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Sermon and Liturgy for Easter Sunday - Year C
Psalm 118:14-24; I Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 24:1-12
"The Empty Tomb"


READING:  Psalm 118:14-24; I Corinthinans 15:12-20; John 20:1-18
SERMON :  "The Empty Tomb"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-ea01sesn 423778

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

                 
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS


* CALL TO WORSHIP  (from the rear of the Sanctuary)
L  The Lord is my strength and my song,. 
P  The Lord has become my salvation.
L  There is a song of joy and victory in the tents of the righteous.
P  The right hand of the Lord has triumphed!  
   The right hand of the Lord is exalted!
L  Because of the Lord's victory I will not die.
P  Instead I will live and proclaim what God has done.
L  Open to me the gates of the Temple.
P  I will go in and give thanks to the Lord.
L  I will give thanks to the Lord, for he has answered me.
P  He has become my salvation.
L  The stone the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be 
   the most important of all.
P  The Lord has done this.  It is marvellous in our eyes.
L  This is the day of the Lord's victory.
P  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.      (from Psalm 118:14-24)


* PROCESSIONAL HYMN: "Jesus Christ is Risen Today"                 - VU 155


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND PRAYER OF INVOCATION
L  The grace and the peace of the risen Lord be with you.
P  And also with you.
L  Let us pray: Most gracious and loving God, you who have swallowed up
   death with the resurrection of Jesus, 
P  Bring about in us new life with him.  
L  Pour your Holy Spirit upon us 
   and give us hearts and minds fitting for your praise. 
P   Bring about in us new life with him.
L  Help us to rejoice in all that you have done and worship you 
   in spirit and in truth.
P   Bring about in us new life with him.
L  We ask these things in the name of your risen Son,
P  He who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
   one God, both now, and forevermore.  Amen


A CELEBRATION OF RESURRECTION
-- The Pinata (filled with paper butterflies)
-- Distribution of Symbols of Resurrection and Song
       
Today - we have brought something very special to church.  Something that
is meant to remind us of the importance and meaning of this day.....  Can
you tell me what it is....

Yes - it is a Pinata   but what does it look like to you?  What does it
remind you of?   Yes a cacoon.  Let us now seen what comes out of it.

Break and distribute.  (Requires a stick and blindfold and lots of kids)


PRAYER AND LORD'S PRAYER
   Dear Lord God   -- we give you thanks today for new life -- for how
   what seems to have died -- can be transformed -- and emerge a new
   creature. -- we thank you for raising Jesus from the dead --- and
   for giving to him new life -- and through him --- for giving us the
   same.  -- We thank you God -- for overcoming  sin and death.   Amen

   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,
   the power and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen


* HYMN: "This is The Day"                                          - VU 412


A READING FROM LUKE 24:1-12
   (NIV)  On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the
   women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. {2} They
   found the stone rolled away from the tomb, {3} but when they entered,
   they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. {4} While they were
   wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like
   lightning stood beside them. {5} In their fright the women bowed down
   with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you
   look for the living among the dead? {6} He is not here; he has risen!
   Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: {7}
   'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be
   crucified and on the third day be raised again.'" {8} Then they
   remembered his words. {9} When they came back from the tomb, they told
   all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. {10} It was Mary
   Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them
   who told this to the apostles. {11} But they did not believe the
   women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. {12} Peter,
   however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips
   of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself
   what had happened.

L  This is the gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
                    

ANTHEM:  "In The Cross of Christ I Glory"

             
A READING FROM I CORINTHIANS 15:12-20
   (NIV)  But if it is preached that Christ has been
   raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no
   resurrection of the dead? {13} If there is no resurrection of the
   dead, then not even Christ has been raised. {14} And if Christ has not
   been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. {15} More
   than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we
   have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he
   did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. {16} For if the
   dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. {17} And
   if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in
   your sins. {18} Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are
   lost. {19} If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be
   pitied more than all men. {20} But Christ has indeed been raised from
   the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

L  This is the word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.

              
* HYMN:  Now The Green Blade Rises                                 - VU 186

            
SERMON: "The Empty Tomb"

   Loving God, as you opened the tomb and raised Jesus to new life, so
   open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit that as
   your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us
   today.  We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.

What is it that you believe about God and about Jesus?  
about the cross?   and about the empty tomb?

Survey says that almost everyone believes in God.

Survey also says that most people believe that there was a man
called Jesus - who lived very morally - and who taught the law of
God and who died on a cross.

But survey also says that when it comes to the empty tomb
many people draw a line and refuse to cross it 
they begin to speak about what is possible and impossible
about what is really real - and what is not
about what is believable and what is unbelievable.

There are thousands
tens of thousands 
hundreds of thousands
perhaps millions of people 
who claim the name of Christ
and who strive to live beautiful lives
who do not accept that Jesus rose from the dead.

What a loss that is - a loss to them - and through them - a loss to
others..

Easter Day is the key to our faith and to our hope,
it is central to everything that Jesus taught concerning himself and the
Kingdom of God
it is central to everything that the church has proclaimed since the day
that Jesus ascended into heaven.

Hear again what Paul wrote:

   "If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is a  delusion and
   you are still lost in your sins.  It would  also mean that the
   believers in Christ who have died are lost.  Indeed, if our hope in
   Christ is good for this life only, then we deserve more pity than
   anyone else in all the world.  But the truth is that Christ has
   been raised from death, as the guarantee that those ho sleep in
   death will also be raised."

Those who believe that Jesus should be followed simply because he was a
great teacher - but who do not believe in the resurrection are, as Paul
puts it in today 's epistle reading, "to be pitied more than anyone else
in all the world".

They are to be pitied because they do not understand the ways of God -
- nor the nature of life and death and that which lies beyond death.  

They are to be pitied because while they have fixed themselves upon the
obvious goodness of the law of God   and the obviously fine example set by
Christ Jesus, they have ignored the even greater gift that God offers to
us through Christ Jesus -- the gift of eternal life.

The good news about Jesus Christ is that he is Risen and He is Lord
   and the good news of Jesus Christ is that he invites to die with him
   and to rise with him
- and that by his power - the power that God bestowed upon him,
this thing that is impossible to us can happen 
- we can be reborn 
- and we can enter into God's eternal presence
- we can be transformed 
- we can live - we can become new.

The good news that we proclaim is not that God gives us a new law through
Christ Jesus 
but that he gives us a new life through Christ Jesus,
a life that is not only here and now 
- but a life that extends forever in Christ's own glorious perfection.

A faith that only focuses on doing good things 
   that only focuses on morality and on the efforts of our hands
is a weak faith - a faith that lacks power,
not because power is not available
but because that faith does not reach out for it 
   and does not recognize the power when it reaches out for us.

A faith that only focuses on doing good things -
and on the beauty of the world around us - the glory of the creation
is a feeble faith - a faith that lacks transforming energy -
not because that energy is not available
but because that faith does not reach for it
- and does not recognize the energy when it reaches out for us.

Christ is risen -
and he is here; 
here today
here in our midst
here in our hearts
here in the words we speak
here in the love we show
here even in our questions and our doubts
here to share his power - his truth - his love - his strength -
his faithfulness - his glory - with all who would receive it.

Christ is risen -- and he is here;
here to do what we can not do for ourselves
here to grant us the victory over sin and death -
here to open to us the way to God -
here to lift us up when we fall
here to forgive and to heal
here to transform and make new.

Say Amen.

What we celebrate here today, and in fact every Sunday, is that God made
us and cares for us, 
   that God cares so much, that he refuses to be simply the God of the
   trees and the bees, 
   to be only a God who made swamps and ponds and tadpoles, 
   to be just a God who can be seen dimly behind the beauty of nature.

We celebrate today and every Sunday the fact that God cares so much that
he gets involved with the world he made and with the people he made, 
    that God offers to each one of us a life full of wholeness,  
	full of goodness, full of love,
       and that he does this despite the fact that every human being to
       one degree or another, 
   rejects him and his way of love.

God gives us a law to follow  most definitely 
but God also gives us more   he gives us his love -
a love that is best seen on the cross and attested to by the resurrection.

The resurrection is that which shows us that human sinfulness is not the
last word.  

The resurrection is that which shows us that death does not defeat life.

The resurrection is that which shows us that there is a future
          that there is a point to living faithfully
          that there is more to our world than the laws of nature would
have us believe.

This is the gospel that we proclaim and we believe.

The empty tomb may be difficult for us to understand,  but far more
difficult to understand are the people who would flee from it and its
message of hope.

What is it that you believe about God and about Jesus?
about the cross? and about the empty tomb.?

Do you think it is a fantasy because it is hard to imagine it as being
true?
         
Do you think it is simply extra icing on the cake of life,
a cake that can be fully found in the worship of a God of nature,

Then think about nature with me for a minute --

   The story is told about a smart young college student who announced
   to a group of friends one day that he would believe nothing that he
   could not understand.   Another student, who lived on a nearby farm
   turned to him and said:

   "As I was driving into campus today, I passed a field in which some
   sheep were grazing.  Do you believe it?" --  

   "Sure", replied first student..

   "Not far from the sheep", the second student said, "some calves
   were browsing.  Do you believe it?"

    "Yes", the first student replied.
			  
   "And not too far down the road a gaggle of geese were feeding.  Do
   you believe it?" the second student said?"

   "I guess so". said the first student.

   "Well", said the second student, "the grass that the sheep ate will
   turn into wool; the grass that the calves ate will turn into hair,
   and the grass that geese ate will turn into feathers.  Do you
   believe this?"

   "Ummm, .. yes, I do.", the first student said.

   "But do you understand it?"

   "Not really", "the first student said, somewhat puzzled.

   "You know", declared the second student, "If you live long enough,
   you will find that there are a great many things that you will
   believe without understanding."

The empty tomb may be difficult to understand,
    but that is no reason not to believe in it, and in what it points too,
     - which is a God who cares so much for us that he enters
       into our life with us and shows us how to live it,
and shows us as well - when we fail to live life as we ought, 
how to begin once more in the assurance of his everlasting love 
and of the everlasting life that comes to who have faith,

The empty tomb promises all those who have faith,
all those who strive to follow in the path of Christ,
that life triumphs over death,
   that we do not perish like the grass of the field which one day is
   here and the next gone, our place to be taken by some other,
but rather that life, our life, goes on - in a new and more glorious form,
into the everlasting presence and the everlasting kingdom of our ever
loving God.

Believe, my friends, in the testimony of those who saw the risen Jesus and
talked with him - and wrote his words in this book, believe too in the
testimony of those like Paul and the millions
of apostles and saints after him who have testified to the fact that the
risen Christ has visited them.

Believe - and receive the power
Believe - and receive the transforming hope.
Believe - and receive a peace that no law can ever grant
Believe and rejoice for "death is swallowed up in victory", 
to the praise of our brother and our Saviour, Jesus Christ 
-  our risen Lord.  Amen.


JOIN WITH ME IN PRAYER FOR A MOMENT PLEASE
Loving God -- we thank you today -- for that which we cannot understand
but which we can appreciate -- and experience.
Pour out upon us Father, a renewed faith in your power 
and the peace that comes with hope in you and in the resurrection of
Christ our Lord.  Amen


ANTHEM: "The Old Rugged Cross"


PROFESSION OF FAITH: The Song of The First Born (Col. 1:15-20)
L  Christ is the image of the invisible God, 
   the first born over all Creation;
P  For in him all things were made, in heaven and on earth, visible and
   invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities,
L  All things were created through him and for him.
P  Christ is before all things and in him all things hold together.  
   He is the head of the body, the church.
L  He is the beginning, the first born from among the dead, 
   that in everything he might be pre-eminent.
P  In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 
   and through him to reconcile to himself all things, 
   whether things on earth or things in heaven, 
   making peace by the blood of his cross.
          

Gloria Patri (sung)


THE PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
O God, like the first witnesses of the resurrection, we too, come to the
empty tomb with a variety of responses.  We hear the good news that Jesus
has risen, but so often the evidence for this is difficult to detect in
our lives.  We pray you, enliven our faith and help us to make the risen
Christ evident through our words and our actions   help us to believe that
we may see - that others may see and then believe.........  Lord, hear our
prayer....

Lord, as this day we come to the empty tomb of Jesus and gaze within -
help us to remember that  not only is his tomb empty, but that he is both
with you in your eternal kingdom and here with those  who believe in him
and worship him......  Lord, hear our prayer....

Father, we pray this day that your resurrection power may surround and
embrace those who grieve on this day.   Especially we pray today for the
family of - NAME - .  Grant to them the fullness of the joy that comes
with knowing that she has joined you and has been made whole in a way that
all the saints have looked forward to since death first entered this
world....   Lord hear our prayer...

We also remember before you today O God (BIDDING PRAYER)... Lord, hear our
prayer...

All these things we ask you through Christ our Lord, he who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, both now and forevermore. 
Amen

              
* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of
Dedication 

   Bless O God the gifts we present to you this day.  May they honour
   you and show the depth of our thankfulness towards you for all that
   you have given to us through Jesus Christ, our rise Lord.  Amen


* EXCHANGE OF THE PEACE

              
* COMMUNION HYMN:  "Come, You Faithful, Raise The Strain"          - VU 165

              
COMMUNION LITANY:
L  The peace of the Lord be with you.
P  And also with you.
L  Lift up your hearts.
P  We lift them up to the Lord.
L  Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P  It is right to give him thanks and praise.
                
L  Loving and Compassionate God, we give you praise for the care and
   grace which you show toward all that you have made.  We thank you for
   acting to deliver us from the power of sin and death through Jesus
   Christ your only begotten son, our Saviour and Lord.  With all
   creation, and with all the company of the redeemed, we magnify your
   glorious name, evermore praising thee, saying:
P  Holy, holy, holy, Lord,  God of power and might,
   Heaven and earth are full of your glory,
   Hosanna in the highest.
   Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,
   Hosanna in the highest.

L  Eternal God, we trust in you.  We thank you for raising Jesus from the
   dead, the first fruit of all who have fallen asleep.  His ascension
   into heaven to sit at your right hand we confess, and his coming again
   in triumph we await.
P  Come Lord Jesus, come.

L  We remember, O Father, in accordance with his command, how Jesus on
   the night he was betrayed, took bread and blessed it (as even now we
   do bless it, O Lord), and broke it, and gave it to his disciples,
   saying, "Take, eat, this is body, broken for you".  We remember, too,
   how in the same manner he took the cup and gave it to his disciples
   saying, "This cup is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, poured
   out for you.  As often as you drink it, do so in remembrance of me"
P  Worthy is the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain, to receive all power and
   wealth, wisdom and might, honour and glory and praise.

L  Worthy indeed, O Lord, is thy Son Jesus Christ, who died so that we
   might live and who rose from the dead so that we might be one with him
   in your sight.  We pray that our lives may always proclaim the mystery
   of faith:
P  Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
            
L  Loving God, send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts, that the bread we
   break may be for us communion in the body of Christ, and the cup of
   blessing which we bless may be for us communion in the blood of
   Christ; that being built up in love we may be strengthened in the
   unity of the faith and come to the fullness of the stature of Christ
   our Lord.
                 
The Distribution of The Elements  - Please come forward up by the centre
   aisle to receive from the servers nearest to you and return by the
   side aisle.  After the choir receives they will sing "Eat This Bread"
   (VU 466)   You are most welcome to sing along as the Spirit may move
   you.. 


DEPARTING PRAYER (in unison)
L  Let us pray
P  Heavenly Father, we thank you for all that you have done.  
   Help us to show forth the life, the death, and the resurrection 
   of Jesus our Lord by all that we say and do and are.  
   We ask it in his name.  Amen


* HYMN:  "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Give Thanks"                     - VU 179


* COMMISSIONING (unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit, we now go
   forth into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the
   body of Christ.


* BENEDICTION & THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace,  and may God, who through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus
Christ has given us victory, grant to you new life this day - indeed may
the power of the resurrection come upon you and transform you and all your
days and nights - both now and forevermore.   Amen


* THREE FOLD AMEN & SUNG BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"              - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2001 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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