Gathering before dawn on Easter (NJUTS)
Singing of Christ’s Resurrection (NJUTS Easter Sunrise Service)
Vice President Rev. Chen Yilu brings the Easter Sunrise Message (NJUTS)
Singing "Into My Heart" as the sun rises (Easter morning at NJUTS)
Receiving and sharing lilies (Easter Sunrise service at NJUTS)
The Chinese Hymn "In the Mist of Early Morn" opened the service. The writer Rev. Peter Cai (Wen-hao Cai) and his wife Eleanor (Lu-fu Yang) who composed the music were among the first church leaders I had met when I arrived to teach in Hangzhou way back in 1992. Although Rev. Cai was called to his heavenly home a few years later, his wife, who is retired, still remains active there in Hangzhou. Both touched my life and my heart deeply during my three years there.
The first verse tells of the women discovering the empty tomb, while the second describes the disciples' doubts and fear turning to joy in seeing their Risen Lord, and the third points to growing faith and love. The words of the chorus always capture my heart. The English translation given in the Chinese hymnal is "Jesus Christ is risen, Jesus Christ is risen, Mighty power that made Him rise again, fills me, changes my life." Indeed, the power of God in Christ's resurrection touches, fills and changes the lives open to it. (Check back on the website in a few days to see if I have been able to add a one minute video clip of this wonderful hymn.)
Vice President Rev. Chen Yi lu brought the message, highlighting two negations and an affirmation found in the scripture. "Do NOT be afraid or alarmed." "He is NOT here" among the dead. "HE HAS RISEN!" Rev. Chen mentioned that Monday is the traditional Chinese "tomb sweeping" holiday on which people often go to the graves of relatives to clean or sweep the tombs. In Chinese it is called the Qing Ming Festival, with the word Qing meaning clear and Ming meaning bright. Rev. Chen noted that the traditional Chinese view of death is in reality neither Qing nor Ming. However, we as Christians know the clear and bright hope God has given us in the Risen Christ, who has conquered sin and death. The call for those of us who believe is to live with the Risen Lord in our hearts—to live in the power of the resurrection.
Our worship and praise was also filled with many other moving songs of the Easter message-- of faith, of prayer and of praise—by choir and congregation alike. As the sun began to rise over the buildings to the east, the singing of "Into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus…" as a prayer from the depths of each person's heart became a very moving moment of personal re-commitment for each one present.
The singing of "Christ the Lord is Risen" today, a mutual sharing of "Christ is Risen!" "Christ is Risen Indeed!" and the receiving of single lilies brought our sunrise service to a close as we looked forward to continuing worship of our Lord in our 9:00 a.m. service.
Today at Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, we felt again the "mighty power of the resurrection filling and changing our lives." And here from Nanjing that is also my prayer for all of us—that God continually open our hearts to the transforming power of the Risen Lord, not just on Easter, but each and every day.