This past Sunday was Easter. That means different things to different people. For a lot of folks, it’s chocolate bunnies, jelly beans and those atrocious marshmallow chicks called “peeps”. I’ve never been able to understand the popularity of those things. For other folks, Easter is another family gathering with a large dinner and maybe scouring the backyard for colored hard boiled eggs. Easter is when the TV networks trot out their library of religious movies. Charlton Heston is very prominent, although I’m not sure showing The Ten Commandments (decidedly an Old Testament film) fits with the overall theme.
Then there are those for whom Easter is a day to head to church. For some, it’s a deep experience of worship. For others, it’s a time to show off the latest spring fashions. The veterans know that they should arrive early at church because the parking lot will be full. There will be a lot of unfamiliar cars belonging to the people who only come at Easter and Christmas. Those who forget this important bit of information will be cruising around the parking lot hoping someone will be leaving after Sunday School and freeing up a space. Then they’ll swoop into the slot like a falcon on Red Bull, grab their children by the hand and hurry into the church, hoping to slip into a pew with as little hoopla as possible. Trust me, I’ve seen it.
Some people like to get up early and go to “sunrise service.” Sunrise service is usually outdoors. That means it actually starts after sunrise, so those of us who attend can read the song sheets and orders of service. It also means that it’s often chilly and the people are looking forward to heading inside for a hot coffee before the “regular service.”
I’ve been to a number of sunrise services and usually I’ve found something positive in them. Some friends of mine on Tybee Island hosted a sunrise service on a pier at the beach, so they could see the sun come up and watch the light waves combine with the ocean waves in a golden dance celebrating the morning. I wasn’t there to see it. I was home where there is no beach, no ocean and the only piers are at the lake where I can’t afford to live.
Still, there was a sunrise service that I could attend. People from several churches got together for a short early morning service in the parking lot of one of the participating congregations. It was a strange kind of setting as this church meets in what was once a Harley-Davidson dealership. We sat in metal folding chairs with the brick wall of the church/Harley dealership on one side and the brick wall of some store on the other. Basically we were in a wide alley, facing a black chain link fence that enclosed a yellow school bus. This is not the usual image of an Easter sunrise service in my mind. There were no Easter flowers decorating the altar. There was no altar. There was just a small riser, so everyone could comfortably see the speaker. There were no ladies with outlandish Easter hats. There were three or four necktie clad participants mixed in with the blue jean crowd.
As the service progressed, I let my vision wander past the speaker, the chain link fence and the big yellow school bus to the trees beyond. I watched the sky change from soft blue-gray to a brighter blue. Yellow rays from the sun that was still playing hide-and-seek topped the pines and spilled down. The light around us began to brighten, reaching first the folks in back and moving in a line towards the guest speakers and musicians.
“How appropriate,” I thought.
The light of Easter was touching first the folks who were relegated to the back of the crowd, not those in the front row or who were standing on the risers, elevated above the people. The first to feel the warmth of the sun (Son?) were the last in line, the ones in the cheap seats and the ones who didn’t have a seat at all. They were the chosen ones, not the privileged people in their nice clothes sitting in the good seats.
Isn’t that what Easter is about?
It was Easter morning. It was a day when people were having services in sanctuaries and cathedrals. They were in stadiums and on parade grounds. Worship was being offered on mountainsides and beautiful beaches. The sun was shining. I can’t speak for anywhere else, but I saw the sun shining in an alley enclosed by two brick walls and a chain link fence. That’s the thing about the sun. The sun shines where it chooses, no matter what the more privileged of us might think. It shines first on the ones who are least likely to be invited to sit in the good seats or worship in the prettiest sanctuaries.
If someone has a problem with that, perhaps it’s time to give up the seat of privilege and stand in the back. Then you’ll be ready for the sun.