As I reflect upon worship services I have attended through the years to celebrate the Resurrection of my Lord and Savior, many memories come to mind.
While raising our family, there were many Easter Sunrise services we attended early in the morning - it wasn't easy getting up from a warm toasty bed only to be greeted by a dark, cold morning. And waking up three children to accompany us was kind of a hassle. But, I don't think there was ever a time when we were not blessed by attending one and were so glad we had taken the time to remember what the Lord had done for us.
Some sunrise services we attended were just down the road from our farm. On a grassy hilltop stood an old rugged wooden cross our neighbor and brother in Christ had made and placed there. It was a perfect location because just as the sun rose, it peeked over the hill and shone on all of us believers standing near the cross - as if we were bathed in the light of the Lord himself.
Wrapped up in blankets and stocking caps, we worshipped the Lord on that hilltop. We sang hymns, we listened to the Word, prayed and took communion. Some sat on straw bales, or lawn chairs and others stood. There was a brief message to ponder and sometimes special music, readings or skits.
Two particular services at this spot stand out in my mind. One included a reenactment of Christ carrying the cross up the steep hill - accompanied by some powerful dramatic music. It was very touching because a few men from the church struggled to carry the heavy structure - none of them could carry it alone. They had to help one another to get it to the top. But they would not give up - they got it to crest of the hill and positioned it in the dirt - it was hard work. And it was just a tiny glimpse of what Jesus chose to endure to carry out His Father's mission. . . . for you and for me. The whole scene brought tears to my eyes.
Why? First of all, their determination reflected God's love for us and their devotion to the Lord and one another. What if they would not have made it and gave up? But they didn't and neither did God. He did send His only Son to die for us so that anyone who believes in Him will be saved and not perish. And Jesus willingly carried out His Father's mission even though He could have asked a thousand angels to rescue Him from the pain and agony. But He chose not to. Have you ever thought about that?
Second, as I watched the men strain and labor, I thought of how that struggle reflects men's battle with sin And how Jesus who was without sin, took the sins of the world upon Himself, so that we could be forgiven and not have to wrestle with sin alone. In fact, we can be free from the strife sin can cause if we can give it to Christ and leave it there. That is sometimes a challenge but Jesus is there for us. And once we believers reach eternity - no more sin at all - how wonderful that will be!
Finally, when the men from our church finally reached the top, the great reflection of our Lord's victory over sin and death - the fact that the cross was empty made an enormous impression. He was no longer hanging on a cross or in a tomb - He had risen from the dead and was no longer there. In fact, through the power of the Holy Spirit, He was right there with us - amazing!
Another touching service at this same location was when we wrote down sins or burdens we were struggling with on small pieces of paper. Then we were given nails and each one of us nailed those paper notes to the cross, believing that God would give us the strength to overcome them, to be forgiven and have a fresh start. Literally giving our burdens to God. As I reflect upon that, I think a sense of peace came over the group as one by one, they gave their troubles to the Lord. We left those notes on that cross and only God knew what they said.
After each service, we all joined together for a warm breakfast back at the farm house - it was wonderful fellowship and a time of rejoicing. All because of what Christ did for us and the promise of eternal life in heaven one day! Praise and thank you Jesus!