Easter 2021

During my years as a pastor, I got used to being awake when others were asleep. Sometimes I needed to pay a special visit to the hospital. Sometimes there was a call in the night that demanded an immediate response. I never got fully used to having to get up, get dressed, and go someplace in the middle of the night, but I never resented it, either. I accepted it as part of my calling. There are some parts of being up in the middle of the night that are interesting. It is kind of fun to drive on nearly-empty streets. On the other hand, I remember plenty of times when I wondered what all of the rest of the people who were out and about in the wee hours were doing. There aren’t that many jobs that require movement in the middle of the night.

The town in which I grew up had only one cafe that was open all night long. It was on the highway that ran through town and it specialized in feeding truckers passing through. Moving freight in the middle of the night is a long-standing tradition and the steady stream of trucks that had to slow to go through town meant that a few would stop. My father flew airplanes in the early morning hours when the air was cooler and therefore more dense. It was part of safely operating light airplanes in the mountains in the days before the high powered airplanes that are now used for that job. A 4 or 4:30 am breakfast at the cafe was common for him and I got to go with him on several occasions. I never tired of the feeling of going to the cafe in the dark for “two eggs over easy with toast and orange juice. Sometimes I got a short stack of pancakes as big as the plate.

Easter sunrise became one of my favorite times of the year. Most years the whole family got up in the early hours. We’d pack a thermos of hot chocolate. Some years there were fresh cinnamon rolls, baked the night before. The service was held at the top of the hill where the airport was located, so it was a familiar site for us. There would be a bonfire to warm ourselves. I don’t remember much from the actual services, but more of the mood and the fun of gathering with people and seeing people we weren’t used to seeing so early in the morning.

I was selected to be the preacher for the sunrise service a year ago. It was supposed to be my last sunrise service after 25 years of living and ministering in Rapid City. As it turned out, the sunrise service was cancelled, making the previous year’s service my last. I was in the city, but the pandemic meant that there was no public gathering in Main Street Square for the event.

In a little while I will watch the sunrise service from our church here in the Pacific Northwest, but sitting in front of my computer in my pajamas won’t be the same as getting up, getting dressed, and going out in the dark to wait for the sunrise.

There hasn’t been much getting up, getting dressed, and going out in the dark in my retirement. I could go to a nearby lake and watch the sunrise from a canoe on he surface of the lake, one of my favorite ways of greeting a new day, but I’ve become a bit lazy about that as well. Part of the dynamic is that we’ve changed time zones and even though I’ve had plenty of time to adjust, I have sort of shifted my day by more than an hour, rising later and sleeping later. I often get up, as I am now, write my journal and then go back to bed for a few hours and allow the rising sun to wake me while still in my bed. In addition to not taking call in the middle of the night, one of the other benefits of retirement is that I rarely wake to an alarm clock these days.

But today is Easter. It is the day of greeting the resurrection and remembering that death is not the final word on the meaning of human existence.

I can’t tell if it feels so different because of the pandemic or if it feels so different because I have retired. It seems possible that it will take me a few years to figure out the shape of this new phase of my life. I think that possibly I will remember Easter week, 2021 in terms of the pandemic, just as I remember Easter 2020 in terms of the pandemic. We get the second dose of the vaccine on Wednesday of this week and there is a sense of new and renewed life with the increase in freedom and the decrease of fear. Within just a few weeks vaccination will be open to all adults in our area and supplies of vaccine are predictable enough for administering agencies to make appointments. We may be seeing the beginning of the end of restrictions. Still cases are surging in some places and just across the border in Canada some restrictions are being increased as a surge in new cases is causing caution. “Just across the border” really means something where we now live. Yesterday we were watching our grandchildren play in an outdoor park. Sitting on the bench, I could see homes and other buildings on the other side of the border. It is that close.

Part of Easter is learning to embrace newness. At Easter we celebrate that God is doing new things in our world. Creation is not just some past event, but a continual process. New life springs forth in unexpected ways. We are surprised by the joy. The bouquet of daffodils, cut from the abundant plants along our son’s driveway, freshen our dining table. Despite the changes, despite the pandemic, despite retirement, Easter has come. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed! It is a day of celebration. Alleluia!