Easter is my favorite day of the year—Resurrection Sunday, the reason for my faith in Jesus and my hope of heaven. While Christmas is buried under tons of tradition, Easter has escaped relatively unscathed. Perhaps that’s why I like it best.
Sure, Easter gets mingled with the renewal of springtime. When I was small, my secular parents observed this holiest of days with jelly beans and marshmallow peeps, a chocolate bunny and perhaps an Easter egg hunt. But there are still ways to focus on the significance of the resurrection. When I became a Christian at age 18, I started attending the sunrise service held on our college campus. I can still imagine every detail of the warm spring sunshine (it was California), green leaves, singing birds. We sat on the dew-covered grass and listened to a pastor from a local church praise God for the resurrection. And we sang:
Hear the bells ringing. They’re singing that you can be born again. Hear the bells ringing. They’re singing Christ is risen from the dead.
(Easter still doesn’t feel complete without that song, written by Keith Green and recorded with The Second Chapter of Acts.)
One of the best parts of that annual celebration was that no one church was responsible. Rather, the various campus ministries worked in fellowship and unity to present Christ to a secular campus. It was a fruitful witness.
Last year, Easter morning found Pete and I in Sierra Vista, Arizona. We were spending a few days chasing birds before showing up at the staff retreat for a ministry we’re a part of. We asked at the motel desk if there was going to be a sunrise service and got a blank stare in return—the clerk had no idea what we were talking about. Nothing was listed in the paper either. Unwilling to give up, Pete spent an hour on the internet, and finally came up with a possible place and time. We set our alarm and went to bed.
Early the next morning we arrived at the city park. People were milling around, looking like they were preparing for something. Chairs were set up. Hot coffee was served. We picked out seats and watched as the sun slowly crept over the horizon. More people arrived; the seats filled up, the crowd overflowed onto the grass. Musicians tuned their instruments, the choir sang a few scales. Then everyone was ready. What unfolded next was one of the best services we’ve attended in years!
Just as in college, this was an ecumenical service. Six churches, ranging from Pentecostal to Presbyterian to Catholic, pooled their resources and abilities to create an unforgettable Easter. The tiny choir from a black Baptist church joyfully sang with great enthusiasm. One of the evangelical pastors preached the sermon, then the priest prayed. An offering was taken that went to support some missionaries in Mexico who were hoping to bring health care and the gospel to a remote village. The whole morning was an outstanding example of brotherly love and unity.
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. —Jesus speaking, John 17:22-23
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:2-6
Happy Easter everyone. He is Risen indeed!