Good morning. My name is Kim Gilliland and I’d like to welcome you to Easter morning at Cottam United Church. I’m so glad you could join us just as Christians all over the world are joining together through technology to celebrate the most important day of the Christian year, the day when Jesus rose from the dead, defeating the power of sin and opening up for us the gates of the kingdom of God.
If we were all together in the church this morning, we would start off with a declaration. If you’ve been to our church on Easter morning, you’ll know what it is. If you haven’t been there before, here is what happens. I say, “Christ is risen!” And you respond with the words, “He is risen, indeed!” Do you have that? It’s not difficult. So let’s try it together.
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
This is the day when the stone of the tomb was rolled away and Jesus rose again in victory begin a whole new era in human history. In his death and resurrection, Jesus bridged the gap that separated us from God. Through faith in him, we have the promise and the assurance of eternal life. The despair of Friday is turned to the celebration of Sunday. That’s what Easter is all about.
As we begin, would you pray with me please.
As the morning dawned over Jerusalem on the first Easter morning, things still seemed pretty hopeless for Jesus’ disciples. Friday was still very real and very fresh in their minds. They were heavy with grief. The women had not yet ventured to the tomb. No one had seen the stone rolled away or the heard the angels announcement that Jesus was risen. For them, it was still Friday. Sunday was still coming.
We live in a world right now where it feels like Friday. Covid-19 dominates the news to the point that it’s sometimes hard to listen to it. Everyday sees new cases and higher death tolls. For those who have lost loved ones, it feels like Friday. Many have lost their jobs – at least temporarily – and for those people, it feels like Friday. For the front line health care workers around the world who are losing patients no matter what they do, it feels like Friday. For those who are isolate or quarantined in their homes alone and lonely, it must feel like Friday. Those are the realities that we live with. But in the midst of the uncertainly that surrounds us, we, as the people of God, need to proclaim boldly and consistently that Friday’s past, Sunday’s here. Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed.
That’s the message of Easter. In a world of uncertainty where people aren’t sure about their health or their jobs or the economy, where people feel alone and isolated, the message of the resurrection is that it’s no longer Friday. Sunday is here. That is the hope that we see in the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. And that is a hope that reverberates around the world on this most holy day.
THE KINGDOM IS NEAR
This message of hope that Sunday is here is not a vain hope. It’s not some pie in the sky notion or wishful thinking. It is the sure and certain hope in what Jesus called the kingdom of God. That’s the hope that we have. That’s the hope that Jesus’ followers placed in him, that he would bring about God’s kingdom.
After all, wasn’t that a central part of his message? Isn’t that why the people followed him 2,000 years ago? Isn’t that one of the reasons why we follow him today? For the hope of the kingdom where God lives and mercy reigns and justice flows down like a mighty river.
Jesus said a number of things about the kingdom but I want to highlight two of them this morning. The first one comes from Matthew 4:17 (NIV) where Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” The kingdom of heaven is near. What’s that all about? I want to be clear about what this is not about. It doesn’t mean that it’s only one heart beat away, that heart beat being your last one. That kingdom might be where we spend eternity but Jesus is talking about something more immediate than that. He’s talking about the here and now.
Here’s something that many people – even Christians – don’t understand. You don’t need to die to experience the kingdom of God. Jesus said that it is near, right now. That’s why he matches the idea of the kingdom with repentance. He said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” If it was going to happen only in the future, why repent now? Why not wait? No rush. But that’s not what Jesus calls us to do because the kingdom of heaven is near.
Jesus tells us to repent and he uses that word for a very specific reason. Some people think that to repent is to apologize, to say that you’re sorry. And to be honest, there is a part of repentance that is just that. To repent is to understand that you have done something wrong and to feel honest remorse for that thing whatever it might be.
But that’s not where it ends because repentance is more than simply saying you’re sorry. It’s also about doing your very best to try to make things right and then committing to try to not do it again. Repentance is not just about apologizing. It’s also about making restitution and changing your behaviour.
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. It requires that we have legitimate remorse for what we have done wrong, that we make restitution for the harm we have caused others and that we make the commitment to change our behaviour. Why? Because the kingdom of heaven is near.
THE KINGDOM IS WITHIN
Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is near. In Luke 17:20-21 (NIV), he also said this: “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” The kingdom of God is near you but it is also within you. What Jesus is getting at here is that if we really want to build the kingdom of God in our midst, it has to begin from within. That is what makes the work of the church different from the work of government agencies or social service clubs or political movements. They do great work and we need to applaud them for it. But for Christians, that work always begins with an inner transformation. That’s because the kingdom of God is within us.
That does not mean that it starts inside of you and that you can do it all by yourself. Rather, it means that the Holy Spirit plants a seed of the kingdom within your heart so that the seed with take root and grow and, in growing, it will transform who you are, what you do and your sense of priorities. You will become a kingdom follower who can take part in the work of building the kingdom of God in this world.
Transformation is at the heart of the Christian Gospel. How many of you watching this video today know the transforming power of the resurrected Christ in your lives? I know a lot of you do. To put it another way, how many of you can imagine what life would be like had you not given our life to Jesus. Maybe that was a long time ago or maybe it was just last year or even last week. But your world would have been very different had you not given your life to Christ and been filled with his Holy Spirit. From that Spirit you have been given strength and wisdom and love beyond measure which have allowed and enabled you to become the person whom God created you to be from the very beginning. Let the Spirit transform your life so that you can fulfill the purpose for which you uniquely and individually were placed on this earth by our God who loves you and cherishes you and only wants the very best for you.
CALLED TO GO
In Matthew 28:1-10 we read that on the first day of the week Mary Magdelene and some other women go to Jesus’ tomb to embalm his body. But, when they arrive, they discover that the stone is rolled away from the entrance of the tomb. It must feel like Friday all over again. All they want to do was give their friend a decent burial but even that has been denied them. Someone must have stolen the body. Those vicious, deceitful religious leaders who had Jesus crucified, it has to be them. It has to be their scheming and conniving that is behind this last bit of inhumanity.
But then the angel appears to them and says, “Do not be afraid for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.” And then he says, “He is not here; he has risen just as he said. Come and see the place where he used to lay.” In the words of today, the angel is saying, “I know it must feel like Friday, but it’s not because Sunday’s here. Come and see!”
And then the angel commands them to go quickly and tell the disciples what they have seen. Jesus is risen from the dead. It’s no longer Friday. Sunday’s here. And so, Matthew tells us, they hurry off, afraid and yet filled with joy to tell the other disciples.
And as they rush back, they are halted by another surprise. This time it is not an angel who appears to them; it is Jesus himself with his own message: “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee and there they will see me. I will meet them and they will meet me.” In these words Jesus too is saying, “Friday is past. Sunday is here. Go and let the people know.”
Twice in these last few verses, the women are called to go, first by the angel and then by Jesus himself. They are to go and share the message that it is no longer Friday. It’s Sunday and Jesus is risen. The kingdom is near. The kingdom is within you.
We, as Christ followers, need to do our very best to bring Sunday to the world. We are called to go and be the voice of God to those who need to hear and be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who need to feel his healing touch.
those women, we are called to go and share that message of hope. There are so
many people in our world for whom it is now Friday. Because they are hungry or
lonely or poor or sick or afraid, it feels like Friday but we need to let them
know that Sunday is here. Death is swallowed up in victory. Jesus is risen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Holy and Mighty God, we gather to remember the Resurrection of Jesus on that first Easter Day. We thank you for the life that is ours in him. We praise you for the forgiveness and reconciliation that has come to Creation because of his victory over sin and death.
We stand in awe at how Jesus was raised from the dead. Today we pray for people who have lost the sense of mystery, who are not able to believe in the resurrection and the power of new life in Christ. We pray for those who are afraid to wonder, and suspicious of things that they do not understand. Bless them with eyes of faith that will enable them to see the truth.
God of Life, you raised Jesus from the grave. Bless those who are on the front lines right now in the fight against Covid-19. We pray for the health care workers, for those in the supply chain, for police, firefighters, EMS and the military as they join hands for the literal health of our nation.
We also pray for those who are sick and for those who mourn. Bring hope, O God, into our hurting world and enable your people to be do our part to make a difference to others, even if it is in small ways.
of Love, your good news is for everyone. Today, we pray for our community, for
our country, for our whole world. We pray that all may be filled with the joy
of new life, and new hope, and new mystery for Jesus Christ truly is risen!
Alleluia! We pray in the Name of our Risen Saviour and Lord. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
April 12, 2020 / Easter Sunday
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Matthew 28:1-10; Acts 10:34-43; Colossians 3:1-4
CALL TO WORSHIP
ONE: Christ is risen!
ALL: He is risen indeed!
ONE: Christ is risen!
ALL: He is risen indeed!
PRAYER OF APPROACH
We are blessed, O God of Life, that on this day, Jesus was raised from the dead. In him we find eternal life. In Jesus you make all things new. The price of our sins if paid. The chains of death are shattered. The gates of heaven are opened. May we, who are witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection live his risen life. May we always be your Easter people, we pray through Jesus Christ who is alive forever more. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
On this day of resurrection, we remember that it is our sinfulness that took Jesus to the cross of Calvary. He gave his life for our transgressions. Despite his sacrifice, we still turn away from you and follow a path of our own making. We confess that our lives fall short of your plan and purpose for us. There are days when our sinful natures get the better of us. But you, O God, continue to offer your healing love and forgiveness. Hear our confessions … Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
The gates of hell are broken, the chains of death shattered. God’s love stands victorious over the pain of sin. In Jesus, our sins are forgiven and we have life.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
Jesus gave his life for us and called us to give our lives for others. These offerings, O God, are the visible signs of what we do for you. We come with our gifts, praying that you would bless them to your purpose and will. May they be used so that all people may come to know the joy of the Risen Saviour. Amen.
Christ has risen. He is risen
indeed. Let us now rise and leave this sanctuary with the sure and certain
knowledge that, in Jesus, we are redeemed. That message is ours to live and to
share with all Creation.