Each Easter Sunday, it is our custom here at Christ Coastal to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord with a sunrise service on the beach. The service begins with a large bonfire in the dark and just as the sun comes up, we begin singing. Following the singing, there is a preaching on the reason for Christ’s death on the cross, His victory there, and then His triumphant rising from the dead. The large ten foot by five foot cross is very prominent in the event. We have refreshments afterwards, and we get to meet a lot of the unchurched locals and tourists.
Last year we were gathering all the materials, including the firewood and the cross on Saturday just before that Resurrection day. There was a small hut which sheltered the wood to be used the next morning, and the cross was placed on the ground next to the fire wood, to be easily arranged the next morning in the dark.
The next morning, I got there early to begin stacking the wood to start the fire, and the cross was missing. We looked everywhere. There was no time to make another one, so we had the service without a cross. It was all very curious: did the enemy want to upset the plans of making the cross the visible symbol of why we would gather there on the beach? Was it some neighborhood kids pulling a prank?
After the service was over someone approached me and said, “We know what happened to your cross. Two little boys about seven or eight years old were seen lugging that big thing up our street yesterday afternoon. What was curious was we heard one of the kids complaining to the other one about how heavy it was, and the other one said, ‘Well, he carried the cross for us, the least we can do is carry this one for him.’ Oh, by the way, the two boys came from that house over there and the cross is up on their deck, abut the sixth house on our street.”
Then, the owner of the facility where we have our beach service (801 Ocean, on Oak Island) came out to the fire and talked to a man who was watching the fire. He introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Ed Burnett. We’re glad you were here today.” The young man Adam replied that he was the father of one of the boys, and uncle of the other one, who borrowed the cross.
He went on, “The two boys were concerned for their grandfather who is up at the house in bed, in hospice care. They had seen the cross lying there and figured nobody needed it, so they wanted to give their grandfather some hope while he lay in that bed. They set up the cross so that my father-in-law could look out his bedroom window and be cheered by that cross. They sure didn’t mean to be doing anything wrong.”
Ed assured the man that there could not have been a better use for that cross, and then he went and got me. I got to meet the man there by the fire, and I was given permission to go see the grandfather. The Lord graciously gave us a ministry to that whole family! The older gentleman was a believer, and he died in Christ shortly after we began visiting him.
The cross is back in use at the bonfire–this past Resurrection Day celebration on the beach was complete, with a well used cross. And all that family was there to celebrate with us!
One island local quietly said, “I get it now. That cross and the resurrection. Now i see my hope like I’ve never seen it before.” How thankful we all can be for the Word preached about the “emblem of suffering and shame,” and that glorious resurrection of our Lord!