Lift High the Cross: An Easter morning celebration

On Easter Sunday, our congregation worships in a festive way that has become a tradition. Our congregation has grown to love the “Flowering of the Cross,” an ancient Easter tradition that we have found very meaningful.

As worship begins, a bare wooden cross—made from the church’s Chrismon tree (see RW 5:18)—is standing on the floor of the chancel, as it has been throughout Lent. The opening hymn is the familiar “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” During the singing, children and those who wish to remember deceased loved ones come forward with flowers to place on the cross (Black netting is stapled on the cross to hold the flowers). Although many people take flowers to church that Sunday in anticipation of this part of the service, we also provide vases of cut flowers for those who don’t bring their own. Young and old, some with tears in their eyes and others singing with joy, gather together in witness to the power of the cross.

We continue by singing “Lift High the Cross,” and when everyone has placed their flowers on the cross, it is ifted high (on a pulley) above the congregation and remains there throughout the service.

Easter Fanfare: “Lift High the Cross” (Manz)

Praise to the Risen Christ

Announcement of Good News

Liturgist: Heart, hold fast.
One truth clasp:

People: Center on Christ alone.
On Christ alone.
Christ alone.
Christ. (pause)
Christ is.
Christ is risen.
Christ is risen indeed!

Liturgist: Mind, be still.
Do God’s will.

People: (Repeat above response.)

Liturgist: Soul, drive deep.
One thought keep:

People: (Repeat response.)

Liturgist: Church, bow low.
One faith know:

People: (Repeat response.)

Liturgist: World, draw near.
These words hear:

People: (Repeat response.)

Text: Thomas Troeger.
From Borrowed Light, © 1994 Oxford University Press, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Anthem

“Rejoice” (Goemanne, SATB, Harold Flammer, A 6526) Optional brass and timpani; medium difficulty.

Prayer

Glorious Lord of life, by the mighty resurrection of your Son you overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in him. Grant that we, who celebrate with joy Christ’s rising from the dead, may be raised from the death of sin to the life of righteousness; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

—Book of Common Worship (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), p. 323

Opening Hymns

“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” PsH 388, PH 112, RL 325, TH 273, TWC 234
“Lift High the Cross” PsH 373, PH 371, RL 415, TH 263, TWC 229

The Word of the Lord

Scripture Reading: Mark 16:1-8

Sermon

Response of Joy

Anthem

“He Has the Power” (Roberts; closing song from Mass of St. Augustine; SATB and piano; medium difficulty; GIA G-2476)

Offering and Offertory

“I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” (Young)

Presentation of the Offering

“Good Christians All, Rejoice and Sing” PsH 397, PH 111, RL 326, TH 270, TWC 255

Sacrament of Holy Communion

Invitation

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving and Lord’s Prayer

Liturgist: Joyful is the sound we make this morning!

People: For this day liberates us from doubt and fear.

Liturgist: Thankful is the song we sing!

People: For this day moves us past darkness and despair.

Liturgist: Hopeful is the prayer upon our lips!

People: For this day awakens in us long awaited new life.

Liturgist: (Prayer, concluded with the Lord’s Prayer.)

People: Our Father . . .

Words of Institution

Passing of God’s Peace

Liturgist: Jesus said, “Where two or more are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

People: Christ lives here and now. He is among us at this and every moment!

Liturgist: May his peace and presence be known to you.

People: And also to you.

Liturgist: Let us greet one another with expressions of Christian love.

Hymn

“We Meet You, O Christ” PH 311

Communion

Prayer

Sent Out in Jesus’ Name

Hymn

“The Strife Is O’er, the Battle Done” PsH 391, PH 119, TH 319, RL 275, TWC 233
With brass and timpani; choir only on stanza 3.

Charge and Benediction

Liturgist: Go forth with strength to build the city that has stayed too long a dream,

People: whose laws are love, whose ways are God’s ways.

Liturgist: Go forth, for the Son that rises

People: is God’s grace for all our days!

Postlude: “Christus Ressurrexit” (Young)

Excerpt

Calvary Christian Reformed Church, Bloomington, Minnesota also celebrates Easter with the “Flowering of the Cross.” Here is a picture and note from Heartbeat, their congregational newsletter:

In the spirit of Christian celebration, we will observe the centuries-old custom of the “flowering of the cross” this Easter morning. You will be invited to come forward to the cross during the opening hymn, select flowers from the vases (or bring your own), and place your flowers on the cross. Assistants will be available to help. Children are especially invited to participate with their parents. In this way Christians dramatically symbolize Christ’s coming to life from the dead.

Jay Mc Kell is pastor of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Overland Park, Kansas.