Easter, 2021

If you would like to participate in worship at once without worry,

Today, for those who would like to read and hear, this web page contains three additional clips of video. Part 1 contains today's service from Welcome and Announcements to Scripture, Part 2 is the sermon, and Part 3 is the rest of the service.



Welcome and Announcements



Happy Easter to you! I do pray that you will keep safe and God’s abundant blessing be yours today in this time of difficulty. This is the second Easter we have been under the COVID 19 lockdown. We thank God for guiding us through this past year. Today we are holding a short outdoor worship service under the strict protocol of the pandemic rules. Thank you to all those who have come out and to all those who are at home taking part in our online worship. There are also many who are worshipping with us through printouts. All are welcome.

The session meeting scheduled for Wednesday, April 14th is postponed until after the emergency lockdown is lifted.

So far, our mission fund total is $1200. Thank you for showing your love for the neighbours. Thank you so much for continually supporting this very important mission work. As the lockdown continues, it is very difficult for many of our neighbours.

Please pray for all those who are unwell. Today I ask your special prayers for Bernie, Robert and Virginia, Phyllis B., Kathleen, Andy, Harry and Betty and others.

Preparation Hymn: Alleluia, alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord



Call to Worship



Jesus is risen! Christ is risen! Jesus is risen, indeed!
Sing a joyful song unto the Lord for God has done great things for us!

Christ is risen! Jesus is risen! Christ is risen indeed!

Hymn: Jesus Christ is risen today


Opening Prayer



What a joy it is for us to worship you, O Lord our God! In your grace, we have been able to enjoy life of hope and love. On this day, we rejoice together as your people the resurrection of Christ our Lord.

We offer you our utmost thanks for the life you made it possible for us in your Son. Thank you. In him you have made us a new creation so that we may praise you under your reign.

For all things we have not done when we should have, for things we have failed to do because we forgot or found it inconvenient to follow your command, and for tasks in which we withheld love because our hearts were not generous, forgive us. Reinstill in us faith to see how your unconditional love has reached us to overflow to others through our limited and broken hearts.

On this day, fill us with the Holy Spirit so that we may truly worship you as your children who have been given life eternal now and ever. Help us to live in ways that others may see in what we do the victory over death.

Through this worship, may we glorify you and bless you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Offering: The strife is o’er, the battle done



Offering Prayer



O how glad we are, O God, that we are able to offer you all that we are as the recipients of your love through your Son this day. As we celebrate his resurrection may we come now to return your love in these small portions as our commitment to carry out the life of love. Through this offering we attempt to bring glory to your name in small measure. Be glad of our effort on this Easter day as we have poured our hearts and souls in these small tokens. In your grace and mercy look kindly on us and send us back into the world with your love. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Scripture: John 20:1-18



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 towards 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 round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ 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.



Sermon,>



Mary Magdalene runs to where the disciples are. She is upset that Jesus’ body was nowhere to be found. After Mary’s breathless news, Peter and the beloved disciples run to the tomb. Peter arrives after the beloved disciple, but he enters the tomb first since the beloved one waits for him outside. They see the same thing as Mary, a tomb without Jesus’ body. So they return. Peter’s is the simplest reaction. He comes, sees, and returns. We do not know what he is thinking, how he is feeling, nor what he is intending to do.

The beloved disciple gets to the tomb first. He peers inside. He waits until Peter comes. After Peter, he, too, enters the tomb. We do not know what he felt when he looks in without going in. When he enters after Peter and sees, we are told that he believed. He, like Peter, still does not know the Scriptures fully. He does not know the meaning of seeing the empty tomb, yet he believes. Believes in what? Resurrection? Implication of the resurrection of Jesus? What Jesus told him before his death?

As we, the readers, ponder, Peter and the beloved disciple return. Mary lingers behind. Mary stands near the tomb unable to go back with them. She is weeping. Why is she so sorrowful and emotional? Unlike the other two, she is concerned and is overcome with her loss. Is it because there is no body of Jesus? Her mind is full of possibilities. She is not just crying softly, but weeping. She is full of sorrow that has hit her, it appears, like a ton of bricks because the absence of Jesus’ body makes her realize how great a loss of Jesus’ death is.

According to John’s Gospel she, like other women, remained at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion. She must have been there until the end. She probably followed Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who prepared and put Jesus’ body in the tomb. She came on the first day of the week at the dawn. She was a witness until the end of Jesus’ life. Now she feels the loss in its full force. Jesus is gone. Looking at the empty tomb, she feels it.

She peers into the tomb once again as if to see what she has seen earlier was not true, that if she looked again, maybe Jesus’ body would be there as she imagined. Through tears, she looks. This time she sees something--something totally unexpected. Instead of the dead body of Jesus she sees two figures, one on each end of where Jesus should be. The Gospel tells us that they are angels. Does she know that these are angels? It isn’t clear.

This heavenly presence in the tomb signifies something unexpected. This is where heaven and earth are intersecting at this very moment, not when Mary arrived earlier, not when the disciples arrived. There is something about deep grief that moves the hearts of many as well as God. It was out of the deep grief and sorrow of slavery Hebrews in Egypt cried to God. God heard the cries, remembered the promise to Abraham and sent Moses. Later, it was in response to deep griefs of suffering Israel God gave promises of the messiah. It was seeing and feeling the deep grief of Mary and Martha, Jesus raised Lazarus. It was hearing the deeply grieved Roman father who was about to lose a daughter, Jesus went to the soldier’s home and awoke the daughter. After hearing a Canaanite woman’s faith born out of her love for a daughter with severe illness, Jesus’ heart was moved to respond. Mary’s deep sadness must have provoked this incredible moment. The meeting of heaven and earth through the tears of Mary…

How else do you explain the sudden appearance of the angels? How else can we witness the mystery of God’s presence unfolding before eyes in this scene? God’s reign or heaven arrives so suddenly in the human world. Nothing is as it seems when this happens. The meeting of heaven and earth is always shrouded in mystery. We already saw this when Mary saw Angel Gabriel in the Gospel Luke and when Jesus took Peter, James and John up the high mountain where he was transfigured and spoke with Moses and Elijah. It is unexpected, unforeseen, and abrupt.

Through the tears of deep grief, Mary sees the Angels, then, a stranger. Her eyes covered with tears. Because of these deep tears, she experiences something no one else can--the breaking of heaven into the ordinary life of a very ordinary sinner. Her mind cannot grasp the reality open before her. Have those tears provoked the risen Jesus’ compassion? These tears cause Mary’s inability to see clearly the stranger before her, no? Has she been blinded by her overwhelming mourning of the loss of Jesus? She recognizes neither the person nor his voice. He speaks. His words are heard as nothing more than words of a stranger to her in her loss. She can think nothing else. O the insatiable grief! She asks, “if you have carried him away, please tell me.”

Then, the Word breaks through. As was said at the beginning of the Gospel John, in the beginning was the Word. Now this Word breaks through Mary’s grief and sorrow. “Mary!” says the man. Calling by name is the same as saying, “I know who you are. I know you are Mary who anointed me earlier with the expensive perfume. I know you are Mary who followed me throughout my ministry and stood along with my own mother near the cross. Mary, I know you as the one called out of your own sin to believe and follow me by having denied yourself, took your own cross, and followed me.” The name sums everything up. She is one of his beloved people. She is one of those for whom he came to die to save from this world.

She is not a stranger to this man who stands before her. She is his own.

This confession, profession, and proclamation about Mary awakens her spirit and opens her eyes, ears, heart and voice. She responds in kind, “Rabbouni!” She now knows. As she was known, she now knows. The Word is made flesh before her tear filled eyes. The stranger is no more an unknown person to her. This unknown person is now standing before her as her teacher for whom she was weeping. She knows who he is. Yes, he is alive and stands before her in this very time. He was lost to her: now through his calling of her name, he is found to her. The resurrection of Jesus is experienced fully by Mary.

Why does this matter? In life we seek to be known, understood, appreciated, yes, accepted as who we are. We come alive to those who know us so intimately, totally, and fully. In relationships where people are appreciated as who we truly are, understood in full sense, and are known totally to a point that no explanation is necessary, we flourish and enjoy life. We are given freedoms to be who we are intended to be. Jesus’ calling of Mary by her own name breaks down the human barriers and opens a new relationship between the teacher and the follower, Jesus and Mary. This new relationship is the one made possible by the resurrection. No more barriers stand between the two. Later we see how this is also the case between Jesus and his disciples. Our confession about Jesus and his resurrection is ultimately about who we are and who we are found to be in the risen Lord.

When we are speaking of the resurrection life, we are not speaking about some fantastical imaginary world of afterlife where some ethereal things happen. We are talking about the true reality of what humanity was created to be within the natural world. The resurrection life, which begins in this life, begins with God knowing us as God’s own, we come to know us as ones loved by God and by one another. The names in the resurrection life contain all that we are, not just certain parts of us defined by others, sums of our actions devoid of our intentions, or projections of good and beautiful parts presented to the world by us.

When the risen Lord names Mary, he is accepting, receiving, revealing who she truly is. When Mary calls the Lord “Rabouni” she is accepting, receiving, confessing and proclaiming who she is in this new reality of her risen Lord, the resurrection life, as who she was created to be. No more hiding, no more packaging, and no more putting forward only the good part of who she is. Yes, Mary finds out who she truly is in relation to Christ. She can testify, but does not fully understand this risen Lord as yet. She can be a witness to the resurrection event, but it remains a mystery to her. In this resurrection event, she finds her true self as one who loves her Lord and is found by him by that very same love. That is, Mary’s love for Jesus and Jesus’ love for Mary are one and the same. God orinitated this love and now is completed in Christ as Christ and his people share it in full. The resurrection life without this revelation of who we are, because who our risen Lord is, is indeed nothing more than a fantastical tale told by a fool. This is so because that the resurrection life is predicated on this selfless love of our Lord that has given birth to true selves as we were created to be in the first place.

Lately there have been many discussions about different shades of racism. Now with killing in Atlanta and a sudden rise of attacks against Asians more layers are added to already very complicated and uncomfortable conversations on race relations. Many words have been spilt over the terrible effects of white supremacy. Everyone who is anybody in our world has made a statement. Accusations and counter-accusations have muddied the water. Much of these fights have become shouts for power and to whom it should belong. All these talk falter because the end results are nothing more than tolerance and accommodations of others at best. We seem to have forgotten these discussions existed ever since humanity began its life on earth.

Hearing bits and pieces of arguments on George Floyd’s trial, one thing was evident: both sides are quick to point out wrongs on the other, demonizing and caricaturing. In the process both George Floyd and Derek Chauvin are made to be everything but who they truly are. By taking sides, audiences, too, are refusing to see them as who they are. Their names make those who watch the trial feel safe in their own beliefs in the comforts of their own homes. As spectators, they have chosen their hero and anti-hero. All information provided by attorneys are helping with the caricaturing each character with their own prejudices. By doing so everyone is refusing to accept these two as two people in God’s images, though these images are mangled, broken and shattered in this world. When they encountered each other, one could not accept, receive and was not able to be revealed to the other as who he was. ‘Instead of meeting with God’s hospitality, the two broken human beings collided, one killing the other. Now, their names are turned into symbols of good and evil. They are nothing more than small bit players suddenly thrust upon the stage to be used in the moral play of this world. With pent up anger and frustration, the audience will once again pronounce its purity by sacrificing these two strangers on their altar of justice and rights dividing themselves into supporters of true good against unfathomable evil.

The struggle for us as the Easter People is not to fall into this trap of playing judges and jurors in this world’s moral play. This applies also to our eagerness to take sides or hold opinion on all racism matters pitting one racial group against all others. As I mentioned earlier, discriminations and extreme prejudices between human races and peoples have always existed. Only way to overcome them is to be the Easter People following the risen Lord who is revealed here to Mary. That is, we do our best to call others by name. In order to call by name, however, we must learn to accept, receive, confess, and proclaim them without condition. It is the way to love them as God loves them.

That Derek Chauvin could not find within himself the very image of God when he met George Floyd who also was made in God’s image shows the depth of brokenness displayed in this tragedy. This is what we, the Easter People, need to grapple with. How is it that 2000+ years of the resurrection life ended up with two people, both the product of Christian West ended up in this predicament of one murdering another? Desecrating God’s image in both?

Ultimately, both are products of the society born of 2 millennia of Christianity. Yet, as the black theologian, James Cone, illustrated in his book Lynching Tree, somehow the white Christianity became a fertile ground for this ugly supremacy, while the black Christianity still grapples with the oppressive self-destruction brought on by slavery and effects of supremacy. The legacy of this inhumanity is now being tested as a morality play at the trial without all of us, both secular and religious people, realizing fully how we ended up here in this small courtroom after more than two thousand years of witnessing to the resurrection life. It is our inability to accept, acknowledge, recognize, and welcome others as Jesus does here with Mary that has brought us thus far. Naming each other, that gives life, happens only when we see God’s image in each other. Calling others by names that is the proclamation, profession, confession, and witnessing others happens when we know those whom we encounter fully.

Without our willingness to testify to the risen Christ in each other, it is impossible to overcome all these racial tensions no matter what and how much we try. This task is especially difficult in the world where the resurrection is seen, even by some very smart theologians, as nothing more than a myth. When we dismiss the resurrection of our Lord, we shut the possibility of being accepted, found, received and revealed as who we truly are. When we deny the resurrection of Jesus as nothing more than a fiction concocted by some ancient minds, we are free from experiencing what Mary experiences in this passage, the joy of being in our Lord’s presence.

In faith, we do not function with fundamental human rights, but with unconditional love of Christ that has been extended to us so that we could live the life of this limitless love. The new reality of the life with the risen Lord Mary experiences is also ours to share in and to share with. In a way, because of this faith in the resurrected Lord, all encounters with strangers and those who are familiar afford us opportunities to partake in this new creation where heaven and earth are intersecting and our eyes, ears, hearts, minds and spirits are opened to both. It is not about claiming rights, but all about being open to the voices of strangers. On this Easter, may we all be like Mary, as we share in the grief of losing our Lord because of our sincere faith, ultimately being accepted, found, received and revealed by the risen Lord.

Remember, in this world, as Easter becomes nothing more than an excuse for a party for the majority of Canadians we have lost our Lord. How is it that we feel no loss of Christ like Mary? How is it that we no longer experience the intersecting of heaven and earth, the resurrection life, on Easter? Where are our tears that will move the heart of the risen Christ, that will provoke our Lord to be manifested when two broken human beings come together in his name? Only when we are capable of these tears of deep loss of Christ’s presence among us, can the risen one turn those tears of grief into tears of joy where each human being who has been crushed by this world is restored not as an enemy, but as a brother/sister. The resurrection life is revealed to be the true reality when everyone is accepted, received and revealed as ones belonging to Christ.



Closing Prayer



In life full of your love, we come this day. Having received not only the promise, but also the fulfilment of that promise, we come humbly to be made your love in this world. Our world is broken, shaken, and torn. Yet, because of your love, we are able to live with faith, full of hope, and overflowing with love. Continue to perfect us so that your love may be shared with all who require your guidance, presence, and leading.

As your people, we bring the concerns of our world knowing that when your little ones suffer, you suffer along with them. Like last Easter, in this season of resurrection all those vulnerable ones have been severely affected. Be with them all. Be with all those who are sick and who are desperate for healing.

We bring before you those who are poor, sick, weak, hurt, oppressed, abused, neglected, fearful, and unable. May the resurrection hope be theirs as you touch them with love.

We also pray for those who are in refugee camps, migrant detention centers, and prisons. This world has been a difficult place for many who ended up being incarcerated. Grant them your hope in ways that they will rebuild their lives as your new creation by the life offered in the resurrected Son.

We remember before you who are struggling with war zones. Many people are spending days under horrid conditions of fear as bombs are dropped and bullets are unleashed. So many have been wounded in both mind and body. Keep them close to you. May we, as your Easter people, do our best to bring about peace among all peoples so that your glory may shine again.

We thank you for all those saints who sojourned in our world and are now resting in you waiting the day of the resurrection when all will be raised. So many of our members have died in the past few years. Keep them in your care. Bless the families remain behind.

O Lord, among us are the sick. Be with Bernie as he struggles to find ways to become stronger, Robert and Virginia, Phyllis B, Kathleen, and those who are isolated from others, and Harry and Betty in their continuing battle with day to day chores. Bless each and everyone in your presence. Do not leave them alone. Give them the strength of life to enjoy each moment filled with grace.

May we be your instrument in ways the world will come to know, to heal, to grow and flourish as your love becomes the sources of all life. We pray all this and more in your Son’s name. Amen.

Closing Hymn: Thine be the glory



Benediction