Easter (12-04-2020)

WELCOME TO WORSHIP WITH THE OCEAN GROVE/BARWON HEADS CONGREGATIONS

This service was streamed live via Zoom on April 12th at 10am

Below is the entire text for a service of worship for home use while the ban on public worship is in place.  Even though the service is streamed live, those who are unable to participate may use this material at any time for their private devotions.  If “two or three” are gathered with you, you may choose a ‘leader’ in order to use the responsive prayers and readings as you would in church. 

There  are also links to YouTube files for music and, should you rather listen than read, sound files for the text, including the sermon .  [I’m sorry about the commercials that sometimes come with YouTube clips. Be sure to click on the “Skip Ad” box when it appears in the lower right of the YouTube clip]   When a YouTube clip has finished, simply click on the back button of  your browser to return to this page. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.

A NOTE FOR NEWCOMERS:  Common churchy words like “God” are used freely, but those who have not been exposed to Rev. Bob’s use of such words may misunderstand.  Though he is an old man, his theology is not.  Traditional usage of those familiar churchy words in popular Christianity is often wide of the mark of a good theological understanding.  To acquaint yourself with more up-to-date definitions (i.e. ones that actually make sense in our modern world), see “Words of the Word” on this website.  (You might start with words such as “Prayer” and  “G-O-D”.)

You may get more from this worship experience if you have candle to light later in the service

CALL TO CELEBRATION

This day we shall let the hills embrace us, the trees comfort us, and the sun enlighten our minds. This day we shall let the sap rise within us and dance the music of the Cosmos. Let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life.

RESURRECTION OF THE ALLELUIA

L: On the first Sunday of Lent, we buried the Alleluia, and the word has not been sung or spoken since.   Today, with the Christ, the Alleluia is born again:

R: Alleluia! Alleluia! Give thanks to the risen Lord.

HYMN 370 “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” (click here to listen)  

OPENING SENTENCES

L: We live at mystery’s edge watching for a startling luminescence or a word to guide us. In fragile occurrence the Holy One presents Oneself and we must pause. (pause) Daily, there are glimmers, reflections of a seamless mercy revealed in common intricacies.

R: These circles of grace spill out around us and announce that we are part of this mystery. 

L: Today we celebrate life over death.
Today we celebrate the flame that lives again.
We will light the fire.

ACT OF AWARENESS

In the seed is the flower, the weed and the apple tree, in the chrysalis hides a promise of life that soon will be free. In the deathly cold of winter storms waits the spring for you and me. In the silence is the song in which dreams come alive.

JOURNEY INTO SILENCE

Meditation – “A Poem for Easter” By R. Preston Price.

Like a blade of grass pushing up stubbornly through the sidewalk.
Like the butterfly emerging from the tomb-like chrysalis.
But much more.

Like the seed after years of dormant death sending up sprout.
Like the brown bulb breaking forth from brown earth into brilliant color.
But much more.

Like brilliant daybreak after a stormy, darkened night.
Like a rainbow mystically appearing amidst the rain.
But much more.

Like a patient making an unexpected, unpredicted turn for health.
Like the pine cone opening to spread seed only after touched by fiery death.
But much more.

Like a beautiful vase emerging from a lump of clay in the potter’s hands.
Like a hidden spring burbling forth in the middle of a barren desert.
But much more…

So, it comes.
Nothing else like it.
No image adequate.
No simile.
No metaphor.

Unable to talk about it but inadequately
We celebrate this great, real mystery that
Neither language nor imagination can encompass.

Easter!          (Please keep at least 30 seconds of silence)

READINGS FROM OUR BROAD RELIGIOUS TRADITION

A MYSTIC’S REFLECTION

“Speak to us of Religion” By Kahlil Gibran

And an old priest said, “Speak to us of religion.”
And the prophet said: “Have I spoken this day of aught else? Is not religion all deeds and all reflection, and that which is neither deed nor reflection, but a wonder and a surprise ever springing in the soul, even while the hands hew the stone or tend the loom?

Who can separate faith from actions, or belief from occupations? Who can spread their hours before themselves, saying, ‘This for God and this for myself; This for my soul, and this other for my body?’ All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self…

Your daily life is your temple and your religion. Whenever you enter into it take with you your all. Take the plough and the forge and the mallet and the lute, the things you have fashioned in necessity or for delight…

And if you would know God, be not therefore a solver of riddles. Rather look about you and you shall see God playing with your children. And look into space; you shall see God walking in the clouds, with outstretched arms in the lightning and descending in rain. You shall see God smiling in flowers, then rising with arms waving in the trees.”

FROM THE EPISTLES – Colossians 3:1-4  (from The Message)

1-2 So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from hisperspective.

3-4 Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPEL STORY

The Easter narratives in the Gospels, like the Christmas birth narratives, came relatively late into the world of the early church.  Mark, who wrote a generation or two after Jesus died, knows nothing of any appearances of a risen Christ.  The other gospels, which were were written  later than Mark, each have their own stories, unknown by the others.  So the descriptions of that first Easter are best understood as stories created to convey beliefs about Jesus rather than record an historical event.  Undoubtedly something happened to breathe new life into the disciples, but the exact nature of this experience is a mystery. All we have are the stories of resurrection which came, in later years, to be the way in which this mystery was described.  So as we listen today to John’s version, we will listen not so much for an answer to the question: What happened? but rather,  What is the writer trying to tell us through the way he has chosen to relate the Easter mystery?

FROM THE GOSPELS – John 20:1-18 (NRSV)

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stonehad 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 toward 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 around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”

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.

HYMN –  “When Mary Through The Garden Went” (click here)

When Mary thro’ the garden went,
There was no sound of any bird,
And yet, because the night was spent,
The little grasses lightly stirred,
The flowers awoke, the lilies heard.

When Mary thro’ the garden went,
The dew lay still on flower and grass,
The waving palms above her sent
Their fragrance out as she did pass.
No light upon their branches was.

When Mary thro’ the garden went,
Her eyes, for weeping long, were dim.
The grass beneath her footsteps bent,
The solemn lilies, white and slim,
These also stood and wept for him.

When Mary thro’ the garden went,
She sought within the garden ground,
One for Whom her heart was rent,
One Who for her sake was bound,
One Who sought, and she was found.

SERMON – “Hidden Reality”                               

This audio file is part 1 of the sermon.  Part 2 continues following the music file part way down in the body of the sermon.

“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col.3:3, NRSV)What do you see in this picture?  (Risen Jesus, joyful woman, open tomb, beast – evil? God?, three crosses, ointment, rent in the clothing of the beast – or is it the path to cross?)

What is mood which the picture conveys?  (Joy?  Surprise? Completion? Fear? Trepidation?)

Paul wrote, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  “Hidden” is an intriguing word.  It is a word that usually grabs our interest and can conjure up fascinating images and thoughts:  hidden treasure, hidden secrets, hidden compartment or passageway, hidden past, hidden weapon.

Easter began on a hidden note: the body of Jesus had been hidden away in a sepulchre, a cave-like burial place with a boulder to conceal it.  In John’s version of the Easter story, Mary came to the tomb on Easter and found it empty, saying, “theıy have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid – or hidden – him.”

The picture illustrates the message of Easter: that what had been hidden has been revealed; and the result is surprise, joy, completion.

Paul speaks of human lives which have been hidden with Christ in God. It is not too difficult to recognise that life is hidden, particularly in these days of the threat of disease and death.  When serious illness has taken away all the joy of living and death seems close at hand; when unemployment has taken away the practical means of living and a primary source of ones self-esteem and identity as well;  when social isolation reduce living to mere existence; when, for some, all one’s energies are used up in a losing battle to keep one’s body alive; or where loneliness and lack of love drain away the very belief that one does in fact exist at all, it can feel that life has been hidden from us.

Mary Ann Evans, who wrote under the pen name, George Eliot, wrote during a particularly difficult time in her life to a friend, “My address is Grief Castle.”  All of us, sooner or later, will live at that addres

Though I used  extreme cases as examples, to a more or lesser extent, we all struggle for our self-esteem, a sense of meaning, our identity and all those other factors which distinguish living from mere corporeal existence.   Life in its totality – that concept that the Bible calls “eternal life” – is hidden from us.  The celebration of Easter is our way of acknowledging that there is more to life than meets the eye, and that it is possible to experience it.  There are many stories I can tell of people who have had the experience of resurrection.  I’ll relate one.

Tommy Dorsey, the jazz musician and gospel song writer, was singing at a religious gathering in St. Louis when he received a telegram which read:  “Your wife is dead.”   The place was packed. People were having a good time and asking for another song from the entertainer.  But Tommy had just been handed the shock of his young adult life.  She was gone.  He had left her back ho

Tommy hurried back to Chicago and discovered that his wife had given birth to a son, but within a day he had died, too.  Both were buried in the same coffin.  

Tommy Dorsey fell apart.  Life, which had seemed so wonderful only a short time ago, had fled.  It was hidden.  Where was God?  How could he any longer believe in the God preached by his Bible-carrying father?  Quits.  Done with it.  Alone in deep sorrow without peace, without life.

The following Saturday he meandered over to his piano and started to fiddle with the keys.  Then it came; nothing he had gone over before; the words were fresh, the melody simply appearing, then flowing from a burdened, questing heart:

Play music file below:

Precious Lord, take my hand, Lead me on, let me stand,  I am tired, I am weak, I am worn, Through the storm, through the night Lead me on to the light, Take my hand, precious Lord, Lead me home.

Audio file for Sermon Part 2 below:

The Life, which had been hidden, was revealed.

When I talk about life being hidden, I am not referring to something which we have, then lose, to be hidden from us.  I am talking about life which we have never known.  Instead we have substitutes which serve us well until something happens for which we have no resources.  It is then we know that we are missing something important, that something has been withheld from us.  

Paul tells us that our lives have been hidden with Christ in God.  If so, then it is with Jesus we must go – to the cross to the tomb, to God – to find those lives.

Look again at the picture with which the sermon began.  At least one theologian I have read considers that the bearers of the word of God in today’s world are not the preachers, but the artists: the poets, the painters, the cartoonists, the musicians. They are considered so, because the work of a true artist comes from the soul, from the God-centre on one’s being.  The lady who drew the picture included in this sermon is not a theologian.  Her faith is not sophisticated at all, and it is thoroughly traditional as well, but when I look at the picture, I the see the old, old story with a very interesting twist, of which I doubt the artist is conscious.

I see the joy of resurrection certainly, but in the background I see a God portrayed in bestial guise – amiable, yet sinister;  a God, the fabric of whom is rent, a God who includes as part of its being, the cross, a God who has a dark side – perhaps an unconscious aspect – a secret part which is associated with chaos and death, and from which new life emerges.  The path leads to the cross and death and the tomb where masculine and feminine meet, where the dead find life which was previously hidden, but which now evokes joy.

Something about this picture grabs me at a very deep level,  giving me a sense that I being in every generation. 

Here we have a picture of a hero’s journey.  We easily see Jesus as the hero of this story, but what we too often miss is the recognition that this is our story, also.  The resurrection life which we celebrate today as the end of Jesus’ journey, is also the promise for us who dare undertake the same journey.  Resurrection is not something to be learned about or understood or proven or disproved; it is something to be experienced.

Jesus’ followers understood their experience of new life in terms of the resurrection of Jesus, whom they called the Christ.  fe for all who travel the same path.  The story of Jesus’ life and death is therefore to be considered to be in the realm of the mythic; a story lived out in the lives of every human being.

This (point to picture) is a portrayal of your life’s drama and mine.  It is important to see it as such rather than just a story about Jesus.  We each face the beast, we each face the death that is an inevitable consequence of that encounter, and, if we dare the journey, we discover the joy of the life that was hidden.   

The journey is indeed a perilous one, hence, Jesus’ reference to the narrow gate and straitened way that few trave of what it is, nothing will stop us, like the man who found the treasure in the field or the pearl of great price, who then went and joyfully sold all he had to possess it.

This is what Easter is all about: the life that lies hidden, awaiting our arrival to claim it.  Easter is not a unique event in history that happened two millennia ago.  Nor is it a fable with no reality behind it.  It is a look into the mystery of our existence and a promise of an abundance of life which waits for all of us.

FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION

Where is life hidden from you?  What Easter surprise is awaiting you this year?

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION

We are people of all ages who enter this safe space bringing our joys and concerns.

L: We turn to Life, to that vast creativity
R: that empowers the universe as the ocean animates the wave,
L: seeking to let go of that which blocks our healing.
R: May we open ourselves even now to the wonder of Life.

And so we take a flame and light our special Care Candle…
 (Please light your candle)…For ourselves, for those named or remembered, and in solidarity with those who have not the freedom to express their concern or celebration for fear of discrimination or condemnation.

(Please spend time in silence, putting your concerns before God.)In all our joys and in all our concerns, may we be ever mindful
of the presentness of the sacred among us,
and to see the new possibilities of the now.

Let us now pray together the ‘Abba‘ Prayer, an interpretation the familiar Lord’s Prayer:

Holy Being, whom we call by many different names, Blessed are you. Blessed are we in you. May we create with you a realm of mercy, peace and justice. May love be done in the here and now as it is in the infinite. May we share life in bread and hope. For our failures to love, we need forgiveness. May we find the paths of reconciliation. In the midst of evil’s every incarnation, From the powers that possess our spirits and our structures, May we find liberation. In the power that is love, we seek to live and move and have our being. May it be so, now and forever. Amen.

HYMN  “We Are An Easter People” (click here to listen) 

We are an Easter people, ours is an Easter faith,
the yeast is rising in our hearts, our wine has vintage taste.

Refrain:  Christ is risen, Christ is risen, risen in our lives.

We are an Easter people,
ours is an Easter faith,
our tears are freed to flow and heal
our shattered hopes and hearts.  (to Refrain)

We are an Easter people,
ours is an Easter faith,
our fears have died, we rise to dream,
to love, to dance, to live. (to Refrain)

PARTING WORDS

L: As we prepare to leave this sacred virtual space where we have worshipped together, let us return to our work enlivened and renewed.  Where Christ walks,

R: We will follow.

L: Where Christ stumbles,

R: We will stop.

L: Where Christ cries,

RWe will listen.

L: Where Christ suffers,

R: We will hurt.

L: When Christ dies,

R: We will bow our heads in sorrow.

L: When Christ rises again in glory,

R: We will share his endless joy.

BENEDICTION

L: Do not look for the risen Jesus only here,
in the confines of this church building.
R: We will seek the risen Jesus on the roads and in the streets, in all the pathways and byways of our lives.

L: Do not seek comfort in the familiar, but dare to risk the unfamiliar –
R: We know that Resurrection makes all things new! 

L: Do not cling to all the old, expected notions about God, Jesus, Spirit, but go forth and celebrate this truly new Good News:
R: Because Christ lives, new possibilities are ever before us!

L: Christ is Risen Indeed!
R: Alleluia and Amen!

 

 

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