And the seventh day, He blessed it, God rested. The sun went down. The Sabbath faded. The holy day was done, and all creation waited.
Welcome to the gathering of St. Mark’s Church (Sunday worship under one roof) Sunday, April 11th 2021.
1 John 1:1-4 (The Message)
From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in — we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.
We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!
Can you hear the wonder and joy in these words, marveling at the wonder of Resurrection? What would it mean for you and I to recapture the wonder and joy of the resurrection? What would it sound like, look like, feel like for a life of a community captivated by what God has done in raising Jesus to life from death for the world in love?
Christ is risen so that we may live with certainty that Love is truth, Love endures, Love is greater than power, self-gratification, and preservation. Christ is risen so that love fulfills its destiny – all of creation in holy communion with the Father and the Son and of the Holy spirit and therefore, creation made whole, creation at peace, creation at rest.
As we worship let the wonder of Resurrection capture our hearts, our dreams and our imagination. It is nothing short of a new creation. Let us envision a world recreated with a new order being revealed, unfolding, and taking shape. What shape is this? Love embodied seen in and through Christ-crucified raised and his light reflected in the life of his church, the body of resurrected Christ on earth, you and I.
I want to share with you a painting for your reflection. It is purposefully altered. It is altered to express the new world emerging. Like the dawning light that reveals what has been hidden in darkness. This light is the light from the empty tomb, like the first light of creation ordered and animated by Love who has a face, God-in-the-flesh, God in our own shoes, Jesus Christ.
Reflection song: God Rested by Andrew Peterson
And the seventh day,
He blessed it
The sun went down
The Sabbath faded
The holy day was done
and all creation waited
Song: ‘Morning Has Broken’
Welcome and Notices:
Praying the Psalm:
We are going to pray a psalm together. Today’s psalm is a section from psalm 118. This is a prayer of joy and gratefulness seasoned with wonder and hope at how God has saved us. It poetically employs an analogy of war to express the joy of victory over death. In this particular translation, an analogy of a tide is used to visualise the retreat of death, the rolling back of death. Or, vice versa, to imagine how the flood of love is rushing in, so open up the gates, welcome it! The psalm is emphatic that this is God’s doing! What seemed impossible, what seemed like a certain death, an end, is now a new beginning. The psalm urges us to be the herald of a new reality, where God is building anew a whole new order of life according to God’s steadfast love that endures forever.
People of God, where in your life do you need to hear, see and feel the emerging world of love God has won in raising Christ Jesus to life? Where in our neighbourhood and our community we need to see a breakthrough like a light piercing through the darkness? Will you be heralds of this new resurrection reality? Will you be the voice that is heard, the deed that is seen, the experience that is felt of the new reality of Resurrection for the world made whole, people connected by love, community renewed by joy?
Let us pray the psalm together in wonder and hope!
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!
Tell the world people of God,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
God’s my strength, he’s also my song,
and now God’s my salvation.
Hear the shouts, hear the triumph songs
in the camp of the saved
The hand of God has turned the tide!
The hand of God is raised in victory!
The hand of God has turned the tide!”
I didn’t die. I lived!
And now I’m telling the world what God did.
God tested me, he pushed me hard,
but he didn’t hand me over to Death.
Swing wide the city gates—the righteous gates!
I’ll walk right through and thank God!
The stone the builders rejected is now the chief cornerstone!
This is God’s work.
We rub our eyes—we can hardly believe it!
This is the very day God acted—
let’s celebrate and be festive!
Prayer for Others
Song: Lord’s Prayer
Song: ‘Christ, Be Our Light’
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
What do you know about the Resurrection?
What do you understand about the Resurrection?
What does the Resurrection mean to you?
“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” As Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, were making their way to where Jesus was entombed, this was the concern that they had in their mind. It was a very heavy stone. This is a real quandary. The prospect of moving the enormous stone by themselves was impossible. They needed someone to move the stone away for them. The question of who is the right question to ask rather than how. If they hoped to do what they had set out to achieve, this stone must be rolled away, otherwise, all their effort would have been for nothing.
Of course, they were on the way to the tomb of Jesus, who was crucified and died and was laid in a tomb. They had bought spices and made preparations according to their custom to honour the dead. From where they stand, the only thing that stands in their way of doing the right thing by their beloved and now dead Jesus, was the stone that blocks their entry into the tomb. I wonder whether there is something here that is worth pondering. What is the stone that stands between you and the thing that you seek to do, that you desire, that you hope for?
Have you been in those situations where you felt stuck? We try to find a way through. We rely on techniques, skills, we rely on our past experiences only to find that the situation we find ourselves in is new, different, changed. I wonder how often we give up even before having a go, even before coming face to face with the stone that stands in our way. How many times have you given up on something because you guess that it’s just too big?
What I find intriguing is that the women here went anyway. They knew there was no possibility of them rolling the stone away. They knew this well and truly. Yet they went to face the stone. They were not particularly optimistic lot of people, they certainly weren’t wishful thinkers. They were very realistic. They knew it would never be a question of how, because between the three of them, with all their technique, skill, experience, resources combined, it was simply impossible. Yet they go because they want to do the right thing for Jesus. They desire it. So they lament: “Who will roll away the stone for us? Who will roll away the stone stuck, too heavy, too big, for us that places us in despair?” When it’s too big, it’s never about how but who. It’s never about what can we do, rather it’s always about who, and it’s about trust and reliance.
A surprise is waiting for them when they get there. But there is a twist to this surprise. They see that the stone is already rolled away. Perhaps their prayer has been heard? We could easily assume that perhaps the sincerity of their heart moved the powers be, to do for them what is impossible for them. To a certain extent this is true but it’s not true enough. It doesn’t delve deeper into the truth of things. When they get there, what they thought would be the problem that stands in their way of doing the funeral rites for Jesus, they find resolved. However, they are confronted with something far more essential, foundational.
When Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and Salome reached the tomb, they find that the stone that they had been agonizing over had been rolled away already. Now then, they are confronted with a different problem all together than the one they had anticipated. They came to do the funeral rites for the entombed body of Jesus but he is not here, Jesus of Nazareth, crucified, is not where they entombed him, where they place the dead, where the dead stay, and remain dead, he is not here. He has been raised. Interesting, isn’t it? Though their problem has been resolved, their quest has been made unnecessary, they cannot do what they set out to do any more. What they thought was meaningful is now made meaningless.
So who had rolled the stone away? Whoever it was, it was never intended as a help for achieving what they hoped to do. The stone had been rolled away for a reason entirely different, indeed, for a reason entirely contradictory to what they had sought. The stone had been rolled away not to fulfill their purpose, but for a purpose altogether different. In fact, the stone was rolled away to undo the very reality that made their plan meaningful. All their plans, their despair, had been under the reality that the dead remain dead, that death is final, death is the end. But what if it is true that the dead has been raised? What if it is true that Jesus has conquered death? What if the stone has been rolled away so that death is made meaningless? Who has done this?
Of course we know the answer is God. However, that’s not true enough. To find out who this God is, I want to take you back to the beginning section of the Scripture reading David read out for us today. It reads: “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us?” Right under their nose a story was unfolding. Though they thought they were setting out to do what they had planned, they were in a story much deeper.
Sabbath is a holy day. It is a day of rest. Rest from the burdens of life that our work demands of us. Sabbath was given to the people by God because God rested. After creating the world in 6 days God rested on the 7th day. The day the women went to the tomb was after the Sabbath day was over. After the holy day, after there was rest, a new day begins. On the first day of the week, the sun had risen. Like the first light of creation, light of a new day, first day has dawned. God’s new day of recreation has begun. Just as it was in the beginning, here and now God begins new creation with the light of new creation – crucified Jesus raised. After the Sabbath, after all the work that has been done, and resting, the new day begins, the sun rises, light rolls away the darkness, a new creation, a new life has begun – a new beginning, a new story begins.
It is none other than the God of Creation who has rolled the stone away, God of Creation whose light rolls the darkness away, God of Creation who begins the work of new creation. And Christ who walks the way of the cross, Christ who dies, Christ who is raised to life for the world God so loves, is the foundation, the ground of this new world emerging – the cornerstone of new creation.
What if this is true that the day of new creation is dawning? Then the women’s reaction is only natural. They went out of the tomb and fled from it. It says that they were seized by terror and amazement. They were afraid. Why wouldn’t they be? The very ground under their feet has shifted, that will be terrifying. All their way of living, all their way of finding meaning, making meaning, finding reason for life, would need to be grounded on Life and Love that Jesus was and is. They will need to change from devotion to the dead to worshipping the living God who recreates in the light of Christ Jesus raised. A change of such magnitude is terrifying even if it is as wonderful and joyful as life triumphant over death is. We do prefer what we are used to. Yet this change requires nothing short of a new orientation, a new norm, a new shape, a new mind and heart, a new way of being.
The stone is rolled back so that not their will be done, but Thy will be done, not our will be done but God’s will be done – death is undone, now Life is the final word. This is God’s loving will for all creation. The question is “will they open their hearts and welcome it?” Will they see that this is God’s loving will for all? Will they move from fear and confusion of their old ways passing to the wonder and joy of a new day, a new way, a new world?
Death is the very foundation of this world, the very certainty of our world, isn’t it? Whether we like it or not, we say: “Well, that’s life. Get on with it.” We have built our world upon the foundation of certainty that we all die. Might as well enjoy it then. Don’t waste your life. Unfortunately the flip side to this is that then its okay to preserve my life to enjoy my life at the cost of others. Others, including our natural world, become our resources to feed my appetite for life. Because we make meaning, we find meaning, because we find reason for life in the reality of death and ordered our life according to it, resurrection makes our lives founded on death meaningless.
If Jesus is raised from the dead, our foundation, our ground, the cornerstone of the new world is no longer death that rationalizes and makes right self-absorbed life. If Jesus is raised from the dead, the very face of life of love, the very face of God, the new order is life of love, life of living together for one another, to be in communion with our neighbours. In Christ Jesus, God makes anew a life that finds meaning in love, life where the reason for life is indeed love. Where we enjoy one another rather than see each other as competitors for life, where we enjoy one another’s company not as something secondary but as primary. Because the God who has defeated death, who has turned the tide towards life of love, God who invites us to this life, is the God of life of Holy Communion, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three in one, Holy Trinity.
Friends, what is the stone that is too big? That stands in the way between you and what you hope for? Well let us go there. Let us meet it face to face. Yes – though you and I cannot possibly remove it, we may be surprised to find that it has been already rolled away. When you find it rolled away, don’t be surprised to find the earth beneath you has shifted. Be sure to know that a new ground has been laid. Don’t be surprised to find that the old story with which you operated and found meaning has ended. Don’t be surprised to find that a new story has begun, a new day has begun, and the light of this new day is inviting a new you. It may be strange and you may want to return to what has passed, what you are used to. You may be bewildered and even wonder whether something terrible is happening. Friends, be assured that we are in a story not of our own making but a story deeper, a story defined by life and love, a story of God who is recreating, inviting us to a life giving life because Christ is risen, and God has rolled away the stone.
Song: ‘Christ is Alive!’
Passing of the Peace of Christ: “Peace of Christ be with you”
Song of Sending: ‘We Shall Go Out With Hope of Resurrection’
The Grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ,
the love of God
and the communion of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all
now and for evermore. Amen.