As birds chirped over choruses of “Hallelujah” piped from speakers in front of the visitor’s center at Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park, it was clear “Christ has risen. He has risen indeed.”
Early Sunday morning, two Cobb civic groups, Marietta Kiwanis and Marietta Rotary, co-hosted the non-denominational annual Easter sunrise service for hundreds of Cobb residents, families and friends.
Kim Woodman of Kennesaw, who has participated for several years, attended Sunday’s service with her parents, teenage children and a first time guest.
For years, Woodman said she would see the sunrise event at the park as she passed by on the way to church services. But now her family has committed to being part of the special moment.
“It is beautiful because the sun rises up over the mountain,” Woodman said.
Besides the picturesque setting, Woodman said her family keeps coming back every year for the fellowship of seeing people they know.
The Holy Week festivities “all lead up to the big event,” said Woodman, who planned to continue to celebrate with family over brunch after the sunrise service.
For the first time Sunday, Carey Kallahan came with her husband, Hayden, and their two daughters, Emily and Haley.
“We thought since we have never done it before we would come out,” Kallahan said.
Being outside and watching the sun rise is a good reminder “about those many years ago,” Kallahan said, speaking about the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb.
After the service, her family hosted a cookout, “which is another reason we came out early,” Kallahan said, “to enjoy our family this afternoon.”
A transforming God
The 7 a.m. service for Resurrection Sunday began as the first bright orange streams of light peaked over the trees to cast rays over the battlefield site.
“It has dawned a beautiful day,” said Ike Reighard, pastor of Piedmont Baptist Church and CEO of MUST Ministries, who delivered the sermon. “The light has come into the world.”
Reighard’s sermon focused on the exchange of Jesus’ mortal life for his followers’ eternal lives, and the many exchanges Christians complete in their walk with God.
The exchanges, as Reighard preached, are about swapping the old for the new, trading sin for righteousness and “exchanging ordinary living for a transforming life.”
Reighard encouraged the listeners to exchange their plans for success for God’s plan for their significance.
“There is a good life, and then there is a God life,” he said.
Once a Christian has been a part of this transformation, Reighard said the mission of his or her life becomes helping the needy and showing kindness to a hurting world.
“We realize serving others is the greatest way for us to experience joy in our life,” he said.
Reighard told the mass of people that in the alcoves of the surrounding wooded area are “many people living without homes and many of them living without hope.”
Dennise Voyles of Powder Springs attended the sunrise service with her husband, Al, and daughter Laura, 25, who lives in Dallas.
Her family came for the first time four years ago, Voyles said, to have a new Easter experience. The service has gotten better every year since, and this time, Voyles said, she was particularly excited to hear Reighard’s sermon.
“He is just an awesome, awesome man,” with a great connection to God, Voyles said.
After hearing the sermon and packing up their chairs, Voyles’ daughter agreed with her mother’s enthusiasm for Reighard.
“It’s more talking to people instead of preaching,” she said.
Reighard himself said Christians often overlook an important Biblical passage on judgment that immediately follows an often quoted verse about everlasting life.
“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved,” John 3:17.