What Difference Does Easter Make?
Theme Making peace is an important form of celebrating the resurrection of Christ.
Call to Worship
One: Come children of God, let us worship God.
All: We will worship God and keep God’s commandments.
One: Come, blessed recipients of Christ’s peace, let us worship God.
All: We will worship God and live as peacemakers in Christ’s name.
*Hymn of Praise # 398 I Come to the Garden Alone
*Invocation (the Lord’s Prayer) We Come into your presence Lord, let us touch the life of the Christ. Let us lay down our struggles for faith at the feet of the One who is as near as touching. For this is the Christ who comes with gifts of hope, trustworthy with all that we bring here, gathering in the realities of our doubts and confusions and holding them tenderly in understanding.
*Gloria Patri # 575
Our Offering to God Sometimes faith comes as a gift rather than as a development within our own lives. Like the disciples we can be people of faith one day and those who struggle for faith on the next, depending on the way our lives travel. There is a profound mercy about God that is witnessed in the repeated appearances of the risen Jesus to his friends. He accepted that they may see him once and believe and then lose that faith and hope when the going became tough again. Faith that is the gift of God in the midst of ongoing trouble is faith that will often stand the test. It is that gift given when the wounded hands of Christ have touched our still-open bleeding in life, when our blood of pain is mingled with that of the Christ.
In response to the presence of Jesus with us, let us bring our offerings to God, remembering all God’s goodness to us.
*Prayer of Dedication O God, the easiest gifts to offer in your name are the gifts of things. With little effort and not much thought, we can give away a bit of money, a loaf of bread, a bag of clothes, or a pair of shoes that hurt our feet. We find it far more difficult to give when the gift most needed is that of words of reconciliation, or strategies for nonviolent solutions to conflict, or the gift of ourselves as bridges that bring people together. In this moment we dedicate to you both the things that we give with ease and the most difficult gifts we ever offer, ourselves. Amen.
Scripture Reading Acts 3:12-20
In a public sermon delivered before a large crowd at Solomon’s Portico, a part of the temple area in Jerusalem, Peter reviewed the key components of salvation history. He ended the sermon with a call to repentance.
12When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, 15and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.
17“And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, 20so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus.
*Hymn of Prayer # 277 Jesus My Lord Will Love Me Forever
Pastoral Prayer O God, the courage of the early disciples challenges us. With faithfulness to your divine authority, they spoke prophetically and acted compassionately at great risk to themselves personally. The gospel was proclaimed, hurting people were helped, and the Christian community was strengthened. Our loyalties, on the other hand, tend to vacillate between competing authorities. Rationalized timidity takes a heavy toll on public expressions of our faith. Justifications for inaction deny people in need the bold compassion consistent with the character of Jesus. grant us clarity about to whom our ultimate loyalty belongs. grant us generosity in our sharing with people in need. grant us fidelity to living out our identity as your children. grant us courage in speech and action, so that we may provide credible evidence of the power of the risen Christ and bring new life to individuals and to communities. //// Holy God, we want to be known as your children, “children of God” living as emissaries of the love of God. But, we know ourselves and readily confess our sins. We seek fellowship with you even as we shun fellowship with others. We mislead ourselves, thinking that we are good enough to judge others while failing to look realistically at our own weaknesses, faults, and sins. We affirm commandments that we refuse to obey. Words of love come from hearts in which prejudice resides. Even as we confess our wrongs, however, we rejoice in your promise of forgiveness. If we confess our sins, you, who are faithful and just, will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Grateful for that assurance, we confess and repent, requesting the grace and strength that will enable us to walk as Christ walked./// Prayer of Intercession
Jesus Christ, on this day, as we remember your life-giving presence among those who needed you, we pray that, in every part of the world, those who need you will find you.//Silence //We pray that you will be in every violent place, bringing your gift of peace, entering troubled hearts and minds and inviting different possibilities. Especially, we pray for these places and people now:
Rise in our midst and inspire us to new ways, greater love and care, and the laying down of power in the hope of kinder and more just solutions. We pray for those who wait with longing hearts for forgiveness, carrying, like a heavy yoke on their shoulders, deathly burdens of guilt and shame, unable to move past them and into the light of your freedom: Make us the bearers of your forgiveness, loving God, bringing to the world our own testimonies of your kindness in the face of human failure and frailty.
Shine in our faces, Jesus Christ, so that we look on others with the same grace that belongs to you, remembering all that you have given to us in our very human journeying.
Take our hands now and send us out to be more truly your people in the world. This we pray in faith believing
If we search, we will find, and if we ask, it will be given. God will send to us the Holy Spirit, the comforter and healer. The Christ will be made real in our forgiveness. Let us walk into our future in newness and faith. Amen.
*Hymn of Praise # 151 Beneath the Cross of Jesus
Scripture Reading John 14: 1-14
1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
Message What Difference Does Easter Make?
The Resurrection's effects on life and death. by Rick Warren
A lot of people say, "I believe in the resurrection; I just don't understand it." Pollster George Gallup said even 84 percent of people who never go to church believe Jesus rose from the dead. It is historical fact; it wasn't done in secret. The whole city of Jerusalem and the whole Roman Empire knew about it. It was news. If CNN had been there, they would have had it live.
There are at least 15 historical references to Jesus meeting people, touching people, and talking with people after he had been crucified. One time he cooked breakfast. One time he talked to about 500 people after he had risen from the dead. A lot of people saw him.
Jesus did rise, he is who he said he was, he has the power he said he had, and he keeps the promises he makes. So what? Why does the resurrection matter? What difference does it make? It matters for three reasons.
1. Our past can be forgiven.
That's good news. Have you ever been halfway through a project and wished you could start over? A lot of times people feel that way about life. They get halfway through and wish they could start over. We have all done things we wish we hadn't done, said things we wish we hadn't said, and thought things we wish we hadn't thought. We all have regrets. We all feel bad about things. We all have guilt.
A pastor received this letter:
"I'm 31 years old and divorced, though I fought the divorce bitterly. I feel bad. I have no hope for my future. Often I go home and cry, but there's no one holding me when I cry. Nobody cares. Nothing changes, and I continue to fail. I'm stressed out emotionally, and I feel I'm on the verge of a collapse. Something is very wrong. But I feel so hurt and embittered that I can scarcely react or relate to others anymore. I feel as if I'm going to have to sit out the rest of my life in the penalty box." /////
The tragedy is, I know a lot of people like that. They can't get on with the present and the future because they're stuck in the past. Some guilt or regret has tied them down. Sometimes they're letting a former relationship mess up their current relationship. They say, "I guess I'll just have to live with this the rest of my life."
Here's the good news. Colossians 2:14 says: "He has forgiven all our sins and canceled every debt we owe. Christ has done away with it by nailing it to the cross."
This is God's pardon program. Jesus nailed it all to the cross. He paid for my guilt. That means I don't have to pay for it. He was hung for my hang-ups. Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross, so I can quit nailing myself to the cross. He wants to forgive your past. He wants to cancel every debt you owe—emotional debts, relational debts, sins. All canceled.
2. My present problems can be managed.
The number one complaint I hear from people today is this: "My life is out of control." I hear it a thousand times:
I feel powerless to change the situation…
I feel powerless to break a bad habit…
I feel powerless to save a relationship…
I feel powerless to get out of debt…
I feel powerless to manage my schedule.
What you need is a power greater than yourself. You were never meant to live this life on your own power. God wants to have a relationship with you. And here's the good news. Ephesians 1:19-20 says: "How incredibly great is his power to help those who believe him, the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead."
The same power that enabled Jesus to rise from death will help you rise above your problems. The same power God used at the Resurrection 2,000 years ago can be used in your life right now. You don't know what the future holds. I don't either. I don't know what's going to happen next year, next month, next week. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, and neither do you. But it doesn't matter, because even though it's out of our control, it's not out of God's. He will give us the power to face it. Philippians 4:13 says: "I'm ready for anything through the strength of Christ, who lives in me."
"I want to help out," God says. Some of you came crawling in here—you've had a tough week. God wants to say this to you: "Don't give up."
No problem is too big for God. No situation is hopeless if you'll turn it over to him. "I am ready for anything through the power of positive thinking"? No, it doesn't say that. "I am ready for anything because I psyched myself up"? No. "I am ready for anything through the strength of Christ, who lives in me."
3. My future can be secure.
One of the universal problems we've all got is death. Let's face it—everybody dies. I'm going to die someday, and so are you. Only a fool would go all through life unprepared for something he knows in inevitable. That doesn't make sense. But sometimes we get so busy in the here and now, we don't stop to think about what's going to come.
People don't like to talk about death. If you don't believe me, invite your friends over, sit them down, serve them some coffee and pie, and say, "Let's talk about death." See what happens.
U.S. News & World Report ran a cover article called "The Rekindling of Hell." It says more people believe in heaven and hell than ever before in American history. Why? Because people are wondering, "What's going to happen?"
There are a lot of misconceptions about heaven. Most of them come from movies with bad theology: Heaven Can Wait; Oh, God; All Dogs Go To Heaven. These are cute little ideas of what somebody thinks heaven is going to be like.
What is it really going to be like? Let's check it out with the source. When you go to the Bible, what does God say it's really going to be like in heaven and hell?
Number one, heaven is a perfect place. Total love, total peace, total joy, total perfection. No sin, no mistakes, no evil, no bad, no errors. It's perfect in every area.
The second thing the Bible says is that in order for you to go there, you have to be perfect, because only perfection can exist in heaven. You say, "Well, thanks a lot. That leaves me out." Yeah, it leaves me out too. // You say, "I'll never make it if I have to be perfect." Right! That's the point. Neither will I. Neither will any of us, because none of us is perfect; we've all messed up.
There are two ways the Bible says you can get to heaven. Plan A is to earn it. That's the performance plan. And to earn it you only have to do this: never sin and always do what's right for the entire time that you live. Just be perfect.
Since none of us qualify for Plan A, God came up with Plan B, which is this: You trust Jesus Christ when he says, "I am the way, the truth and the life." He was the only perfect person who ever lived, because he was God. He came so we could know what God is like. And by trusting and establishing a relationship with him, you get in on his goodness. /////
My friend took his young son to a carnival one time for his birthday. His son picked six boys to go with him, so he bought a roll of tickets. Every line he'd come up to, he'd pull off seven tickets and give them to all the kids. When they got to the Ferris wheel, all of a sudden there was this eighth little kid with his hand out.
He said, "Who are you?"
The kid said, "I'm Johnny."
He said, "Who are you, Johnny?"
Johnny said, "I'm your son's new friend. And he said you would give me a ticket."
He asked me, "Do you think I gave him one? Absolutely." When you get to heaven, you'll say, "God, I can't get in on my own effort. The only way I can get into heaven is because I'm a friend of Jesus Christ." John 17:3 says: "This is the way to have eternal life: by knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ, the one he sent to earth."
That's what the Bible says. Jesus has already paid for your way to heaven. This is news you can use.
Rick Warren is pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. This column is excerpted from "What Difference Does Easter Make?" published by PreachingToday.com, issue 223.
*Hymn of Response # 281 What a Wonderful Change
*Sending forth Christ will renew our faith! Go now and believe that this gift waits for us in every challenging place.
Thought for the Day Christ greeted us with the word peace and promised us the reality of peace. Hearing the greeting of Christ should send us running to take up the work of making peace a reality.