ELKTON — Last Easter, The Rev. Tim Beardsley delivered the community Sonrise Service message to his congregation via Facebook Live.
“I was sick with COVID last year. I stood in this field all by myself and did a virtual Sonrise Service,” Beardsley said.
The pandemic lockdown had just begun in 2020 and Christians in Cecil County had to mark the most important holiday of their faith without their church communities in person.
This year, the pastor of Cherry Hill and St. John’s United Methodist Churches in Elkton is recovered and was able to preach the pre-dawn service to a socially distanced, masked congregation Sunday morning from the same bucolic property along Blue Ball Road, with a pond and fountain in the background.
His message was about transformation.
“God has called me to ministry and God has changed my life,” Beardsley said, adding it’s the same transformation seen in the Gospels in the story of Mary Magdalene. She was possessed by seven evil spirits according to the book of Luke.
“This person who would be a social outcast had a life changing transformation,” Beardsley said. Jesus freed her from the demons and she became one of His most ardent supporters. Beardsley pointed out Mary’s role in the Easter story.
“We know He was nailed to a cross and Friday looked pretty bad. Saturday was quiet but on Sunday He rose up from the grave so we could have a transformed life,” he said.
As the sun was about to rise Mary headed to the tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea to finish the burial process. It had been interrupted by the start of Sabbath Friday evening.
“She gets there and there’s something wrong. The stone has been rolled away,” Beardsley told the story. Seeing a male figure at the grave Mary begins to weep and beg for information on the location of Jesus’ body. Then she realizes that figure is Jesus, coming back on the third day as He promised.
“He’s alive and she’s forgiven and the world would change for her and for all of us,” he said. “The same grace that saved Mary Magdalene from seven evil spirits can transform you too.”
Beardsley pointed out that Mary is on record as the first evangelist of the church.
“The first one to share the Good News was Mary. Mary was the first street preacher,” he said, adding her message is still strong today.
“You don’t have to be somebody to be somebody in God’s kingdom. You just have to love Jesus Christ,” he said of that message. “God loves you and God wants you to live for Him.”