Easter’s unifying message one of renewal

first_imgWorshippers will climb hills for pre-dawn services. Families, some who attend church only on Easter, will line the walls after all the pews are filled. And even the most seasoned ministers will reach deep within themselves to explain the unearthly promise that is Easter. They will tell of the Good Friday crucifixion of Jesus. Of the Sunday discovery of his empty tomb, and the realization that he’s risen from the dead. For ministers who have prepared sermons like “Glory in an empty tomb,” it is a symbol of salvation – and of personal and worldly renewal. “My message for Easter Sunday is always a message of hope – that with the Lord Jesus Christ, there is always life, no matter how the world may seem, especially in this time of war,” said the Rev. Alden J. Sison of Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in Canoga Park, where 6,000 parishioners were expected for Easter services. “The Lord gives us peace.” At Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park in Agua Dulce, worshippers gathered Saturday for a pre-Easter service in the lair of a onetime bandit. “It’s not about the Easter bunny,” said Regina Tomas-Ozogu, 37, of Santa Clarita. “To me, it is really about rebirthing. It’s spring. Everything that is dead is now alive. “Easter shows people the essence of sacrifice.” And today, lilies will perfume church altars. The vesture of the saints will be doffed for rejoicing. Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus will be sung for joy. “When Jesus was martyred, essentially they assured that his truth would live forever,” said the Rev. Thomas E. Witherspoon, pastor of Unity Church of the Valley, a metaphysical church in La Crescenta. “His truth was let loosed upon the world.” From bacon-and-egg breakfasts to Easter egg hunts, families will gather before and after services. At Unity Church, a 9-foot cross covered with carnations will attach blessings for all worshippers. At Our Savior’s First Lutheran, an organ will sound hymn No. 466, “Christ Has Arisen, Allelujah.” At St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Van Nuys, members of the Philippine Independent Church will gather at dawn for a traditional Easter salubong, heralding the post-risen reunion of mother and son. During the ceremony, flower-adorned statues of Mary and Jesus meet face to face, accompanied by children dressed as angels. “Sorrow will turn to joy, having seen first the resurrected Son,” said the Rev. Gerry Engnan, pastor of Philippine Independent. “Easter represents hope, when darkness turns into the joyousness of the day. “We are bearers of God’s love in this world.” For some ministers, the Easter pulpit provides an opportunity to refute recent novels such as “The Da Vinci Code,” or documentaries as “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” which suggest Jesus was a man of this world. In his sermon, “The Greatest Epitaph,” the Rev. Dave Wilkinson will preach of the gravestone Jesus left behind. “You don’t often read epitaphs on a gravestone that says, `Nobody’s Home,”‘ said Wilkinson, pastor of Moorpark Presbyterian Church. “If there is an epitaph there, it’s not Jesus’. “Instead, what is buried there is death.” In his sermon, the Rev. Ken Craft will preach of Jesus’ true ascension into heaven – and a brand-new day for believers. “We all have a new day and don’t have to wallow in the past,” said Craft, pastor of Northbound Community Church in Thousand Oaks. “If he rose from the dead, it validates everything he did in life.” In his sermon, the Rev. Glenn Kirby won’t give a traditional Christ-has-risen sermon. Instead, he will ask “How Much is Enough?” “In our world, our culture is, `Do I have enough money, do I have enough possessions?’ … We always want more,” said Kirby, pastor at West Valley Christian Church of West Hills. “The idea is, we already have enough of what God gives us, what he will give us.” In his Easter message, Archbishop of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony speaks of the women followers of Jesus who bowed down at his empty tomb – and the virtue of humility. In his sermon, Bishop Gerald Wilkerson will speak of the need for us to rise from the earthly tombs of loneliness, despair, hatred and other ills. “Easter changed everything,” said Wilkerson, head of the San Fernando Valley Pastoral Region for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, who will preside over the Easter Mass at St. Finbar Catholic Church in Burbank. “The tomb is open – but we must all walk out of the tomb ourselves. The Lord has knocked the tomb away.” dana.bartholomew @dailynews.com (818) 713-3730 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! He is risen, we are forgiven. The Easter message, preached today from hilltops and pulpits throughout Los Angeles and around the world, hails the biblical resurrection of Jesus Christ. “It means that there is life after death, an eternity in heaven,” said the Rev. Craig Boehlke, pastor of Our Savior’s First Lutheran Church of Granada Hills. “Or” – for unbelievers – “an eternity in hell. “Without the resurrection, there is no hope. … If the tomb isn’t empty, we can all go home.” last_img