Easter Morning Began with an Upside-Down Exclamation Mark
I’m not the kind of person who sees symbols in everything, but it was impossible to miss that this morning’s sun on Lake Michigan was a big, red, upside-down exclamation mark. Someone else pointed out that it looked like the “i” on the logo The Incredibles wear. However you looked at it — starting out as a red ball, then turning exclamatory, then becoming so bright you couldn’t look at all— it was worthy of beholding.
For decades, my church has held a simple sunrise service on Easter Sunday. It starts at 5:45 in the morning with a few quiet songs, peppered in between with passages telling the story of Jesus coming back to life. He’d been dead for three days, his people were in mourning, and this day, we celebrate that when a few women woke early in the mourning to cover his stiffened body with perfume, they found his tomb empty. Somehow, at some point in the dead of night, he’d broken free.
The singing gradually become more exultant as the story proceeds. When the service ends — all songs on the song sheet offered up, the Jesus story at its mysterious, magical end — the sun breaks out from the horizon. The beach is bathed in light, the gulls and geese swoop and dive, and the children throw rocks in the water.
In the eight years I’ve been at this church, this was the first time I’d attended the sunrise service. Looking out at the lake, giving my first morning breaths to hymn-singing, I was reminded of where I was last Easter. A year ago, I was mourning the loss of normal life in the early months of a pandemic.
I was also reminded of the many, many sunrises I’ve attended since then, teary-eyed, unable to sleep. My own private services, mourning the loss of someone I loved.
I sleep better now, nine months after that loss. So I’m not up early enough for regular sunrise worship. But that doesn’t mean all is back to normal. I’ll never be the same.
I don’t know a single person who believes their life will be the same.
But in the wake of tragedy and grief and nights of grinding teeth, I’ve noticed some things are somehow brighter than before. Some things are better. Some things I never knew existed, I can’t wait to wake up and see.
Some things are tenderer. Some things are sweeter. And some things that may have been there are all along, if only I’d had reason to look, are now glaringly obvious.
These are the final words of a hymn we sang today. It’s a song I’ve been singing on Easter morning since I was a kid, but there’s something new in there I plan to hang onto:
“Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day[!]*”
*Exclamation mark mine. And yours.