The Resurrection and Life
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Text: John 11:25-26; 20:1-9
Easter is the best story in all of preaching, but the challenge to remain fresh becomes a bigger one each year.
Instead of focusing on the actual resurrection story of Easter, this time we took a close look at the story of the resurrection of Lazarus as a prophetic portrayal of Jesus’ own resurrection power.
We began by affirming the historicity of Jesus’ physical resurrection. Then we backed up (chronologically) to the story of Jesus’ raising of Lazarus. We explored a variety of dimensions of the narrative and then concentrated on Jesus’ bold statement to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25-26).
By examining the reality of death today and the wide variety of reactions to death, we noted humanity’s basic resistance to and fear of death. Our awareness of such resistance and fear in our own hearts made us “ripe” to hear about the great Easter professions that Jesus is teaching us to make in these verses: A world that assumes death is the last word discovers that tombs are temporary! For those who believe in Jesus there is eternal life.
We spent a little while exploring the depth of Jesus’ statement “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:26). We have no better way to describe it. Human language is so limited. Even what we call death in the final analysis is not death for the Christian. We possess eternal life!
Such certainty, joy, and hope provided the basis for the remainder of our Easter morning celebration.
“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” PsH 388, PH 113, RL 325,
SFL 172, TH 277, TWC 234
“The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done” PsH 391, PH 119, RL 319, TH 275, TWC 233
“I Know That My Redeemer Lives” TH 690, RL 321, TWC 239
“Come and See” SFL 176
“A Shout Rings Out, a Joyful Voice” PsH 392
“This Joyful Eastertide” PsH 403, RL 328, TH 284
“Hallelujah Chorus,” G. F. Handel
“On Earth Has Dawned This Day of Days,” Hal Hopson (Choristers Guild CGA 709, two-part—any combination of voices—with keyboard and optional handbells)
“Hallelujah, Christ Is Risen,” Stan Pethel (Coronet Press 392-41629, SATB anthem)
“The Easter News,” Russel Nagy (Highstreet JH550, unison/ two-part anthem)
“Since By Man Came Death,” G. F. Handel
“Fanfare,” William Mathias (The Oxford Book of Wedding Music, Oxford University Press)
“This Joyful Eastertide,” Andrew Clarke (Easter Trilogy set 2; vruchten; Morningstar MSM-10-405)
“The Strife Is O’er,” Lisa Shoemaker-Lohmeyer (Morningstar MSM-10-418)
“Toccata for Organ,” John Weaver (Boosey and Hawkes)
- The Scripture passage for the morning was read by members of the congregation as a Scripture drama (adapted from The Dramatized New Testament)
- We crafted a litany for pastor, choir, and congregation based on 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4.
- We traditionally close Easter morning worship with the congregation and choir singing the “Hallelujah Chorus.”
Especially for Children
Our Lenten services included a time when the children of the congregation gathered on the steps at the base of the pulpit. Each week we looked at a cross (one of six different types) and talked about its special meaning. After the service we hung a drawing of the cross in the narthex, adding the new one each week.
Week 1: The Latin Cross
The Latin Cross is the most common and familiar to most of us. Long ago people started using this cross to remind them of Jesus and how he died for us. Today, whenever we see the cross, we know that the church that displays it believes in Jesus. Notice that the cross is empty. Why? Because Jesus is alive!
Week 2: The Passion Cross
This is sometimes called the Crusader’s cross because it’s the kind the Crusaders carried with them. As they traveled to the Holy Land, these Christians sometimes wanted to stop and worship God. A cross with a pointed bottom could be driven into the ground easily, creating a place for worship and reminding them of how Jesus suffered for them.
Week 3: The Crosslet
The crosslet hardly seems to be a cross at all until we look at it very carefully. It really is four crosses made into one by joining their bases at the center. The tops are pointing in all four directions. Jesus died for people from all directions—north, south, east, and west. God wants the whole world to know about the Jesus. The crosslet reminds us how big God’s love is.
Week 4: The Jerusalem Cross
The Jerusalem Cross is the only one named after a city, the city where Jesus was crucified. This cross includes five little crosses to represent the five wounds of Jesus—two for each of his hands where he was nailed, two for each of his feet nailed to the cross, and one to represent the spear in his side. This cross helps us never to forget how much Jesus suffered.
Week 5: The Anchor Cross
At first, this cross looks very different—it has an anchor built into it. Some of the first disciples were fishermen, and they knew how important an anchor was. When you throw an anchor out, it drops to the bottom of the sea and holds the boat steady so it doesn’t drift away, even during a violent storm.
This special cross reminds us that Jesus is our anchor. He will always hold us tightly and keep us steady—just like an anchor keeps a boat safe.
Week 6: The Cross and Crown
Ask the children to identify the two shapes in this figure—a cross and a crown. The form of this cross tells us a lot about Jesus. It tells us that Jesus suffered and died on the cross. But today Jesus is no longer on the cross. He is no longer in the tomb either. He is wearing a crown in heaven and ruling as the King of kings!