you know and the routines that are yours. Back to your home and work and school and play. Back to where this journey started so it can begin again on an even grander scale and with a more daring mission.
Mark’s original account of the life of Jesus probably ended where we did, with the women at the empty tomb, taking off, paralyzed into silence by their fear.
It’s a pretty disappointing way to wind up such a good story.
If it were a movie, we would want our money back, or we would write a review saying it felt a little “unfinished,” that there were some loose ends left dangling.
There are no appearances of the risen Jesus, no restoration of Peter and the others, no rejoicing at hope recovered or new life promised, no hinting at the birth of a church, faithful and true, that would continue the ministry he started… Just a Saviour, gone missing, and the first witnesses, too scared to pass on the message.
The credits roll, and we look at each other, and ask: “What now? What happens next? Jesus is still on the loose. How does the story end?” It’s like waiting for the second shoe to drop.
It seems the early church was embarrassed by this, and not long after Mark sent his gospel off to the publisher, they added some more material from other sources to fill out the story and make it seem more complete.
But I wonder if Mark didn’t have the right idea. Maybe what he’s saying that this is the story that never ends, the story that is still being written in the lives of the faithful. Maybe he’s saying that “Jesus on the loose out in the world” a good way to leave him, still catching us off guard, still ready to turn the tables on those who live too comfortably, or judge too quickly, or love too selectively.
So where do we look for him? What good is a risen Christ, if you don’t know where to find him? Well, the young man at the tomb tells us — in Galilee. In your own hometown, in the familiar and every day. All around you, and within you.
Easter means the Saviour is not nailed down but set loose to continue his work in the world; he’s not confined in the tombs of dusty old stories and worn out traditions, but out in the ebb and flow of everyday life; not shut up in a box, finally tamed and on good behaviour, but still at large, making trouble, stirring things up, people hope.
Where will you find him? Wherever you need him. That’s resurrection.
He will be there when the bottom has fallen out of your world, to pick you up and hold you close. He will be there when everyone is dumping on you and judging you, to speak words of grace and mercy and acceptance. He will be there when you are exhausted and bent over with the weight of life, to share your burden, and give you rest.
He will be there when you thought that you were all alone, to walk with you and give his peace. He will be there when you thought your life might just as well be over and hope was gone, to show you your future in God and give you a reason to keep going.
You will see the risen Christ at work in the world… where truth is told and good news announced, where relationships are healed, where promises are honoured, where divisions are mended, where barriers are taken down, where life is given, and where abundance is realized.
Resurrection means that Jesus is still out there, a Saviour on the loose, shaking things up, making all things new. Let’s find him, and join in the adventure.
We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of Sunday worship, you may sign up for pre-authorized remittance (PAR), donate online, or drop off your offering envelope in the mailbox at the church. Do not leave a cash donation unattended in the mailbox; instead, please call the office (416.261.4037) to ensure someone will be there to receive it. The building will be checked daily for mail and phone messages. If you are not comfortable leaving an envelope, you are welcome to contact the office (once again, 416.261.4037) and someone will pick up your offering.
Prayer of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Hope
As Christ offered himself sacrificially in response to your call, O God, so we offer ourselves and our gifts to be used in your service. And as you filled him with life and power, so fill us by the power of your Spirit. Use our gifts and transform our lives, that we may be the living presence of your reign on earth, now and always.
As God’s people, called to love one another, we pray for the needs of the church, the whole human family and all the world. We pray for churches of all traditions on this day of resurrection, that we may discover the hope we have in Christ’s rising from the dead, the unity we have in him, and his calling to serve him in the world.
We pray that in the new age which the risen Saviour brings, the earth may be freed from war, famine, and disease, and that the air, soil and water be cleansed of all that poisons them.
We pray for those who govern and maintain peace in every land, that they may exercise their powers in obedience to your commands, and with concern and compassion for all those over whom they rule.
We pray that you will preserve all who live and work in this community and city in peace and safety, and that you would grant us well-being and joy.
We pray that you will comfort and empower those who face any difficulty or trial, those who are sick, disabled, poor, or oppressed, and we name before you now those known to us who stand in need of your care…
We pray that you will strengthen this nation to pursue just priorities so that the races and peoples may be reconciled; those who are young educated, those who are old cared for, those who are hungry filled, those who are homeless housed, those who are sick comforted and healed, and those who are bereaved sustained with the good news that Christ has conquered death and is risen to rule the world. Remind us how our welfare is directly linked to those suffer, and that, as Christ came to set all people free, our mission as his people is not accomplished as long as there are people in need.
As we go into the world in your service, O God, may we be present for each other. Give us hearts strong enough for the disappointments along the way, patient enough to endure the struggle, and loving enough to withstand the temptations around us, in the strength and presence of the risen Christ.
God of glory, fill us and all your church with the power that flows from Christ’s resurrection, that, in the midst of this sinful world, it may signal the beginning of a renewed humanity, risen to new life with Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.
Book of Praise – 258 “Thine be the glory”
- Video with on-screen words exactly as in the hymnbook.
- Original French words written in 1884 by Swiss Protestant minister and hymnwriter Edmond Louis Budry (1854–1932) as “À toi la gloire”; English translation (1923) by English pastor Richard Birch Hoyle (1875–1939).
- Music: set by Budry to the tune of the chorus “See, the Conqu’ring hero comes” from the 1746 oratorio “Judas Maccabaeus” by George Frideric Handel (1685–1759).
- Performed by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.
Commissioning and Benediction
Go now in peace,
and in the hope of the risen Christ of Easter,
to join in his life-giving work in the world.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit
be with you all, now and forever. Amen.
- “Go Now in Peace”. Words by American educator, lyricist and composer Don Besig (1936–) and American lyricist Nancy Price (1958–). Music by Don Besig. Words and music copyright © 1988 Harold Flammer Music, a division of Shawnee Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Performed by Rachelle Risling (keyboard) and the GCPC Senior Choir. Audio and video production by Rachelle Risling.
- Audio and video recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
- “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”. For more on the base tune (“Easter Hymn”), see the Opening Hymn above. This arrangement by American organist and composer Diane Bish (1941–).
- Base tune in the public domain. This arrangement copyright © 1982 Fred Bock Music Company; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Performed on the organ in the GCPC sanctuary by Rachelle Risling, GCPC Music Director; recorded April 2, 2021; video production by Rachelle Risling.
- Video recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
Copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated on 2021-04-29 at 22:25 – corrected info in Call to Worship instructions.