Today is, of course, Easter Sunday. I believe I could safely say that it is the greatest day in Christendom, a day of joy and celebration for those who call themselves followers of Jesus. Even for nominal Christians( whatever that means) and those who have no connection to church, it is often that one Sunday each year when they make their pilgrimage to church. I have often heard that practice described as people thinking they are doing God a favor by dropping by.
Thanks to the wonders of technology I knowe that I have one of my children and her family attended Easter services today and had quite a good experience and another made it to their first Easter Sunrise service and also had good experience, I know, without officially knowing, that almost all and probably all of my extended family ( sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law,etc) attended church today, the churches they attend on a regular basis.
So,who am I leaving out in the above description? Alas, that would be yours truly. Yep, I had every intention of going today. I wasnt going to make the sunrise service since that would have required a 5:00 am wake up call. But the church we started attending recently offered several options left no good excuse. Sad to say, I still did not make it. The day that is most glorious and offers us hope beyond measure became a day in which I did not take part. Somewhat ironically even technology failed me. I found ” our” services online streaming live. So at least I would be able to take part to some extent. But, alas, my computer chose to show its unseemly self and froze twice during the broadcast, leaving me bereft of that option as well. All of this is certain to leave one at a loss. Next Sunday will not be Easter and the atmosphere will be different but once again I will have the opportunity to join a community of faith. It isn’t actually a ” do-over” but it is still awonderful opportunity to have. After all, if we sing the Don Francisco song, “He’s Alive” today, it will be no less true next Sunday.
- Christians celebrate Easter in Jerusalem (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
These were, in essence, the closing words from the 1977 made for television movie, Jesus of Nazareth. Having seen it a number of times in its entirety, and the resurrection section even more often, I still consider the best video presentation of the life of Jesus.
The production was directed by Franco Zeffirilli and starred Robert Powell as Jesus along with other more notable actors such as Olivia Hussey( Mary) Ernest Borgnine, Anne Bancroft, James Earl Jones, Rod Steiger ( a great Pontius Pilate) and Michael York ( John the Baptist) among others.
It was a two-part series that was annually aired every Easter for a number of years. I appreciated the reverence with which it was done as well as its faithfulness to the biblical record.
A number of things intrigued me but I will for obvious reasons focus on the resurrection section. It was almost underplayed, nothing flashy or dramatic, just an empty tomb with , a bit incongruously, an angel with an English giving the miraculous , unbelievable biblical quote ”Why do you seek the living among the dead? Jesus is not here. And the dramatic footage of an empty tome holding abandoned grave-clothes. The scene always spoke volumes to me. ( Had a kind of Jack Webb quality, just the facts)
But now the title quote. It was spoken by an extrabiblical character,an official of the Jewish temple. It was made in response to the reports that Jesus was not in the tomb. As best I remember, his character was a skeptic, but all the same, he knew something earthshaking had happened and things would never be the same.
His statement is not a bad response to the sermon title I saw this week on a local church sign, ” What does Easter mean to you? ” Yep, and so it began and so it continues today!
Sort of staying with the Saturday theme, this will approach the topic from a different perspective and maybe a more positive one at that. The place is Winston-Salem,NC or rather a part of that city known as Old Salem where an old tradition will take place on Easter Sunday, April 4. It is a tradition that goes back to 1771, predating the birth of these United States.
This tradition is the Easter Sunrise service in a place known as God’s Acre. In German the term is Gottesacker or field of God. It is actually a burial ground for Moravians who lived in Winston-Salem. The site is organized by choirs; all married men buried together, all married women buried together and so on.
The site is the focal point for an annual sunrise service attended by thousands every year.My wife and I have atended twice. Our first visit was as really young married couple while the second wasas chaperones for a rambunctious but wonderful group of young people who still have a special place in our hearts. Both times the service was quite moving and seemed to fill us with a great sense of awe and reverence. In spite of the crowds there was very little noise other than the musical communication between the groups of strategically positioned Moravian musicians.
Since the service is a “sunrise” service, one obviously has to arise rather early, to make a bit of a sacrifice compared to one’s normal routine. That plus the locale plus the local history of over 200 years added to the fact that this is one incredible event that one is celebrating made our two trips very, very unique and worshipful.
I had actually attended a sunrise service around 10 years earlier while still in high school. That event was also very special but presented me with a unique “gift” that I have kept to this day. At that service I was stung by some type of insect and came oh so close to going into anaphylactic shock. Yep, that is when I developed my allergy to bee venom, an affliction that I still have some 40+ years later.
So, if you have never had the blessing of attending a sunrise service, I encourage you to avail yourself of that opportunity this Easter season. And, some day, I hope you make the trek to Old Salem for this event will show you that our Moravian friends are known for much more than their culinary talents.
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