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The promise of new life

The chaplain of Rugby School, the Rev Richard Horner, celebrates the second Sunday of Easter with a service of worship from the Chapel of Rugby School.

Focussing on the resurrection and the promise of new life, the Chaplain of Rugby School, the Reverend Richard Horner uncovers new ways of telling familiar stories. Music to celebrate the second Sunday of Easter includes "The day of resurrection" (Ellacombe), Stanford's Jubilate in C, John Scott's "The Easter Anthems" and "Mine eyes have seen the glory" (Battle Hymn). Readings are from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians and the Gospel of John. The choir is directed by the School's Director of Music, Richard Tanner and the organist is James Williams. The producer is Janet McLarty.

38 minutes

Script

CONTINUITY ANNOUNCER
Sunday Worship comes from the chapel of Rugby School.  The service is led by the Head Master, Peter Green, assisted by Deputy Head Sally Rosser and members of the school.  The preacher is the Chaplain, the Revd Richard Horner.  The theme of the service is “Easter People” and it begins as the choir sings the introit, “The Lord is Risen” by Barry Rose.


CHOIR
“The Lord is Risen” – Barry Rose

PETER GREEN (HEAD MASTER)
Good morning and welcome to Rugby School.  Here in the Chapel, the heart of the school, our community of 800 girls and boys, with their teachers, gathers regularly for worship and reflection - to pray, to sing, to be challenged and inspired. 

You join us at the beginning of a new term.  As ever, there is much to look forward to in the weeks ahead – including the prospect of public exams for many.  But as we throw ourselves into the activities of a busy boarding school, we pause for a while to celebrate together. 

Easter, of course, falls during the school holidays.  So it’s our custom here to celebrate in two stages.  At the end of the Spring term, we commemorate the crucifixion.  Last term ended right here in this chapel as we read the stories of Jesus’ death, we blew out the candles, veiled the cross and left the chapel in darkness.

And where last term ended, this new term began - back here in the chapel as we restored its light and life, and celebrated the good news of resurrection - new life, new hope, a new future.

Christians are Easter People, living every day in the joyful knowledge that Christ is risen from the dead; and where he has led, we may follow.  For a disciple of Jesus, every day is a day of resurrection:


HYMN The day of resurrection!  (tune: Ellacombe)


PETER GREEN
Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
ALL
He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

PETER GREEN
Blessed are you, Lord our God, redeemer and king of all; to you be glory and praise for ever!
From the waters of chaos you drew forth the world, and, in your great love, made us in your image. 
Now, through the deep waters of death you have brought your people to new birth, raising your Son to life in triumph.
May we, the firstfruits of your new creation, rejoice in this new day, and may the light of Christ dawn in our hearts as we bring our sacrifice of thanks and praise to you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
ALL
Blessed be God for ever!

(UNANNOUNCED)
CHOIR ANTHEM: JUBILATE IN C – CV STANFORD

SALLY ROSSER
In our first Bible reading, the Apostle Paul writes to the young Christians in the city of Corinth.  Like young Christians everywhere - and old ones too for that matter - the Corinthians didn’t always stay focussed on matters of true importance.  They were drawn into pointless arguments about religious customs and practices.  They bickered and squabbled, losing sight of the unity to which they’d been called.  St Paul calls them back to the basis of their faith, the death and resurrection of Christ.  He describes Jesus as the “first fruits” – and goes on to remind his readers that Christ’s rising from the dead is the guarantee of their own resurrection.  Where he has led, we shall follow.

BART HOBSON  - Reading - 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 12-23
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have died.
12 And if Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.


SALLY ROSSER 
God’s promise is that we, as Easter People, may share in Jesus’ resurrection – if we are willing to share too in his death.  The 17th century poet Thomas Campion expressed the quiet, confident joy of that knowledge, in his poem “View me Lord”.  It has been set to music by the contemporary composer Richard Lloyd, a former pupil of this school:


CHOIR View me, Lord – Richard Lloyd


SALLY ROSSER 
In our next Bible reading, a well-known passage from John’s Gospel, we hear some of Jesus’ words of comfort and reassurance to his disciples, delivered shortly before his death.  He promises them that his new life will be their new life too; where he is going, they can surely follow.  This throws them into a panic, because they think they don’t know where he is going.  How can they follow?  But it’s not what you know, he reassures us, it’s who you know.  He is the first fruits; his life is our new life.


ELLIE MUSTON – Reading -  John 14:1-13

Jesus said,
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.’
5 Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’
6 Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’


PETER GREEN
The hymn “Lord enthroned in heavenly splendour” wonderfully captures the connection between Jesus’ resurrection and ours.  He is the “first-born from the dead”.  His heavenly splendour awaits us at our death and rebirth, but also shines all around us as we live each day as Easter People.

HYMN  - Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour   Tune: St Helen.  (Not St Helena!)


SERMON - CHAPLAIN
There’s been a lot of speculation in the press about the new James Bond movie.  Filming is due to start this month.  I’m very excited, because I’m a huge fan.  In fact I’m pretty sure I’ve seen all the James Bond films, twenty-four of them so far. 

However, it may be that there are one or two I’ve missed over the years.  So I suppose it’s possible that there’s a film I haven’t seen in which James Bond gets into a situation of mortal danger, and just at the very end he doesn’t escape.  He’s beheaded by a razor-edged frisbee, or laterally bisected by a laser beam; the smooth-voiced villain cackles manically and strokes his white cat, and the credits roll up the screen.  It’s possible, I suppose.

No, let’s face it, it’s not possible.  If we know anything about James Bond, we know that he always makes a miraculous escape against all the odds in the last five minutes of the film.  He skis over a cliff to certain death – but a union jack parachute opens up to waft him gently to the valley floor.  He dives from the burning oil-rig or leaps his motorbike over his knife-wielding pursuers, pausing only to grab a beautiful girl with whom he then shares a glass of champagne, while dropping into a nearby fish tank the red telephone on which his irate boss is trying to call him.

It’s totally predictable – you’re not going to get any surprises from 007.

Perhaps you feel like that about Easter.  It comes round every year, some time in March or April, and, quite frankly, the plot is pretty similar each time.  Our hero gets betrayed, put on trial, falsely convicted, deserted by his friends, flogged by Roman soldiers, nailed to a wooden cross, and left out to die in the heat of the sun.  Sure enough - he dies.  His body gets taken down and placed in a tomb.  They think it’s all over.  But wait – that’s not the end of the story.  Three days later some of his followers go to look for his body, and instead of finding him dead and cold, he’s alive again!  They get to talk to him, touch him, share meals with him, their lives are transformed, and they start a religious movement which would spread to encompass a third of the world’s population.

The events themselves were extraordinary.  But the retelling of them each year is totally predictable.  So why do we bother?  Why do we read those harrowing stories about Jesus’s death, why do we cover the cross with a funeral shroud and close the doors and put out the lights?  Why do we then, read the resurrection story, light the candles, and unveil the cross?  We know that Jesus didn’t stay dead, so why make any fuss about his death at all?  How can we Christians pretend to be sad on Good Friday, when we know exactly what we’re going to be saying on Easter Day?

The answer is - because it’s not just about Jesus, it’s about us too.  Yes, it’s totally predictable that at this time of year we will remember that Jesus died.  Yes, it’s totally predictable that we will remind ourselves that his death was not the end, but that he was raised to life again. 
And I’ll tell you what else is totally predictable – that you and I are going to die one day too.  Hopefully at a fine old age, after a lifetime of happiness, surrounded by your loved ones, with a nice cup of tea in one hand and a copy of the Church Times in the other.  Quite possibly in some other, less happy, way – and sudden untimely death is never far from the world news or from our own lives.

But there aren’t going to be any surprises, Pope or pauper, we’re all going to die, whether we like to think about it or not.  And we don’t like to think about it, let’s be honest.  But this season of Easter, by its very predictability, forces us to confront that uncomfortable fact.  And in the face of such an uncomfortable but totally predictable fact, what do we want?  I’ll tell you what I want – I want a totally predictable outcome.  I want to know that when my years on earth are finished, that will not be the end, but that there is something more, something better, in store for me. 

As a Christian I consider myself a follower of Jesus Christ – a follower in both senses of the word.  A follower in that I try to obey his teaching, but also in that I believe I will follow him on the journey through death into new life, and that for me death will not be the end.  Christ the first fruits.  Christ the glorious firstborn from the dead.  So I have come to value the total predictability of Easter, because above and beyond the change and chance, the frailty and forgetfulness of human life, it points me to a glory which is unchanging and everlasting.

So let the villains scheme and cackle; let them stroke their cats; I know there will be a happy ending.
The ancient responses known as the Easter Anthems celebrate this good news.  The choir will sing these words now, words from the Bible, to a setting by John Scott:


CHOIR - THE EASTER ANTHEMS


BART
Let us pray
May Christ our risen Saviour fill us and all his people with the joy of his glorious and life-giving resurrection.
Jesus, Lord of life: 
In your mercy, hear us.

ELLIE
May his followers who are isolated and persecuted find fresh strength in the good news of Easter.
Jesus, Lord of life:
In your mercy, hear us.

BART
May God grant us humility to serve one another in Christian love.
Jesus, Lord of life:
In your mercy, hear us.

ELLIE
May he provide for those who lack food, work or shelter.
Jesus, Lord of life:
In your mercy, hear us.

BART
By his power, may those who suffer through war and famine be aided and comforted.
Jesus, Lord of life:
In your mercy, hear us.

ELLIE
May he reveal the light of his presence to the sick, the weak and the dying, to comfort and strengthen them.
Jesus, Lord of life:
In your mercy, hear us.

BART
According to his promises, may all who have died in the faith of Christ’s resurrection follow him through death to life eternal.
Jesus, Lord of life:
In your mercy, hear us.

ELLIE
Heavenly Father,
you have delivered us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of your Son:
grant that, as his death brings us new life,
so his continual presence in us may raise us to eternal joy;
through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

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.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.


PETER GREEN
Our service draws to its end with some joyful acclamations based on a song from the 17th century; a short reading from the Bible; and a stirring hymn to send us out to love and serve - in the name of Jesus, our leader, pioneer, and brother - the first fruits of God’s harvest, the glorious firstborn from the dead. 

PETER GREEN :
Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
ALL
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!


TIM COKER
The whole bright world rejoices now
All: With laughing cheer!  With boundless joy!
The birds do sing on every bough:
Alleluia!  Alleluia!

Then shout beneath the racing skies
With laughing cheer!  With boundless joy!
To him who rose that we might rise:
Alleluia!  Alleluia!

To Father, Son and Holy Ghost
With laughing cheer!  With boundless joy!
Our God most high, our joy, our boast:
Alleluia!  Alleluia!


TIM COKER  Reading  Revelation 1:4-7
Grace and peace to you from him who was, and who is, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory and power for ever and ever!
 “Look, he is coming with the clouds,
    and every eye will see him!”

(Unannounced)
HYMN Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;


CHAPLAIN
May Christ who calls you to follow him through death into the glory of resurrection life, strengthen you to live each day in faith, love and joy; and may the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, rest upon you this day and for ever more.  Amen.

ORGAN VOLUNTARY - Now thank we all our God by Sigfrid Karg-Elert.

 

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