Resurrecting God,
you conquered death
and opened the gates of life everlasting.
In the power of the Holy Spirit,
raise us with Christ
that we, too, may proclaim
healing and peace to the nations. Amen

Our readings for the week may be found here and include many choices!

This may be the busiest week of the year for preachers. Many of us will be preparing sermons not only for SundayHeQi_034-medium morning, the principal celebration of Easter, but also for Maundy Thursday, Good  Friday, and (perhaps) the Great Vigil of Easter on Holy Saturday. It’s enough to make the most stalwart among us quake a bit. But as the angel says to the women at the tomb (and isn’t this what angels always say?) “Do not be afraid.” Don’t be afraid because the Holy Spirit has our back. Don’t be afraid because we are here for one another. Don’t be afraid because, one way or another, it will all get done.

Preaching this Sunday is challenging for oh so many reasons: our congregations will be filled with those who attend only once or twice a year, it’s the end of a long week, it’s the high point of the liturgical year, and really, this week’s gospel is our raison d’être. Whether you choose John’s version with the famous, “Don’t hold on to me” on the risen Jesus’ lips, or Matthew’s version, where the angel tells the women who’ve coming to the tomb not to be afraid, the essential story is the same: Jesus is risen, he’s not there, death did not have the last word, it’s time to celebrate. The commentator at Working Preacher challenges us to leave our listeners with “a sense of awe and celebratory power” and I would add, expectation–expectation that the Risen Jesus is still here for us, ready to transform and empower.

The Hebrew scripture text, should you choose to use it, comes from Jeremiah. The prophet reminds the people of Israel yet again of God’s promise to be their God and their call to be God’s people. If you are looking for an alternate approach to Easter, this might be an opportunity to talk about how this promise still holds today, and that the fulfillment of this promise we Christians find in Jesus and the Easter event does not make the promise any less true for those who find God in Judaism.

The reading from the Acts of the Apostles provides another window on our feast day as Peter succinctly summarizes Jesus’ ministry, and lays out the work left for the disciples and followers, “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.” And finally, our excerpt from the Letter to the Colossians, in three sentences, sets our for us an inspirational message for life in the new reality of the risen Jesus.

Easter - John 20:10-18Of course, if you are like me, and have to think about sermons for the week sequentially, you may still be focused on the Maundy Thursday readings found here, the Good Friday readings found here, or the Great Vigil readings found here. The challenge for all reading (and liturgies) s is to provide a fresh take on what are very familiar texts. As  always WorkingPreacher has some great commentary for Thursday, Friday and Sunday. In another place, I’ve had some interesting discussion of the potentially anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish slant in some of these texts. If you are looking for some help with that,  I highly recommend the Jewish Annotated New Testament available in Kindle and paper editions.

Wherever you are in your preaching prep, join the discussion. The company is good, and you never know when one person’s offhand comment or reflection or pondering will serve as another’s inspiration.

And remember: the Holy Spirit has our backs!

8 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary~~Do not be afraid edition

  1. A looking ahead to the Easter Vigil note: if anyone would like a copy of an interactive version of St. John Chrysostom’s Easter sermon, I have a good one I’d be glad to send you! Email me at mobetsy [at] hotmail [dot] com. We use just that at the Vigil; it’s excellent and gives a break on the sermon-writing.

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    1. After all these years I have only this year heard about St John Chrysostom’s Easter sermon (where have I been???) … It is so beautiful – just basking in the joy of Resurrection … no need to parse the theology, just celebrate in joy.

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  2. I am going with Matthew this year. Talking a bit about earthquakes and angels and resurrection–and wondering what needs to be shaken out of our way for us to see resurrection today.
    http://ministerialmutterings.blogspot.ca/2014/04/looking-forward-to-april-20-2014-easter.html

    Also, I like to start the Easter service with a brief recap of the story (so that at least we recognize the cross for those who choose not to attend service on Friday). here is what I am using for that purpose this year

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  3. Tonight, Wednesday, I am doing my take on the Via Dolorosa. There will be six stations, starting out in the vestibule and then moving round to different areas of the sanctuary and chancel. I’ve written reflections for each for people to read at their own pace. This is new for me, but will I think be pretty well received. Tomorrow will be a fairly traditional service, numbers will be small, maybe 15/20.
    Friday we host our RC friends who will join us for a time of reflection.
    And then Sunday! We begin with our early Resurrection Service, out in the graveyard, celebrating communion, using Matthew at that one. Main service will be the John reading but my student is preaching that one. I love this week!!!

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  4. I am just stuck on tonight, Wednesday. I have been looking at the psalms on Monday and Tuesday and there was a progression of fear and trust that I could link to the Gospel readings. But tonight I am stone cold. And I haven’t any idea of Thursday or Sunday! Friday is more or less written. I find it very hard to think about the resurrection when I am still on the road to the cross!

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    1. Pat, most years I haven’t been able to start Sunday until after the Friday service for just that reason. This year I have a theme in mind for Sunday , but that’s it.

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  5. Ok, it’s thursday and I have a couple of hours to work on Sunday sermon, and I would really like to get it out of the way! using you all as my accountability team 🙂

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