Easter began with a misunderstanding. Driving to church this past Sunday in the gray-morning dark, I discovered an empty parking lot and vacant building. Wishing I’d checked to see if the sunrise service was in-person or online, I drove on, seeking a quiet place to pray and reflect. A few miles more, and I spotted a banner, advertising an ecumenical gathering at a local park.

Hats pulled snuggly over their ears, jacketed shadows carried guitars and set up folding chairs on the still-frozen grass. As sea-fog rose off the silvery river, the parking lot slowly filled with cars. Congregants from across this small Maine factory town carried Bibles and steaming coffee and blanketed children toward the wooden platform set up near the boardwalk. A few brought dogs. Some greeted each other. Others stood alone.

But as the sun rose beyond the leafless silhouettes of trees lining the eastern shore, we joined our voices together, praising our Savior with one song.

On a long-ago Sunday morning, the very first Easter also began with a misunderstanding. Instead of an empty church, the women seeking to anoint the body of Jesus found an empty tomb. “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?” two angels questioned the women (Luke 24:5-6, NLT). “He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!”

How often do we, like these faithful women, seek the Savior in the wrong place?

In the West, we often seek Him in success. Masters of self-aggrandization, we measure spiritual worth with metrics. Examples include churches paying triple-digit dollars for a single sermon by a big-name preacher. Pastors parading about like celebrities. Our culture’s cult-like obsession with personality, mistaking popularity and prosperity for the presence of Christ, of whom the prophet Isaiah wrote,

               “There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:2-3 NLT).

Following our local church service later that Easter morning, my family drove up the coast to meet my beloved bachelor uncle for a picnic in Belfast. Overlooking the wind-whipped harbor, we ate ham sandwiches and potato salad while gulls soared and dipped over the deep blue sea. After, we went for a walk along the waterfront, stopping to admire the massive yachts at a local boatyard.

Having mainly been around boats that were already in the water, I was surprised by how deep the hulls of these great vessels measured. So little rides above the water, I realized. So much, unseen, rides beneath. Build a boat the other way around, and I expect the top-heavy vessel will roll and sink. Stability requires both buoyancy and ballast. It also demands hidden depth.

After the angels spoke to the women at the tomb, Luke says, “they remembered” Jesus’ words. How the Son of Man must be betrayed. And crucified. And would rise again on the third day. “So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened” (Luke 24:8-9 NLT).

Christ’s messengers are called to lives of humility and service, truth and justice, faith and love.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” Isaiah 1:18 (ESV).

Together, may we sing this one true song.

Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes and reads from a little house in the big woods of Midcoast Maine. Her children’s picture book The Backward Easter Egg Hunt and four other books in the Lantern Hill Farm series celebrate the holidays with activities that build children’s faith. Connect at www.meadowrue.com