MERCED — The true meaning of Easter Sunday often gets lost in today's society, and many faith leaders are reminding people what it's really about -- the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
"For us, it's not a 'spring holiday,' " said Father Ron Parry of St. Luke's Anglican Church and School in Merced. "This event defines who we are, and the resurrection of Jesus is central to our faith."
That message often is overlooked in this fast-paced world, Parry said.
"I think we've seen in our culture, especially among young people, they don't go to church, or they don't think it's relevant," he said. "And if you don't go to church, how are you going to get the message? It's replaced by other things."
St. Luke's Anglican Church will hold its first Easter service at 8 p.m. today, called the great vigil of Easter.
Parry said the ceremony, a tradition for hundreds of years, includes a procession of lights and a series of readings from the Old Testament.
"Then we hear the great proclamation that he is risen," he said, adding that there will be communion.
"The resurrection confirms that everything he said about himself is true. I can trust him for my future, because he kept his word," Parry said. "The world is desperately looking for hope, and the only lasting hope for us is Jesus Christ."
Tim Francisco, pastor of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Atwater, said he hopes to dispel doubts about the resurrection on Easter morning with a sermon called "Reality of the Resurrection."
"We start out with the negative (ideas) of today, and people doubting it," Francisco said. "Then I'm going to contrast that with what the witnesses said, and what the resurrection means for a person,"
Francisco said he'll present documents from eyewitnesses and the historical accounts of those who witnessed Jesus' final hours, crucifixion and rise from the dead.
"If the resurrection didn't happen, the whole idea of Christianity would be in question," Francisco said. "What Jesus said he would do, he did."
The Rev. Jay Pierce of United Methodist Church of Merced said his message this Easter will be focused on fairness and equality.
"I think we can't ignore the fact that there's a great debate concluding on marriage equality and Proposition 8," Pierce said. "Learning to see one another as brothers and sisters, not lesser than or greater than. Jesus lived that message for all of us."
"We're all entitled to the equality that Jesus provided us, that we're all in this together," he added. "Easter really is a community event, where we lift up what Christ has done for us, and how we're called to carry on that message into our daily lives."
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.