April 11, 2021 – Second Sunday of Easter
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Message from the Rev. Helen Smith
For centuries in many Christian faith traditions, the week following Easter Sunday has been observed by the faithful as days of joy and laughter, with parties and picnics to celebrate. The first Sunday after Easter is known as Holy Hilarity Sunday. This dates back to the 1200s. It recognizes that, while worship is a serious business, it should never be without laughter and joy. Happy Holy Hilarity Sunday. Try saying that five times quickly!
Rev. Helen Smith
Call to Worship
This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Christ being raised from the dead, dies no more. Rejoice in the Lord, always. And again, I say, rejoice!
Book of Praise – 249 “The Day of Resurrection”
- Video with on-screen words with significant differences from the hymnbook in verse three.
- Original Greek words by St. John of Damascus (675/676–749); English free translation (1862) by English priest and hymnwriter John Mason Neale (1818–1866). Music (tune: “Ellacombe”) first published in the Gesangbuch der Herzoglichen Hofkapelle, Würtemberg, in 1784. Words, translation and music in the public domain.
- Recorded at Christ Church Episcopal Church in Pelham, New York.
Prayers of Approach and Confession, Lord’s Prayer
Creator God, you smiled and the sun burst through the chaos of darkness, you laughed and the platypus splashed to life. Laughing Jesus, you brought peace and joy out of despair and fear. The tomb could not hold you. Spirit of Easter, you tickle our souls with grace and fill us with new life. We come to worship you, Creator, Redeemer, Spirit.
You know better than we do, O God, what important people we believe we are. Believing we have to be serious all the time, we miss out on the joy of your creation. Choosing to focus on the negative, we blur the positive. Clinging to the despair which is our best friend, we ignore Jesus, who can bring us home to your heart.
Forgive us, Lord, when we take ourselves too seriously, when we don’t claim the happiness that is rightfully ours as your children, when we forget that you will have the last laugh in this world. Forgive us, and make us open to the startling and upside-down ways in which you work. Restore to us the joy of your salvation, renew a right spirit within us, fill us with Easter’s laughter, fill us with your healing joy.
We pray in Jesus’ name and continue to pray as he taught, saying:
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.
Assurance of Pardon
(written by Thom M. Shuman)
The gospels tell us over and over again of the joy which comes to us through Christ. When Jesus was around, lives were changed: the sick were healed, the sorrowful began to laugh. The good news is that this joy is now given to us. Through the Holy Spirit we are gifted with joy. We are sent forth to bring good news to the oppressed, to bring healing to the broken, to anoint everyone with the oil of gladness. Thanks be to God, we are forgiven. Amen.
The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
It was Holy Saturday afternoon. A woman was doing her baking for Easter dinner the next day. There was a knock at the door. She went to find a stranger there, looking for odd jobs.
She said: “Can you paint?”
“O yes,” he said, “I’m a rather good painter.”
“Well,” she said, “There are two gallons of green paint there and a brush, and there’s a porch out back that needs to be painted.”
She went back to her baking. A while later there was another knock at the door.
“Did you do a good job?” she asked, reaching into her wallet to pay him.
“Oh yes,” he replied, “but lady there’s one thing I’d like to point out to you. That is not a Porsche back there. That is a Mercedes.”
Or here’s one that Susan Tomkins shared with me: A pastor giving a children’s sermon on vestments asked: “Why do you think I wear this collar?” One kid answered: “Because it kills ticks and fleas up to 30 days.”
In Scotland there have been times when offering plates were rarely full. During one of those dry periods, an old Presbyterian cleric looked down at the returned plate and prayed, “Well, Lord, we thank you for the safe return of the plate.”
The Anglican Bishop went to an unfamiliar church to lead in worship. There was a microphone at the pulpit and as he was uncertain whether it was switched on or not, he tapped it gently with no result. Then leaning in very close to it, he said, in a loud whisper which echoed through the whole church,
“There is something wrong with this microphone.”
The well-trained and responsive congregation, very familiar with the very latest in liturgical language, replied at once, “And also with you.”
Welcome to the Sunday after Easter, Holy Hilarity Sunday. It celebrates the fact that the resurrection of Jesus is God’s ultimate joke on the principalities and powers that drag us down. It is a testament to God who, as the Psalmist writes in the 2nd psalm, “sits in the heavens and laughs” at the forces that seek to thwart God’s purposes.
There is the Bavarian practice that has the faithful gathering back in church on Easter afternoon for a time of story-telling and practical joking. There is the early orthodox tradition of Easter Monday gatherings for stories, jokes and anecdotes. To this day, in Slavic regions, Christians gather the day after Easter for folk dancing and feasting in the churchyard. Latin speakers call it Risus Pashalis, God’s Joke. We call it Holy Hilarity Sunday, a time to laugh, a time to stop and laugh at the joke God plays on darkness and death.
Even this year, the music of Easter lifted our spirits. The weather co-operated and we were able to get out to experience the joys of the earth. Bob and I were able to get our vaccines, truly a gift of new life! Telephone calls, Zoom get-to-gethers, a postcard reminding us that God is our shelter and our strength, all of these added to our celebrations of Easter. And then Monday morning arrived, with covid cases rising, racial profiling in North York, the military in Myanmar continuing their crackdown, Kovrig and Spavor still in prison in China, landslides leaving at least 41 dead in Indonesia, riots and car bombings continue the unrest in Belfast and Londonderry, and, before the decision was made for us, we struggled with whether or not we should be sending our children to school in light of the variants of the corona virus.
For the disciples, yes, they heard the good news of the story of the women and the empty tomb, but maybe that is just a story. And so they are fearful, afraid of the authorities. If the authorities crucified Jesus, what will the authorities do to Jesus’ followers? And so they hide behind locked doors, out of fear.
In the midst of their fearfulness, Jesus arrives. And he says those words we all need to hear: “Peace be with you.” Peace. Wholeness, completeness, total wellbeing. Where do I need peace in my life right now? Where do you need peace in your life right now? All of us, I’m sure, can attest to the fact that life seems unmanageable at times. We live in a broken world. People’s lives are daily being torn apart and challenged. Jesus brings peace into our lives, peace that is connected with the gift of the Holy Spirit, peace that enables us to forgive and find forgiveness.
Perhaps you are like Thomas. I know I probably would have been. He was devastated by what had happened to Jesus. His hopes had been shattered. We may find ourselves in the same boat as Thomas. Life has dealt some crushing blows. In many ways, we may call ourselves Easter people, but we still feel like we’re living in a Good Friday world. Perhaps, like Thomas, we did not give ourselves the chance to get God’s joke. We were …elsewhere. But now we are all here. Thomas too, and Jesus says to him: “Look Thomas, put your finger here. See my hands, reach out your hand and put it in my side.”
With eyes as big as saucers, Thomas doesn’t even bother to check before he responds: “My Lord and my God!” Now Thomas is in on the joke too.
When Jesus’ presence was felt on the scene and his peace descended upon them, he was giving Thomas, the disciples, and even us, the hope we so desperately need in our continuing journey, hope that says we don’t have to live in our past, struggle in our present or fear our future. The whole Good Friday/Easter event happened to fix broken people and broken situations, to bring peace, wholeness. Out of death comes life.
When Jesus’ presence was felt on the scene, when his peace and the breath of the Spirit was felt by the disciples, it was that encounter with the risen Lord that empowered Thomas and the rest with the Holy Spirit, that empowered them to proclaim publicly and powerfully, the good news that over time would turn the world upside down, totally topsy turvy.
Bob and I once visited the town of Ripon, in Yorkshire, England. We went to the cathedral, as clergy do, and there and in a very prominent place was a larger-than-life statue of Alice, as in Alice in Wonderland, and, beside her, an equally large statue of the White Rabbit. It was most peculiar, as the English would say. It turns out that Lewis Carroll, who wrote Alice in Wonderland, spent a lot of time in the cathedral. His father was the canon. What he saw around him, things that we, too, were able to see, inspired some of his ideas for Alice’s adventures. Some of the creatures are in the ancient carvings up high, a griffin, a turtle, a unicorn and other strange creatures. Then there is right at the start of the story, as Alice starts dreaming one summer afternoon, she sees a white rabbit, with watch in hand. As he dashes off, she follows him down a long tunnel, with cupboards. Now, if you go down the steps into the crypt, you will see the cupboards and feel almost as though you are tumbling down the tunnel with Alice.
Writing an Easter letter to “every child who loves Alice” several year later, Lewis Carroll said that it was good to mix nonsense things with serious things, because God doesn’t intend us to divide life into the serious and the light-hearted things. Surely”, he wrote, “the innocent laughter and merry voices of children is as sweet in God’s ears as the grandest anthem that ever rolled up from the ‘dim religious gloom’ of some solemn cathedral.”
Alice had the curiosity to follow the rabbit into a strange, unknown world where just about everything was topsy turvy, where things were not always what they seemed or what she expected. That fits with the sort of world Jesus spoke about, where all kinds of things are stood on their head, that life is about giving not taking, that serving is better than being served, where the first shall be last, and the last, first, where a tiny coin can be worth more than a fortune, where forgiving is more powerful than getting your own back, where the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisest things we know, and where death does not have the last word.
Holy Hilarity Sunday. The psalmist writes “I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Psalm 34: 1) The proverb reads “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones (Proverbs 17:22). We read Jesus’ words in John, “I come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) And Paul to the church in Corinth, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?…God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom … God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put shame to the wise.” (I Corinthians 1:20c, 25, 27a)
Easter is a time full of surprises, an empty tomb, followers’ fears and a doubter’s doubts, and then, life where there was death, a spreading of peace, a breath of the Spirit, and that changes everything.
May God’s peace be with you.
- “Come, thou Fount of every blessing”. Music based on the traditional American folk tune “Nettleton”. This arrangement by American pianist Colleen Adent. Music in the public domain. Arrangement copyright © 2009 Fred Bock Music Company; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Performed on the keyboard by Rachelle Risling, GCPC Music Director.
- Audio recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
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.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope
God of grace, God of love and laughter, we thank you that we are so wondrously created and that we are made for relationship with you and with one another. We thank you for laughter with friends and loved ones. We thank you for the laughter of children, and the song it creates in our hearts. By your great unending love, you inspire in us a spirit of imagination and creativity and we thank you. We thank you for tables turned, life restored, joy bestowed by the breath of our living Lord.
God, we pray for those who cannot find their laughter today. For those who are grieving, or suffering illness of body, mind or spirit, for those who are struggling with Covid-19, for those who are tired of these days of isolation, for those who are tired of working under such stress, for those who are tired of not working, for those who are living in crowded refugee camps, in war torn countries, for those who are lonely and in need of someone to share their time and friendship, for those who are finding it hard to move into the season and spirit of Easter. May these and the troubles of all your people be soothed, blessed, and comforted by your holy presence.
As we move through this life, help us to create more laughter than tears, dispense more happiness than gloom and spread more cheer than despair. Never let us become so indifferent that we fail to see the wonder in the eyes of a child, the twinkle in the eyes of the joyous. Never let us forget your message of peace. Lord help us become fools for you. Help us to share your holy humour with all creation. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN
Book of Praise – 256 “Now the green blade riseth”
- Video with on-screen words, with many differences from those in the hymnbook.
- Words by English Anglican priest and poet John Macleod Campbell Crum (1872–1958). Music (tune: “French Carol”) is a traditional French carol “Noël nouvellet”; harmony by English composer and conductor Martin Shaw (1875–1958). Words, music and harmony in the public domain.
- This recording made by First-Plymouth Congregational Church, Lincoln, Nebraska, on April 29, 2018.
May the God of surprises bring smiles and joys to our lives in the everyday and ordinary, and in the amazing and the extraordinary.
May the God of love be seen in all we do and say.
Go forth rejoicing, for the good work has just begun! 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.
Copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated on 2021-04-10 at 11:45 – First version.