MARCO ISLAND — As thousands crowded the beach behind the Marriott, Marco Island greeted Easter morning for the 24th Annual Easter sunrise service on Sunday. Rev. Bill Lyle of Marco Presbyterian Church delivered the principal sermon, along with Rev. Kirk Dreiser of Wesley United Methodist Church and Rev. Thomas McCulley of New Life Community Church.
Lyle took the text for his talk from the words of the apostle Paul, as in Paul McCartney of the Beatles, with an Easter message titled “Yesterday, All My Troubles Seemed So Far Away.” In a wide-ranging homily, Lyle not only recounted how McCartney wrote the song, using “scrambled eggs, oh my baby how I love your legs” as the original place-holder lyrics, he informed the waterfront congregation “it’s hard to be a minister. The entire congregation is your boss,” talked of catching a bug – “the kind where you’re throwing up your toenails,” and reminded everyone that we all must face death alone.
“In 100 years, everyone on this beach will be dead. It’s the one thing we all have in common,” he said, and described St. Stephen being stoned to death, but still calling on the Lord. But none of these trials need concern us, he said, thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, which is what Easter is all about. “Easter turns that on its head. You close your eyes in death, and open them in Jesus,” he promised.
Along with the preachers’ words, and the inspirational vocals of a very aptly named Dawn Birch, just being at the water’s edge on a perfect spring morning added to a feeling of peace, hope and fellowship. The throng stood and called out, “He is risen” in unison, when prompted from the stage, and turned to offer greetings to all their neighbors.
Children dozed in their parents’ laps, couples held hands, and a lot of people who don’t generally get out on the beach before sunrise got a chance to see how beautiful the world is, particularly early in the morning, with the moon setting, and dozens of boats anchored just offshore. A steady breeze blew, rustling the white shroud draped over the simple wooden cross behind the stage, and making a sound like distant thunder in the microphone.
When master of ceremonies Alan Sandlin asked how many were present for the first time, many hands went up, and a roughly equal number were raised when he asked how many had attended for each of the last five years. A few, including Paul and Terrye Tabacek, have been there for each Easter sunrise service, since they began in 1988.
Volunteers including Ed and Pat Lammerfeld wore maroon t-shirts with “Please Ask Me” in bold yellow letters, and in his closing remarks, McCulley urged anyone with questions or wanting to hear more about the message of Easter to approach any of them. Other volunteers shuttled the handicapped to the beach, directed traffic, and passed out programs.
Police and fire departments were on hand to help out as needed. Sandlin thanked contributors including the Marriott, the Madiera condominium, all those who helped, “and all of you for coming this morning. I know you braved the ice and snow,” he quipped.
Many of those trudging off the beach, carrying their chairs or blankets, were presumably going home to check on their Easter dining plans, and continue packing up the condo to head north. It’s a fair guess they were feeling good, about Marco Island and the world.