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“And he told them many things in parables…” — Matthew 13:3

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The passion of Christ on Easter Sunday

A cross and plantChristians, celebrating on Easter Sunday, shout, “Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!” Worshipers, filling our churches that day, come from different backgrounds. Some know the stories from memory. Others are unacquainted with the events of Holy Week. A few may be wondering the reason for the joy and excitement. Visitors and seekers may appreciate Easter worship through movement and Scriptures, recounting the Passion of Christ from Palm Sunday through Good Friday. The following order of worship for Easter Sunday incorporates the events of Holy Week from the opening prelude through the closing hymn. Consider how to adapt these suggestions for a richer Easter Sunday celebration.

Italicized texts are examples of invitation or instructions to print in a bulletin or project during worship.

  • Before the prelude, position the choir in the rear of the church; the pastor or designated reader is out of the sight when reading Scriptures. After a time of welcome, the instrumental prelude begins.

The organ prelude may be seen as a veil dropped between everyday life and our time of worship. All of us are encouraged to “be still and know . . . God is here,” and to lift up a prayer for ourselves, for our church leadership, and those who worship with us.

  • During the opening hymn, thirteen people representing Jesus’ disciples enter the chancel and sit at a large table that is covered with a white cloth. They visit quietly until after the first Scripture, Mark 14:12–25, is read.

After this reading, the disciples share communion among themselves, then serve communion to those in the pews who wish to participate.

  • The individual portraying Christ shares communion and remains at the table as the disciples move to serve the congregation. A Communion hymn is sung at this time. Mark 14:26–45 is read after Communion. Judas leaves the table when the reader says that Judas kisses Jesus. Ten others leave before the next hymn, taking cup and bread. Peter and Jesus remain. The choir and congregation sing a suitable hymn, such as the first two verses of “Tis Midnight, and on Olive’s Brow.” During the reading of Mark 14:53–72, two disciples return to cover the white tablecloth with a brown one, symbolizing a dirt hill. When the reader speaks verse 72, “At that moment the cock crowed . . .” and Peter leaves, looking back at Jesus.
  • As the choir and congregation sing a hymn, for example the first verse of “Were You There?”, a wooden cross is placed in front of Jesus. Some lights are dimmed. As Mark 15:1–47 is read, Jesus leaves the table, pausing to look back as verse 37, “ . . . and he breathed his last.”, is spoken. During singing of a hymn such as “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”, more lights are dimmed. At this time, the choir may sing an appropriate anthem and an offering may be taken. Mark 16:1–8 is than read, followed by an appropriate hymn for example “Low In the Grave He Lay”.

All verses are sung before chorus, which will be sung following the Announcement of the Resurrection. At that time, please rise.

  • During organ interlude before the chorus, a person portraying Mary Magdalene runs in shouting “He is alive. I have seen him. He is alive.” All lights are turned on. As an Easter hymn such as “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” is sung, the choir goes into chancel carrying Easter lilies and takes its place in the choir loft. Church or hand bells ring throughout the hymn. The choir sings an appropriate anthem before the reading of Luke 24:13–35. Another anthem may be sung preceding the reading of Luke 24:36–49.
  • The service concludes with the singing of the Doxology and a closing hymn, “I Serve a Risen Savior”, which may serve as a recessional for the choir, and be followed by an instrumental postlude.

Tell me more:

Rev. Dale Marshall, formerly of Fairfield Glade Community Church in Fairfield Glade, Tennessee, contributed this order of worship for a past, print edition of ideas! For Church Leaders.

 Find other resources for celebrating Holy Week and Easter Sunday.