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This morning mum and I got up in the darkness and went to Coogee Beach for the annual Easter Sonrise service, which is put on by a bunch of local churches. I had forgotten that we were going to it, so it’s just as well I didn’t go out late last night! St Martin’s is usually part of the Sonrise Service but I guess since Jeremy left, the other churches haven’t really kept St Martin’s in the loop about things; our service times weren’t printed on the back of the sheet and I don’t think anyone had actually told the folk at St M’s what was going on. Though, to be fair, hardly anyone from St M’s usually goes anyway.
Mum and I turned up at the usual time of a bit after 6am, realising after we had gotten up that the service would probably be an hour later because of daylight saving things and the fact that Easter is so early this year. That was alright though, cos we could just sit quietly in the dark and watch the light start to filter in over God’s beautiful creation (instead of pelting down Coogee Bay Road, late for the service, like we normally do). We ate hot cross buns and drank coffee and chatted about what Jesus means to us.
I’ve been struck this year by Jesus’ full knowledge of the immense sacrifice he was making. The passage in Luke that talks about him sweating blood as he prayed in Gethsemane that God would give him the strength to go through with it, to trust his Father, to take on the sin of the world, to save us – it’s just mind-boggling. There’s no way we can actually understand how that would have felt. Then to go from that to calmly and confidently accepting what had to happen. The horror of his beating and crucifixion. The three days cut off from the Father. And then rising, triumphant, powerful, and yet still someone real, someone you could touch, a man of flesh and bones who still wanted to share in breakfast with his friends, even though he had just literally gone through hell for them. The complexity of who Jesus is doesn’t detract from the simple fact that he loves us enough to die for us, so that we can share eternity with him. That is just awesome.
And yet we are so earth bound. Although I really like the idea of the Sonrise Service, this year (as with every year) it puzzles me why they run it the way they do – mainly in regards to the music. The very first year they ran this service, they set up the PA and played the Halleujah Chorus as the sun came up, and that was just wonderful – you just stood there, drinking in the sunrise, the music, reflecting on God’s glory and feeling like you were one body with all the other people who were there.
Now they have a dinky-sounding keyboard, and they choose songs that aren’t that great to sing early in the morning. The song leaders don’t smile, engage with people, or actually lead the songs. They kind of perform at you very loudly (and really not that well, though it is hard to do music live with limited resources so I give them credit for getting up there and giving it a go (though the girl singing and playing this morning sounded like she would have been more at home doing cabaret at an RSL club (am I allowed to be that harsh about…buh. I stand by it. It wasn’t good music.))). It’s like they are embarrassed to be standing up there, as though the opinions of the council workers emptying the bins matter more to them than joyfully worshipping our risen Lord. We sing ‘hallelujah’, yet most of the people sitting huddled on the steps at Coogee Beach look miserable – and these are the people who are already saved! It’s like they are there because they have to be, not because they want to be.Well I sang loudly and with a smile on my face – even when we sang Shine Jesus Shine, which is my most hated of songs – because it is a wonderful thing we celebrate today, and every day. I loved the simple message in the talk that when the Son rose, everything became clear. The location is a great complementary metaphor; you’re sitting somewhere like Coogee Beach, outside the infamous Coogee Bay Hotel, with drunken people staggering home from Saturday night parties, and the glorious morning sun is just blasting away all the grimy shadows of the night just passed. When we got in the car and drove home, I put the Hallelujah Chorus on full blast, and that reflected the way we felt much more than the insipid songs we sang on the beach.
So Happy Easter! I hope you are able to celebrate today, that you have the opportunity to reflect on God’s greatness, to thank him, and to feel that absolute joy, love and gratitude spread through you.