On Sunday April 16th Easter Day I led worship at Hampsthwaite Chapel. We began worship when I said, ‘The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!’ I just love Easter Day when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus; we worship a risen Lord, who is alive today for evermore. We read Psalm 118 responsively before we sang, ‘Christ the Lord is risen today; Alleluia!’ I led to opening prayers of praise, the collect for the day, confession and the Lord’s Prayer. Acts 10.34-43 was read before we sang, ‘I know that my Redeemer lives.’ Colossians 3.1-4 was read before there was a dramatised reading based on Matthew 28.1-10. We sang ‘Low in the grave he lay’, before I preached.
A supernumerary minister in our circuit Rev Ron Dale has seen the figure of Jesus at times in his life after he became a Christian. I have never seen Jesus as Ron did, but I have experienced that sense of his presence, when I was filled with the Holy Spirit at university. When I had just lost my husband Stephen and came forward for prayer at an Alpha away day, as I was worried about the way he died; I fell down, bathed in Jesus’ love, and got the message that Stephen was now at peace. It did not stop me having a breakdown but it gave me an assurance about him, which has never left me.
Peter now knew that God had no favourite nation as he had been sent to Cornelius, a gentile worshipper of the Jewish God. Those who lived outside the boundaries of Israel were accepted by God through Jesus. Peter explained that Jesus had been sent by God and empowered by God with the Holy Spirit, because God loved us so much. Jesus was a healer who was committed to alleviating all the pain and sorrow in the world. Yet despite this the authorities had taken him and crucified him but God had raised him from the dead. Paul emphasised how Jesus had appeared to many specially chosen witnesses including those who had eaten and drunk with him after he had been raised. They had been instructed to preach and testify to Jesus and say that everyone who believed in Him would receive forgiveness of sins through his name. In Jesus is God’s intended vision of humanity without distinctions; Jews and Gentiles are accepted on equal terms and were to accept each other fully in ordinary social relationships.
Let’s imagine what it felt like for the women, Mary and Mary Magdalene who were just coming to be near the tomb. They had witnessed Jesus’ death on the cross, and they had seen him laid in the tomb. They knew the guards were there to make sure the tomb remained secure, so expected to watch from a distance. Suddenly they witnessed the earthquake, saw the angel roll away the stone and watched the reaction of the guards. They heard the words of the angel, reminding them of what Jesus had said; that he would rise from the dead and go before the disciples to Galilee. They were invited to come and see for themselves and then go and tell the disciples that Jesus had risen and would see them in Galilee. As they sped off to tell the disciples in fear and joy, Jesus met them and greeted them, so they held onto him by his feet and worshipped him. Jesus repeated the angel’s message telling them to go and tell the disciples to await for him in Galilee.
How would we have responded? Would we have collapsed as the guards did? Would we have been too afraid or overwhelmed to share the good news? Why were the women the first witnesses of the resurrection? They had been with Jesus to his death on the cross, witnessed his death and burial, so for them to witness the resurrection and meet the risen Lord was appropriate. It has been said that women being natural gossips would be ideal people to share the good news. Are we resurrection people? Does the glorious good news of the risen Lord make a difference to our lives now? Jesus is risen; he is risen indeed; Alleluia!
We sang ‘Now the green blade rises from the buried grain’ before I led the intercessions. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son’.