Celebration of the risen Lord—a territorial worship service

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Commissioner Kenneth G. Hodder delivers the message Easter evening as Salvationists and friends unite online to worship.

By Karen Gleason – 

This Easter, April 12, 2020, was unlike any other. With Salvationists and friends unable to gather in person to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, the Western Territory presented a united online worship service at 7 p.m., welcoming all—including the many corps officers who offered online services earlier in the day. The united service reminded worshippers that Resurrection Day, over 2,000 years ago, was truly a day unlike any other—and the hope that springs from God’s ultimate gift enables believers to face any challenge, including the COVID-19 crisis.

Commissioners Kenneth G. and Jolene K. Hodder, Territorial Commander and Territorial President of Women’s Ministries, led the service, along with Colonels Doug and Colleen Riley, Chief Secretary and Territorial Secretary for Women’s Ministries/Territorial Secretary for Spiritual Life Development.

Doug Riley welcomed viewers to the service with words of encouragement. “We have a gospel, and everyone needs to hear it,” he said. He then invited worshippers to sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” a song based on 1 Cor. 15:20.

Colleen Riley offered the opening prayer of gratitude to God for his great gift on this “most wonderful day of the year for those of us who love you and who serve you and who are believers.” She prayed for healing for the world, both from COVID-19 and for a spiritual healing that people would turn to God.

Neil Smith and Martin Hunt performed “The Old Rugged Cross,” with Smith on piano and Hunt on cornet.

Jolene K. Hodder read the evening’s scripture, Luke 24:1–12, which describes when the women came to Jesus’ tomb on Resurrection Day and found it empty. Two men appeared to them, who reminded them of Jesus’ words, when he foretold his death and resurrection. When the women told the apostles the news, the men initially did not believe them. They had yet to remember.

After the congregational song, “Oh Happy Day,” the Western Territory Staff Band performed “The Wonder of it All,” based on the words of George Beverly Shea: “O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all! Just to think that God loves me.”

In his message, Kenneth G. Hodder took viewers back to the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection, recalling the scripture from Luke 24. He imagined how, after Jesus’ death, many people were no doubt relieved that the trouble-maker was gone and life could return to normal. 

“But then came Easter morning,” Hodder said. Jesus was physically resurrected from the dead, and in that moment, all of the suppositions upon which so many had based their plans and their claims to power simply vanished. The world was brought face to face with its own limitations, and the reaction was a mixture of confusion, fear and desperation. Even those who had followed Jesus found the message to be unbelievable.”

Soon they remembered, though. 

Hodder compared the confusion then to what the world is experiencing now with the coronavirus and the fear and uncertainty it brings. He urged listeners to remember Christ’s resurrection and the promise it holds for believers. Yes, he said, we are vulnerable and we are not independent, but most importantly, we are not alone.

“Easter proves that God has not deserted us, that he is greater than death itself, and that his love knows no bounds,” Hodder said.”Christ’s victory over death means that there are no restrictions on what he can accomplish.”

Hodder emphasized that with what’s happening in the world today, it is more important than ever that believers hold onto their hope in Christ.

“It comes down to this,” he said. “The resurrection of Jesus Christ changed everything forever, It touched off an eternal transformation that can now give us hope and confidence far beyond that which we could ever manufacture for ourselves. We must never forget that fact. We must never forget that Christians are not called to think ‘outside the box.’ We’re called to think ‘outside the tomb.’”

A time of prayer followed to the sound of the song, “Give Thanks.” Doug Riley then invited everyone to join in the congregational song, “Crown Him with Many Crowns.”

“Remember, do not be afraid, for the King has redeemed you,” Jolene K. Hodder said in her closing prayer. “So today, dance and celebrate and sing for the joy of the Lord. Christ has risen and he goes before you into this world of confusion, fear and pain. He has called you to bring good news of healing and hope…Remember the presence of the risen Lord is with you, now and forever.”

The service ended with a choral benediction.

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