Prayer of the Day:
God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Jeremiah 31:1-6: The Joyful Return of the Exiles
At that time, says the LORD, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus says the LORD: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall take your tambourines, and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit. For there shall be a day when sentinels will call in the hill country of Ephraim: “Come, let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God.”
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24: A Song of Victory
Give thanks to the LORD, for the LORD is good; God’s mercy endures forever. Let Israel now declare, “God’s mercy endures forever.” The LORD is my strength and my song, and has become my salvation. Shouts of rejoicing and salvation echo in the tents of the righteous; “The right hand of the LORD acts valiantly! The right hand of the LORD is exalted! The right hand of the LORD acts valiantly!” I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD. The LORD indeed punished me sorely, but did not hand me over to death. Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter them and give thanks to the LORD. “This is the gate of the LORD; here the righteous may enter.” I give thanks to you, for you have answered me and you have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. By the LORD has this been done; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Colossians 3:1-4: The New Life in Christ
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
John 20:1-18: The Resurrection of Jesus and Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (Which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. The Gospel of the Lord.
Sermon: Isolated, Alone and Hopeful
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This Easter is different from any Easter that I’ve ever known and I’m sure it’s not the way any of you wanted to celebrate it either. Many of us won’t be able to celebrate even with our families unless we live with them. We’re feeling isolated, afraid and unsure. Yes, this Easter is different from any in our memories.
While this Easter isn’t like any we know; it is a lot like the very first Easter thousands of years ago. There were no crowds gathered to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. The crowds who greeted Jesus as the conquering hero at the beginning of the week had condemned him as a criminal by the end of the week. They jeered and taunted him on his way to Golgotha and as he hung dying on the cross. In fact, it was a very small gathering according to John who witnessed the first resurrection–a woman and two men. Simiarly, the rest of the disciples lived in isolation and fear, sheltering in a house where they had locked the doors out of fear for their safety. They were still realing from the heartache and loss they had experienced two days ago, unsure of what the future held, unable to imagine their lives ever returning to normal. Sound familiar?
Think about it, that first Holy Week only a few of the disciples were at the crucifixion–most stayed away out of fear of being crucified by the Romans themselves. They sheltered in place out of that same fear. We did not have Holy Week and Easter services for similar reasons–fear of death, not by crucifixion, but by a being infected by a virus we don’t know how to stop–except by not being together.
But maybe by not being able to participate in our beloved traditions; we can be reminded of the following: God has never promised that our worship services be grand; that our churches overflow; that our economy keeps growing; that our health will always be good. What God has promised is in and through the incarnated, crucified and resurrected Christ; is that God is both with us and for us at all times and through all conditions; in sorrow or joy, triumph or tragedy, gain or loss, peace or fear, scarcity or plenty–God is present.
In the cross God promises that God meets us especially where we most need God (and often least expect to find God): in hardship, struggle, loss and death. Because of the cross there is no experience–no matter how difficult or awful and no person, no matter how sinful or lost, is truly God forsaken; because God is always where we need God to be. And in the resurrection God promises that all the harsh realities of this life–struggle, loss, fear, disease, hunger, or death do not have the last word. The resurrection promises that God’s light is more powerful than darkness, that God’s love is stronger than hate, and that the life God offers through Jesus Christ prevails over all things–including death.
In our reading from John what strikes me is that Jesus addresses Mary with just one word–her name. He calls out her name, “Mary,” and she sees, believes, trusts and is brought to new life. At the heart of this story is the recognition that the resurrection brings not only the defeat of death and new life, but that God is accessible to us, that God will not abandon us, that God desires to be in relationship with us, that God continues to call us by name!
So in this different reality; let us hear these words of resurrection anew like the disciples of old. And let us remember that this small gathering of disciples once they were called, named and sent out by Jesus–changed the world! Who’s to say that won’t happen once again?!
So while we aren’t together this Easter morning we can still say, “Alleluia! Christ Is Risen! Christ Is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!” Amen.
Prayers and Lord’s Prayer:
Uplifted by the promised hope of healing and resurrection, we join the people of God in all times and places in praying for the church, the world, and all who are in need.
O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination. Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Merciful God, your healing power is everywhere about us. Strengthen those who work among the sick; give them courage and confidence in all they do. Encourage them when their efforts seem futile or when death prevails. Increase their trust in your power even to overcome death and pain and crying. May they be thankful for every sign of health you give, and humble before the mystery of your healing grace. We also lift up to you those who are in need of healing in body and soul especially: Kim, Audrey, Arlene, Loren, Karen, Harlan, Nathan, Madelon and those we name in our hearts. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
We thank you, O God, for all your servants and witnesses of all times and places. We ask your continued blessings upon those servants at Red Oak Grove Lutheran, especially: Henry Helgeson; Mike, Bonita, Elliot and Zachary Herdina; Selma Lynse; Rony, Rachael, Elysienne, Alexyss, Grace, Grant and Oliver Magnuson; Allen and Carolyn Orwick; Rachael Trihus, Cassandra and Ruth Jones; Jacob Ulland; Vilomar and Jessica Villar; Gil Wambeam; Jeffery and Diana Witt and Tyler DeBoer. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Risen Lord, you went ahead of us into the grave and defeated the powers of evil. We remember those who have died. Inspire us to live our lives in this resurrection hope and draw us to you in our final days. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
With bold confidence in your love, almighty God, we place all for whom we pray into your eternal care; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord, remember us in your kingdom and teach us to pray. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor + grant you peace. Amen.