The Acts of the Apostles on Easter Sunday? Unheard of. Yet, for Easter to be the transformative force that it is, Resurrection has to move from the pageantry of worship into living every day as Easter people. We aren’t suggesting that you don’t tell the story on this day. It is a story worth telling and retelling. We are suggesting you consider presenting the rest of the story. What happened to those frightened, despairing followers holed up in a locked room in Jerusalem? How did they become the vanguard of a world-shaping movement that is still rippling through all creation? This series is designed to help us think about that. So, some hints from the story of the apostles even on this Easter Sunday would help lay the groundwork for what is to come.
So, pull out all the stops; throw to biggest party of the year; find ways to shout and laugh and dance and sing. But keep an eye on the door—a reminder that soon, when the party winds down, all you dancers will head out that door to live a dancing life that bears witness to a new and powerful hope. We have a story to tell, and it is not just the day of our salvation to which we bear witness but to every day since. Encourage everyone to live as though they were really alive. Because they are.
Call to Worship
One: This is a new day! A day of marvels and miracles! A day to rejoice in what God has done! Yesterday was filled with too many worries and too little faith.
Many: On this Easter morning, we hear the old folks saying, “Mary don’t you weep!”
One: This is a new day! A day of marvels and miracles! A day to rejoice in what God has done! Yesterday was filled with too much criticism and too little affirmation.
Many: Today, Martha, don’t you moan!
One: This is a new day! A day of marvels and miracles! A day to rejoice in what God has done! Yesterday was filled with too many questions and too few answers.
Many: This is Easter morning: dry your tears and shout for joy! Jesus is not dead. He is Alive! God has conquered death and Jesus has canceled sin. This is, indeed, a new day! Leap for joy! (Applause)
Sherrie Dobbs Johnson, The Africana Worship Book, For Year C, Valerie Bridgeman Davis, PhD and Safiyah Fosua, eds. (Discipleship Resources, 2008), 67.
Invocation for Easter Sunday
Dear God, this past week has been one of mixed emotions; of faith struggling to understand. We have greeted you with palm branches; we have sat at table with you to share a farewell meal. We have witnessed your death on a simple wooden cross. Yet on the third day, you come to us again in victory. By this we know that death is not the final word. As the sun boldly rises to meet a new day, rise in our lives this Easter morning, for you are our hope, our life, and our joy.
Karen C.H. Sorenson, Flames of the Spirit, Ruth Duck, Ed, (Pilgrim Press, 1985), 41.
Almighty and wondrous God, on this day of new beginnings, we offer our songs to proclaim your victory over death. All that you have done is marvelous in our eyes, and so we offer our praise to your holy and powerful Name. Receive the joyful thanksgiving which we offer to you and bless it as a declaration of your worthiness to be worshipped.
Death is seen as our enemy, and we know that death was brought into the world because of our sin. Yet, as you overcame death in the resurrection of Jesus from the grave, so too will you overcome our sinful ways. You have punished us but have not given us over to our adversary. In your gracious love you have offered your Son in our place and by his death we are spared. As you have spared us from the death of Adam, so also make us alive in Christ that we may serve you with joy.
Your message of redemption is given to all the world. Anoint us to preach to the people in every place that death is conquered and Jesus Christ is Lord of all.
Enter into the tombs of our lives and empty them out. Touch by your grace everyone who suffers affliction of the body and raise them up. Visit the people whose minds are in disarray and bring them a clear perception of the world which you have redeemed. Walk with those who travel the road of death from this life and carry them over the threshold into the eternal life won for us. Proclaim joy to those who mourn and be present to those who are alone.
This is the day that you have made; we rejoice in it and are glad to be yours. Receive what we ask and grant it in your mercy for the sake of him who is the first fruit, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
And Also With You: Worship Resources Based on the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, (OSL Publications, 1994), 75.
Prayer of Confession
Leader: Holy, Holy, Holy God, as we draw near to the mouth of the tomb and find the stone rolled away, as we bend with racing hearts to look inside, we are struck dumb. All our words are as prattle before the awe and majesty of your power. In silence, we bow before you, for we have fallen short of the glory for which you created us
People: Lord, have mercy upon us, and make us worthy to be called your own.
Assurance of Pardon
In the empty tomb, God declares that nothing can separate us from the love of God; nothing we have done, or left undone; no one whom we have been or failed to be. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Friends, believe the good news: in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.
Karen Pidcock-Lester, in The Abingdon Women’s Preaching Annual, Series 2, Year A, compiled and edited by Lenora Tubbs Tisdale, (Abingdon, 2000), 102-103.
Your Stories Matter
A Closing based on Acts 10:34-43
It is around kitchen tables swelling with food,
On worn porches,
During easy road trips,
And in the hum of barber shops or hair salons
That we experience the Divine
As we linger long enough to hear, really hear the stories of others.
Your life matters.
Your life matters and your stories matter.
So, testify; tell your story.
Or someone else will.
Ashley Johnson, Africana Liturgical Resources, Easter Package, ed. Safiyah Fosua, https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship-planning/living-the-resurrection/easter-sunday-year-b-lectionary-planning-notes/easter-sunday-year-b-additional-liturgical-resources.