March 31, 2024







“Christ is risen!”
“He is risen indeed!”


We repeat our Easter shouts of
surprise and joy
again and again,
for news of your victory
over powers of death and evil
is news so startling
so amazing
so different from the news that bombards us day by day.


Beyond our comprehension
You startle us again and again
with resurrection Life,
bringing grace and hope and joy.


You, in your risen power,
are shaping all our days,
and so we praise you,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


PRELUDE                   “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”                   arr. Gilbert Martin



Look! A sliver of light across the horizon—
the miracle of a new day.
See! The stone is rolled away,
and the angel calls from within.
Feel! The freedom of our souls
and the wonder of the Messiah’s gift of new life.
Hear! The hallelujahs as we declare to the world,
“He has risen!”


*HYMN No. 232                    “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today”

1 Jesus Christ is risen today,
our triumphant holy day,
who did once upon the cross,
suffer to redeem our loss.

2 Hymns of praise then let us sing,
unto Christ, our heavenly King,
who endured the cross and grave, 
sinners to redeem and save.

3 But the pains which he endured,
our salvation have procured.
Now above the sky he’s King,
where the angels ever sing.

4 Sing we to our God above,
praise eternal as God’s love.
Praise our God, ye heavenly host,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.



Christ has risen

and we have risen to new life with him.

Yet we must confess the ways we have

continued to remain in our tombs of sin and death.



Living Lord,

when we stand before the empty tomb

we don’t always feel the joy of resurrection.

We feel fear, doubt, and distrust.

We feel empty. 


Forgive the fear that paralyzes us at the brink of new life.

Forgive our doubt of your love.

Forgive our distrust of your surprising, joyous plan.

Fill our emptiness with your glorious light.

Raise us to abundant new life 

for the glory of your name.





Wake up, sleeper!

Rise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.


Sisters and brothers,

Christ has forgiven our sins.

Christ calls us to new life.

Christ will lead us into righteousness.



*RESPONSE No. 249                        “Because You Live, O Christ”                      v. 3

Because you live, O Christ,
the rainbow of your peace will span creation;
the colors of your love
will draw all humankind to adoration. (Refrain)


The stone has rolled away
and death cannot imprison!
O sing this Easter day,
for Jesus Christ has risen,
has risen, has risen, has risen!



Christ is our peace.

He has reconciled us to God in one body by the cross.

We meet in his name and share his peace.

The peace of the Lord be always with you.

And also with you.


ANTHEM                   “He Is Not Here”                   Russell Nagy





Please join me in the unison prayer…

Almighty God,

through your only Son you overcame death

and opened to us the light of eternity.

Enlighten our minds and kindle our hearts

with the presence of your Spirit,

that we may hear your words of comfort and challenge

in the reading of the scriptures,

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


SCRIPTURE               Mark 16:1-8

16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.




This is the Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God!!


SERMON                   “We Belong to God”


Watching a movie with friends is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world, but there’s one thing … just one thing! … that does drive me a little bit crazy.

You see, one of my friends, I’ll call them “Roger,” reads so many novels – the old ones, especially – that he knows the way stories go. And he can usually work out the likely plot twists and the ending of a film before its even halfway done.

So, if he’s not being careful, he’ll just let me know when he’s figured something out, and then when it happens just that way I’m left going, “What’s the deal? Can we not just wait until the movie tells us what happens? It was supposed to be a surprise ending!”


The life of Jesus has a famous surprise ending – one that Jesus himself lets us in on along the way by predicting that he will die but rise again on the third day. But Mark’s resurrection account reminds us that even those of us who are able to work out what’s going to happen in a story can be thrown off of our expectations from time to time.

In Mark, the surprise ending of Easter has a surprise ending all its own! Our passage begins on Sunday morning, very early. Jesus has been in the tomb since Friday afternoon or evening, three days by the ancient way of counting.

On Saturday night, after the Sabbath had ended at sunset, three women went to purchase spices used in preparing a body for burial. They were Mary Magdalene (who supported Jesus’ ministry financially in the early days),

Mary the mother of James and John (which sounds an awful lot like “Jesus” leading some to think this is the mother of our Lord) and Salome (who we don’t know much about.)

These three were also noted for sticking it out through the whole of Jesus’ crucifixion after the male disciples had fled, and now on Sunday morning they are seeking to perform a labor of love— they hope to wrap the decaying body of Jesus in traditional spices.

They wonder, “How are we going to get to Jesus’ body? Who will roll away the stone?” But even so, they go. They take the next faithful step, even though they can’t see how their task can be accomplished. These three women demonstrate an understanding of discipleship at a deeper level than the 12 disciples themselves.

And when they got there? The stone had been rolled away! And there was a young man inside the tomb, and based on what he says, we have to assume he was an angel. But this is not the dazzling angels we encounter in other parts of the Bible, this messenger is a young man, wearing white, seated in the righthand corner of a tomb complex hewn out of a mountainside.  The young messenger gives them the good news: “Don’t be alarmed – Jesus is risen, he is not here!

Go tell the disciples that he’ll meet you all in Galilee, just as he promised.”

Well—you don’t have to be my friend “Roger” to figure out this one. They weren’t just going to kill him off – he’s the main character!

You can’t fool me with this kind of a plot twist. Ah, but then The Gospel starts to throw in some genuine surprises:

The first thing that happens is the reaction of these women: “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” These incredible women of faith don’t do what the angel says – they keep silent about the news of Jesus’ resurrection!

The second thing that happens isn’t even something that happens! Between verses 8 and 9, most translations put up a roadblock. The roadblock has a sign that says,

“The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.”

It’s like a flashing yellow light at an intersection that tells us, “Proceed at your own risk.”

It’s almost like the Disneyland ride, “Pirates of the Caribbean” where you go past the sign that says, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

What in the world is this warning doing in my Bible? The vast majority of scholars (even the ones who believe in the resurrection) are in agreement that Mark didn’t write verses 9-20. They appear sometime in the early second century, the language used is very different, and the titles for Jesus are different (he becomes “Lord Jesus”).

In all honesty, it’s just not the ending Mark would have written. Which means we’re left with, “They said nothing to anyone. They were afraid for…”  as the end of Mark’s original story. Now that is a true surprise ending.


What in Easter are we supposed to do with that? What are we supposed to make of the reaction of these faithful women who stuck by Jesus side?  These women, on their way to wrap a dead body in spices. They had no preparation for a story like this.  Remember, they’d never heard an Easter sermon before.


They were prepared for grief and mourning in the aftermath of Jesus’ death. But they didn’t know what to do, or how to act in a world where the tomb of Jesus is empty.
They were left…trembling and bewildered. So, they ran away—and they didn’t say anything to anyone.

They were afraid because the resurrection of Jesus is more than a happy story with a tidy conclusion that fits nicely into an encyclopedia entry.

These women were not just confronted with the fact that a human being had been raised from the dead.  It was the fact that this human being, the one who had been publicly proclaimed as the Messiah, had been raised from the dead.  If the Messiah has been raised from the dead, there’s a new King in town, and they were to be this King’s servants as opposed to Pilate’s. Because of whom Jesus was, his resurrection asked them to respond with action in a world that they were unfamiliar with— the world of God’s reality, the world of God’s Kingdom come.


What I love about Mark’s surprise ending is that it invites our stories to become entwined with the story that God is telling. The Bible is a book where we not only find information about the resurrection, but where we are called to live in light of the resurrection. News like that could leave anyone trembling and bewildered.

So how do we go beyond acknowledging the resurrection as a bit of trivia, and actually move into living and acting as those who are resurrection people?

How do we act in the world where Jesus the Messiah has been raised from the dead?

If we live to protect ourselves for our own comfort, we will never step out by faith into the world of the empty tomb. Which is exactly why those women were afraid. Was this young man lying to them? Was this a ruse? Or was it true – in which case they would need to engage with the same forces who had put Jesus in that tomb to begin with.

And we who live by faith today must engage with those forces as well.  The resurrection is not just life changing, its world changing. It’s a call to action as people with a new identity, in a world with new rules, and we don’t know exactly how our task will be accomplished.  If you take all that seriously, it’s a lot. It’s enough to make me go out from here trembling and bewildered.  In the resurrection, we are called to something disturbing: The acceptance of our own death, if that is the will of God, but it’s death with a surprise ending.

We know by faith that our death will not be final. So today, in spite of what the resurrection means, let’s not be afraid, let’s not tremble, let’s not cling to things that will fade away. Let’s finish Mark’s resurrection story our own way. Let’s open ourselves to a deep joy that comes from God’s own heart. Let’s live today and the next day and all the days that are left assured that whatever happens, we belong to God.


Commentary and Liturgy from the Book of Common Worship (PCUSA), “Call to Worship” Website, Alex Evans, AJ Levine, Teri McDowell Ott, Scott Hoezee, Karoline Lewis, David Lose, Ginna Bairby, and The New Interpreter’s Commentary



I am empowered by God and led by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.  I will be a living witness through prayer, preaching, teaching, and outreach to all people.  I will encourage and challenge all to grow spiritually, to care for others, to share the Good News, and to do so with a loving, joyful heart.


*HYMN No. 248                    “Christ Is Risen! Shout Hosanna!”

1 Christ is risen! Shout Hosanna!
Celebrate this day of days!
Christ is risen! Hush in wonder:
all creation is amazed.
In the desert all-surrounding,
see, a spreading tree has grown.
Healing leaves of grace abounding
bring a taste of love unknown.

2 Christ is risen! Raise your spirits
from the caverns of despair.
Walk with gladness in the morning.
See what love can do and dare.
Drink the wine of resurrection,
not a servant, but a friend.
Jesus is our strong companion.
Joy and peace shall never end.

3 Christ is risen! Earth and heaven
nevermore shall be the same.
Break the bread of new creation
where the world is still in pain.
Tell its grim, demonic chorus:
“Christ is risen! Get you gone!”‘
God the First and Last is with us.
Sing Hosanna everyone!




The following youth are presented by the Session to make their public profession of faith in Jesus Christ and to be commissioned as active church members:  J.T. HILL, MADDY HILL, GRACE LANDIS & ETHAN SAKHLEH


These young people have studied God’s Word and have learned the beliefs and practices of the church.  They have been examined by the Elder and approved for membership by the Session.  They now desire to publicly profess their faith, confirming the covenant into which they were baptized, and to be commissioned as active church members, assuming greater responsibility in the life of the church and its mission in the world.


We rejoice that each of you desires to declare your faith, to become an active member of Christ’s church, and to share with us in our common ministry.  In baptism you were grafted into this church family.  In the community of the people of God, you have learned of God’s purpose for you and for all creation.  You have been nurtured at the table of our Lord and called to witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Hear these words from Holy Scripture:

From Ephesians 2:19-21: You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.  In Christ the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together in the spirit into a dwelling place for God.


And from Matthew 5:14-16:  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hid.  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel, but on a stand; and it gives light to all in the house.  Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.



Now, as you publicly declare your faith, I ask you to reject sin, to profess your faith in Christ Jesus, and to confess the faith of the church, the faith in which you were baptized.


Please answer the following questions:


Do you renounce evil, and its power in the world, which defies God’s righteousness and love?



Do you renounce the ways of sin that separate you from the love of God?



Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Lord and Savior?



Do you intend to be Christ’s faithful disciple, obeying his Word, and showing his love, to your life’s end?



With the whole church, let us confess our faith using the words of the Apostles’ Creed found on page 35 in the front of the Hymnal:         I Believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.


You have publicly professed your faith.  Will you be a faithful member of this congregation, share in its worship and ministry through your prayers and gifts, your study and service, and so fulfill your calling to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?




Let us pray.  Gracious God, through water and the Spirit you claimed these your servants as your own.  You cleansed them of their sins, gave them new life, and bound them to your service.  Renew in them the covenant you made in their baptism; send them forth in the power of the Holy Spirit to love and serve you with joy, and strive for justice and peace in all the earth, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Will the Elder Buddies, please stand with their youth. As the elders lay hands upon each candidate and anoint them with oil signifying the anointing of the Holy Spirit, I ask the congregation to pray silently for the candidates.



Ever-living God, guard these your servants with your protecting hand, and let your Holy Spirit be with them forever.  Lead them to know and obey your Word that they may serve you in this life and dwell with you in the life to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.





In this economic climate, fear is the greatest obstacle to generosity: fear that there isn’t enough to go around; that if we give away what we have, we won’t be able to take care of our own needs. Fear is like a big stone standing between us and the experience of the resurrection miracle. So “who will roll away the stone?” We will, through the gifts we now give. We invite you to make a financial gift not based upon fear, but out of great generosity:




*RESPONSE N0. 248            “Christ Is Risen! Shout Hosanna!”              v.3

Christ is risen! Earth and heaven
nevermore shall be the same.
Break the bread of new creation
where the world is still in pain.
Tell its grim, demonic chorus:
“Christ is risen! Get you gone!”‘
God the First and Last is with us.
Sing Hosanna everyone!



Generous and surprising God,
when we thought that death
had claimed your only Son,
you amazed us with the resurrection.


Surprise us again
with your ability to turn these humble offerings
into gifts that will transform the world
through our witness to your love.
We lay our very lives at your feet, O God,
knowing that you will use us
to proclaim and embody the gospel. Amen.


*HYMN No. 233                     “The Day of Resurrection!”

1 The day of resurrection! 
Earth, tell it out abroad,
the Passover of gladness,
the Passover of God.
From death to life eternal,
from sin’s dominion free,
our Christ has brought us over
with hymns of victory.

2 Let hearts be purged of evil
that we may see aright
the Lord in rays eternal
of resurrection light,
and listening to his accents,
may hear, so calm and plain,
his own “All hail!” and hearing,
may raise the victor strain.

3 Now let the heavens be joyful;
let earth its song begin;
the round world keep high triumph
and all that is therein.
Let all things seen and unseen
their notes of gladness blend,
for Christ the Lord has risen,
our joy that has no end.




As Christ burst forth from the tomb,

may new life burst forth from us

and show itself in acts of love and healing to a hurting world.


And may the same Christ,

who lives forever and is the source of our new life,

keep your hearts rejoicing and grant you peace

this day and always. Amen.