Dear Friends, we offer this self-directed worship outline as a resource for individual, family, or small group use. It is modeled on our regular order of worship, but please adapt it freely to suit your needs and circumstances. We hope this will be a blessing to you.
Our Easter service begins with a time of reflection on the crucifixion, and then moves into a celebration of the resurrection. This allows Friends to contemplate the entire story, whether or not they were able to attend a Good Friday worship service.
Gathering in Worship
Contemplation of the Cross
How Shallow Former Shadows Seem | Park Street Church Chamber Choir
The Crucifixion of Jesus (excerpted) | Brian Zahnd
To interpret the meaning of the cross is more than a life’s work — in fact, it has and will remain the work of the church for millennia. The cross is the ever-unfolding revelation of who God is, and it cannot be summed up in a simple formula. This is the bane of tidy atonement theories that seek to reduce the cross to a single meaning. The cross is many things:
It’s the pinnacle of God’s self-disclosure.
It’s divine solidarity with all human suffering.
It’s the shaming of the principalities and powers.
It’s the point from which the satan is driven out of the world.
It’s the death by which Christ conquers Death.
It’s the abolition of war and violence.
It’s the supreme demonstration of the love of God.
It’s the re-founding of the world around an axis of love.
It’s the enduring model of co-suffering love we are to follow.
It’s the eternal moment in which the sin of the world is forgiven.
The cross is not the appeasement of an angry and retributive god. The cross is not where Jesus saves us from God, but where Jesus reveals God as savior. The cross is not what God inflicts upon Jesus in order to forgive, but what God in Christ endures as he forgives.
Evergreen | Audrey Assad
Please take a moment to quietly contemplate the Cross of Christ
Christ has truly been raised from the dead—the first one and proof that those who sleep in death will also be raised. Death has come because of what one man did, but the rising from death also comes because of one man. In Adam all of us die. In the same way, in Christ all of us will be made alive again.
-1 Corinthians 15:20-22
Christ The Lord Is Risen Today
(Lyrics available at the link.)
Caring in Community
Minute for Mission
Friends United Meeting has started a Covid-19 Solidarity Fund to help support economically marginalized Friends during this pandemic. You can read the announcement of the fund here, and a story about a feeding program in Kenya here. Both links connect to ways to donate. If you are able, please consider pitching in.
Praises and Concerns
Praise for the daffodils, and check out the lovely ones Tammy McKay planted around the base of our church sign.
Praise for the love of Christ that connects us as a body.
Praise for finding new rhythms and new life.
Praise for the God-given wisdom and tenacity of scientists.
Praise for the unexpected blessing of time with family.
Pray for Friends facing the unexpected challenges of time with family.
Pray for strength and wisdom for healthcare workers around the world.
Pray that those who help sustain us will find ways to feel renewed.
Pray that Friends will continue to find creative and effectual ways of gathering by card, phone, email, and through online options.
Pray for our political leaders – locally, nationally, and on a global scale – that they would prioritize the peace and health of all people. We pray especially for Governor Mike DeWine, for Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, and for Dr. Amy Acton.
Pray for our seniors, both the senior citizens and the seniors in high school and college, for whom this is a particularly isolating experience.
Congregational Prayer Focus
Springfield Friends Meeting (on Facebook!)
Wider Quaker Prayer Focus
Friends Lugulu Mission Hospital (their website)
Personal praises and concerns can be found in our congregational email. If you would like to submit a praise or a concern, email it to julie dot rudd at wilmingtonfriendsohio dot org. All submissions will, by default, be made anonymous if shared online.
Living Christ, faithful to us through cross and resurrection, roll away the stones that we have placed at the mouth of our tombs. Roll the stones away, and show us your enlivening glory
Be our comforter in our fear, and our shelter in the storm. Give us quiet to carry in our hearts, and make us still and cool in our spirits, so that we can see beyond the anxieties of today and into your life eternal.
Equip all your children to pray with Easter faith, to catch glimpses of resurrecting hope at work in the world, and to walk the path of undying love. What we begin with our prayers, may we continue in faithful living. We pray this in the name of Jesus, our Lord, who loved us first. AMEN.
Offering and Offertory
Because He Lives | Jennifer Jeon
If you wish to financially support the work of Wilmington Friends Meeting, please mail your donation to us at 66 N Mulberry St, Wilmington, OH 45177, use this link to donate online, or download the EasyTithe app and find us there. Or, as a way of embodying generosity, please make a donation to the religious organization or charity of your choice. Thank you for supporting holy work in the world through your hands and prayers and financial gifts.
Royal Choral Society | Hallelujah Chorus
Hearing the Scriptures
Scripture Reading: Mark 16:1-8
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
He Arose Dance-Along
Sermon: They Were Afraid
The original text of the Gospel of Mark ends with a bang and a whimper. It’s not very satisfying, on the surface. The women hear the good news, but instead of becoming the first preachers of the resurrection, they run away in terror.
Later authors in the early church added what felt like better conclusions, in which Jesus and the disciples are reunited and the disciples were given a clear job to do. The longer endings make the Gospel of Mark more like the other three Gospels, which provide us with challenging and tender post-resurrection scenes:
- Matthew gives us the Great Commission, closing his Gospel with the promise that Christ is with us always, even unto the end of the age.
- Luke shows us Jesus walking, unrecognized, with grieving disciples on the way to Emmaus, and then being known in the sharing of fellowship.
- John has Jesus making breakfast on the seashore and doing reconciliation work with Peter, who had denied him.
But Mark just ends with this: they were afraid.
I’m not interested in judging these women, except to see how the fear they felt, and the way it influenced them to act, exposes a similar problem in my own heart.
So, I want to share that question with you, Friends: what is it about resurrection that scares you?
That’s a piece of the Easter story that gets lost amid the lilies and the brunches, and the new Easter dresses. Resurrection is a comfort, but it’s not just that, and no character in the story treats it like it’s comfortable. Resurrection — in all of the Gospels, but especially here in Mark — is portrayed as deeply unsettling.
As it should be, right? The grief at a funeral is deep, but it’s a known grief. We’ve all been to funerals. We don’t like to say goodbye, but we know how to do it. We get lots of practice, over the years, in teaching our hearts to loosen their grips on those we thought we couldn’t live without.
Imagine, though, that the dead body in the place of honor, at the front of the church, sat up out of the casket and asked for a glass of water, or a cup of coffee, or a plate of those little triangular sandwiches from the fellowship table. That’s a deeply uncomfortable image.
Would you be joyful? Would you be terrified? Would you be both?
I don’t think it should come as any surprise to us that the women ran away and said nothing. I mean, they must have said something at some point, because the story didn’t die here on Easter morning, but what Mark portrays them doing initially — fleeing, and keeping the story to themselves — seems like exactly what I would have done.
Who would even believe a story like that? How could I be sure that my eyes weren’t deceiving me, that I had a reason for the hope within me?
Mark says that the women were terrified and amazed. In the Greek, that’s tromos kai ekstasis. Tromos: you can hear, in that, the roots of words like tremble, and tremor. It’s a quaking kind of fear.
Ekstasis: that’s our modern word ecstasy, but it has a more literal meaning than that. Ek is out of, and stasis is place, so to be in the grip of ekstasis was to be displaced, or even out of one’s mind.
Quaking, mentally displaced, running away in fear: that’s how the first witnesses to the resurrection reacted. Quakers don’t bet, but I’d be willing to guess that more than a few of you can relate to that feeling, right now.
Mary Luti advises those of us who are reading the scriptures in search of wisdom to remember that
“the joyous ancient Christian greeting, “Christ is risen! Risen indeed!” is best uttered hesitantly — not because [we] doubt or deny it, but because, like Mary pondering the salutation of Gabriel, [we] have no idea what such a mysterious greeting might mean.”
“Neither, apparently, do the women at the tomb. The two Marys and Salome flee from it, traumatized and unwilling to speak, despite the young man’s instruction. We are not told the reason for their reaction, but we should be glad Mark does not overexplain. His reticence clears a space for us to feel whatever we feel when confronted with the Easter proclamation, without having to shoehorn our response into the usual template of triumphant exuberance.”
“Easter is neither a documentable historical event nor a poetic metaphor for renewal: it is a great mystery of faith. As such it addresses us in sovereign freedom and in multiple complex and inexplicable ways. No matter how much glorious light it sheds, at its core is the darkness of unknowing.”
Easter calls us to look at the whole drama of life and death and life again, and sing hallelujah. It also, thankfully, provides room for our ambivance… for being unable to fully take in what the promise of resurrection means for the world, or what it means for our own hearts.
There’s a thread throughout the Scriptures of do not be afraid. It’s the greeting of the angels, when they bring messages to humans. It’s what the Lord says to Abraham, the powerful patriarch, and to Hagar, Abraham’s misused and rejected slave. Do not be afraid is consistently part of Moses’ message to the people of Israel.
Do not be afraid is what Joshua was told, after crossing over into the Promised Land. An angel delivered the same message to Elijah, and Isaiah said it again on God’s behalf to the people of God: do not be afraid.
Do not be afraid of the Assyrians. Do not be afraid that you will be ashamed. Do not be afraid of exile. Do not be afraid of Babylon.
God tells Ezekiel: Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions.
And through Joel, God says: Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green.
And through Zechariah, God says: Just as you, Judah and Israel, have been a curse among the nations, so I will save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.
Do not be afraid.
And yet, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. That’s a holy kind of fear, so you might think it’s an exception, but the scriptures do not shy away from describing all kinds of fear as part of living faithfully. For instance, in Psalm 55,
My heart is in anguish within me,
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
truly, I would flee far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness;
I would hurry to find a shelter for myself
from the raging wind and tempest.
Anguish, terror, fear, trembling, horror. That’s all in just four lines of honest poetry.
In America we live, too often, with a relentlessly optimistic public religion. If you hear one thing from me, today, let it be that relentless optimism is not the same thing as Easter hope.
Relentless optimism is the religion of positive thinking. It’s always looking on the bright side, as though habitually seeing only half of the world is some kind of moral virtue. It’s a domestication of words like faith and courage and hope, where we use them to merely denote the attempt to convince ourselves that this world is pretty okay as it is.
That’s not the Easter story. The Easter story is the long-term trauma of military occupation, coupled with the immediate trauma of the brutal execution of the one you hoped was bringing salvation, followed by the complete reversal of seemingly obvious truths about the universe.
Who in their right mind wouldn’t feel a little out of their mind, trying to contemplate that?
Who among us wouldn’t tremble?
If not being afraid is too much for you, right now, then try thinking about it like this: I will be afraid, and I will bear witness anyway.
That’s one of the gifts of Mark’s open-ended Gospel. The conclusion is unsettling, and unsatisfying, because we’re called to write the next chapter ourselves. All the men fled from the cross. All the women fled from the tomb. There’s no one left but us, dear listeners, to bear witness.
And we’re afraid, and like our forefathers and foremothers in faith, we will do it anyway.
We will be afraid, as we walk the valley of the shadow of death, but we will not set up camp there.
We will be afraid that we will lose more than we can bear, but we will still live with open hands and open hearts.
We will be afraid that believing in resurrection means we are simply ekstasis — out of our minds — but we will spur one another on toward good deeds anyway.
We will be afraid of the ailment, and afraid of the remedy. But, as the young man in the tomb promised that Jesus would meet the disciples back in Galilee, so Jesus will meet us here in our own fear and confusion and desperation. We will be afraid, but we will never be alone.
Over the last several weeks at Wilmington Friends, we’ve been exploring the events of Holy Week. The lens we’ve been using is resistance: what was Jesus resisting, when he came to Jerusalem, and how did he resist, and how can we also follow the path of costly love rather than going with the crowd?
I felt drawn toward that lens, in part, because of a song by Josh Garrels called “The Resistance.” Here’s a little piece of the lyrics:
Lesson number one, overcome
Every fear of regret and confusion
It’s all illusion, delusion
Sent to disconnect the holy fusion
Of spirit and the flesh
Every mortal breath, is meant to bring forth fire
But only when the fear of death, gets consumed
On the funeral pier
So let the flames rise higher…
I’ve become convinced that we can’t resist fear by waiting until we don’t feel it before we do the scary thing. That can’t be what it means, not to fear. Even Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, was overcome, disturbed to the point of death by what was going to happen to him.
The only way for that fear to be consumed on the funeral pier is for us to live as faithful disciples of the Tomb-shedding God. Perfect love casts out all fear, as our church sign has proclaimed now for weeks. We will be afraid, but fear loses its grip on us as we wake up in resurrected love.
Paulette Meier | Be Still And Cool
Sharing in Silence
During waiting worship, we listen together for God’s voice. As a virtual participant in this service, this may mean a time of waiting worship with those gathered in your family or small group. It could also be an individual experience. These breath prayers may be helpful to you, as you wait for God’s presence. If you want an online experience, you can join the Ben Lomond Quaker Center Online Meeting.
Blessing and Sending
Close of Waiting Worship
Thank you, Friends, for blessing us with your mindful and loving presence here. As we move toward the end of our time of worship, join us again in song.
Now the Green Blade Riseth
(Lyrics available at the link.)
Soar we now where Christ has led,
Foll’wing our exalted Head,
Made like Him, like Him we rise,
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies!
Alleluia, Friends. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with us now and always. AMEN.
Rimsky-Korsakov | Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op. 36