Aunt Martha’s and Sunrise Services

By Dan Liles, Worship Pastor

There was a five year stretch when I was a child where I can remember our family enjoying an Easter morning routine. It included early breakfast at Aunt Martha’s Pancake House followed by an outdoor Sunrise Service (weather-permitting) at our home church in Springfield, Missouri.  Seems to me there was a motivational strategy at play in this family tradition.  There’s nothing like a pile of delicious pancakes to bribe almost any kid to get out of bed before sunrise, especially those golden delicious pancakes at Aunt Martha’s!

We would spend the whole weekend preparing our hearts and minds, stomachs too, for the big celebration.  We spent time on Good Friday remembering how Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  We would spend Saturday resting, shopping and preparing for the big meal on Sunday afternoon, usually a cookout or potluck with the Sewells who lived next door.  Saturday night right after dinner, we would have a family devotion time, reading the story of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.  We would then lay out our clothes for the early morning adventure which we were all excited about.  Mom and Dad would remind us that they were planning to wake us at 5:00am so we could get ready and make our way to Aunt Martha’s and the Sunrise Service.

5:00am would come so early, but we were so excited!  We would spring into action and leave the house around 5:45am.  I can remember we were some of the first people to arrive every year…Aunt Martha’s opened at 6:00am.  After breakfast, we would pile into the station wagon and head for the outdoor Sunrise Service, where we would stand for the entire singing and preaching time…the whole service lasted 30 minutes…that’s right…just 30 minutes…that was the coolest thing to us kids!.  After service, we would head home and enjoy a special time of celebration, including an easter egg hunt, baskets with chocolate, followed by a big lunch with the Sewells.  This was one of our favorite days of the entire year.  I’m grateful our parents planned a big celebration on Easter weekend, helping us remember that Jesus’ death on the cross, burial in a borrowed tomb, and resurrection on the third day are the most important things we believe and remember to this day!

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