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The Dead Will Rise: An Easter Sunrise Reflection in a Time of Crisis

BY AMY WALTON |

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. – 1 Thessalonians 4:16

The world changed for me on January 3, 2016, when my 91-year-old father passed into the more immediate presence of his Savior. As his two-month battle with pneumonia came to an end, he peacefully transitioned with a handful of us by his side. The only thing I could think to do was place my hands on his body and sing the Doxology, verses we sang every Sunday when I was growing up in the Moravian Church.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow…

Photo courtesy of Amy Walton.

Yes, I was thanking God and praising Him for the life and peaceful passing of my Daddy with the hope that he would rise again. His earthly remains now lay in God’s Acre in Mayodan, NC. It’s the resting place of several of my relatives-including my mother-and a place where Daddy himself occasionally went to ponder life. It’s also the spot where he showed up nearly every Easter morning for decades.

When I was a young girl, I couldn’t wait for the annual Easter Sunrise Service. Up until I was a teenager, I rode with my father to our church at 5am, where we enjoyed a hearty breakfast before worship. Daddy was usually an usher, and I remember how seriously he took that position at the sunrise service. It was an important role as he and the other ushers guided over a hundred people past the three blocks that lay between the church and the graveyard.

My mother always told me to stand beside the grave of a relative as the trumpets played, so that’s what I did as a little girl. I kind of expected a few of them to rise up from their graves, because I had been taught that one day, when the trumpet sounded, the believers would, indeed, rise.

My very young self just didn’t realize the great ascension would take place at the final trumpet sound. Alas… all that waiting.

As a teen, I awakened around 2am every Easter morning and walked around our town with the church band for a couple of hours as they played joyous favorite hymns announcing, “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!” Then it was on to the familiar delicious breakfast and the Easter Sunrise Service.

This year I had planned to travel from my coastal Virginia home to my hometown to celebrate the resurrection with family. I was going to put flowers on my parents’ graves and was contemplating rising early and joining others in proclaiming the good news at dawn.

But the world changed for me again… and not just for me, but for all of us.

As I write this reflection, COVID-19 continues to rage throughout our country and other parts of the world. In my own Commonwealth of Virginia, public schools are closed for the remainder of the school year, and churches are conducting weekend services through Facebook Live and other online platforms. In my native North Carolina, Home Moravian Church announced that its 248th Easter Sunrise Service will take place through live-stream only this year. The faithful are encouraged to take photos of the sunrise on Easter morning, wherever we are, and to share it on social media. Other churches are doing the same.

Photo courtesy of Andrew David Cox.

No sunrise service at Easter? No loudly proclaimed group “Alleluias?” No standing by our loved ones’ final resting places?

Here’s a thought: Let’s awaken shortly before 6am on Easter morning. We can pour ourselves a cup of coffee and, weather permitting, sit outside or stay inside by a window that faces east. We can surround ourselves with photos of our loved ones who are now with our Savior and place a cross in the middle of them. We will tune in to Home Moravian’s service or possibly one offered by our own congregation. We will, indeed, worship, and even if we live alone, we can take comfort in knowing we are uniting with others around the globe in saying, “Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia!”

We are experiencing something very surreal right now. People are very ill and many are dying or have passed from the coronavirus. We can’t physically attend worship services or Bible studies. Our museums are shuttered, and performing arts stages are silent. Certain supplies are scarce. We are reluctantly adjusting to this new concept of social isolation, and we are worrying about our financial futures.

But remember this: We are a resurrection people! Our hope is anchored to what happened that first Easter morning when Jesus shed his burial garments and came back to life after dying a brutal death. We place our faith in the rising of our deceased loved ones in Christ, and we cling to the promise of eternal life for ourselves. This is our hope and what keeps us walking and serving in this life, even in this period of global upheaval.

Yes, our Easter worship and family gatherings will be very different this year. We won’t gather at the graveyard or the church.

But know this: The sun will still rise on Easter morning. The Lord is still in our midst. And the dead will rise when He returns.

May we stand confident and hopeful as one, and may we daily proclaim, “He is risen!’ and praise Him as the One from whom all blessings flow.

Thanks be to God.


About the author

Photo courtesy of Amy Walton.

Amy Walton is a certified life coach, certified Christian life coach, speaker, and writer who has lived in coastal Virginia for nearly 30 years. A native of Mayodan, North Carolina, she was baptized, confirmed, and raised in Mayodan Moravian Church, where she remains an Associate Member. Connect with her at www.amy-walton.com or
[email protected].


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