A sunrise Easter service is nothing new. Gathering together to celebrate the risen Son as the sun rises on Easter morning, known as Resurrection Sunday.
He is risen!
He is risen indeed!
I climbed the steps in the chill of the morning, teeth chattering, wishing I would have worn more layers. It would be at least an hour before the sun would grace us with it’s first rays of morning warmth. This was the fifth time, in one of three locations, that my feet would climb the steps of the Great Wall of China since I’d arrived ten months prior. And, to date, the last.
Chinese guards lined the steps on either side, guns loaded and ready. For what, my 23 year old self could only guess. Maybe the guards were there to protect us, but more than likely their job was to keep away any Chinese national that tried to join us. All of us climbing the Great Wall that morning were foreigners living in China; our passports had been checked, although a simple glance at skin, eye and/or hair color would have cleared most of us immediately. Yes, we were all foreigners.
In China it is not illegal for Chinese nationals to be Christians; it is, however, illegal for the church in China, (run by the government), to preach on the resurrection. So, in theory, no Easter in China…other than the approved bunny and eggs and candy.
As honored guests and privileged foreigners, there we were singing and praying and celebrating about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from an ancient wonder. I remember thinking the memory of that morning would stay with me forever, but now, all these years later, I cannot help but note the significance of that day, mostly wasted on me at the time.
I was standing on a crumbling piece of man-made history, intended, (ultimately failing), to keep the enemies out, while celebrating the provision and limitless power of the almighty God conquering evil once and for all, an act done for friends and enemies alike. Histories colliding. One to exclude, the other all inclusive.
It’s a funny thing being a foreigner and enjoying privileges that the nationals cannot. The attention that we would draw prevented us from attending certain gatherings and celebrations. We prayed that walls would be torn down, but this time not physical but the spiritual ones. Sometimes intercession looks like proclaiming hope and love over a country in the face, literally, of the ones sent to help prevent the spread of the message.
The regulations that have been formed to diminish and minimize have only caused the gospel to grow and spread rapidly throughout China. I am hopeful that Chinese nationals will one day be leading their own sunrise services on their very own Great Wall, singing, praying, celebrating and declaring in their own language, the language of their land.
The fact that teaching on the resurrection is regulated by the Chinese government is a great testimony that it’s message is powerful.
So, why is it that Easter doesn’t get the same reaction in America? Why has Christmas become more controversial in our culture than Easter?
Why is it that we see our churches overflowing on Easter Sunday and a dramatic drop in attendance the following week?
I wonder if we have given way to our culture, knowing that going to church on Easter is “expected,” and put so much pressure on our pastors and church staff to perform. We are a resurrected people, not just during this season of remembrance, but always.
I don’t know the answers, but I do know that the Chinese officials seem to understand, and fear, the power of the resurrection to a greater extent than our casual Easter service attenders who hear the message at least once a year.
The gospel is so often regarded with indifference, and church treated as a box to check by those who have free and seemly unlimited access to it. And, that just breaks my heart.