Welcome to this online worship service. We may be apart and distant, yet we are home to each other as we gather in this new way.
Prelude Ashokan Farewell by Jay Ungar & Molly Mason Family Ban
Call to Worship “Easter Exultet” by James Broughton
Shake out your qualms.
Shake up your dreams.
Deepen your roots.
Extend your branches.
Trust deep water
and head for the open,
even if your vision
Quit your addiction
to sneer and complain.
Open a lookout.
Dance on a brink.
Run with your wildfire.
You are closer to glory
leaping an abyss
than upholstering a rut.
Intrepid all the way
Walk toward clarity.
At every crossroad
to bump into wonder.
Only love prevails.
En route to disaster
insist on canticles.
Lift your ineffable
out of the mundane.
Honeymoon with Big Joy!
Kindling of the Chalice Flame by Sara Eileen LeWall
Out of the flames of fear
We rise with courage of our deepest convictions
to stand for justice, inclusion and peace
Out of the flames of scrutiny
We rise to proclaim our faith
With hope to heal a fractured and hurting world
Out of the flames of doubt
We rise to embrace the mystery, wonder and awe
of all there is and all that is yet to be
Out of the flames of hate
We rise with the force of love
Love that celebrates our shared humanity
Out of the flames we rise
Love be with you and all living things.
Message for Ages – Rechenkas Eggs by Patricia Polacco
We are blessed…
We are blessed by being…
We are blessed by being here…
We are blessed by being here together.
Hymn – “There is More Love” – Please sing along
Reading – The Gospel of Mark 16 by Cecelia Campbell
Easter Reflections “Rolling the Stone Away” Rev. Dr. Marlene Walker
I’ve been struggling with writing/preaching about Easter this year. Very much so. You see, I love Easter. I love preaching about and celebrating Easter. It has been the highlight of the church year for me for 27 years now. I love the messages of rebirth, resurrection, new life, and new hope. Not to mention the coming of spring, of flowers, of Easter eggs and baskets, Easter dinner with loved ones, with grandchildren hunting of eggs. And the coming of spring, of so much the coming of spring and the ending of winter. Oh so much, the ending of winter. So much hope.
The question that keeps rolling in my mind is, “How do I preach about Easter this year, this time of global epidemic, when we are isolated in our homes, away from loved ones, and the news daily brings heartbreak of lives lost, so many, many lives lost? How do I preach about resurrection, new life, and new hope when I feel like I am stuck in that tomb or running in fear like the women who could not believe what they saw?” “I don’t know how to do this”, I answer. And I struggle to find words.
Then I remember. I remember what the real message of Easter and the empty tomb is. It’s not about the tomb, because in the words of this poem by my colleague Richard Gilbert.
A tomb is no place to stay,
Be it a cave in the Judean hills
Or the dark cavern of the spirit.
A tomb is no place to stay
When fresh grass rolls away the stone of winter cold
And valiant flowers burst their way to warmth and light.
A tomb is no place to stay
When each morning announces our reprieve,
And we know we are granted yet another day of living.
A tomb is no place to stay
When life laughs a welcome
To hearts that have been away too long.
And then I remember the rest of the Easter story. Yes, the women run away in fear, as do others, or they don’t believe what they have seen or are told. But in the weeks following the real miracle of Easter happens. The people begin to gather, and tell stories of their friend Jesus, and that movement grows because what they are doing is creating community and connection. They are finding hope in each other.
Kind of like the story of Rechenka’s eggs. When the old woman thinks she has lost Rechenka when she sets her free, the miracle that happens is that an egg has been left. That hope has been left for the old woman, that connection continues and grows.
And is that not what we have been doing as we have been faced with the empty tomb of what is happening around us, the empty tomb of our own fears and not knowing what is to come? Have we not reached out and created and continued in community in new ways. Of Zoom worship and online meetings, where we see each other’s faces and hear each other’s voices. Of neighbors helping neighbors, of musicians sharing their music online, of people standing on balconies to sing together. So, so many ways to build and hold community. This is where I find the hope, the rebirth, the resurrection that is Easter. In your faces, in the faces of my family when we see each other on Zoom. In the ways that we are creating new ways to be community together. Ways that will continue long after this time is over.
And though it may not seem like it this weekend here in the upper Midwest, spring is indeed coming; no, rather it is here. I see it every day in the greening of my world, in the bird songs each morning, in the flowers that in spite of all the pain around us are blooming.
I need to hold on to this sense of hope when I have the bad days, the hard days, when the fear engulfs me and all I can see is the dark tomb and I just want to run and hide. I have those days, and I’m sure you do too. I can the remember that stone has actually been rolled away, that that I can find that hope again. I can embrace both the fear and the hope.
This week I hit a really rough spot when I heard the news that John Prine had died from Covid 19. I don’t really know why it hit me as hard as it did. I did not know him personally, I knew his music but was not a super fan, I had seen him live only once, I think. Yet, the news just hit me so very hard, that it felt symbolic somehow. There will be moments like that for all of us and we won’t know what they are until they are sitting laps and we melt under the grief.
Then my community reached out to me in these words by my colleague, Nancy McDonald Ladd, shared on Facebook. Written before coronavirus and before the death of John Prine, they are based somewhat on his words from one of his songs. Yet, they are just what I needed to hear.
“Believing in this living is a hard way to go, especially when life is narrow and pain is real. But each of us might, if we choose, find something… your dog, this community, a game of Gin Rummy, a poster of an old Rodeo – just one thing that has meaning we can hold onto, that gives us the power, when it is time, to let go with grace.
In the end, a saving faith involves believing in this life and loving it for what it is. Not for what you want it to be, but for what it is, and for that which we can hold onto, even unto the end.
May we have something to hold on to that reminds us we are whole. May we have faith enough to carry on, even when we are afraid. May we be held and comforted and loved. Whether or not the facts support our reasons for hoping, may we hope nonetheless. May we believe in this living, no matter how painful it sometimes is, for that faith – in these our days – is the deepest, hardest, and most rewarding work of all.”
May we believe in each other, and in this living, and in the hope that comes from having rolled away the stone. That we are loved and we love. That we are connected. We are in this together. Happy Easter everyone. Honeymoon with Big Joy
The Prayer – by Celine Dion
Benediction – by Wayne B. Arnason
Take courage friends.
The way is often hard, the path is never clear,
and the stakes are very high.
For deep down, there is another truth:
you are not alone.
Postlude – “Give Us Hope” by Jim Papoulis