Easter 2020

North Congregational Church
New Hartford, Connecticut



“Resurrection” does not mean resumption of previous existence but entry into a different kind of existence. -Marcus J. Borg, “The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion to a More Authentic Contemporary Faith”.

The central meaning of Easter is not about whether something happened to the corpse of Jesus. Its central meanings are that Jesus continues to be known and that he is Lord. The tomb couldn’t hold him. He’s loose in the world. He’s still here. He’s still recruiting for the kingdom of God. -Marcus J. Borg, “The Resurrection of Jesus: Physical/Bodily or Spiritual/Mystical?,”  May 16, 2011, the website of the Marcus Borg Foundation


It is normally our custom when we gather to extend the Peace of Christ to one another. Even though we are physically apart at this time, may you know that peace.


Let us come to the risen Christ, we who wonder if new life is possible.
We come with our shortcomings, disappointments and fears.
Let us come to the risen Christ, we who need to be filled and healed.
We come with our emptiness, woundedness and sorrows.
We come to the risen Christ, we who rejoice and give thanks.
We come with our hopes, our energy and our joy.
On this glad morning, let us say and sing,:
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen indeed!


Christ The Lord Is Risen Today          EASTER HYMN

SCRIPTURE: John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.


Going Home After the Resurrection, The Rev. Marcia Lynn Cox

What can we learn from the resurrection story, whether we are literalists or understand the story as metaphor.? Can it be a story for our time, this moment in history in which this coronavirus, has changed, and is continuing to change, our lives?

In some ways we are like the followers of Jesus at the tomb. Not only did they lose the presence of their teacher who was crucified, but his dead body they thought they would find in a tomb. “They have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have laid him,” the author of the gospel of John has Mary lament.

In this last month, so much so quickly has been taken from us, too, during this time of pandemic: Lost jobs, declining financial income, loss of activities and freedoms we enjoyed, forced

During this “pandemic” we are feeling a variety of emotions, depending on our personal situations. The people who are suffering the most are of course the ones with the virus and the loved ones concerned about them and unable to visit them. Health care workers and public servants and those out there in the world who are providing us with necessary services are sacrificing so much, endangering their own health and lives. People who have lost their jobs, or who are experiencing financial hardship for other reasons are fearful about their futures. And many of us who are “simply” self-isolating are mourning as well. Our losses of the freedoms and activities we once enjoyed seem minor compared to those whose sacrifices and fears are greater, but we are restless and anxious, and certainly empathize with and care about them.

Most everyone seems to be asking, “When will this end?”  We certainly can’t put a date on the end, but we do know that we will have to wait until medical science finds a cure or a treatment. If history offers us any hope, they will ultimately be discovered.

A related question is, “What will life be like when this IS over?” Not surprisingly, there is quite a bit of speculation: some of the predictions are dire, others more optimistic.

But what we do know is that life will never be the same.

How things will change depends in large part on what we have learned…and more importantly…if we are learning things that will make us better as individuals and as a nation.

Someone named Dan Hollis posted this advice on Facebook: “In the rush to return to normal [let us] use this time to consider what parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”

We, I hope, are learning some things already. Here is some wisdom I’ve found (surprisingly) on Facebook, some of it humorous, some simple but wise:

“After years of wanting to thoroughly clean my house but lacking the time, I discovered that wasn’t the reason.”

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”

“Suddenly the whole nation is depending on the very people they don’t believe should make $15 an hour.”

“Has it sunk in yet that we as a country need to be manufacturing our own stuff?”

And of course there are the posts where medical professionals, public servants and workers who we meet every day on the street and in businesses are being thanked.

And the lists containing the things we should vow to never again take for granted. What would be on your list?

What we are learning is that there are some things that we don’t know. History can teach us certain lessons: other pandemics… the depression…although this time may be somewhat unique. So the best we can do is to live one day at a time. In the midst of uncertainty, we need to keep in mind that we are guided by the teachings of Jesus, which are applicable and relevant at all times and places.

Friday on the CBS Evening News, Steve Hartman in one of his “ On the Road” segments shared a story about a newspaper delivery man in central New Jersey named Greg Daley. He had, according to Steve, long before “social distancing,” been keeping his customers at arm’s length. All of that changed when one elderly customer asked a simple favor: if he would leave her newspaper closer to the garage. It occurred to Greg to wonder: if she wasn’t able to walk to the end of her driveway to retrieve her newspapers, how would she be getting anything else she needed. So he placed a note in her next day’s newspaper offering his services “free of charge” to anyone, specifically people who are older or physically compromised, needing groceries. She accepted and soon he began receiving requests from others in the neighborhood. So far he has shopped for nearly 100 people. Steve asked Greg if he would stop when “this” is over. Greg laughed and replied, “not necessarily” since he had discovered what a pleasure it was to help people.

Greg, observed Steve, had never done volunteer work before this pandemic. But noted what he had learned:  He was “just a guy” called to duty by circumstance but has now been called to service by choice.

As Marcus Borg has written, “Resurrection” does not mean resumption of previous existence but entry into a different kind of existence.” (-Marcus J. Borg, “The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion to a More Authentic Contemporary Faith“

Isn’t this an important aspect of resurrection: transformation? In our scripture reading this morning, the author of the gospel John writes, that after they had seen the empty tomb, Peter and the beloved disciple  “returned to their homes.” But following a difficult or traumatic event, we can never metaphorically go home again, that is, return to life as it was. We can’t help but be changed.  After the death of Jesus, he appeared to his followers in a variety of ways, calling them to live in new ways. Discovering  how much they had indeed learned from their beloved teacher, they took on important leadership roles by living and spreading the gospel message.

Resurrection assures us, in the words of Marcus Borg, that “Jesus lives, he is a figure of the present not simply of the past. (“The Resurrection Debate: Crossan and Borg vs. White and Renihan,” October 22, 2012, on the website of the Marcus Borg Foundation)

In all times, but particularly during our time, the central question, which was posed on a Facebook post recently is, “After all of this is over, really all that matters is how we treat each other.” May we as a nation, and as individuals, reflect on this question and discover new ways to be more appreciative of and caring toward one another. and experience resurrection today and in the days to come. Amen.


Although we are not gathering in the sanctuary for worship on Sundays for the time being, the church continues to have expenses. So it would be most appreciated if pledges and offerings could be mailed to the church at:

P.O. Box 307, New Hartford, CT 06057

Thank you for your generosity.


I Know That My Redeemer Liveth     from Handel’s Messiah


Loving God, we thank you that death has not been, and will never be, the last word, and that the eternal Christ restores us to wholeness. Do not allow us to be indifferent to the possibilities that new, and different life, holds, but enable the light of our risen Lord to reach every corner of our dull, fearful and unimaginative hearts.

We give thanks for the many good things in our lives despite the fact that so much has changed. We are especially grateful for all those people who serve us, in hospitals, in our neighborhoods, in places of business, that enable us to obtain the basic necessities of life.

We are especially mindful of those who lack them, those who are facing economic hardship, those who are isolated and lonely, those who are are homeless. Our hearts go out to everyone suffering from diseases of the body, mind and spirit, the dying and those who care for them, those who have died and and loved ones mourning their loss.

We all so hope for a cure for the virus that is now traveling around the globe and other heretofore incurable illnesses and diseases.

Despite our current forced isolation, enable us to reach out into the world in new ways, to renew relationships that have too long been neglected and do everything we can to prevent the spread of this dangerous and sometimes deadly virus in our communities, nation and world by taking the required restrictive but necessary safety precautions.

In our own lives, we bring to you now our joys and concerns….

All these things we offer, using the words of the prayer that Jesus taught us,

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.


Thine Be the Glory,   JUDAS MACCABEUS


Let us now forth into the world in peace.
Being of good courage.
Holding fast to that which is good.
Rendering to no one evil for evil.
Strengthening the fainthearted.
Supporting the weak.
Helping the afflicted.
Honoring all persons.
Loving and serving the Lord,
And rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.


Go forth this day, especially mindful of the eternal presence of Christ. Assured that he is with us, even now guide us, rejoice in the privilege of being his disciples. May the mind of the risen Christ continue to teach you so that you might be constantly learning. May the compassion of Christ inspire you to serve and minister to others. And may the courage of Christ compel you to speak and work for justice and peace. Amen.


The Hallelujah Chorus

Georg Frederic Handel, from The Messiah