Easter and the Body. The Sunday gatherings and services so common before the pandemic. It has been well over a year since I last experienced the joy of worshiping with the Body of Christ in a Sanctuary – on any Sunday. This is the same situation for many of us, as we await the day when once more, we sing and pray together in Church.
What I especially long for is the Easter sunrise service. To rise before dawn and gather with others to celebrate Christ’s victory over the grave. It is a sacred time. Last year it was not possible, save for me finding a place to do so on my own – in solace. But it tugged at me late yesterday from within, to go online and see if there were any sunrise services in the Portland metro area.
There was one.
Easter Sunrise Service at the Old Rugged Cross.
6 AM at Skyline Memorial Gardens, April 4, 2021
This hit me deeply with both thankfulness and solemn recognition of it being from God.
It could not be closer to the bone. Thirty-two years ago, on April 4 – my Grandfather, Emil Mai left this Earth for eternity in Christ. On that day he’d been out getting parts to repair a chainsaw with his friend George. Emil suddenly felt out of sorts, so he asked George to take the driver’s seat. George was vision impaired. Regardless, they swapped seats. On his way around the vehicle Emil dropped his hat. He picked it up, sat down on the passenger side, placed the cap back on his head…and died. His heart had stopped.
To lose my Grandpa was not easy on me, as I loved and looked up to him. But it was more difficult for my Grandma. To be with her through the first day and evening after his death was where I belonged. Emil had not left us without strong reminders of his presence. He had brewed coffee in the early morning before heading out for chainsaw parts. A full thermos was there in the kitchen for Mildred and I to share. It felt as if he had made it just for us. On April 4, 1989.
Easter sunrise service…at a cemetery?
This intrigued me as not typical, but not wrong either; considering that the Resurrection occurred at a grave site. The place where we gather to celebrate is not as important as Who we are celebrating. However, there is more here.
My Grandpa is buried at Skyline Memorial Gardens.
And so is my Grandma, with their bronze plaques set into the lush, green turf in a garden that grows only names. Easter sunrise service was available, here.
The twenty-seven-mile drive was in reverent silence. On arriving to the Funeral Chapel hot coffee was available, which made for a wonderful hand warmer in the dark hour before dawn. Along with others, I walked in the dew-soaked grass up to the cemetery section named ‘Old Rugged Cross’. A tall concrete sculpture of the Cross, barely discernible against the night sky, stood between the fir trees. And there several of us gathered amongst the headstones below our feet, with hearts prepared for a long-awaited celebration under the heavens. We kept our masks on and socially distanced, listening as the birds began to welcome the light of dawn with their song. Together, we started the service by singing “The Old Rugged Cross”.
I could not help but to feel the joy given me by God at this moment. Here I am, on Easter Sunday, April 4th; singing a hymn that reminded me of when my Grandpa would place his arm around me in the church pew – and sing this with me. And then to relish the cup of coffee in my hand, just as it was on this day 32 years ago. To have sunrise service in the very cemetery where my Grandparents are buried and to sing the songs they loved to sing, as the sky received its first rays- was enough to bring a volume of praise from my lips.
In an hours’ time, after the message had been given and the closing song sung, we each dispersed to our vehicles and into the sunshine filled day ahead. All fixed their minds on what came next; to brunches and Easter baskets, and to life in pandemic America with the hope that next Easter might be celebrated in a church sanctuary.
Yet for me, this morning was beyond different. It was holy.
To have the Holy Spirit prompt me to inquire of where an Easter Sunrise Service might be, or if one is even available was possible only because I have been seeking silence. On Good Friday He asked me to ‘be more quiet now’, to wait and listen for what He will say to me.
I could have never imagined what this day would bring!
But he said to them, “Do not be afraid. You are seeking Yeshua the Nazarene, who was crucified; He has arisen; He is not here. Behold the place where He was laid.”