Materials for Worship on Easter Day

Nerys writes: It struck me the other day that many members of St Mary’s will have celebrated the Resurrection on Easter Morning more than fifty or sixty times and some more than seventy or even eighty times! I wonder what you remember of Easter services in the past. Is it the hymns and the music, the words of an Easter prayer or the theme of a certain sermon? Is it the sight of the Paschal candle, the scented beauty of the church, the sense of anticipation or excitement, the people you were with?

They say that familiarity breeds contempt. It can certainly numb the senses and close our minds to new approaches. Maybe we don’t need to be constantly looking for novelty or an emotional buzz, but, however many times we have celebrated Easter before, in order to greet the risen Christ, we need to have hearts open to new possibilities. Remembrance can fix us in the past or it can build a foundation for deeper experiences of God.

When we worship at home, we have the freedom to read Scripture and to pray at our own pace and in ways that suit us. This morning I invite you to slow down and use your senses and your imagination to enter into today’s familiar Gospel reading of the first Easter. Before turning to Luke 24.1-12, you may wish to take your time to light a candle, or to simply sit in silence observing your surroundings as you invite Christ to be present to you. As you read the story slowly the first time, notice any word or phrase that jumps out at you and give yourself time to reflect on it before using the guided reading below to explore and question the passage.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. I wonder what it feels like to hurry through the narrow streets of Jerusalem just as the first shafts of light are streaking the sky? I wonder what sounds you would hear as the city starts to come to life. What are the sights and smells?
I wonder how much of a risk the women were taking venturing out to the tomb? Maybe their headscarves would hide their identity? Maybe those in charge wouldn’t take notice of a few females? Feel their determination to give his body the proper care that hadn’t been possible the day before. Feel the fear of being caught. Feel their courage.
I wonder how heavy the spices were that they were carrying? How much it had cost to buy them? How long it had taken to prepare them? Imagine the stories they would have shared as they ground the bitter-sweet seeds and leaves- stories of the meals they’d enjoyed in his company, his healings, his stories, the laughter, the love. Feel the heaviness of their grief now, their incomprehension, their anger – their hopes and dreams destroyed for ever
And as they enter the garden and locate the tomb, the memories of their last time there flood back. How they had hurriedly prepared his body as evening came and the Sabbath was about to begin. The sound the stone had made as it was rolled into place just as the sun went down. The finality of it. The memory of his voice, ‘It is finished’.

They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. Feel the shock of seeing the gaping entrance. Imagine dropping everything and rushing in. Feel the panic and confusion as your eyes get used to the darkness. Hear the cries, ‘Where is he? What have they done with him? How could this have happened?’

While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground.
Taste the dust of the floor of the tomb on your lips as you lie there, head down. Feel the terror. What did you see? Hear the voices of the strange bright figures right beside you … ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Look at one another as you try to comprehend their words, as you try to remember his words. He did say those times in Galilee that something like this would happen. He said he would rise on the third day. But this is so far beyond anyone’s imagining. Nobody thought of resurrection like this. The raising of all God’s people at the end of time – yes! But the raising of one person within history? Feel the puzzlement. How could this be?

Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. Imagine coming out of the shadows to the full light of morning. Coming out of the darkness with a new possibility dawning in your mind. Feel the excitement, the tears of joy. He is risen as he said! He is risen! Hear the voices of Mary of Magdala, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the others sharing the news. This is what we saw! This is what we heard! See the disbelieving faces of the men. Hear their scorn and anger. Foolish, over-emotional women! What nonsense they speak! Feel the frustration as you retreat into silence. But then watch as Peter as impetuous as ever, rushes out of the door, off to see for himself.
But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

And the women, what happened to them? Did they ever get the apology their deserved? Did it matter? They knew what they saw. They knew what they had heard. They had remembered his words. They had believed. They had been set free. Imagine these faithful women passing on their witness to anyone who would listen. ‘He is not dead. He is alive. I know. I was there.’

Take a moment now to step back from the story and think about the way it made you feel or the questions it brought up for you. The risen Christ is with you. Is there anything you want to share with him? Take a moment to reflect and pray. What are the new possibilities Easter brings for you and for our broken world? How will you pass on your witness?


The morning of the Resurrection depicted by  the contemporary artist He Qi.