I’m old enough now I’ve experienced a wide variety of Easter celebrations. Goodness they go all the way back to the first one I remember. It took place in those days when toddlers were decked out in those knee pants and horrid white booties. It was in a city park in Atlanta. There was a fog hovering over the event and dew painted on the grass blades. I don’t remember a word of that sunrise service sermon. I do remember the spanking that resulted when I escaped the crowd and headed for the wading pool.
I don’t remember any Easter services between that one and the ones when I was a teen. I have to tell you, however, it wasn’t the call of the spiritual nor the celebration of resurrection that got me there. It was Carole Memory, Carole of the endearing freckles and enchanting eyes, who when asked to go to the movies with me responded she would if I’d got to the Easter sunrise service with her. I stayed up all night lest I sleep through the sunrise.
Funny, I don’t remember anything about the sermon at that service either. But I do remember Carole Memory let me hold her hand. And that was a good thing. It was a good thing because my status with the guys rose considerably when from that day on Carole and I held hands a lot. It was a good thing, too, because, even though Carole moved to Florida where she started holding hands with someone else, she had gotten me into the habit of going to church and especially Easter services.
The habit stayed with me as I headed to college, where we held the sunrise service beside the lake and the regular service in the chapel. By then I was headed for the ministry and got to participate in the liturgy. The chapel was always full. There was something special about it. I don’t remember what the preacher said, but I do remember the excitement of leading worship.
Since then there have been over forty Easter services I’ve led as a pastor. Some were held in really small churches and some in much larger congregations. Some of those sunrise services were held in church yards where the wind whipped about the trees and the participants shook with the chill. Some were accompanied with the off-key Alleluias of the congregation and the out-of-tune yellow-keys upright piano. Some were accented with a chamber orchestra. One was held in a cemetery.
Easter’s coming. the gathered will sing their Alleluias and the preacher will preach. Me, too. And I’ll give you ten dollars for every one who heard my Easter sermon last year who can tell me what I preached if you’ll give me one dollar for every one who cannot.
All the same, Easter is coming. I’ve got a sermon sizzling and I’m cooking for a crowd!