Rhonda and I were laughing earlier tonight about our first Easter together as a married couple.
I grew up in a world where the "Sunrise Service" on Easter Sunday morning was a regular ritual in the churches my father pastored. As I began my own ministry, I helped organize and lead other churches in this endeavor. Dozens of people arriving just before sunrise in a cemetery located either next to the church or in the city where I was serving. An air of excitement; the anticipation of the worship experience we would all share together; the reminder that the grave is not the end - all of it was such a moving experience for me.
Although I was between church staff adventures at the time of my first Easter Sunday as a married man, I was determined that this minor detail would not interfere with my plans to celebrate Easter morning the way I had for so many years. I was also determined that Rhonda and I would share this time together. I woke, dressed and prompted her to do the same. I told her our destination was a surprise. She reluctantly dressed and complied with my request.....
(Side note: It helps to understand that I don't sleep much. 4 or 5 hours of sleep is a good night for me generally. In this area, Rhonda and I have helped to prove conclusively that opposites most certainly attract. She is a sleeper. I can remember when we dated how frustrated and impatient I would get sometimes because I wanted to see her so badly, but she was at her mother's home sleeping!! Out of necessity (3 kids and an insomniac husband) she has grown content with a level of sleep deprivation that I am quite certain would have destroyed her before.)
......so we got into the car and headed out. As I drove, Rhonda kept saying, "You are crazy. I can't believe you woke me up this early." I just smiled and patted her leg.
We pulled through the large gates of the city cemetery where we lived then. I drove to a circular drive, shut off the car and got out. Rhonda followed slowly...:). I stood there, in the silence of that place. I closed my eyes and began to imagine the sound of the trumpet, the blinding Light piercing the Eastern sky just ahead, the resurrected bodies of so many rising up to meet Jesus in the air. We prayed.
We returned home to our little apartment and slipped back into bed before heading out for church and family festivities later that day, but I will never forget that morning. She loved me enough to follow me to the cemetery that morning and I love her enough to not ask her to again! But I still have that same sense of wonder - that unction to pray early in the morning every Easter Sunday; to voice my praise to a Father that would give up so much, to a Son that would sacrifice so freely, to a Savior that would bear my sin and take away my shame - a sinner - a wretch like me.
Later today, we will sing these words in worship together:
Living He loved me
Dying He saved me
Buried He carried my sins far away
Rising He justified freely forever
One day He's coming
Oh Glorious Day
Oh Glorious Day
"When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so they could embalm him. Very early on Sunday morning, as the sun rose, they went to the tomb. They worried out loud to each other, "Who will roll back the stone from the tomb for us?"
Then they looked up, saw that it had been rolled back—it was a huge stone—and walked right in. They saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed all in white. They were completely taken aback, astonished.
He said, "Don't be afraid. I know you're looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He's been raised up; he's here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty." Mark 16:1-7 (MSG)
An empty tomb, a risen Savior, the Hope of Glory! Hallelujah!!