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Celebrating Easter in God's Acre: A Sunrise Service from the Moravian Church

Moravian churches have been celebrating this service for more than 250 years and singing the same hymns for at least the last hundred years (see p. 2). This entire service, including music, is found in the Moravian Book of Worship, edited by Nola Knouse, director of the Moravian Music Foundation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (www.moravianmusic.org). For space considerations, only the titles and tune names of the traditional hymns are included here, and since few of these hymns are known outside the Moravian tradition, congregations should feel free to select others (see box for suggestions).

—ERB

The Lord is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed!

Hymn: “Hail, All Hail, Victorious Lord and Savior”

CONVENANT 1

We believe in the one and only God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who created all things by Jesus Christ, and was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. We believe in God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world; who has rescued us from the power of darkness and has brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son; who has blessed us in Christ with all spiritual blessings; who has made us worthy to share in the inheritance of the saints, having destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of God’s will, to the praise of his glorious grace.

This we truly believe.

We thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and self-assured, and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. Father, glorify your name.

Our Father, who art in heaven . . .

We believe in the only Son of God, by whom all things in heaven and on earth were created. We believe that he became flesh and lived among us, taking the form of a servant. Since we are flesh and blood, he himself became a human being. By the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, he was conceived of the virgin Mary. He was born of a woman; and, being found in human form, was in every respect tempted as we are, yet without sin. For he is the Lord, the messenger of the covenant, in whom we delight. The Spirit of the Lord sent Jesus to proclaim the time of the Lord’s favor. He spoke of what he knew and testified to what he had seen. To all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gives power to become children of God. We believe in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in the same way as he was seen going into heaven.

Hymn: “The Spirit and the Church”

NUN DANKET ALLE GOTT 2

The Lord will descend from heaven with a shout of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of God’s trumpet. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

This we truly believe. This is my Lord, who redeemed me, a lost and condemned human creature, from sin, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood, and with his innocent suffering and dying. Christ has done this so that I may be his own, live in his kingdom, and serve him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and happiness, since he, being risen from the dead, lives and reigns forever and ever.

Lord Jesus Christ, who came at the first in great humility as our Redeemer, grant, we pray, that when you come again in glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may be regarded worthy to stand before you.

Hear us, gracious Lord and God.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, who comes from the Father, and whom our Lord Jesus Christ sent, after he went away, to be with us forever; to comfort us as a mother comforts her children; to help us in our weakness and intercede for us with sighs too deep for words; to bear witness with our spirit that we are children of God and teach us to cry, “Abba, Father”; to pour God’s love into our hearts and make our bodies God’s holy temple; and to work in us the will of God, allotting gifts to each one individually, just as the Spirit chooses.

We believe that by our own reason and strength we cannot believe in Jesus Christ our Lord, or come to him; but that the Holy Spirit calls us through the gospel, enlightens us with gifts of grace, dedicates us to God, and preserves us in the true faith, just as the Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and dedicates to God the whole church on earth, which he keeps with Jesus Christ in the only true faith. In this Christian church God daily and completely forgives us and every believer all our sin.

This we truly believe.

Spirit of truth, direct our hearts to the love of God and to patient waiting for Christ. Establish us in the true faith, that we may abound in thanksgiving; and keep us as God’s own until the day of redemption.

To you be glory, with the Father, and with the Son. Amen.

We believe that by holy baptism we are made members of the church of Christ, which he has loved, and for which he gave himself, in order to make it holy, cleansing it by water and the word.

In this communion of saints, we believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who died for us, and shed his blood on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, and who has given us his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, as a pledge of grace. As the Scripture says, Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said: “Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper our Lord Jesus Christ took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to his disciples, saying: “Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin. Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

This we truly believe.

Hymn: “Lord, Your Body Ne’er Forsake” GOUDIMEL 3

[At this point, the service at the church has been concluded. The congregation will proceed to the graveyard, “God’s Acre,” as the band plays chorales. The liturgy will be resumed when the congregation is assembled on the graveyard.]

Hymns

“The Heavens Are Telling” CREATION HYMN 4
“The Graves of All His Saints Christ Blessed” BEDFORD

We shall never taste eternal death, but shall attain the resurrection of the dead; for this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. Thus our bodies rest in hope. And the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, will also give life to our mortal bodies if the Spirit of God has dwelt in us.

We poor sinners pray: hear us, gracious Lord and God.

Keep us in everlasting fellowship with those of our brothers and sisters who, since last Easter Day, have entered into the joy of their Lord, and with the whole church triumphant in heaven, and let us rest together in your presence from our labors.

Hear us, gracious Lord and God.

Hymn: “Who Are These in Bright Array” GOUDIMEL 5

Glory be to Christ Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life. He was dead, and behold he is alive forever and ever. Those who believe in him, even though they die, yet shall they live. Glory be to Christ Jesus, in the church which waits for him on earth, and in the church which is around him in heaven, from everlasting to everlasting.

Amen.

Hymn: “I Give You Thanks Unfeigned”
ST THEDULPH 6

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.

Amen.

Doxology: “Sing Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!” 7

Postlude: “We in One Covenant Are Joined” worship.

 

Excerpt
Alternate Song Suggestions for Easter Sunrise Service

1 “Hail, O Once Despised Jesus” PsH 395, TH 176 (st. 1-2)
2 “The Day of Resurrection”
PsH 390, PH 118, RL 317, TH 267, TWC 247 (st. 1-2)
3 “In the Quiet Consecration” PsH 302 (st. 3-4)
4 “God’s Glory Fills the Heavens” SNC 88
5 “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending” PsH 612, RL 605, TH 318
6 “Celtic Alleluia” SNC 148 (see Songs for the Season, p. 22)
7 “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” PsH 388, SFL 172, TH 277, TWC 234