Dozens of parishioners of St. Joseph Catholic Church gathered before dawn at 7 a.m. Sunday for the first of several Easter Masses.
Lilies packed the main altar, and other arrangements featured green ferns, blue and purple hydrangeas, yellow daylilies and rose caladiums as the faithful gathered to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
Dressed in gold robes with red satin lining and accents, Father Dawid Kwiatkowski preached his homily on the relevance of the resurrection.
As if on cue, daybreak brought life to the stained glass windows as the native of Poland shed light on the most sacred of all Christian feasts.
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“The good news of Easter is God’s great mercy for humanity,” said Kwiatkowski, who serves as a parochial vicar at St. Joseph’s.
“If we believe in God’s saving power... knocking on our hearts everyday ... then and only then will we resurrect with him.”
One of Macon’s newest houses of worship, Stone Edge Church on Zebulon Road, celebrated its first Easter service Sunday. The service was the finale of Stone Edge’s Revive XIII program that started earlier in the week with guest Pastor Joe Phillips of North Carolina.
During the revival, 14 people accepted Christ as their personal savior and about 10 more were added to that during the Easter Sunday finale.
Stone Edge’s lead pastor, Clint Jett, said he felt compelled to turn the service into a baptismal service. “What a greater time to be baptized than on Resurrection Sunday,” he said.
“I’m probably the only evangelist working today,” Phillips said. “Most are on the sidelines today, but I’m blessed because God has me in the game.”
Phillips took his message from the book of Numbers 21: 5-8, preaching about “tipping points” and God’s tipping point when the Israelites spoke ill of God and Moses saying, “Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither is there any water, and our soul loatheth this light bread.”
According to the Bible, God sent fiery serpents among the complainers. Many of them were bitten and many of them died. God then instructed Moses to make a serpent, put it on a pole, and when anyone is bitten, if they look at the pole they’ll live.
Phillips talked about how strange God’s actions were using a serpent on a pole to save people. He then compared it to God using his son to save people, an action he said was equally strange for man to comprehend. “I have two sons ... I could never give them up,” he said.
Phillips asked the congregation to recite John 3:16 and seemingly every person in the church quoted the scripture.
While many people know that scripture by heart, many are unfamiliar with John 3: 14-15, Phillips said before reciting those scriptures: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
At the conclusion of the service, many were baptized in a pool on the pulpit surrounded by Easter lilies.
At Macon’s First Baptist Church of Christ, Easter lilies near the pulpit greeted worshippers, as did a cross draped with a white linen cloth. White paraments on the pulpit and communion table symbolized the hope of the Resurrection as well as the purity and newness that come from victory over sin and death, the worship program reminded those gathered.
Before the processional hymn, the Rev. Stanley Roberts offered an a cappella excerpt from “Were You There” before the congregation joined in on the traditional Easter hymn, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”
The Rev. Scott Dickison’s sermon was titled “No Explanations Inside the Church.” That’s a reference, he said, to a sign outside the Church of All Nations in Jerusalem. It’s meant to promote quiet and remind tour guides to throttle their explanations inside the church.
The sign is intended “to keep noise out of the house of worship,” he said, and the sentiment “applies to us on Easter morning.”
Part of the challenge of Easter morning, Dickison said, is to try to “make sense of the mystery of the Resurrection and the promise, in due time, that God will resurrect the whole world.”
Earlier, Dickison had read from Luke 24: 1-12, which tells the story of how Mary Magdalene and other women went to the tomb at dawn with spices and ointment to anoint Jesus’ body.
“They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body,” the Scripture says. “While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?’
“The women’s confusion gave way to terror, and they did not realize what had happened until they remembered what Jesus had foretold.”
It’s often difficult, in this day and age, for us to understand what a promise means until we live it, Dickison said, citing wedding vows that include the phrases “for better or worse,” “for richer or poorer” and “in sickness and in health.”
For the women at the tomb, “It was not until they remembered Jesus’ words that they realized this great promise had been fulfilled,” he said. “Suddenly, it all made sense.”
Easter morning is not about Jesus, Dickison said. It was the women who found the empty tomb and then told the disciples what they had seen and experienced.
“Every Easter morning since then, Easter has been about all who gather at the tomb,” he said. “It’s about all those who are left behind. ... Easter is about what God is still doing and what God will do.”
Sunday’s Easter services at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Macon featured music from an orchestra that, early in the service, included a bagpipes player.
Playing in a full sanctuary for the 11:15 a.m. late service, the orchestra opened with Daniel Semsen’s arrangement of Travis Cottrell’s and David Moffitt’s “Jesus Saves” that incorporated the bagpipes.
Large arrangements of several types of white flowers were on display at the front of the sanctuary, with a large white cross flower arrangement hung in the center of the church’s large organ pipes behind the pulpit and the choir.
Senior pastor Chip Miller delivered a sermon based on a passage from the gospel of Mark, focusing on the historical events of Christ’s death and resurrection and how they form the basis for the Christian faith.
“It’s not just a saying at Easter, but it’s really true that Christianity rests on the resurrection,” Miller said in his sermon. “Without the truthfulness of the resurrection of Jesus, as a whole the Christian faith collapses. We would have no basis for explaining anything at all without the resurrection of Christ.”