Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018

Prayer as We Gather:  On this “great gettin’-up morning”, God of dangerous wonder, help us navigate Easter’s spiritual mine field.  Years of church tinkering have reduced resurrection to a quasi-magic carnival, shrinking the broad power of Jesus’ miraculous life to fit the narrow parameters of  one unknowable, mysterious moment. Help us reclaim apostle Paul’s truth that “God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another;  whoever worships God and does what is right is acceptable to God.”  In this worship hour made holy by the sturdy pilgrims gathered here and God’s hovering angels drawing near, may we faithfully proclaim the message of peace Jesus embodied, as we continue his work of “doing good and healing everyone oppressed by the devil.”*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by Acts. 10:34-43 and the poetry of James Weldon Johnson’s God’s Trombones.)

Call to Worship:

Thank God, because God’s love never quits.

God’s my strength, my song, my salvation.

God tested me, pushed me hard,

But God didn’t turn me over to Death.

Swing wide the righteous gates!

I’ll walk right through and thank God!

God has bathed us in light.

O my God, I lift high your praise.*(Psalm 118, The Message)

Morning Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that we don’t have to squinch our eyes, tap our heels together three times and try very hard to believe every impossible creedal tidbit imposed upon us across the ages, in order to be saved.  We rejoice that faith is not some one-time propositional transaction on which our eternal deliverance hinges, but a fluid, organic process in which we are being saved, as apostle Paul insisted.  Like him, “we are what we are by God’s grace, and God’s grace has not been for nothing,” as we confess anew whenever we recall the One who died, was buried, and rose on the third day, teaching us along the way how to talk to you, saying …*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by 1 Corinthians 15)

Prayer of Confession:  Forgive us, Lord, for fearing the spiritual darkness all around us, when in fact darkness should remind us that followers of Jesus are meant to be the light of the world.  Just as Mary Magdalene came to Jesus’ burial site very early in the morning bearing spices to anoint his dead body “while it was still dark,” we so often move about our daily routines as though we still hadn’t heard that what Mary found was an empty tomb signaling the miracle of resurrection. Like Mary, we allow today’s cultural chaos to render us tearfully immobile, as though the anti-Christ powers-that-be “have taken away our Lord, and we don’t know where they’ve put him.”  Have mercy on our distracted souls, wandering about as though Jesus had never lived.  Amen.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by John 20)

Assurance of Pardon:  Take heart, terror-struck though you may rightfully feel in a nation where it is easier to buy an automatic weapon than a pack of cigarettes.  Jesus is still waiting and watching just over our shoulder, patiently biding his time until we turn to see him, even if like Mary we mistake him for the gardener.  Indeed, he is just that, a constant gardener of our soul’s soil, pruning away the dead growth choking our spirits, watering our parched and weary hearts, tenderly nurturing our fearful selves with life-giving hope.  Just as with distracted Mary, Jesus will call us by name if we’ll give him a chance, bidding us come and follow him and promising he will never leave us or forsake us.  Thanks be to God for walking and talking with us, telling us we are his own … forever.*(Mitchell Simpson, inspired by John 20)