Prayer of the Day
O God, you gave your only Son to suffer death on the cross for our redemption, and by his glorious resurrection you delivered us from the power of death. Make us die every day to sin, that we may live with him forever in the joy of the resurrection, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
34Peter began to speak to [the people]: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1Give thanks to the Lord, for the | Lord is good;
God’s mercy en- | dures forever.
2Let Israel | now declare,
“God’s mercy en- | dures forever.”
14The Lord is my strength | and my song,
and has become | my salvation.
15Shouts of rejoicing and salvation echo in the tents | of the righteous:
“The right hand of the | Lord acts valiantly!
16The right hand of the Lord| is exalted!
The right hand of the | Lord acts valiantly!”
17I shall not | die, but live,
and declare the works | of the Lord.
18The Lord indeed pun- | ished me sorely,
but did not hand me o- | ver to death.
19Open for me the | gates of righteousness;
I will enter them and give thanks | to the Lord.
20“This is the gate | of the Lord;
here the righ- | teous may enter.”
21I give thanks to you, for you have | answered me
and you have become | my salvation.
22The stone that the build- | ers rejected
has become the chief | cornerstone.
23By the Lord has | this been done;
it is marvelous | in our eyes.
24This is the day that the | Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be | glad in it.
1If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
1After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Sermon – Meggan Manlove
This is such a great resurrection scene, in large part because of verse 2. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary have gone to the tomb and suddenly there is an earthquake. An angel of the Lord descends from heaven and rolls back the stone in front of the tomb and sits on it. His appearance is like lightening, and his clothing is as white as snow.
Confronted by the blinding light of this angel, the guards who had been posted in ensure that nothing would happen to Jesus’ body were so gripped by fear that they shook and became like dead men. Someone this week suggested we compare the men to fainting goats.
Jesus’ resurrection already creates a life freed from the death that grips our everyday lives. This is life reborn, revealing to us how death has determined our living. And yet it is possible to remain dead, to live as dead men, as the behavior of these guards will make clear.
The guards are frightened to death. But the angel tells Mary Magdalene and the other Mary that they do not need to be afraid: “I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’”
The angel’s speech contains all of the gospel. “Do not be afraid.” Jesus has made it possible to live unafraid. The disciples, followers, of Jesus are often afraid of the elites and the crowds, but Jesus has given them all they need not to be afraid. He has done so by drawing them, and us, into a way of life so compellingly true that we have no time to be afraid.
We read that Mary Magdalene and Mary left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy. The fear is that paired with joy. They leave the tomb in awe, knowing that they are now participants in the reign of God, which their teacher Jesus has spoken of so often. They fear they have as they leave the tomb is the fear that protects them from the fears that would have us deny the resurrection. Our human nature wants to create lives of security in the face of death. The joy filling the women saves them from this kind of fear.
The fear and joy they now experience is made possible by the resurrection. Mary Magdalene and Mary have seen the crucifixion; they have now seen the empty tomb. They are our first witnesses to the good news that the one crucified has been raised.
Jesus was handed over, made subject to sinners and death itself. But he has been made victorious. But the resurrection of Jesus cannot be seen. As one scholar [Hauerwas] says, we can no more see the resurrection than we can see creation. We can see only the empty tomb and the resurrected Jesus.
The resurrection is not a resurrection of one who had lived, died, and then lived again. Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. But Lazarus was still to die. Resurrection is not the resuscitation of a corpse. Jesus is raised from the dead to be freed from death itself. He will never die again. Jesus has been raised from the dead, defeating death itself.
Mary Magdalene and Mary rush from the tomb to tell the disciples, but suddenly, in an almost comedic encounter, Jesus meets them. It is Jesus, resurrected. It is the crucified one who is resurrected. Jesus greets them in a familiar way, and they come to him. They saw him and recognized him. They took hold of his feet. The resurrected Jesus can be touched.
The resurrection of Jesus is not an idea. His body has been raised. The one born of Mary, the one baptized by John, the one who called the disciples, the one who delivered the Sermon on the Mount, the one who cured the lame, the blind, the deaf and mute, the one who disputed with the Pharisees and Sadducees, the one who endured humiliation by trial and cross—he has been raised.
Jesus’ bodily presence does not prevent Mary Magdalene and Mary from worshiping him. One worships only God. Yet they worship him. They had not worshiped the angel who announced Jesus’ resurrection. But they now worship Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.
That they worship Jesus marks the central activity of the new reality of the body of Christ, the church. What makes the church the church is the worship of Jesus. The worship of Jesus will take many different forms across time and space. But where the word is preached and the sacraments are enacted, we know that Jesus is present among us. By baptism and communion, we participate in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, making us an alternative to the world. Being the alternative is not, however, an invitation for self-righteousness. Instead, it enables us to witness, as Mary Magdalene and Mary do, to our having been given the time in a world that thinks it has no time to worship Jesus.
Jesus tells the women not to be afraid, but to go tell his brothers to go to Galilee where they will see him. Jesus’ disciples—brothers and sisters, will bring forth life. Again, we see the beginnings of the church. And Jesus is returning to Galilee, where he began his ministry. Jesus unleashes the disciples to go into the world not from Jerusalem, the center of power, but from Galilee. Galilee becomes the staging area for the disciples to go to the nations to announce the new age begun by Jesus.
For us today, as for Mary Magdalene and Mary, Jesus goes ahead of us to lead us into the world, specifically into a transformative way of life that testifies to the power of resurrection wherever we live. “Jesus is going ahead—not going away,” one scholar [Schuessler Fiorenza] said. The empty tomb does not signify absence but presence. It announces the resurrected one’s presence on the road ahead.
If Jesus is indeed going ahead, then we are asked to look for experiences of resurrection presence not only in Galilee but also in Nampa, Caldwell, Middleton, and Kuna—on all the roads of our lives. Resurrection means that Jesus, the Living One, goes ahead of us. Jesus can be found only when we experience that “he is ahead of us” and he opens up a future for us. Like Mary Magdalene and Mary, we can run to meet that liberating future. The stone has been rolled away.
Finally, the command to go to Galilee does not erase the experience of death and violence. Resurrection comes to us first of all in our most broken and unexpected places, breaking the structures of the Roman occupation regime in Jerusalem and the structures of every regime of death in our lives today.
Does the resurrection make us feel that the earth is shaking again this Easter morning? Are we also filled with both fear and joy? What does it look like to stop and worship Jesus, and only Jesus today? How does our worship shape us to be the body of Christ for the sake of the world? What message of new life is on our lips in this place and time?
Jesus is going ahead. He continues into the future God has in store for the creation. In the meantime, there is only the Word, the bread, and the wine, and the promise that “you will see him.” We walk by faith and not by sight. We can only trust that God will one day finish the story, as God has promised.
Prayers of Intercession
The prayers are prepared locally for each occasion. The following examples may be adapted or used as appropriate.
United in the hope and joy of the resurrection, let us pray for the church, the world, and all in need.
A brief silence.
You call your church to witness to your salvation. We give thanks for (Dietrich Bonhoeffer and) all theologians, preachers, and teachers who proclaim your gospel. Equip all the baptized to share the joy of the resurrection in all we say and do. Risen Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
You bring abundant life throughout creation. The green blade rises, and all creation greets the resurrection dawn. Preserve vineyards and orchards and those who tend to them. Feed us with the fruits of creation. Risen Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
You show your steadfast love without regard to borders, barriers, or human-made divisions. Infuse your justice in every nation of the world (places of concern or conflict may be named) that all experience the peace that only you can give. Risen Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
You anointed your Son with the Holy Spirit and with power. Encourage us by his example in our ministries of healing, care, and outreach. We pray for all who are sick or hospitalized (especially) and for all health care workers who care for them. Risen Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
You have put gladness in our hearts. Inspire musicians and dancers to rejoice with songs of victory. Bless the music ministries of this congregation and all who foster our assembly’s song. Risen Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Here other intercessions may be offered.
As you have raised Jesus from the dead, you show us your resurrection promise. With your holy ones who have sung your praise (especially), free us from fear and empower us to go and tell the good news. Risen Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Rejoicing in the victory of Christ’s resurrection, we lift our prayers and praise to you, almighty and eternal God; through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord.