You need to know ahead of time that there will be no surprises, at least not in our worship. That’s okay. We do not need to be surprised by our worship. We need to figure out how to be surprised again by the story we tell.
I love worship Easter worship at LPC. It is a privilege and not a burden to be at all four services. The sun will rise at 6:39 on Easter morning. That means that, like Mary, we rise early, while it is still dark, and that as we worship we will watch the eastern horizon grow brighter even as our hope grows bright in resurrection light. Chapel worship at 8:30 is simple, uncomplicated, as we sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” and “The Day of Resurrection.” We will be called to worship by the oldest Christian call to worship, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” Contemporary worship at 11:30 will begin with a powerful new interpretation of the old call – “Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed.”
Our 9:45 worship is the least surprising and fullest service of the four. Sometimes it seems a little complicated. Brass and bells and tympani. Our hymns will range from “The Day of Resurrection,” attributed to John of Damascus circa 700 A.D. to Wesley’s 1740 “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.” We will sing the quiet “Alleluia, Give Thanks” from the 1970’s. George Frederick Handel will be present in the deeply moving tune of “Thine is the Glory,” and, of course, in “Hallelujah” from “ Messiah.” The choir’s anthem will be from that same 2012 contemporary hymn, “Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed.”
The preaching text at all three services will be the resurrection story as told in John 20.
No surprises. No gimmicks. The words we hear and sing will be from the First to the Twenty-first Centuries. But the message, the story, the proclamation is exactly the same. He is risen!
In a world, sometimes a church, fascinated with, even addicted to, surprise and gimmick, we offer nothing new. No twist. No “I wonder what they will do this year.” I can tell you ahead of time, we will hear the good news of the gospel. We will simply tell and retell the story. No surprises.
Mary recognized her risen Lord in the sound of his voice. “Mary,” he said. The disciples knew it was Jesus when he showed them his hands and his side. The eyes of the Emmaus friends were opened when he broke the bread and their hearts burned within them as he opened the Word to them. None of them expected what they were given that Easter day. It had dawned the most discouraging day of their lives. It ended the best – and nothing would ever be same again.
Worship at LPC is done well. Singers and instrumentalists, liturgists and the Praise Team, our amazing choir director and the greeters and the ushers, are all well-prepared and eager to serve God’s people “with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love.” But they know their job is best done when, well prepared, they get out of the way and let God take charge of the service.
No surprises to distract us in Sunday’s worship. No calling attention to ourselves. But come prepared for surprise, the best surprise ever given. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” He is risen indeed.
Those of us privileged to lead worship on Sunday pray only that our music and our prayers and our proclamation, completely unsurprising, will be the voice, the sight, the experience of the best surprise ever given. He is risen indeed.
As you live into the story, allow yourself to be discouraged. Read the world news and be discouraged. Take stock of your personal life and be discouraged. And then come and allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the surprise that will change your life forever.
See you Sunday