We gather together this morning as best we can to restore both our sense of commitment as we face the world as it is and the courage to dream of better days for all. We are more when we are together: wiser, more resilient and more able, finding inspiration in the struggles of the past and courage for what lies ahead.
Prelude How Brightly Shines the Morning Star, J.S. Bach, Anna Kojovich-Frodl organ
Chalice Lighting words from Elizabeth Strong:
Out of the earth
May we join with the miracle that is springtime,
and enter into life with lightness and joy.
Out of the spirit
May we join with the miracle that is Easter time,
and enter into life with hope and love.
Let us resurrect with spring, let us resurrect with the spirit
and enter into renewed life
as we gather into our time of worship together this Easter morning.
Come, let us worship, together.
Singing Morning Has Come Lynn Orlando and Stuart Bard
Message for All Ages The Seed Who Was Afraid to Be Planted by Anthony DeStefano
Centering Words In The Tomb of the Soul by Sarah York
In the tomb of the soul, we carry secret yearnings, pains, frustrations, loneliness, fears, regrets, worries.
In the tomb of the soul, we take refuge from the world and its heaviness.
In the tomb of the soul, we wrap ourselves in the security of darkness.
Sometimes, this is a comfort. Sometimes it is an escape.
Sometimes it prepares us for experience. Sometimes it insulates us from life.
Sometimes this tomb-life gives us time to feel the pain of the world and reach out to heal others.
Sometimes it numbs us and locks us up with our own concerns.
In this season where light and dark balance the day, we seek balance for ourselves.
Grateful for the darkness that has nourished us, we push away the stone and invite the light to awaken us to the possibilities within us and among us—possibilities for new life in ourselves and in our world.
Time of Stillness and Reflection
First Reading Did the Sun Come Up This Morning? by Victoria Safford
The dead shall rise again.
Have you seen the trees? Have you seen the maple buds? The magnolias, swelling? Poplars, the first lacy, pale spray across the shoulder of the hills? The forsythia (or as one child I know calls it, the three-sythia, the two-sythia), and those three small, flowering, perfect crabapple trees in the park, strong little trees begging children to climb them and get lost for a while in their magical, pink canopies?
Did you smell the rain this week, and the muddy, ready earth receiving it? Did you smell the musty, lusty, moldy pile of leaves all thawed now, and underneath, the moist and living earthworms, wide awake?
Is it safe, I wonder, to presume that we have all seen the dead resurrected? Can we presume, just quietly among us, this basic fact? Can we admit, however carefully at first, however foolish it may sound, that once or twice in our lives or perhaps over and over and tumbling over, we have seen events miraculous? Choose the words you will, whatever words you need. If “miracle” cloys, try “unexpected.” “Surprising.” “Unanticipated.” “Lucky.” “That which has been given us, that second chance, that second wind, by the grace of God knows what.”
The dead shall rise again.
We know, because we’ve seen it.
We don’t know, and never will, where the leaf’s strength comes from in the spring. We don’t know, and never will, entirely, where our own strength comes from. But we have known despair, some of us, and deep discouragement, some of us, and discord of the mind and heart, or disasters in the body or the spirit or in both. We have known dead hope, dead courage, dead caring, dead will, dead faith, dead vision, dead power, deep winter, and we have felt, perhaps when we least expected to feel anything at all, our own slow blood stir in the vein like maple sap, and something very small and tight within begin to swell and open up, urgent, imperceptible at first, then undeniable – love lives again that with the dead has been.
Did the sun come up this morning, no thanks to us and all for us, and did the earth awake again, or did it not?
We will testify to resurrection.
Second Reading from Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
by Christopher Moore
Our second reading this morning is adapted from Christopher Moore’s comedic novel Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. Here Biff narrates the raising of Lazarus, called Simon, from the dead.
When we got to Bethany, Martha was waiting for us in the street in front of Simon’s house. She went right to Joshua and he held out his arms to embrace her, but when she got to him she pushed him away. “My brother is dead,” she said. “Where were you?”
“I came as soon as I heard.”
Maggie went to Martha and held her as they both cried. The rest of us stood around feeling awkward. The two … blind guys whom Joshua had once healed, came over from across the street.
“Dead and buried four days,” said one of them.
“My friend Simon truly sleeps, then,” Joshua said.
Thomas came up and put his hand on Joshua’s shoulder. “No, master, he’s dead.
“Where is he?” Joshua asked.
Martha pushed out of her sister’s embrace and looked at Joshua. “He bought a tomb in Kidron,” said Martha.
“Take me there, I need to wake my friend.”
There was a sparkle of hope amid the tears in Martha’s eyes. “Wake him?”
“Dead as a doornail. Mmmph…” Matthew clamped his hand over Thomas’ mouth.
“You believe that Simon will rise from the dead, don’t you?” asked Joshua.
“In the end, when the kingdom comes, and everyone is raised, yes. I believe.”
“Do you believe I am who I say I am?”
“Then show me where my friend lies sleeping.”
Martha moved like a sleepwalker, her exhaustion and grief driven just enough for her to lead us up the road to the Mount of Olives down into the Kidron Valley. Maggie had been deeply shaken by her brother’s death as well, so Thomas and Matthew helped her along while I walked with Joshua.
“Four days dead, Josh. Four days. Divine Spark or not, the flesh is empty.”
“Simon will walk again if he is but bone,” said Joshua.
As with many of the larger tombs carved into the side of the mountain, there was a large flat stone covering the doorway. Joshua put his arms around Maggie and Martha while the rest of us wrestled with the stone.
We pushed the stone as far as it would go, then we ran away gasping fresh air.
Joshua held his arms out as if waiting to embrace his friend. “Come Simon Lazarus, come out into the light.” Nothing but stench came out of the tomb.
“Come forth, Simon. Come out of that tomb,” Joshua commanded.
And absolutely nothing happened.
“Simon, dammit, come out of there.”
And ever so weakly, there came a voice from inside the tomb. “No.”
“What do you mean, ‘no’? You have risen from the dead, now come forth. Show these unbelievers that you have risen.”
I’m not sure any of us who had smelled the stench wanted to see the source. Even Maggie and Martha seemed a little dubious about their brother’s coming out.
“Simon, get out here,” Joshua commanded.
“But I’m … I’m all icky.”
“We’ve all seen icky before,” said Joshua. “Now come out into the light.”
Finally Joshua lowered his arms and stormed into the tomb. “I can’t believe that you bring a guy back from the dead and he doesn’t even have the courtesy to come out — WHOA! HOLY MOLY!” Joshua came backing out of the tomb, stiff-legged. Very calmly and quietly, he said, “We need clean clothes, and some water to wash with, and bandages, lots of bandages. I can heal him, but we have to sort of get [ him ] back together first.”
“Hold on, Simon,” Joshua shouted to the tomb, “we’re getting some supplies, then I’ll come in and heal your affliction.”
“What affliction?” asked Simon.
Reflection Practice Resurrection by Rev. Eric Meter
The Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church is a community of generosity and abundance.
Especially now, in this challenging time, your generosity is what keeps this community as vital as it is, a beacon of respectful engagement and faith in the power of love.
Each month we share the generosity of our collection with a local partner.
This month our partner is Racine’s Cops ‘N Kids Reading Center.
Currently, due to the pandemic, the Reading Center has a One–on–One Tutoring Program. Teachers set the curriculum according to each student’s abilities. Each child then works with either a teacher or volunteer tutor. They help with homework, read to the child, listen to the child read, incorporate math, games and art as they see fit.
The following is a short piece that TMJ4 aired on Julia Witherspoon, who founded the Reading Center:
Please join me in being as generous as you can. Together, our support will mean a brighter future for all the children and youth at the Cops ‘N Kids Reading Center.
Offertory Music Ubi Caritas OBUUC Choir
Benediction words by Steve Garnaas-Holmes:
Live as if you are risen.
The fear-tombed, nay-saying, people-pleasing prisoner of scarcity, shame and threat – that one has died.
The stone of Outcomes has been rolled away. The linen grave-clothes of Consequences
are lying abandoned.
You are free.
Forgiven, accompanied, love-enabled, miracle-powered, you are a member of the risen body.
You are those hands with holes in them Jesus shows, and says, “Peace.”
You are the flesh the Spirit moves
to do her next wonders.
You’ve already died and gone to heaven, no mere flesh now, but pure love, unafraid of death and its useless threats, with unshakable courage,
nothing to lose, everything in your hands.
Don’t live as if you’re afraid to be crucified. [Let us] live as if [we’ve] already risen.
Postlude Spring Music by Frank Bridge, Diane Rivest, violin, Anna, organ