Sunday, March 28, 2021

Liturgy w/communion for the Day of Resurrection in a season of pandemic (April 4, 2021)

 Texts:  Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; John 20:1-18
Call to Worship
L: Some are still staying home,
some are tiptoeing in quietly
not quite sure what they will find
in the place which has stood empty
for far too long,
but this is the day:
P: hope tiptoes us awake;
light guides us through the shadows.
L: Some are making sure to stay
more than the accepted distance away
from those they long to gather into their arms,
some are still stuck in that grave called lockdown,
but this is the day the Lord:
P: plants joy in our winter hearts;
drowns out despair’s cries with laughter.
L: We still see these days as filled
to overflowing with uncertainty,
hoping to get through today
without starting to worry about tomorrow,
but this is the day the Lord has made:
P: the day grace does cartwheels in graveyards;
resurrection wonder outshines the brightest sun;
an empty tomb fills us with good news.

Prayer of the Day
for far too long,
We have been wearing those
   Itchy hairshirts of
   burdens and worries,
but now you dress us
in joy and wonder, 
which we will wear every day!

for too many months,
we have been walking
timidly through life,
alone, apart, afraid,
that good and faithful
friend, death, always close by,
   whispering in the silence,
but now even the grave has lost its power,
for now, a new Friend walks with us!

there have been too many nights
when we have stood,
emptying our worries
out of our pockets,
dropping them, like pennies,
into that large jar,
   but now, we can go and
   cash them in for all
the love, the grace, the joy
you offer to us in these moments.

We could continue to relive
all the endless days, the empty, but
now we can sing, dance, and rejoice with you,
God in Community, Holy in One,
for resurrection life has been given to us,
and so we pray, saying,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
It is hard to step out of the shadows of these times, to try to embrace the light which is being cast upon us.  We have spent so much time searching, hoping, longing for things to change, and in the longing, the hoping, the searching, we forgot so many people, we ignored so much pain, we turned away from grief and loss, afraid it would embrace us.
Yet on this day, we are reminded that we are still Easter people, we will be Easter people again, and we are always Easter people!  Let us speak of pandemic fears which have tried to wipe away resurrection hope, as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   Whether we can gather as one today, or feel we need to stay apart; whether we continue to huddle in the shadows and take tentative steps into the light, on this day, we come to you, fear-removing God.  We would like to think we have been so distanced from you, that you have not noticed our foolishness.  During the last months, we have kept the door to hope shut so tight, afraid to open it.  So eager to go back to before this pandemic year began, we are hesitant to trust in the future you hold out to us.
   Yet, as persistent as Mary at the tomb,
   Joy of our hearts,
   you come, to open the gates of hope,
      so we might walk in the gardens of life;
   you come, to open the gates of grace,
      so we might plant peace in the wilderness of the world;
   you come, to open the gates of resurrection,
      so we might know our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
L: This is the day of resurrection and new life.  This is the day God offers us steadfast hope and love which will never end.
P: We will sing and dance on this day!  We are still, we will be again, we are always Easter people! We will rejoice and give thanks to the God who saves us.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
Together or alone, we continue to offer our gift to others – to those who hunger for hope in a time of uncertainty, to those who long for community to replace their loneliness, for those who seek faith instead of fears.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
L: May resurrection’s God be with you!
P: And also with you!
L: This is the day to offer yourselves to God.
P: We open our hearts to the One who fills them with grace.
L: Join in the glad songs of all creation this day.
P: Our voices praise the One who opens wide the gates of life.

L: When only emptiness stretched out,
you spoke at that time, Joyous God,
and goodness and beauty sprang forth:
   swallows darting in the skies,
   young rabbits scampering in the grass,
   hippos splashing in rivers.
All this wonder and joy was your gift
to your children created in your image,
   but we ran to play with death,
   when sin opened the gates of seduction.
Time after time after time,
you sent the prophets to remind us
of your never-ending love, but
   we chose to remain in sin’s tomb,
   the stone of our rebellion locking us away.
So you sent your Hopeful heart,
your grace made flesh so
we might not be given over to death.

With those who see and believe,
with those who stand and question,
we lift our Easter songs to you:

P: Holy, holy, holy are you, God who has made this day!
All creation celebrates your constant love.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who is revealed on this morning.
Hosanna in the highest!

L: When he could have clung to your glory,
God who alone is holy,
Jesus chose to become human at that time,
so we might be filled with your grace.
When we stood against the wall
wondering if anyone noticed us,
  he came to take us by the hand
   to teach us new dance steps.
When our lives crumble around us
and we lie scattered on the ground,
   he gathers us up, reshaping us
   into your beloved community.
When we were unable to break
the power of evil over us,
   he allowed sin to toss him
   aside like a pebble in a shoe,
   until he was raised from the tomb
   because you refuse to give us
   over to death.

As we stand before the empty tomb,
celebrating the great news of this day,
we would have that faith which is a mystery:

P: Christ died, so sin could not hold on to us;
Christ was raised, so death could not hold on to him;
Christ will come, to hold us in steadfast love and hope.

L: At this time, wherever we find ourselves,
at home, in apartments, in care facilities,
or finally able to be back in sacred spaces,
pour out your Spirit upon your people
and on the gifts of the feast of the resurrection.
May the bread which is broken open like the tomb,
strengthen us so we may go
   to rebuild shattered hopes,
   to bind up the hurts of the world.
May the cup which is filled
with the fruits of your steadfast love,
nourish us to leave the shadows
of our fears and doubts
   to stand with the lonely and forgotten,
   to listen to the cries of the world.

And in that time to come,
when we will be gathered
with our sisters and brothers
of every place and of every moment,
we will sing your praises,
God in Community, Holy in One,
as you hold on to us forever.  Amen.

L: Scattered from one another, 
we can still go with God into the world.
P: We will offer healing and hope to all
who wander in the shadows of life.
L: Separated from one another,
we can still go with Jesus to serve others.
P: We will listen to the ignored;
we will speak out for the forgotten.
L: Together once again, after so long,
we can still join the Spirit in offering steadfast love.
P: We will hold on to the fallen;
we will rebuild shattered communities.
© 2021 Thom M. Shuman