SEE, I HAVE ENGRAVED YOU ON THE PALMS OF MY HANDS; YOUR WALLS ARE EVER BEFORE ME.
I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME WILL LIVE, EVEN THOUGH HE DIES; AND WHOEVER LIVES AND BELIEVES IN ME WILL NEVER DIE. DO YOU BELIEVE THIS? (John 11: 25-26)
WELCOME TO OUR EASTER COMMUNION SERVICE.
OPENING HYMN (CH-569) – THE BREAD OF LIFE, for all men broken! He drank the cup on Golgotha. His grace we trust, and spread with reverence this holy feast, and thus remember.
With godly fear we seek Thy presence; our hearts are sad, people distressed. Thy holy face is stained with bitter tears, our human pain still bearest Thou with us.
O Lord, we pray, come Thou among us, lighten our eyes, brightly appear! Immanuel, heav’n’s joy unending, our life with Thine for ever blending.
LET US PRAY:
RISEN AND GRACIOUS LORD, we thank You for the great message of the experience of Your followers on that first Easter day – how You came to them in their confusion – each still struggling to come to terms with the suffering You had endured – and how You restored their faith, rekindling their joy, reviving their vision and renewing their commitment. As we come before You this Easter morning, we too need that which the first disciples received. Speak again Your word of peace to us, that our souls may find rest and life in our Risen Lord, forever. AMEN.
OLD TESTAMENT READING: – PSALM 43: 5.
WHY ARE YOU DOWNCAST, O MY SOUL? WHY SO DISTURBED WITHIN ME? PUT YOUR HOPE IN GOD, FOR I WILL YET PRAISE HIM, MY SAVIOUR AND MY GOD.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – JOHN 20: 1-8; 11; 15-16.
EARLY ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, WHILE IT WAS STILL DARK, MARY MAGDALENE WENT TO THE TOMB AND SAW THAT THE STONE HAD BEEN REMOVED FROM THE ENTRANCE. SO SHE CAME RUNNING TO SIMON PETER AND TO THE OTHER DISCIPLE, THE ONE JESUS LOVED, AND SAID, “THEY HAVE TAKEN THE LORD OUT OF THE TOMB, AND WE DON’T KNOW WHERE THEY HAVE PUT HIM!” SO PETER AND THE OTHER DISCIPLE STARTED FOR THE TOMB. BOTH WERE RUNNING, BUT THE OTHER DISCIPLE OUTRAN PETER AND REACHED THE TOMB FIRST. HE BENT OVER AND LOOKED IN AT THE STRIPS OF LINEN LYING THERE BUT DID NOT GO IN. THEM SIMON PETER, WHO WAS BEHIND HIM, ARRIVED AND WENT INTO THE TOMB. HE SAW THE STRIPS OF LINEN LYING THERE, AS WELL AS THE BURIAL CLOTH THAT HAD BEEN AROUND JESUS’ HEAD. THE CLOTH WAS FOLDED UP BY ITSELF, SEPARATE FROM THE LINEN. FINALLY THE OTHER DISCIPLE, WHO HAD REACHED THE TOMB FIRST, ALSO WENT INSIDE. HE SAW AND BELIEVED… BUT MARY STOOD OUTSIDE THE TOMB CRYING… AN ANGEL ASKED HER; – “WOMAN, WHY ARE YOU CRYING? WHO IS IT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR?”… THEN, JESUS SAID TO HER, -“ MARY.” SHE TURNED TOWARD HIM, AND CRIED OUT IN ARAMAIC, “RABBONI!” (WHICH MEANS TEACHER).
I recall many years ago when our children were small, sitting in the front of the television listening to the evening news. The children were all around the living-room, “underfoot” as my Mother used to say, and eager to catch my attention and tell me their daily stories. Honestly, I tried to interact with them but at the same time I was preoccupied with something seemingly important in the politics of those times. Suddenly, my younger daughter moved directly in front of me, blocking the view of the television. She took my face in her little hands, and said: – Dad, you look at me when I am talking to you! That evening Szerena taught me a lesson I needed to learn: – Half-listening is no listening at all. Jesus had told His disciples many times that He would die and after three days He would rise again, but what he said was so unimaginable, that it was hard for them to believe. They must have thought that it wasn’t real, or maybe, they just didn’t listen properly, as it happened to me that night with my children. Death comes to us all; Resurrection comes to those who believe. Connecting Jesus’ Resurrection to our own lives, deaths and destinies requires faithful attention and listening to the Good News.
THE EMPTY TOMB. In her grief and pain, Mary made her way to the tomb, and immediately noticed that something was very wrong. The stone that the guards had placed over the grave was gone. Without entering the cave, she turned and ran back to the Upper Room where the disciples were hiding, telling them that some people had taken away Jesus’ body from the tomb. Peter and – probably – John, ran to the grave, and all they saw were the abandoned strips of linen lying inside. Despite all that Jesus had taught them, the two disciples still did not understand that their Lord had really risen from the dead. John tells us that they left the tomb – and went back to their hiding place. They were so poorly prepared for the good news that Christ had risen that they just went home, more afraid of being caught by the guards, than looking to meet the risen Christ. What kind of world were they living in?
– What kind of world is this? Sadly, this question is more often asked today, as the world around us seems so brutal, cruel and sad. When the world is plunged for more than a year into a pandemic; when people suffer from the terrible Coronavirus and its variants; when the innocent suffer and die; when we see the tragic effects of becoming infected, and not having the vaccine administered in time. Especially at these times, we may ask the question, – What kind of world is this? On the day when Jesus was innocently tortured and crucified – the day Jesus died on that Cross, there seemed to be a simple answer to the question: that world was a “Good- Friday-World.” Mary was still finding herself in a Good Friday World. She had seen Jesus, through her tears, as He suffered the agony of a brutal execution, and now things seem worse, as Mary came prepared for the ritual of embalming, and Jesus’ body had disappeared.
WHO IS IT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR? Many of us are like Mary. We are looking for a preconceived Jesus, the Jesus we think we know or imagine. We may come to Easter Sunday limiting God by looking for Jesus only as we have always seen Him. How would we answer the question, – Who is it you are looking for? In what way might we be surprised if the Lord would appear to us this morning? Why is it easier to see and believe as we always have, rather than having a personal meeting with the Risen Christ? Perhaps we hang on to our preconceptions because it is more comfortable and far less demanding of us. Poor Mary. She was alone again, just existing in that Good-Friday-World. But then, suddenly, her world was changed – changed forever, changed for the better. She met up with the Risen Christ – as the first person to see Him. Then Mary realised that hope is stronger than fear; love is stronger than hate; faith is stronger than doubt – and life is stronger than death; all because of God’s loving, saving work in Christ Jesus. From that moment Mary’s life started reflecting Jesus’ Resurrection Light, not dwelling any longer in the darkness of Good Friday. Her eyes have been opened, her life, – her world – has been changed forever into the Easter-World. God surprised Mary that first Easter morning, and everything has changed for her. What changed Mary? Not the empty tomb. Not the presence of the angels. Not the vision of Jesus standing before her; she misunderstood all of that. It was one word that changed everything for her. One word as Jesus called her name: – Mary. This identified Jesus as The Good Shepherd, who knows His sheep by name, and they listen to His voice (John 10: 15-16). From now on Mary lives in the EASTER-WORLD, rather than just existing in a prolonged and sorrowful Good Friday.
WE ARE EASTER PEOPLE. God so loved the world that he came to us as one of us in Christ Jesus. He lived our human life, knew our human sorrow and pain, and He died our human death. But the power of the love of God can transform our human sorrows, human sufferings, human death into joy, consolation and life everlasting, through Jesus’ Resurrection. And God is still with us, living in our Easter-World with us – and will never leave us, even (especially) when we experience the bad times of life. The power of the love of God has brought new life, rising in Jesus from the darkness of death, and Jesus promises new life to all people: New Life that is everlasting. This is the Easter Message for an Easter Day world where the love of God is made real through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Thanks be to our God!
It is more than significant for me that as I was ready to put the Amen and end this sermon, I just received a sad message that the wife of a good friend of mine in Hungary has passed away. I felt that I should respond immediately, and give a word of comfort to the family. As hard as it seemed, suddenly, it became easy. Both being faithful Christians, I just had to continue this Easter message in an even more personal way than I have already detailed above, telling them, that for those who have faith and hope in Christ, LOVE NEVER DIES, and that real comfort comes from the love of God.
Calling Mary (and us), Jesus then sent Mary (and us) with a message. Mary was the first witness to the Resurrected Lord and the first that Jesus appointed to preach the Resurrection message, that opened for us all the way to be part of His family and do the same. Mary saw the Lord, first dimly, then clearly. She despaired; then she became a wishful thinker. She hoped; then she believed. She wept; then she rejoiced. She held on to the presence of the Risen Lord, then her life filled up with the knowledge that He was alive.
We all enter the Easter-story at different times and places this morning. But may we all leave having experienced THE GOOD NEWS, and like Mary, may we go and tell all those who really wait for it, – long ago in that Upper Room in Jerusalem, here in Portree, in Hungary, or wherever it is needed in this Easter-Day-World, today.
COMMUNION HYMN (CH-582, vs 1-2) : – IN LOVE, FROM LOVE, THOU CAMEST FORTH, O LORD, sent from the Father, His incarnate Word; that in that perfect Name, by Thee confessed, our hearts with Thine might find their perfect rest.
Within the veil, Thy mortal travail o’er, Thou livest unto God to die no more; and now, made sons of God, with Thee we stand, girt with the grace of Thy confirming hand.
Jesus, Immanuel, evermore adored, at Thy great name we bow, we own Thee Lord: Glory be Thine, O Father, Thine, O Son, and Thine, O Holy Spirit, ever One. Amen.
We are here to look back, here to look forward. We are here to remember One who died, here to greet One who lives. We are here to share Bread and Wine, here to share fellowship together. We are here in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ who invites us, as He invited His first disciples, to take Supper with Him. He shared bread and wine, with the one who would betray Him, the one who would deny Him, and those who would abandon Him in His hour of need. He invites us to share bread and wine, you and I who are weak and sinful, who daily fail Him, who prefer our way to His, who have barely begun to understand the true meaning of discipleship. Though our faith is frail, and our faults are many, though we have many questions, and much to learn, come now and let us share Bread and Wine, COME AND FIND LIFE FOR OUR SOULS. AMEN.
NARRATIVE OF THE INSTITUTION: –
Hear the Words of the institution of the Lord’s Supper:
FOR I RECEIVED FROM THE LORD WHAT I ALSO PASSED ON TO YOU: THE LORD JESUS, ON THE NIGHT HE WAS BERTAYED, TOOK BREAD, AND WHEN HE HAD GIVEN THANKS, HE BROKE IT AND SAID, “THIS IS MY BODY, WHICH IS BROKEN FOR YOU; DO THIS IN REMEMBRACE OF ME.” IN THE SAME WAY, AFTER SUPPER HE TOOK THE CUP, SAYING, “THIS CUP IS THE NEW COVENANT IN MY BLOOD; DO THIS, WHENEVER YOU DRINK IT, IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME.” FOR WHENEVER YOU EAT THIS BREAD AND DRINK THIS CUP, YOU PROCLAIM THE LORD’S DEATH UNTIL HE COMES. (1.Corinthians 11: 23-26).
(The Minister): – As the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread, I take these elements of bread and wine, to be set apart from all common uses to this holy use and mystery; and as He gave thanks and blessed, let us draw near to God and offer Him our prayers and thanksgiving.
LET US PRAY:
Father, we come to You conscious of the things within ourselves we hate to remember, yet cannot forget and fear to renounce: our self-indulgences, our prejudices, our resentments, our hypocrisies, our selfishness. Save us from self-contempt as we acknowledge these things and as we remember Your love for us in spite of all that we are and do. Give us the assurance of pardon, the release and relief of those who know that the past is forgiven, and the zest and joy of those who know that the future is still to be made. So may we live in that fullness and freedom of life, which You have promised that we can share through Jesus Christ our Lord. Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned in thought, word, and deed. We have not wholeheartedly loved You; we have not loved others as we have loved ourselves. In Your mercy, forgive our past sins, amend what we are, and direct what we shall be. So shall we delight in Your will, and go Your way, with Jesus Christ our Lord.
Hear God’s Word of Grace and the Assurance of Pardon: – CHRIST JESUS CAME INTO THE WORLD TO SAVE SINNERS.YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN FOR HIS SAKE! AMEN.
TAKING THE ELEMENTS OF BREAD AND WINE: – According to the holy institution, example, and command of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as a memorial of Him, we do this: – WHO, ON THE SAME NIGHT WHEN HE WAS BETRAYED, TOOK BREAD AND WHEN HE HAD GIVEN THANKS HE BROKE IT AND SAID, “THIS IS MY BODY WHICH IS BROKEN FOR YOU; DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME” – PLEASE, TAKE THE PIECE OF BREAD, YOU BROUGHT WITH YOU FROM HOME DUE TO CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC, AND LET US ALL TAKE AND EAT TOGETHER: – NOW… IN THE SAME WAY HE TOOK THE CUP SAYING, “THIS CUP IS THE NEW COVENANT SEALED IN MY BLOOD. WHENEVER YOU DRINK IT, DO IT IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME” – SO, PLEASE, TAKE THE SEALED CUP FROM THE HOLDER BEFORE YOU, OPEN IT, AND LET US DRINK OUR CUPS TOGETHER: – NOW …
THE PEACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST BE WITH US ALL! AMEN. (Because of Pandemic-restrictions, we won’t greet one another, this time, with the handshake of THE PEACE OF CHRIST).
LET US PRAY:
GRACIOUS LORD GOD, we thank You for the love which brings us – as food from heaven – the life of Your dear Son, risen for us at Easter morning, and assures us that we belong to the company of all His faithful people in heaven and on earth. Grant, that being strengthened by this fellowship and by the power of Your Holy Spirit, we may continue to walk His way, until we come to the glory of Your eternal kingdom; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Saviour and Lord. And here we offer and present to You our very selves, to be a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for Your acceptance: – through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory are Yours, Almighty Father, now and forever. Remember, O Lord, Your holy Church throughout the world, the Church of Scotland within it, and all our sisters and brothers in our church here in this place, and on this Island. Reveal Your glory among the nations and grant a blessed Easter wherever people are gathered in Your name today. Save Your people everywhere, guide and bless those who belong to You, shepherd them and carry them forever. Remember, O Lord, our families and friends wherever they are, and surround them with Your steadfast love. Remember, O Lord, those who are sick, those who suffer pain, loneliness, or grief, those who draw near to death, and those whom we name now quietly in our hearts, before You . . . Comfort them with Your presence, sustain them by Your promises, grant them Your peace. Keep us in unbroken fellowship with Your whole Church in heaven and on earth, and bring us at the last to the joy of Your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Risen Lord. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN (CH-293) – THE SAVIOUR DIED, BUT ROSE AGAIN triumphant from the grave; and pleads our cause at God’s right hand, omnipotent to save.
Who then can e’er divide us more from Jesus and His love, or break the sacred chain that binds the earth to heaven above?
Let troubles rise, and terrors frown, and days of darkness fall; through Him all dangers we’ll defy, and more than conquer all.
Nor death nor life, nor earth nor hell, nor time’s destroying sway, can e’er efface us from His heart, or make His love decay.
Each future period that will bless, as it has blessed the past; He loved us from the first of time, He loves us to the last.
GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON, THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE (John 3:16) MAY GOD BE GRACIOUS TO US AND BLESS US AND MAKE HIS FACE SHINE UPON US ALWAYS … THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR RISEN LORD. AMEN.
Sandor, your Minister.