Worship Resources for March 31—Easter Sunday

A note on Rev-o-lution:
As I shared in previous posts, I will stop posting new weekly content on Pentecost (May 16, 2024). I have been posting on this site for over 13 years, and almost seventeen years counting my old Blogger site.

Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. I’ll be sharing those sites in the coming weeks. Thank you for all your kind words over the last few weeks.

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

Narrative Lectionary: Resurrection, Mark 16:1-8 (Psalm 118:21-27)

Christ is Risen! For the season of Easter, the first reading will often be a reading from Acts in lieu of the Hebrew scriptures in the Revised Common Lectionary.

The first selection from Acts 10:34-43 contains Peter’s bold revelation from both a vision he beheld from God earlier in chapter 10, vs. 9-16 and in his encounter with the Roman centurion Cornelius in 17-33. In the vision, God gave Peter food to eat that was both from clean and unclean animals, with the lesson that whatever God declared holy, others must not call profane. In Peter’s conversation with Cornelius, a Gentile, Peter understood that Cornelius’s own encounter with the Holy Spirit was valid and true. There was no need for Cornelius to become Jewish, he knew God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. God shows no partiality between Jewish and Gentile, for Jesus is Lord of all. Peter and the other disciples were witnesses of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, and called to testify in his name. Peter confirmed that everyone who believes in Jesus may be forgiven of their sins through Christ’s name.

An alternative reading is from Isaiah 25:6-9, of the prophet Isaiah’s vision of the great heavenly banquet table, where all people will gather for a feast with rich foods and well-aged wines. On that day, death will be swallowed up forever, and there will be no more grief and sorrow, for God is their salvation.

As with Palm Sunday, the psalm reading is from 118, overlapping a bit with last week’s reading with verses 1-2 and 14-24. This different selection covers how God is the people’s salvation, and the psalmist’s declaration that they shall not die but live. Though the people have suffered punishment, they have survived because of God. The gates of the temple, the gates of righteousness are opened, and the people who were rejected by the world are the foundation of God’s covenant. God is the people’s salvation, and they will rejoice.

The Epistle selection is either the reading from Acts 10:34-43 (see above) or 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth that was suffering deep division within itself. This was a church divided by economic standing, by a hierarchal understanding in spiritual gifts, and by which human leader of the church they followed. Paul argued that they were one body in Christ. In chapter 15, Paul declared what ought to unify them: that Christ died for their sins, Christ was buried, and Christ was raised from the dead on the third day. Jesus appeared to Peter and the disciples, to his brother James and the apostles, and to many others, and then to Paul, who persecuted the church. However, even Paul was called to proclaim the good news by the grace of God. It does not matter who you are, God called believers to proclaim the good news in Jesus Christ, not in any human authority.

In John’s account of the resurrection, it was still dark when Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found it empty. She told Peter and the disciple that Jesus loved, and they both ran to the tomb. Peter saw the empty tomb and the linen wrappings, but the other disciple saw after him and believed. However, they both returned to their homes, leaving Mary behind. Mary, in her grief, saw two figures in the tomb, and was concerned that Jesus’ body has been taken away. She then thought the person in the garden—whom she supposed to be the gardener—took his body, but when he called her name, she immediately recognized Jesus, calling him Teacher. Mary followed Jesus’ instructions, and told the other disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” Jesus did not scold her for not recognizing him, but rather commissioned her to go and tell the others what she had experienced the moment she came to believe.

The Narrative Lectionary selection is the same as the second selection from the Revised Common Lectionary, Mark 16:1-8. Mark’s account of the resurrection, according to scholars, is the earliest, and it’s also the shortest. Because it is so brief, and ends with no sighting of Jesus, there are later additional endings in most of our Bibles. In Mark’s account, the sun had already risen but it was early, and Mary Magdalene and another Mary went to the tomb, wondering who might be up to roll the stone back from the tomb so they could anoint Jesus’ body. However, when they arrived, they found the stone had already been rolled back. They entered the tomb and discovered a man dressed in white, who told them, “Don’t be alarmed.” Jesus wasn’t there; he had been raised. The two women were told to go and tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus would go ahead of them to Galilee, but they fled from the tomb and said nothing to anyone out of fear. The rest of the story is left to us, to know that at some point, their fear left them, and they did go and tell the others. We might ask ourselves the question—are we acting out of fear, or out of hope? If we are afraid, when will we overcome our fear—or when will we act despite our fear?

The Narrative Lectionary supplemental verses are also from Psalm 118, choosing a slightly different selection of verses 21-27 (last week’s selection for the Narrative Lectionary included verses 25-29; the Revised Common Lectionary included 19-29). The psalmist calls for the gates of the temple to open and calls the people to worship. The psalmist speaks of how God has chosen the people rejected by the world, the chief cornerstone. The psalmist calls upon the congregation to process toward the altar, giving thanks to God with praise and offerings.

On Easter Sunday, when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, it is hard to come up with something new every year. I have been blogging for thirteen years on the lectionary. And every year, the world seems bleaker. Right now, with more than thirty thousand dead in Gaza, our hope of resurrection must not simply be a hope for after this world. The people of Gaza need a cease fire now. The people of Gaza, the people of Ukraine, the people of Sudan, Myanmar, India, and so many places in our world need hope now. The hell on earth needs to be defeated, now. How can we preach resurrection where there is starvation and death? How can we preach good news when all seems hopeless? Maybe Mark 16:8 is what we need. There is good news but we may be running away because it seems so far fetched. There is hope but we are hiding in fear because we don’t know what to say, or how to make it stop even when we scream at the top of our lungs. Resurrection, as Jesus demonstrated from the empty tomb, is not about a far-off hope after we die. It is new life, now. It is hope now. It is claiming a victory now, that death will not have the final word.

Call to Worship
The stone has been rolled away!
Christ is Risen!
The tomb is found empty!
Christ is Risen!
The angel has told us, “He is not here.”
Christ is Risen!
Death is vanquished!
Christ is Risen!
Hope lives!
Christ is Risen!
Love wins!
Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen Indeed!

Prayer of Invocation
Creator God, You make all things new. On this Easter morn we remember that Your steadfast love endures forever, through life and death. There is nothing that can hold us back from Your love. On this morning, may our hearts be broken open to hear the message of Your love for us, through Jesus Christ, the one who gave himself up on the cross so that death would not have a hold on us. The love of Jesus leads us to eternal life, a new life that begins now, and today, we celebrate, give thanks, and praise Your name. Amen!

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Almighty God, You are limitless, and we confess our limitations as human beings. We confess our sins, that we have failed to love one another as You have loved us. We confess our short-sightedness, that we have lived for this moment or the next, instead of seeing the fullness of life You desire for all of humanity and all creatures on this planet. We confess our greed that often puts ourselves above others needs. We confess our violent ways, whether active or passive, that cause harm to others. Guide us into Your way, Your truth, and Your life, to become whole people, whole persons who wholly love others, who desire to meet the needs of the most vulnerable among us. Help us to break down the systems and structures of oppression and to bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice. In the name of Christ, who destroyed the power of empire by rising from the grave, we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (Romans 8:38-39)
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Know this: you are loved beyond measure. There is nothing that will ever separate you from God’s love in Jesus Christ. You are forgiven and loved. Go and share the Good News. Amen.

Loving Savior, we give You all praise and honor and glory. We remember today that every day is an Easter day. Every day is a Resurrection day. Every day is a day of new life and new hope. Help us to live as resurrected people. Help us to let go of fear, and to live into Your love. We give You all thanks and praise. Amen.

2 thoughts on “Worship Resources for March 31—Easter Sunday

  1. Alice Cates Clarke

    Thank you so much for sharing all of your work over the years. You have been a help and an inspiration time and again. Best wishes for whatever lies ahead.

  2. Tom Everett

    Thank you so much for all your postings! They have been a great source of ideas and inspirations over the years. Best wishes for whatever you do going forward!


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