Easter always surprises me. It doesn't matter that I know the story, or that I've seen how it has affected people, or even that I've been to church on many Easters before. It still surprises me.
When I arrived early at Central Church the building was ready. The furnace was on and the radiators were hissing. Others had carefully arranged the flowers the day before. Volunteers had taken care to clean the worship space. The bulletins were waiting at each of the doors for whoever would arrive.
At the time when, on other Sundays, a crowd would have started to gather, the building still seemed quiet. Our substitute organist, still recovering from a bad cold, had arrived wondering whether she should have taken just one more day of bedrest. The choir members started to arrive and went downstairs to do their final rehearsal for the day. The worship space was still largely empty and quiet. That was the moment when the whispers of doubt started to ask, "Will this Easter be different? Will this be the year when cold weather, or the cold season, or apathy itself are enough to keep the people from gathering on the highest of the Christian holidays?"
Then by ones and twos and threes familiar faces started to appear: people who worship here weekly, and those for whom Easter is the time for an annual pilgrimage. They continued to arrive even during the singing of the first hymn, a happy crowd of new and familiar faces, of young and old, all eager to hear the Easter story anew.
I know that the resurrection of Christ is not like the healing of Tinkerbell that depended on the insistent clapping of all the children who longed for Tinkerbell to live. God raised Jesus from the dead once for all, without conducting a single poll of whether the people of the earth wanted it to happen. But it is still nice to be surprised by the reminder that people want to let that message transform their lives.