george_hancockstefanAccording to the recorded history the Easter Sunrise Service in this area started in 1933. People in this community have worshiped the Risen Christ on Mount Mitchell, on the Hofbrauhaus Parking Lot and most recently at the Atlantic Highlands Gazebo.  I have met people in their 80’s who remember their first time when they came to the Easter Sunrise Service.  I have met parents who brought their infants to Easter Sunrise Service so that they would be introduced to this community event.  One of my own children who is in her twenties now has been reading the Scriptures and greeting the people on the Easter Sunrise morning since 1999.  Last year she missed it because she was away in Kenya.

Some mornings it was exceedingly cold, some mornings it looked like it was going to rain any moment and some mornings we were blessed with a beautiful sunrise.  On some mornings people came wrapped in their blankets, some brought umbrellas and some came and stayed in their cars and some came to meet their friends and share in their Easter breakfast at a nearby restaurant.

The Easter Sunrise Service was never in competition with the Worship Services that happen in all of our churches.  Instead, it functioned as an opportunity to demonstrate that we are a Christian community, gathered from all the churches to celebrate what makes us the church.  We as the community of faith in the Holy Week have celebrated the Maundy Thursday when the Lord Jesus Christ has given us the new commandment to love one another as He loved us. We have traveled on Good Friday on the Via Dolorosa, some of us have done the stations of the cross, some of us have done the last seven words of Jesus Christ from the cross and have heard the final words, Father into your hands I commit my spirit.  Some of us have celebrated the Tenebrae, the service that has kept watch over the tomb because Jesus Christ was dead and buried.  The Easter Sunrise unites us with the women who early in the morning went to the tomb and unto whom the Lord Jesus Christ revealed Himself for the first time.

Over the years I have preached over the many statements of the Risen Lord.  As I was reflecting during this Lent two statements spoke powerfully to me.  One is the angelic statement to the women: Why do you seek the living among the dead and the other are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ: I am going to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.  I pray that for each one of us the reality of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of those unshakeable foundations of our faith.  Apostle Paul writes: “if the Lord Jesus Christ was not raised, then your faith is in vain.  But now Christ has risen from the dead, the first fruit of those who have fallen asleep.” The other foundational truth is that our adoption as the sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father is possible only through Jesus Christ.  God the Father is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ in the first place.  Jesus Christ gives us the right to call God our Father because in his sacrificial body he has broken the wall of enmity between us and God.  Praise Jesus for this new relationship.

We invite you to come at this Easter Sunrise Service.  Maybe you will come because you want to bring your grandchildren for the first time.  Maybe you have heard about it and want to come for the first time yourself. Maybe you want to come to hear Rev. Dr. Henry P. David preach for the last time at this Easter Sunrise Service before he retires in July and moves to the state of Maryland.

The Spirit and the church say, Come.  And all who hear should say: Come!