EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - The story of Easter is the oldest in the Christian faith. But how that story is told depends on the pastor, and the world.
Easter is the Christian celebration of the execution and resurrection of Jesus. The story promises life eternal to all who believe. That story packs churches around the world every year, and the Vail Valley is no exception.
In Vail, the ancient tradition of sunrise services continues atop Vail Mountain, at Eagle's Nest. Father Brooks Keith - pastor at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration - said the first time he preached at that service was one of the biggest surprises of his life.
"The sunrise service can have 500 or 600 people," Keith said. "I almost fainted the first year I did it."
But if you're a Christian minister, Easter is the big day, the day the promise of Christmas is fulfilled. It's that promise that fuels Keith's ministry.
"I tell people I've only ever had one sermon, and it's this," he said. That said, Keith added that preaching an Easter service "is like riding a bucking bronco to me."
This year, Keith plans to twist the Latin phrase for "we have a Pope" to "we have a savior."
"Boy, do we need one," Keith said. "The message has never been more timely, or more under assault."
Keith will give that message several times on Easter, at services from the top of the mountain to the interfaith chapels in Vail, Beaver Creek and Edwards, six in all. But, he said, the story never gets old.
Baptist minister Ethan Moore also participates in the mountaintop services - he and Keith switch off being the lead pastor every year, and this is Moore's year to lead the service.
Moore's day will start with that service - at 6 a.m. - and end when he's finished with his last service, which starts at 5:30 p.m.
Moore's message this year is about the significance of the resurrection, of course, but will also go into the difference between being a "Christian" and being a "disciple." For disciples, he said, the story of the resurrection is the most important thin in their lives.
Gracious Savior Lutheran Church in Edwards has a sunrise service this year - in the atrium of the church, facing the Gore Range, but inside, where it's warm.
"We have coffee, too," Pastor Jason Haynes said.
Haynes said he's going to talk about hope, "today, every day and eternally," a hope that's based on God's promises.
"It's not about ability, or the economy or the weather - it's about who Jesus is and his love for us," Haynes said.
Eagle River Presbyterian Church Pastor Rob Wilson's sermon will pull from his own memory, likening redemption to the feeling a small, lost boy in a big grocery store has when finally wrapped in his mother's embrace.
"We all feel like that at times in our lives," Wilson said. "There's that sense of being alone after losing a loved one, or being lost in sin, or addiction." The promise of the resurrection is the solution, and has been since the first Easter, Wilson said.
And the story never, ever gets old.
"Easter is one of the marker events in my life," Moore said. "It's another year of meeting the crew at the gondola and heading up - that's a marker."
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