Congregational Church of Hooksett

Easter Service Sermon

Dear Friends,Below and attached are our Easter service elements! You will find the video links of our amazing choir director, Heather Bridges singing and our choir! You will also find the audio recordings of the sermon and our Easter hymns!  Thank you, Jackie Morin, for your music!  There is also a transcript of the sermon.  I am trying to send out pictures of the beautiful cross set up at the church and will also be sharing cross pictures that are already being sent in. If you can get to it, the church’s Facebook page will also reflect these amazing creations and I am working one getting them on the church website (fingers crossed).Happy Easter! Stay Safe,Pastor Jenei

Happy Easter!

He is RISEN!He is RISEN INDEED!

Today’s Scripture Passages: (click the link to see the passage in Bible Gateway)

First Reading Acts 2:22-32 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+2%3A22-32%09+&version=NRSV

THE GOSPEL READING John 20:1-18 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+20%3A1-18&version=NRSV

Our Anthems for Today, by our Choir Director, Heather Bridges!  

Heather Bridges singing “How Great Thou Art” https://youtu.be/wJdNj6WnG90

2019 Easter our choir singing “Easter Carol” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYIP639SOYM

Hymns for the day from our church musician, Jackie Morin  (see attachments below)

“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”

“Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Give Thanks”

“Christ Arose”

This Easter, we are hoping that everyone will be able to participate by making and taking a picture of a cross.  You are encouraged to make a cross and/or take a picture of a favorite cross and send the picture to Pastor Jenei at pastor@hooksettucc.org.  You can also post your picture on the Church’s Facebook page by leaving a comment.  Please continue to take pictures of your created crosses and/or favorite ones and share them throughout the time we are practicing social distancing.  We have some special plans for all these pictures once we are able to gather again!

For a fun Easter Activity with your young ones or young at hearts try making a “macaroni” cross.  Glue pasta on a piece of paper and decorate in anyway.  This activity is based in hoping that you have something like this in your cupboards and will have no need to get anything.  Here is a link to some fun creative macaroni art crosses! https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fi.pinimg.com%2Foriginals%2F07%2Fdf%2Fcd%2F07dfcdd2b9b3d76baca6a0219863da74.jpg&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pinterest.com%2Fpin%2F453808099926106509%2F&tbnid=w-EPKDKpRxC4cM&vet=12ahUKEwi8wuqAhsroAhVAVzABHWopB2QQMygAegUIARDhAQ..i&docid=tq7q3ESg1dvMCM&w=225&h=300&q=macaroni%20cross&client=safari&ved=2ahUKEwi8wuqAhsroAhVAVzABHWopB2QQMygAegUIARDhAQ

Another cross you can try out is a Zentangle cross.  Zentangle is what most folks would call doodling. Like swirls and strips and circles filling an image. You can color them after creating too (or just print and color, if you have that capability!) These crafts are fun to do with children, teens, and adults.  Please send pictures to pastor@hooksettucc.org and/or post a comment on Facebook! Bring these amazing creations, if you can, back to church when we are able to gather again! 

Here is a link to see some Zentangle art work. https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fimage.shutterstock.com%2Fz%2Fstock-vector-mandala-cross-zentangle-cross-window-decal-ornate-cross-swirl-clipart-1300391887.jpg&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.shutterstock.com%2Fsearch%2Fzentangle&tbnid=_Va_PQ4D0gWfbM&vet=12ahUKEwiYr_ytiMroAhVQhuAKHaNUCnEQMygDegUIARD5AQ..i&docid=FDdVz0PvBccG0M&w=1064&h=1600&q=zentangle%20cross&hl=en&client=safari&ved=2ahUKEwiYr_ytiMroAhVQhuAKHaNUCnEQMygDegUIARD5AQ

Last but not least, you could cut out a cross out of some cardboard or a used cereal box and decorate that in any manner! Leaves, rocks, dirt, scraps are all fun things to use for creating! Let your imagination go!

SERMON

It is Easter! He is Risen! He is risen indeed!

Let’s pray together. Gracious and loving God, thank you for sharing another glorious Easter morning! Even in maintaining social distance we come together. We come together from many places, some from a place of rejoicing, many from a place of hopelessness.  Wherever we are coming from this morning, give us the power to reclaim that missing ingredient in our lives, the resurrection of Jesus.  Amen.

I want to offer thanks to the many colleagues, friends, and all other sources both written and digital for lending me wisdom and insight for bringing God’s Word to us today.  Without their ongoing support and nudges, I would not be able to hear God’s still speaking voice as well to share what God puts on my heart.   

In celebrating Easter, I often think of my grandmother.  Several times a year there were special feasts where we all gathered and food was always plentiful.  Easter was one of those times when food was everywhere. You could smell the ham, greens, creamed corn, cornbread, and banana pudding as you stepped up on my grandmother’s porch. 

The one thing my grandmother couldn’t cook though, was biscuits.  Lord, have mercy and bless her heart – both said from the depths of my Southern roots! On the days when she would decide to try to bake biscuits, she would open the door of her stove and pull out what looked like a tray of toasty hot shot-puts. She never could understand that she needed to add some baking powder to the flour.

My grandfather used to joke that if you dropped one of those biscuits on the floor, they would wake the dead.  Thus their nickname: resurrection biscuits. Now, I know I shouldn’t talk negatively about my grandmother’s cooking, so we Southerners have a little trick.  Down South you can say anything you want about anybody, as long as you end the phrase with “bless their hearts.”           

So…this being Easter Sunday, I think about my grandmother, bless her heart, and those sad resurrection biscuits.  I think her biscuits offer us an important Easter message.  Without baking powder, without that key ingredient to lighten and lift, those biscuits became heavy and flat.  I believe the same is true for life without the resurrection. Life without Christ’s message of grace, hope, and justice – can be heavy and flat!

It seems that too often we tend to think of the Easter message as a message for the end of life.  Frankly, I think we need the Easter message right here, right now, because as many of us know, death can come to us long before the actual end of life. How many people do we know who are walking this earth physically alive, but dead in their spirit?  Maybe you are one of them.  How easily life can beat us down.  

For me, it’s like the story of the little boy with his head in his hands staring at his school book saying, “I wish my arithmetic was done and that I was married and dead.” It’s easy to celebrate the resurrection of the body on this glorious Easter Sunday.  Yet, what about the resurrection of the spirit?  

  • What about tomorrow morning, when the alarm clock goes off and our spirits sink…where is the resurrection then?  
  • Where is the resurrection when we work night and day in a thankless “essential” job and still find ourselves deeper in debt and more afraid as we risk our lives by just being out?  
  • Where is the resurrection when our child gets caught in an ugly cycle of drugs and alcohol and we watch them slip away?
  • Where is the resurrection when after working a lifetime, we realize we’re about to lose our home? 
  • Where is the resurrection when we wake up one morning and realize nothing seems to matter to us anymore?
  • Where is the resurrection when at the end of life our family and friends are already gone and we are left alone to negotiate in a world that too often does not honor its old ones?
  • Where is the resurrection when it seems that we are living in a dystopian world that needs us to isolate ourselves from others?

WHERE is the resurrection then?  It’s not just resurrection after death we’re talking about, it is resurrection during life that I am pointing towards.  Like biscuits without baking powder, life without the resurrection is heavy and flat.  And, today, I say we bring that missing ingredient back.

Our Easter story from the Gospel of John is probably a familiar one.  Mary goes to the tomb while it’s still dark.  She finds the stone rolled away and Jesus’ body is gone. Weeping, she looks inside the tomb and sees two angels.  “Woman, why are you weeping?” they ask. “They have taken away my Lord,” Mary said, “and I do not know where they have laid him.” Then, she turned around and Jesus was standing there.  Yet, she didn’t recognize him. “Woman, why are you crying?” 

“Sir,” Mary asked, “if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” “Mary,” Jesus said. And the second he utters her name, Mary realizes that this stranger standing before her was the risen Christ.  “Rabbouni” she says to Jesus. Can’t you just hear the amazement in her voice as she utters the name she has called him?!

Mary recognized the living Christ.  She recognized that life giving element in her midst.  And I think that it’s the same for us.  We have the risen Christ right in front of us. Right now. RIGHT NOW! We have this life giving element in our midst.  So, when we have forgotten this fact, I believe it becomes essential that we must reclaim it and put the “rising” back into our lives – just like the baking powder that needed to go in my grandmother’s biscuits or they wouldn’t rise up. 

When I was a girl we had acres of field behind our house and behind that were the woods.  Every year the fields would come up high and my grandfather would bring out the big mower and cut the tall grass down.  One year though, my grandfather gathered with others and they set the field on fire. Flames leaped high in the air. The local fire department was on standby at the property, just in case things got out of hand. Acres and acres of field grass as high as your head burned.  From the edges of the property, you could see bunnies and birds scurrying and flying to the woods for safety.  

All that was left after a day of burning was the black scorched ground.  The earth in North Carolina isn’t black dirt like it is here. It’s red. Rust red dirt is the earth from where I’m from, but that day, it was black.  The ash that capped the hills wasn’t a thin layer either. When you put your hands down in it – all you got was black.  It was as if the very dirt itself had burned up.  

I have to say that I was horrified. My precious fields of flowers and animals were gone. All that was left seemed to be only a wasteland.  The emptiness of the fields stayed around, for what seemed, forever. 

Months later, the winter covered it with snow and ice and I cried at the thought of the loss of the green lushness under my feet. No more queen anne’s lace to catch all the good bugs. No more bunnies to chase after through the tall grass. No more honeysuckle vines and no more four foot tall blue stems to pick and make huts. No more seed heads of the tall grass to stick in your hair.  

I was mad at my grandfather. I loved riding with him on the tractor to cut the fields. I knew the grasses would be back in weeks and we would get to do it all over again. But not this time. Spring came and I could look straight out of the back door down into the woods behind. I grumbled at my grandfather and he smiled kindly at me as I stamped about moaning and grumping over the loss of the fields.

And then it happened. Something I had never seen before. Flowers everywhere as if they had popped up overnight. Blue ones and white ones and bright yellow ones popping up all over the field. Some of these flowers came up to my knees and many other covered every surface where the grasses usually waved in the wind. All those seeds had laid dormant for so long in the ground. The seeds were choked out by the bigness in the life of the grasses.  It was such a brilliant symbol of renewal! It was a resurrection of life from no life!  I just needed to see it.

I caught my grandfather watching me as I picked flowers and made altars for me and the animals to worship the creator. I swear to you, he was looking at me with a knowing smile of those little dormant seeds. There was life in that field that I didn’t know existed. 

There is still life in us all. We may be all cooped up doing shelter in place and so we may feel like there isn’t much life. And yet there is!

Sometimes we just need to light a fire in us to clear out what is blocking the potential growth.  We need that fire to help us find that missing ingredient and bring it back. And that ingredient for us, is Jesus. 

The Saturday before my very first Easter sermon as the minister at the “big” service, I was walking around in the parsonage where we lived at that time.  I was trying to walk off some nerves. My wife, asked me “Are you ready for the big service?” I nodded and said, I guess so. She looked at me with a surprised expression and said, Oh, you’ll be fine. Just get out of the way and let Jesus do the work.

I’ve never forgotten those words, for they are not only great advice for a sermon, they are great advice for life. The best thing we can do in life is to get out of the way and let Jesus do his work.  We often put up many blocks to the Spirit.  Rather like those tall grasses, we have things like anger, worry, negativity, fear, anxiety, and doubt growing up in us.  At times, some of these things can seemingly be helpful to us. Other times these things shut us down and weigh us down. They keep the key ingredient of life and spirit from working in our hearts. In other words, those things don’t allow us to to be lightened and enlightened.   

You know, life has many great truths.  Like never slap a man chewing tobacco.  Or one appropriate for early April, when you put “the” and the word “IRS” together, you get “theirs.” Another great truth in life is this:  Deep down, the human spirit yearns for joy, yearns to soar, yearns to be be lifted!

It’s kind of like our middle daughter’s favorite movie, Peter Pan.  Bless her heart. Even after watching it 700 times, I still love the scene where they gather together and think of a happy thought (and a little pixie dust) and they began to float and fly up to the ceiling and out the window. That scene taps a deep human truth:  that we all have a spirit that yearns for joy and lightness–a spirit that yearns to soar. 

And then life gets in the way. When key ingredients go missing, over time our spirits sink and become flat and heavy and bleak. For everyone out there who feels that their dreams have been destroyed, their hopes dashed, their spirits crushed…here is the good news of Easter morning:  

The risen Christ can take our flat, heavy hearts and put back that key ingredient…

…so that our spirits are not stuck in and on the ground,

…so that our spirits are not dictated by human pain, loss, or disappointment, 

…so that our spirits are not mired in a tomb. 

Easter brings each of us a second chance.  A chance to see the life giving element in our midst.  A chance to recognize the risen Christ right in front of us.  Resurrection means a chance to start again. Let that begin to happen today! Happy Easter! Amen.