Noli me tangere. Anonymous 13th C fresco in the Lower Basilica, Assisi, Italy.
See the texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Para obtener más recursos leccionario, Estudios Exegético: Homiléticos.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
Peter proclaims to Cornelius and his household: We are witnesses that Jesus Christ is raised and ascended, Lord of all, and appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.
Psalm 118:(1-2), 14-24 (UMH 839).
Sing at least the response today (response 2). If also chanting, use Tone 1 in B-flat major.
"You have been raised with Christ… and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
Peter and the beloved disciple verify Mary Magdalene's story that the tomb of Jesus is empty. Mary Magdalene, weeping by the tomb, hears angels tell her Jesus is raised from the dead, but does not believe it. Jesus calls her by name and sends her to announce his coming ascension to the other disciples.
OR Matthew 28:1-10.
An earthquake accompanies the arrival of an angel who rolls away the stone covering the tomb and announces to Mary Magdalene and another Mary that Jesus is raised from the dead and going to Galilee to meet his disciples there. On their way to tell the disciples, Jesus greets them and tells them to tell the disciples to meet him in Galilee.
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Calendar: The Resurrection of the Lord, The Second Service of Easter
Today, The Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord, is the Day of Days to celebrate the resurrection of Christ as fully and powerfully as you can. Rejoice with the church throughout the world that Christ is risen, as he said. Rejoice with the newly baptized that they are reborn in him and raised to walk in newness of life. Rejoice at the work of the Spirit who gives life to your mortal bodies and who clothes us with immortality, so that we, too, will be raised with all the saints in the New Creation. Rejoice in the Entrance. Rejoice in the Word. Rejoice around the Lord's Table. Rejoice to be sent into the world to proclaim the Risen Lord. Rejoice!
Today also kicks off Easter Season. Easter is more than just today. It is a season of 50 days that continues to and concludes with Pentecost. Easter is also more than just an extended celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Its initial purpose was to continue the formation of persons who received final preparation for baptism during Lent and were baptized on Easter Sunday. This formation is both doctrinal and practical. The readings chosen for each Sunday are chosen to help congregations continue both kinds of formation in worship simultaneously from week to week and during the week outside of worship. See "Keeping Easter Season in Year A" for a week-by-week guide to help you plan worship, coaching sessions, and small-group work to support the doctrinal and ministry training for each week of the season. Easter Season culminates with Pentecost, when the church may commission these persons into the ministries they have discerned during these weeks. See our "Pentecost Commissioning of Laypersons for Ministry in Christ’s Name. "
The Second Service of Easter?
Yes. Historically, the service held in the morning of Easter Day is the second service of Easter. That's because The Great Vigil of Easter, held just after sundown on Saturday evening or just before sunrise on Sunday morning is the first. (Skim down the page to find the readings and helps for this service, contained in the Book of Worship, 368-376, or this "simplified " version on our website).
Festival of God’s Creation
Today is also Festival of God’s Creation on the UM Program calendar. (Discipleship Ministries resources). Include the earth and fellow creatures in your prayers this day (and every Sunday), but keep the focus on worship today solidly on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Consider transferring significant ritual celebration of Earth Day to Earth Day itself (April 22, this coming Tuesday), or occasions other than the principle worship services today.
Coming Up April 20-June 8: Easter Season
May 5-11 Christian Family Week
May 17-18 Change the World Weekend
May 24 Aldersgate Day
May 26 Memorial Day (USA)
May 29 Ascension of the Lord
June 8 Pentecost
June 15 Trinity Sunday, Father's Day and Peace with Justice Sunday (Discipleship Ministries Resources)
June 19 Juneteenth
July 4 Independence Day (USA)
Back to School Resources
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On this "Day of Days" and throughout this season, prepare to pull out all the stops to convey and celebrate the mystery of the Resurrection. Many congregations will fill their worship spaces with lilies or other fragrant, white flowers today. Some may use incense as a sign of our praise and prayers joining with the praise and prayers of all the saints on earth and in heaven. Baptismal candidates or those newly baptized may be invited to wear white robes (albs) during worship throughout the season as a sign of the new life they have received.
If you are offering baptism today, use plenty of water (see more below on this). If you are receiving persons by profession of faith or confirmation today, use plenty of oil as well. Consider grinding incense into the oil to create a fragrance that will last as a reminder of the work of the Spirit in baptism and receiving professing members.
Trumpets and other bold instruments may become part of the musical ensemble today and perhaps for the entire season as well.
And it would be hoped that the bread you use for Holy Communion today, as well as the juice or wine, is of the very finest quality. This is the feast of victory for our God! (See UMH 638.)
The reading from Acts today is sheer proclamation. Let the text be read well so that it can be heard well. Consider having the congregation join in reading verses 38-42 aloud in unison.
Jesus Christ is raised from the dead, ruling as Lord of all. The reading from Colossians moves from that proclamation about Jesus to its implications for all of us who baptized into him as his disciples. “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” The text contrasts “things above” with “things on earth.” The key word is “things.” Here, it means arrangements, ordering of priorities, the way “things” go. Don’t get trapped as you are living out your mission as disciples of the Risen One, here and how, into thinking that “the powers that be” are the real way “things are.” The Risen One is Lord; he establishes what reality really is. Live in light of that reality, the reality of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Extend the reading for today—read at least to verse 17—if not during the readings proper, then during the sermon. The rest of this chapter drives this point home. Because Jesus, the Risen One is Lord, and our life is in him, live that way personally. Get rid of the “way things are” practices of personal morality. Don’t settle for being “just human.” Be fully human, rejecting every practice diminishing the fullness of your humanity. And live that way interpersonally, because in Christ there is honesty, trust and forgiveness offered to all, and in which all social distinctions forged by the “powers that be” are utterly overcome. “There is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free: Christ is all in all!” (Colossians 3:11). Whatever you do, Paul says, wherever you are—that is, not just “in church”—“do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).
The United Methodist version of the Revised Common Lectionary gives us two choices for the gospel this morning — John and Matthew. In John, the empty tomb is verified as a fact, but its meaning and implications are left up to each person for the time being. Peter sees and goes home. The beloved disciple (perhaps John?) sees and believes, but the very next line leaves it unclear whether he believes that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Mary Magdalene stands by the tomb, weeping, but believes when Jesus calls her by name and then sends her to tell the others of his accomplished resurrection and soon-to-be-accomplished ascension. How do people in your congregation and community respond to the empty tomb, even on a day like today when Christians most strongly affirm the empty tomb and a resurrected Savior? Are they observant but skeptical, like Peter? Believing in something but not sure what, like John? Or have they encountered the risen Lord calling them by name and sending them, like Mary? Consider using images of each of these apostles as they are introduced in the text. And remember that at the Lord's Table, Christ invites all who love him and earnestly repent of their sin, and he calls us each by name.
In Matthew, the women who went to anoint the body of Jesus for burial become witnesses to an earthquake and an angel that moves the stone sealing the entrance to the tomb where Jesus' body had been placed. This angel’s appearance terrifies the guard, but the angel tells the women not to be afraid, for Christ has risen and is going ahead of them into Galilee.
But the angel’s commission is not the only one they receive. Jesus himself greets them while they are on their way to tell the disciples what the angel had said. He likewise tells them not to be afraid but to go tell the others to meet Jesus in Galilee.
The connection between Resurrection, worship, and mission is immediately clear here. The women see and are greeted by the Risen Lord. They worship him. He sends them to declare the good news of the Resurrection and that Jesus is heading back out there—back to the center of his initial mission field in Galilee where he will meet the others and send them on as well.
That is the flow of Resurrection as Matthew tells it. Christ greets us. We worship. Christ sends us into mission in his name and Resurrection power to meet him there, wherever there may be.
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Embodying the Word: Holy Communion
The Scriptures and the day itself cry out for Holy Communion. No musical extravaganza and no sermon can possibly take the place or should displace the fullest celebration of the living presence of our Risen Lord in body and blood.
What more tangible way do we experience Christ coming to each of us, individually, than in Holy Communion? This is the body of Christ, given for you. This is the blood of Christ, poured out for you.
Holy Communion today should be as joyous and celebratory as possible. Christ is risen! Death is vanquished! Christ is risen! Sin's power is gone. Christ is risen! Hell is conquered. Christ is risen! New life has come! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
You just HAVE to stand and sing the Great Thanksgiving today. Pick a version your congregation knows, or create a new one based on a joyous tune your congregation knows. Knowing the tune is important so all can stand and sing and maybe even shout with joy.
Likewise, selecting a prayer with familiar words is important today, for newcomer and oldtimer alike. Use "The Great Thanksgiving for Easter Day or Season" (UMBOW 66-67), which includes the basic text of the Great Thanksgiving most often used and adds joyous proclamations of the meaning and power of Christ's resurrection. If you can, project the words, so the congregation can have their hands free to raise them in praise to God throughout the prayer.
In Your Planning Team
Today will be a high energy and high attendance Sunday in most congregations. You can and should expect many first-time visitors as well as folks who may attend only on “high holy days.”
This means two very important things. First, hospitality is a must today. Have greeters stationed and ready to welcome all who come. Have a reception time planned after worship or between services. And have greeters posted to continue the invitation to folks as they leave, whether immediately after worship or after the reception time. As folks leave, make sure the greeters hand them a flyer announcing the series you have designed for the weeks of Easter Season that follow.
That leads to the second thing. Today is a series kickoff Sunday like no other in the year. So be sure you actually DO have a plan for the series, ready to go, or at least ready enough to announce its overarching theme and its weekly emphases. Use “Keeping Easter Season in Year A” for ideas that help this season be all it was created to be.
This is the Sunday of Sundays. Expectations are high. Attendance will be high. The temptation is to blow the trumpet as loudly as you can for the whole service! Will the people go away having encountered Jesus risen? Or will people leave with the impression of a church trying too hard to be impress? Do you shout "He is risen!" Or do you whisper it? Or do you say it the way you talk when you are breathless? Like a good musician, modulate the flow of this service.
We recommend that you plan the worship for this day guided by the church's "Word and Table" ritual in The United Methodist Book of Worship:
• 16-32 for a flexible outline.
• 66-67 for a full text (based on as Word and Table II in The United Methodist Hymnal).
• 377-400 for specific acts of worship for Easter Day and the Great Fifty Days.
The New Handbook of the Christian Year by Hoyt L. Hickman, Don Saliers, Laurence Stookey and James White offers timeless theological and practical guidance in planning the Easter Sunday service.
Baptism and the Reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant:
If your congregation has been journeying with candidates for baptism at Easter, make the sacrament of baptism, inclusive of the laying on of hands and Holy Communion, central to the Easter Day worship. If you will be holding an Easter Vigil service and if you will baptize candidates at that service, you may still want to consider reaffirmation of the baptismal covenant and Holy Communion in the service on Easter Day. Certainly, you will want to include in prayer the names of those newly baptized.
The current official services of the Baptismal Covenant are here. An alternative service of baptismal reaffirmation, used at the 2008 General Conference, is also available in Spanish. A version for infants and others unable to speak for themselves is also available. All of these make use of the vows required by Discipline for baptism and reaffirmation.
For services of confirmation and receiving professing members, be sure to use Baptismal Covenant I, which also include the current vows of membership in The United Methodist Church and the local congregation. All of these vows (baptism and membership) in this form (verbatim) are required for professing membership in The UMC. (See 2012 Book of Discipline, paragraph 217 and 225).
Use plenty of water! See “Using Water in Baptism and Reaffirmation” for suggestions of ways to use water in services of baptism, confirmation and reaffirmation.
This is a big day and perhaps a longer than usual service. Schedule your day so the most important matters get the time each deserves. No one minds an extra 15 minutes when the preaching will be uplifting, the music spectacular, and the sacramental celebration rich and inviting.
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- BOW 382 (1 Corinthians)
Call to Worship: UMH 658, "This is the Day" (Psalm) Prayer:
- UMH 320, "Easter Vigil or Day" (Easter)
Intercessory Prayer: BOW 399, Week 1 (Easter), followed by any of the forms on 395-397 (bidding prayers)
Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: Djibouti, Somalia
Baptism, Confirmation, Reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant: Discipleship Ministries Website
Great Thanksgiving for Holy Communion on Easter Day:
- BOW 66-67
- A Contemporary Service of Holy Communion
- Church of England Eucharistic Prayers:
- From New Zealand: www.liturgy.co.nz/html/ordinarytmliturgy.html#euchpr (The third prayer, based on the third century text, "Apostolic Tradition," may be particularly appropriate today.)
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