Taste & See the Lord is Good: A Different Celebration for Easter Sunday

After much thought and reflection journeying towards Easter during this time of lockdown and pandemic I have brought together this different celebration for Easter Sunday which uses the symbolism of an egg symbolising the stone which as rolled away from Jesus’ tomb. I offer it here in the hope it maybe useful to others. Please feel free to use or adapt what I have shared here for your context but please acknowledge the original producer. Click here to download this page as a PDF.

Introduction

This lengthy introduction is to share the background to this part of our worship and why I have chosen to do it. I don’t know how it will ‘work’ or feel but I pray it will be a special experience for us all.

In these very different and difficult times of Coronavirus nationally there has been much conversation about the shape of the worship that takes place for Easter Sunday. Many Christians would love to be able to share in an online celebration of Holy Communion where congregation members are able to receive bread and wine in their own home. Whilst many believe this would be an appropriate way to share Holy Communion[1] at the moment The Methodist Church does not permit such services to take place and as a Minister under the discipline of The Methodist Conference I am not able, or willing, to do so. 

Whilst I could celebrate a service of Holy Communion on behalf of the church as part of our live streamed service I am not comfortable doing so. For me the sharing of the elements with all of God’s people is as important a part of a service of Holy Communion as the taking, blessing and breaking and therefore to celebrate and not be able to share the elements is something I am not comfortable doing. In fact, at the moment I have decided that I will not celebrate Holy Communion again until I am able to share bread and wine with a church congregation. 

As someone for whom celebrating the sacraments is at the heart of my calling this is not an easy decision. I have come to the decision because it is an equally important part of my calling to be alongside people. Therefore, for me, it is right that I share in the challenge and difficulty of not being able to receive Holy Communion rather than celebrating, receiving for myself and sharing with my family when others cannot. 

It was in reflection and praying about Holy Communion in this time that I came to the question, well what can we do on Easter Sunday? What can we do that will be a physical act of remembrance, of participation, that would show that we are part of the body of Christ and enable us to celebrate the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection which brings new life to the world. This led me to think about other symbols for Easter and I kept coming back to eggs. Eggs have for many years represented the stone which was rolled away from Jesus’ tomb. Eggs have been rolled, eaten, turned into chocolate and of course hidden by bunnies!

This Easter Sunday I invite each individual or group connecting to the live stream or using this service at home to bring an egg to worship, chocolate or hard boiled! If you don’t have an egg to hand you an orange or satsuma would work just as well or you could draw an egg on a piece of paper.

We will share these prayers and our eggs as a different way to ‘Taste and See that the Lord is Good’, to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection.  

Prayers – Please join in the words in bold type.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give you thanks and praise.

You are invited to hold your egg, representing God’s world in your hand.

Gracious God.
We thank you that
you are the creator of the world,
you brought the world into existence,
you created each of us to be part of your world,
you created each of us in your image to be your people.

We praise you that
although your people did not follow your way,
you were always faithful,
always at work amongst us through your steadfast love.
We praise you that
you sent your son Jesus Christ,
as a gift to the whole world,
that all who believe in him,
may be children of God.
Blessing and honour, glory and power,
are rightly yours, all gracious God.

You are invited to unwrap or peel your egg, representing our acceptance of God’s gift of Jesus to the world.

Lord Jesus,
we thank you and praise you that 
you were born as one of us
the gift of a baby born in Bethlehem 
who changed the world.
You showed us the way to live our lives
and revealed God’s Kingdom to us.

Lord Jesus, 
We are sorry that we don’t always
follow your way,
listen to your voice,
share your love,
declare you as Lord.
Forgive us and renew us
for the times we haven’t followed you.

Hear the good news,
your sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God.

Lord Jesus,
We thank you,
that you entered Jerusalem 
as a King, where you were:
tried and condemned,
sentenced to death,
made to carry your own cross,
crucified and died for us.
We praise you that by your death on the cross,
you died our death, 
defeated the power of death,
offering your forgiveness to all the world.
We praise you that death was not the end that
after three days you were raised from the dead,
the stone was rolled away from the tomb.
By your resurrection you brought
new life, eternal life, life in all its fullness,
to all the world.
Blessing and honour, glory and power,
are rightly yours, all gracious God.

You are invited to roll your egg breaking it into pieces, representing the stone rolled away from the tomb.

Lord Jesus,
during your life and after your resurrection,
you called people to 
follow you,
be your disciples,
live by your commandments,
invite others to follow you.

You made those who follow you the Body of Christ,
millions of people, throughout the ages,
sharing in your way, your truth, your life.
We are the Body of Christ,
though we are in many places,
we all share in the new life
of Jesus’ death and resurrection,
made possible by the cross and the empty tomb.

You are invited to eat a piece of your egg, a symbolic act showing that you are part of the Body of Christ.

As the body of Christ,
we are called by God to
serve together,
love together,
pray for one another.
In these difficult and challenging days,
as we celebrate Easter,
we commit afresh to serve, love and pray together.

We come today to hold before God
those who need his love, care and healing.
We lift to you Lord all those who are
suffering in anyway, especially those with Coronavirus,
those unwell in body, mind and spirit,
the bereaved,
those caring for others,
Key Workers serving and seeking to overcome the Coronavirus pandemic,
Those seeking to share God’s love.
We pray for all who we know in need of God’s care
naming each of them as we eat pieces of egg, 
remembering that those we pray for
are also part of God’s family.

You are invited to eat a piece of your egg for each person you name before God. 

We offer all our prayers to God,
those spoken, 
those who we have named 
and those unspoken prayers which are deep in our hearts
as we say the Lord’s Prayer together:

Our Father in heaven, 
hallowed be your Name,
your kingdom come, 
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, 
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial 
and deliver us from evil. 
For the kingdom, the power 
and the glory are yours, 
now and forever. Amen.

Later as you eat the rest of your egg remember all that it represents, the death and resurrection of Jesus which brings life to the world and all who are part of the Body of Christ. As you eat the pieces pray for and name before God all those you love or who are on your mind. As you eat, remember and pray, rejoice that we have tasted and seen the goodness of God. 

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

Some materials from The Methodist Worship Book © TMCP
Original Materials by The Revd David Goodall


[1] This is not the place for that discussion or the purpose of this celebration. 

Methodist Way of Life

Whilst I was on sabbatical my reading and reflections were focussed on new monasticism, ways/rules of life and the question of what a Methodist Way of Life might look like.

I have written up my reading and reflections on the Methodist Way of Life which you can download by clicking here.

The reflections include why might we have a Methodist Way of Life, the Methodist foundations in could be built on, four distinctive it could have and some suggestions of how it might work in practice.

I’d be very interested to hear your comments, thoughts and reflections on what I’ve written, so please do get in touch if you’d like to share them with me.

Holy Island: Different Perspectives

Before I left Holy Island on Friday I went to explore the North Shore Beach. I’d wanted to walk on the north of the island in April but it was too wet so before I left I decided to go and explore. Even though it was a busy day on the Island the North Shore Beach was deserted. It was a beautiful beach which was a real contrast to the village centre and St Cuthbert’s beach.

I really enjoyed the peace of the beach and took time to reflect back over my sabbatical. It gave me time to think about what the themes of the sabbatical had been, what I felt I’ve heard from God, where I’d met with God and what I want to take forward from the sabbatical into life and ministry. It was also great to remember all the fun I and we have had.

After I’d journaled and eaten my lunch I walked on the beach. As I walked I noticed what a different perspective on Holy Island I got from the north shore beach. Through this God spoke me to of how the sabbatical has given me a different perspective on a number of things and how as I prepare to return to active ministry I do so with a different perspective on life and faith. I’ve chosen to use the word different rather than new as I realised that what I have discovered on sabbatical is not something new, I haven’t discovered a new God(!) or faith but a greater, refreshed and therefore different understanding of the God I love and follow.

The sand on the beach was really interesting to walk on as it’s covered and uncovered daily by the ever changing tide. In places the sand is dry as the tide doesn’t reach it, on the edges it’s damp as the tide just touches the edge, there are places where the waves have ribbed it, places where you feel as you are sinking because it is so wet, places where the seaweed crunches under your feet.

Much as I would love life to carry on like it has been on sabbatical forever I know that can’t happen! As I walked on the different sand I experienced what each of them felt like underfoot. I realised that as I return to circuit life in a few weeks time with the different perspectives that I have discovered I will return, over the coming, weeks, months and year, to a number of different joys, challenges and experiences. Some of these will be like the soft sand dry and sandy, some will be hard like the sand on the edge, some will be crunchy and frustrating like the seaweed, some will feel like I’m sinking and some like the sand is blowing in my face. Yet I will carry into then ALL with the different perspectives I have discovered on sabbatical and in the power of the Holy Spirit who is always with me.

Reflecting on this excited me. I am excited to return, to continue to serve God as a minister and to walk in the power of his spirit. Most of all I’m excited to see where God will lead me, my precious family and those I worship with and serve as a minister.

Sabbatical has been such a joy, such a blessing, such a lot of fun. My time on Holy Island helped me to see both what I will take back from this time into ‘normal’ life/ministry and that I’m getting ready to make that return. As I come away I’m looking forward to what will come next and seeing how God will use all I have discovered during this special time.

Since Holy Island we’ve been in York celebrating the silver wedding of our friends Andy and Jo, who I met at Wesley College. It has been a fabulous weekend and it was a real privilege to lead worship at their church this morning, although a bit odd to be back in a clerical collar and at the front after 12 weeks!

Holy Island Part 2

If you’ve been reading this blog throughout my sabbatical you’ll know that on the first day I came to Holy Island to begin my sabbatical. I decided that I wanted to come back to Holy Island for a few days towards the end of sabbatical, to reflect on the sabbatical in the place I started. I’m staying in Robert and Jutta’s Cabin again, which is such good play to have as a base in the centre of the village.

It has been great to be here again, the island has been a lot busier in the mornings and early afternoons than in April but once the tide has come in during the late afternoon the island has been so quiet and peaceful. During this time it has been good to share in worship with different parts of the Christian community on the Island, at St Cuthbert’s, the Open Gate and St Mary’s Church.

I spent yesterday writing up the reading, reflecting, praying and thinking I have done during sabbatical about rules, ways, rhythm’s of life and what it might mean for the Methodist Church to adopt a Way of Life. I ended up writing nearly 7,500 words, which was a lot and much more than I thought I would write. Once I’ve edited it and checked it still makes sense I’ll share it here on the blog.

As my sabbatical draws to a close it has been so good to come back here, to remember this is where it all started and to be aware of what a gift it has been and to give thanks for how good it has been. When I was here in April I took the picture below and blogged about how the hay bails represented all the good things that God had in store for me/us and how we would unwrap them at the right time during sabbatical. Being back here has reminded me that I/we have unwrapped so many good things during this time all in the love and goodness of God.

At the same time I know that all the good things God has in store for me/us are not yet all unwrapped. Not least because my sabbatical still has another two and a half weeks to run. I also know that when I return to active ministry God has lots in store, I know that I will continue to unwrap many good things as I hear what God has been doing in Hexham whilst I’ve been away and as I walk together with those I serve into the next stage of the journey serving God.

One of the real joys of being on Holy Island again has been the evening sunset. As promised on Facebook, here are some of the photos I took last night along with the psalm that came to mind as I watched and took photos:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.

Psalm 19:1-4, New International Version

Portugal 6: Back Home, ‘in the Lord I’ll be ever thankful’

We’ve been back home from Portugal for nearly a week. Since then we’ve had a great weekend with Tara’s family celebrating her Dad’s 80th birthday and I’m now back where I started my sabbatical, on retreat on Holy Island.

Coming back from Portugal the Taize chant, ‘In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful‘ has been very much with me. I am so thankful to God for the time in Portugal, for the gift of somewhere to stay from my parents, for the time as a family, for plenty of sun and lots to do.

In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful,
In the Lord I’ll rejoice.
Look to God, do not be afraid,
Lift up your voices, the Lord is near;
Lift up your voices the Lord is near.

In the Lord I’ll Be Ever Thankful, Taize Community.

Rather than using lots of words on this blog about Portugal I thought I would share some of our many photos that we took. Through these I hope to share some of the things from this time that I am thankful to God for.

I’m thankful to God for a great place to stay at Rocha Brava:

I’m thankful to God for good food to share together!

I’m thankful to God for beautiful beaches to play on!

I’m thankful to God for time with my precious family:

I’m thankful to God for All Nations Church who welcomed us and enabled us to be part of their family for 6 weeks:

I’m thankful to God for time to visit wonderful places:

I’m thankful to God that for six weeks my phone only told me in was 20+ degrees and that my next appointment was a long time away! It was so nice not to have to look at my diary.