Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie
The following presentation of the Easter story was used in an intergenerational worship service at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Saskatoon for Easter Sunday, 2007.
Suzy and Harold are puppet characters played by two young adults in our congregation. Amanda is the minister. Suzy and Harold are meant to be young members of the congregation. Suzy is a somewhat “goodie two-shoes” character who has grown up going to church and church school. Harold is a new church-goer and has lots of questions.
The scripture readings from John 20 are interspersed throughout the dialogue. At St. Andrew’s, they were read by children from the Contemporary English Version. The song used throughout the dialogue was sung by the choir and congregation (#254 in the Presbyterian Book of Praise).
Amanda: Good morning, and Happy Easter to you all!
Harold: Happy Easter Amanda!
Suzy: Happy Easter everyone!
Amanda: Easter Sunday is a very special day in the church year, because it’s the day that we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Harold: “Resurrection” from the dead?
Suzy: Resurrection means new life, Harold. Jesus died on a cross. He was dead, but on the third day he rose again. He came back to life!
Amanda: Yes, that’s resurrection, Suzy. New life for Jesus, and good news for all of us because we learn that God is more powerful than death and evil and all the bad stuff in the world. God wins over death. God wins over hatred. God wins over darkness and evil and everything bad! Let’s sing about Jesus’ resurrection:
(v.1) “Jesus is risen from the dead. (x3) Hallelujah!”
Harold: Did you say, “Hallelujah,” Suzy?
Suzy: Yes, I did Harold. That’s the Easter word.
Amanda: It sure is! Let’s all say it together:
Amanda: God brings goodness!
Amanda: God brings love!
Amanda: God brings light!
Amanda: God brings life!
Amanda: Well, we’re off to a good start in our celebration of Easter this morning, but let’s get back to our order of service. Now’s the time to listen to God’s word to us in scripture. Today we’re going to hear the Easter story from John’s Gospel, and Rachel is going to get us started.
Scripture Reading: John 20:1-10 (CEV)
Suzy: What a surprise it must have been for Mary to discover that Jesus wasn’t dead anymore!
Harold: What do you mean, Suzy? Mary didn’t discover that Jesus was alive. She just found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. She didn’t even go in!
Suzy: Well that’s true, Harold. But Peter and the other disciple went in, didn’t they Amanda?
Amanda: Yes they did, and all they found were some grave clothes. Jesus’ body was gone.
Harold: Someone must have moved the body then.
Amanda: Well, that’s what Mary thought at first too.
Harold: It’s the logical explanation, isn’t it?
Suzy: It might be the logical explanation, but it sure isn’t good news! Mary must have been so sad and so confused.
Amanda: She was very sad. She didn’t know what had happened to Jesus’ body, but it wasn’t long before she found out.
(v. 2) “Jesus was seen by Mary. (x3) Hallelujah!”
Scripture Reading: John 20:11-18
Suzy: Wow, Jesus appeared just in time, so Mary wouldn’t have to feel sad for very long.
Amanda: The good news was not only that Jesus’ body hadn’t been stolen. The really good news was that he was alive!
Harold: Well, that’s what Mary thought, anyway.
Suzy: What do you mean, Harold? Don’t you believe her?
Harold: I don’t know. She just doesn’t seem like a very reliable witness. She was very upset and emotional that morning. Maybe she did meet the gardener, and she got confused. Maybe she just wanted Jesus to be alive so much that she had a dream that she met him. Maybe she hadn’t had enough sleep and she started hallucinating.
Suzy: Oh Harold! You don’t believe her, do you?
Harold: Well, I just don’t know.
Amanda: That’s okay. Just keep listening, cause the next part of the story might help.
(v. 3) “Peter will soon be smiling. (x3) Hallelujah!”
Suzy: What happens next, Amanda? Did the disciples believe Mary’s story? Did Peter really start smiling?…
Harold:…or did he smirk at Mary’s crazy story?
Amanda: I’m not sure if the other disciples believed Mary’s story right away. They might have had their doubts too, just like Harold. But when evening came, the disciples were meeting together in one of their homes. They had the doors locked, because with all the crazy stuff that was happening, they were a bit scared. Suddenly, Jesus was standing with them inside the house!
Suzy: He appeared to them too! Now they’ll have to believe Mary!
Amanda: Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you.”
Harold: How could they be peaceful in a situation like that?
Suzy: I’d be so excited!
Harold: I’d be scared to death!
Amanda: I think I would have been excited and scared too, but Jesus helped the disciples to feel peaceful. He showed them his hands and his side, where he had been injured on the cross.
Suzy: That’s how they knew that it was really Jesus.
Amanda: And after a few more words, he disappeared.
(v. 4) “Thomas will stop his doubting. (x3) Hallelujah!”
Suzy: I think the next part of the story is especially for you, Harold. Listen closely as Ryan reads it for us.
Scripture Reading: John 20:24-29 (CEV)
Suzy: “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have come to believe.”
Harold: That’s easy for you to say, Suzy, you’ve believed this stuff all your life! For some of us, it’s not quite that simple!
Amanda: Sometimes it is pretty hard to believe, isn’t it, Harold?
Harold: It sure is, Amanda. It’s hard to believe because nothing like that ever happens.
Dead people just don’t normally come back to life, or walk around, or talk to people, or appear in locked rooms out of nowhere.
Suzy: I guess I can understand why the story doesn’t seem believable. Thomas was actually there, and even he had trouble believing until he touched Jesus himself.
Harold: And of course, lately there’s been all that stuff in the media about the “Lost tomb of Jesus.”
Suzy: You don’t believe that it’s real, do you?
Harold: Oh, I don’t know. It’s probably not. But it makes you wonder, doesn’t it? If somebody really did find Jesus’ bones in an ossuary, what would that do to our faith?
Amanda: Well, that depends, Harold.
Harold: What does it depend on?
Amanda: It depends on whether we have faith in God, or whether we only believe because we can prove it is true.
Suzy: We can’t really prove that Jesus rose from the dead, can we?
Amanda: No, we can’t prove it at all. What we have are the stories of faith of the early Christian communities. They believed that Jesus died, but that he was raised to live again in a resurrected life with God. And they believed that this was good news for everybody who follows Jesus’ ways and lives like him. They believed that God raised Jesus because God is more powerful than death, and they believed that God will do the same for us.
Suzy: And not only those first Christians, but generations of Christians after them believed it as well. This very sanctuary has lots of people who believe it too.
Amanda: We may not know what to think about the “Lost Tomb of Jesus,” but we are quite confident that God has the power to raise Jesus to new life, and to raise us as well.
Harold: Why do people believe when there’s nothing to prove it?
Amanda: Partly, Harold, I think it’s because many of us have met the resurrected Jesus.
Harold: What? You’ve met Jesus?
Amanda: Just listen, Harold…
(v. 5) “Jesus will meet his people. (x3) Hallelujah!”
Amanda: There are quite a few stories in the Gospels about the risen Jesus appearing to his people. He appeared to Mary in the garden, and to the others in a locked room. Luke’s Gospel tells of Jesus meeting Cleopas and his friend along the road to Emmaus, walking with them along their way, and helping them to understand what had happened. And in John’s Gospel, the risen Jesus meets his friends as they are fishing in the Sea of Tiberias. He stands on the beach and calls out instructions for them, and they haul in a wonderful catch of fish. Then Jesus stays and has breakfast with them on the beach.
Harold: Amanda, you said that many of the people here today have met the risen Jesus. But you’re only telling stories about bible people meeting him.
Amanda: Well, one of the ways that I have met Jesus is through the stories of the bible. When I read and study the stories, I get to know Jesus and I learn how to live like him.
Suzy: That’s true, Amanda, but sometimes I have met Jesus when someone has shown love for me like he would. When I’m sick and my mom takes care of me, I feel like I’ve met Jesus. She’s even patient when I’m cranky!
Amanda: Yes, and I notice that I meet Jesus when I’m caring for someone else. I remember what Jesus said… when we care for the least person, we care for him.
Harold: So, Jesus meets his people in scripture and in service – when we receive and give love in his name.
Amanda: That’s right, Harold. The risen Jesus meets us in scripture and in service. And he also meets us in sacrament.
(v. 6) “Jesus is here in bread and wine. (x3) Hallelujah!”
Amanda: When we gather around the table to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion, Jesus meets us again.
Harold: How does Jesus meet us in bread and wine?
Suzy: When we have the communion meal, we remember the last meal Jesus had with his friends.
Amanda: Yes, just as Jesus was their host at the meal, he is our host at the communion table. As we share the bread and juice, we remember his life and his ministry. We remember his death and his resurrection. And we remember that he sent the Holy Spirit to be with us, to help us to follow him and live like him.
Harold: Isn’t there something about “Bread of Life”?
Amanda: That’s right. In John’s Gospel, Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life…”
Suzy: “whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Harold: That’s how we meet Jesus – when we eat the bread and drink from the cup…
Amanda: … then we know that he is with us, around us, within us, giving us strength for the journey, nourishing our lives with good things, helping us through all the hard things and the challenges that come our way in life.
Suzy: That’s why we believe, Harold, not because we can prove anything, but because we have seen the Lord, just like Mary and the others did.
Amanda: In scripture, in service, in sacrament, Jesus has met us and we have met him, and we believe that he is risen!
All: He is risen indeed!
Amanda: He is risen!
All: He is risen indeed! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
(v. 7) “Jesus will live forever. (x3) Hallelujah!”