Sunrise Service - Gloucester Cathedral
This script cannot exactly reflect the transmission, as it was prepared before the service was broadcast. It may include editorial notes prepared by the producer, and minor spelling and other errors that were corrected before the radio broadcast.
It may contain gaps to be filled in at the time so that prayers may reflect the needs of the world, and changes may also be made at the last minute for timing reasons, or to reflect current events.
Radio 4 Opening Announcement: BBC Radio 4. And now, to celebrate Easter morning, The Very Revd Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester, leads a Sunrise service from Gloucester Cathedral. It begins with the Easter hymn ‘Now the green blade riseth.’
Music: Now the green blade riseth
Welcome to Easter morning at Gloucester Cathedral as the sun rises over the Cotswold hills. Today the world wakes out of darkness to discover that this is the morning of mornings, the first day of our new lives as Jesus is risen and we are given new hope in life everlasting.
Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He has given us new life and hope.
He has raised Jesus from the dead.
God claimed us as his own.
He has brought us out of darkness.
He has made us light to the world.
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
All: He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
As the light breaks the night we sing the great Easter hymn of triumph, Jesus Christ is risen today.
Music: Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
The final chapter of St Mark’s Gospel tells of that first Easter morning when the women who followed Jesus went to the tomb with heavy hearts and with more questions than answers. The Gospel is read by
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. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 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. 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.’ 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.
Psalm 121 gives us confidence in God when all seems lost. Just as for Mary Magdalene and the women, this morning our help comes from the Lord. Following the psalm, Canon Neil Heavisides leads a meditation on how not everyone feels ready for the joy of Easter, but our hope is still in the God of this morning.
Music: Psalm 121 (Walford Davies)
Sometimes the trust of the psalmist who wrote those words is not ours. On that first Easter morning, Mary of Magdalene and Mary the Mother of James and Salome were empty and desolate. Many people around the world today may be echoing the heart rending cry of the poet Robert Bridges on the death of a child:
“Ah, little at best can all our hopes avail us
To lift this sorrow, or cheer us, when in the dark,
Unwilling, alone we embark.
And the things we have seen and have known and have heard of, fail us.”
Like the women at the tomb we are not ready to imagine at that moment of desolation and grief what we celebrate this morning.
Sometimes Christians can appear to be trying to rush people through their grief and mourning, through the darkness. I have never forgotten the words of an elderly gentleman after an Easter morning service: “the deepest darkness comes before the dawn”. Holy Week has come and gone again. We have no sooner stripped the church of its ornaments and we are filling it with flowers and shouting “Alleluia”. Life is not like that. Death is dark and bereavement encompasses months and years. And even years later, a half light can come again. The half light that is characteristic of day break. Mourning and morning are rooted in language, sound, and more importantly, in our experience.
“Heaviness may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning”, wrote the Psalmist. And we might want to add “and in the mourning, the mourning of loss”. When we feel we have lost all hope and all joy, then, and, perhaps only then, are we ready to experience the shock, the sheer terror of Easter:
O God, you have searched the depths that we cannot know, and touch what we cannot bear to name: may we so wait, enclosed in your darkness, that we are ready to encounter the terror of the dawn, with Jesus Christ. Amen.
Music: Most glorious Lord of life (Harris)
‘Most glorious Lord of life’ – the words of Edmund Spenser set by William Harris and sung by The Cathedral Youth Choir.
Now Canon Celia Thomson continues our meditation, showing how it was the love in Jesus for us that led to the cross and love that sets him and us free.
‘Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught’ wrote the poet Edmund Spenser. It was for love that Jesus went to his death, showing God’s love for us and for the world. It was for love of their dear friend that the women who followed Jesus had maintained their vigil at the cross; and it was for love that they set out that first Easter morning to anoint his body, buried so hastily before the Sabbath. They were so astonished at what they experienced – the stone rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, the young man with his incredible words of life and hope – that they fled in terror. They could not grasp what had happened. And there the earliest version of Mark’s gospel ends.
[“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” New life comes after a time of darkness, a time of seeming lifelessness, as when Jesus was laid in the tomb. And yet, and yet, all the time there is the possibility that love endures all things and that we are never separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus.]
The other gospel accounts tell us of Jesus appearing to his friends and their gradual understanding of what has happened. For the gospels are written in the light of the Resurrection and we too can know resurrection in our lives. By the loving power of God, Jesus was raised from the dead and now invites all who follow him to have life in his name. The wounds on his hands and feet that he showed his friends, the wound in his side, are the wounds of love. This is the nature of love: it costs, it hurts and it lives.
Each and every one of us, at some point in time, will know what it means to lose a loved one. Easter though brings us hope when there is no longer any hope for without the message of Easter, then we are simply hope-less. Life lived in the love of God can never be hopeless, for that is the promise we see fulfilled in Jesus. As he walked and talked again with his friends, so we too can have confidence in his promises that we will see those we love again. We don’t know how or when this hope will be fulfilled but we can know that it is true, for love is indeed stronger than death. As we pray this morning of mornings, pray for those whom you love but see no longer and know now, for certain on this Easter Day, that this is not the end but a beginning, the beginning of life everlasting.
O God, in Jesus Christ you fell, for love, into the earth and died; give us grace to experience the rich harvest of resurrection, that will blossom in our hearts with abundant life and love for all the world; through Jesus Christ we pray, who is the promise of your love restored, renewed and multiplied. Amen.
On this joyful Easter morning, when love has conquered death, we pray with people waking all over the world in the words Jesus taught us:
All: 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 trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
For ever and ever. Amen.
God the Father,
by whose love Christ was raised from the dead,
open to you who believe the gates of everlasting life.
God the Son,
who in bursting from the grave has won a glorious victory,
give you joy as you share the Easter faith.
God the Holy Spirit,
who filled the disciples with the life of the risen Lord,
empower you and fill you with Christ’s peace.
And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
be with you this Easter Day and always. Amen.
Today as Easter dawns, the love of God in the resurrection of Jesus is promised to us, and so this day leads us to rejoice once again, and to literally dance for joy. To a new arrangement by their conductor, Ashley Grote, the Cathedral Youth Choir sings of how Jesus is the Lord of the Dance.
Music: Lord of the Dance (Arr. Ashley Grote, unpublished)
Radio 4 Closing Announcement:
The Very Revd Stephen Lake led that Sunrise service for Easter Day from Gloucester Cathedral. The Cathedral Youth Choir was directed by Ashley Grote and the organist was Liam Crangle. The producer was Stephen Shipley.
And later this morning we go live to Manchester Cathedral for Easter Sunday Worship which includes the first complete broadcast of the People’s Passion music specially commissioned from poet Michael Symmons Roberts and composer Sasha Johnson Manning. That’s at ten past eight here on BBC Radio 4.