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One Glorious Sunrise
By Linda Ryzenga

Easter Morning in Florida has become a momentous occasion the last three years for my husband and me. The outcome of this glorious morning continually results in pure Christian joy for everyone involved.

At 5:30 on the morning of Easter, 2004, we stood on the wet, sandy beach by the ocean’s edge; totally in the dark except for a few beams of light dancing here and there from the flashlights of various church members. Everyone involved was preparing for a very special event that morning.

The roar of the waves as they rolled toward shore, one after the other, was a refreshing sound, although void to the naked eye. As the light of day began to barely trickle over the earth, one could catch glimpses of an immense rugged cross, which was placed on a platform, and rested upon the sand. The cross stood a great height, and was an awesome sight to anyone descending the steps to the beach.

Very shortly, we spotted the sun as it began to peek up over the horizon. It was amazing; I can never get my fill of watching sunrises and sunsets. They never cease to thrill my soul.

Several feet off the shore stood a beautiful sailboat, and as the sun, in the shape of a reddish-orange ball, rose over the horizon, it positioned itself directly over the mast of that anchored sailboat. Yours truly must have snapped at least 10 pictures (one each minute). It was unforgettable!

People started to swarm down the steps of the beach ramp with lawn chairs in hand. Some of us passed out fliers, which displayed the agenda for the sunrise service set to begin within minutes. Cars streamed down the dune and the men of the church who had volunteered their services directed them to parking spots on either side of a huge platform that sat on the sand.

The platform held the pulpit, where the pastor would soon give his sermon, and the choir would sing. Glancing over the beach from where I stood on the platform, there were rows and rows of cars – as far as my eyes could see.

As all of this progressed, the roar of the ocean was still heard; but now, as morning awakened, the frothy waves became quite visible.

Right on cue, the service began, all conversation ceased, and the choir began to sing, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." The congregation joined in and by then I was nearly teary eyed, with chills running up and down my spine.

As the pastor delivered his sermon, the sun rose fully and in its glory. I'm sure the Lord was on His Heavenly Throne, in all His splendor; for I know that as He looked down upon that Easter Morning Gathering, He was well pleased.

Immediately following the service, a baptismal took place in the ocean, and several people had requested baptism. It’s thrilling to watch the pastor immerse adults and children into the water of the ocean; just as Jesus was immersed by John the Baptist, some 2,000 years ago (see Matthew 3:13-17).

Over 4,000 people gathered on Crescent Beach to worship a King who is our Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ. Is it any wonder why I love this Easter Sunrise Service? It is such an inspiring experience and the presence of the Lord is truly felt.

An explicit joy radiates throughout the crowd as the pastor proclaims, "He is Risen."

And the people reply, "He is risen, indeed!"

I know what true joy is; I felt it on the beach by the ocean on Easter Morning, 2004 when 4,000 people gathered to worship our Savior, a man who rose from the dead. Only about 300 of the 4,000 belonged to Crescent Beach Baptist Church. A great share of them came from other parts of the area – some already believers, some seekers. Whatever the category, together, we all praised the Lord.

Linda Ryzenga and her husband have attended Crescent Beach Baptist Church for almost five years. The church is located south of St. Augustine Beach, a favorite area of Florida for the Ryzengas. They are very fond of the area and, more importantly, of their church.
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