Easter messages from denominational leaders of Australian churches (courtesy of the National Council of Churches in Australia)...
PICTURE: Unsplash/Luca Baggio
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES IN AUSTRALIA
Sr Elizabeth Delaney, General Secretary National Council of Churches in Australia
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb…they ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’
As we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord, and hear and receive the accounts of disciples encountering the Risen Lord, may we rejoice that the Lord is truly risen. May we be assured that He has gone before us. Like Mary Magdalene may we with eager hearts tell our sisters and brothers what we have witnessed and may we , like them, meet Jesus on the way.
The National Council of Churches in Australia wishes all a healthy and holy Easter.
ANGLICAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA
Archbishop Philip Freier, Primate, Anglican Church of Australia
At the time of Jesus' death we read in the Bible that a great cloud of darkness covered the earth. Our own times seem to have many dark clouds of threat. Even as many of us live in a world where our material needs are abundantly filled we know that many others, too many others, struggle just to meet their daily needs. As Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross His final dying words were: “It is finished.”
"Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Day, and changed everything. His resurrection was the proof of his definitive victory over sin and death. For Christians, hope can never again be utterly extinguished."
Yes, it was true: His earthly life had ended. The indifferent Roman soldiers divided His possessions among themselves, His enemies rejoiced, the disciples despaired and Judas, overpowered by guilt and remorse, killed himself.
Then Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Day, and changed everything. His resurrection was the proof of his definitive victory over sin and death. For Christians, hope can never again be utterly extinguished.
Easter speaks throughout the ages to the condition of human despair. Christian faith shows us the way in which we can share in Jesus' victory over all that pushes us to despair. Human failure remains with us, both inside and outside the church - failure of compassion, failure of virtue, failure to live up to the light that each of us has through our conscience. All of us need to aspire to the best that we know our human nature can be. Human failure, or sin – as it is referred to in theological terms – arises from people’s alienation from God. Jesus told his disciples that his mission was about reconciling humanity with God and with each other.
His mission was intensely personal as much as it was universal. That is why Christians speak about having a personal relationship with Jesus and being alive with his Spirit. It is not just a manner of speaking, an odd religious terminology, it is a real and lived experience, as Christians have testified over the centuries. The Saviour cares so much for his people that he enters and transforms their lives, and numbers every hair on their heads.
Easter is also a journey over three days from Good Friday to Easter Day. Christian worship on Good Friday confronts the dark reality of Jesus' suffering and death, Holy Saturday reflects the time Jesus' body lay in the tomb. Both contrast with the joyous celebration of Easter Day, usually a celebration rich with music and colour.
Even if you have never or seldom been to a church, do feel able to join in these celebrations. Any of our churches will be delighted to welcome you. You need nothing more than the awareness that Jesus in his life and death speaks into the condition of our human struggles and shows us the way of peace.
Have a holy and blessed Easter.
ARMENIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
Bishop Hagazoun Najarian, primate, Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and New Zealand
“CHRIST IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD, TRAMPLING DEATH BY DEATH AND GAVE US LIFE THROUGH HIS RESURRECTION" (The Midday Introit)
Once again the Good news of our Lord's Resurrection is heralded by the angels. May it resonate in our souls, enlighten, strengthen and guide us - the children of light in - our path of faith; as the fruit of light is with all goodness, justice and truth.
In our firm and unshaken faith in the risen Lord we may be worthy to utter with St. Paul, "I was crucified with Christ, yet I live, but not I rather Christ lives in me". (Gal. 2:20)
We wish you personally and all the people you work with or are entrusted to you, a Happy and Glorious Easter, wishing you peace in your personal and social life.
In this hospitable and blessed country of Australia may the light of the Risen Lord guide us to preserve what is entrusted to us, keeping us away from all the temptations and pitfalls of evil, so that Australia continues to be a beacon of harmony.
We pray for the peace of the world, especially for peace in the Middle East. May people live as brothers and sisters, may building be preferred to destruction and life to death.
"The night has passed and the morning is at hand, so, cast away the deeds of the darkness and put on the armour of light be vested with our Lord Jesus Christ”. (Romans 13: 12)
Christ is risen from the dead.
Blessed is the Resurrection of Christ.
CATHOLIC CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA
Archbishop Denis J Hart, president, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
CHRIST IS RISEN! ALLELUIA!
This joyous Easter message is the same every year, but it always echoes just a little bit differently given the world in which we live.
Across the globe in 2017, there is political upheaval and wars and rumours of war. We pray that our political and civic leaders be blessed with wise and compassionate hearts. May they avoid all rhetoric and decisions that divide people. Christ in His costly death and resurrection has made us all one!
"[T]he Easter season reminds us that our struggles are not the final word. The final word is new life in the Risen Christ."
That is why we privileged citizens of a richly blessed country like Australia are all called to generously reach out to be guardians of life to those in need.
Our mission is to protect those who are vulnerable and give special tender care to refugees, the poor, the unborn, the aged and our children. We ask forgiveness when we fail in this sacred duty.
Especially in recent weeks, we Catholics in Australia have all been deservedly shamed and saddened at the extent of the crimes, damage, pain and harm done by too many ministers of our Church. Our need for repentance and a renewed commitment to be vigilant and proactive in protecting our children has never been more urgent.
Yes, the Cross of Christ is very real. Even within our own families, we often have challenging times of disagreement, despair and perhaps even depression.
But the Easter season reminds us that our struggles are not the final word. The final word is new life in the Risen Christ. When we join the crosses that we bear every day – those small deaths in our everyday lives – with the cross of Jesus, we have the Risen Christ’s promise of new life.
The Risen Christ no longer lives in a tomb but He lives in our hearts and in our world and in the church of sinners, which is His body today. It’s critical during this Easter season that we recognise that the Lord Jesus suffered and died for us. He has come to bring us mercy.
The mercy that the Risen Christ gives to us – and which we embrace – helps us to accept God’s forgiveness, to forgive ourselves and to forgive others. If we truly do that, then we can celebrate the new life of the Risen Christ during the Easter season.
My prayer for you therefore, is that you will feel God’s closeness this Christmas and become instruments of peace in the New Year ahead! Let us keep the lost and abandoned close to our hearts.
CHURCHES OF CHRIST IN AUSTRALIA
Janet Woodlock, federal coordinator, Churches of Christ in Australia
In any one year, over two million Australians will have an anxiety disorder. Among young people in Australia, one in six is currently experiencing an anxiety disorder. Even these horrifying statistics do not factor in the distressing, but non-clinical levels of anxiety experienced by many.
We can readily blame externals like job insecurity, house prices, family breakdown, international conflict and terrorism for this malaise. I suggest swirling beneath this is an unnamed spiritual anxiety. We have unresolved and often unnamed questions deep within our souls. Does my life have any meaning, how do I deal with a vague sense of guilt or unworthiness, how do I respond to all that seems wrong in the world, how can I find inner peace, how can I find lasting love, and if we simply live and die, what is the point of it all?
At Easter time we proclaim anew the ancient message: “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.”
Do not be afraid; because Jesus has absorbed guilt and shame through His death.
Do not be afraid; because through His resurrection Jesus promises eternal life
Do not be afraid; because Jesus has established a community of love.
Do not be afraid; because in joining with Christ your life has a staggeringly important purpose: redemption of the whole world as a place of peace and justice.
The Risen Christ met His disciples with the simple words “Peace to you”. My hope and prayer is that you will encounter the Risen Christ in a fresh and personal way this Easter, and experience deep inner peace through him.
THE CONGREGATIONAL FEDERATION OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
Dr Joe Goodall, moderator, The Congregational Federation of Australia and New Zealand
THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN
According to tradition, when in 1781 the British surrendered to the Americans at the Siege of Yorktown in the War of Independence the British band played a tune: The World Turned Upside Down. No wonder: with the defeat of their powerful army by an irregular bunch of colonist rebels their world had indeed turned upside down.
While the song was appropriate to the occasion, it was written 150 years previously as a protest when the English Parliament outlawed traditional English Christmas celebrations. In England of the 1640s and 50s the world had been turned upside down, with civil war, a king executed, and all the familiar landmarks or society and religion swept away.
"Jesus’ world was a world turned upside down. He rejected at the start of his ministry a material path in favour of teaching leading to His final sacrifice."
But the accusation “They have turned the world upside-down” was not invented then either. It appears in the Bible, when Paul and Silas were preaching in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9). There was a riot. "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also...and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus."
You can see why the Roman world was confused about the Christians. They refused to accept a Caesar, ruler of the known world who protected and fed them as their saviour, claiming for their saviour an unheard-of convicted and executed criminal from an obscure province. They claimed to belong to a kingdom that no-one could see.
Jesus’ world was a world turned upside down. He rejected at the start of his ministry a material path in favour of teaching leading to His final sacrifice. He would not accept a worldly crown or resort to public stunts to impress people. “Away from me, Satan!” He said. “For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:10) Physical presence did not impress Him. When He was shown the splendor of the buildings in Jerusalem, He saw beyond them. “There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." (Matthew 24: 2) For Him, the adulations of Palm Sunday were bitter because the praises of the crowd were unimportant. The humiliation and pain of crucifixion were a triumph because His death led to eternal life.
If the world around us today seems dominated by suffering, injustice and pain, if the forces of hate and fear seem to be overwhelming tolerance and acceptance, we should not be swept up in the emotions of the moment. We should have the moral courage to stand forth and call things for what they are: life destroying, hope destroying, evils that divide communities and countries and paralyse people who would do good if they could overcome the fear.
May we like Jesus turn our world upside down.
THE SALVATION ARMY
Floyd J Tidd, Commissioner, national commander, The Salvation Army
It’s good to come back once again to Easter, to the days that changed our world. To share again the dreadfulness that is the suffering of Jesus, His betrayal and His abandonment. I particularly this year have a sense of the abandonment of Jesus. From the quiet word to Peter about His coming denial through to the loud cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
We know how easily we can slip down into a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. How quickly we resort to our fallen and flawed selves where we abandon people and divide ourselves up into “us and them”. Where we accept the thinking that people can’t change, the worst will happen, and that this is probably as good as it gets.
Is it not at Easter that we discover again the joy of knowing this isn’t true? Where we witness the strength and power of Jesus; in his choices, His words, and His actions? Lasting power, real victory, comes from seeming weakness and defeat. We can be changed, people can be healed, and all things are coming together. Perhaps gradually, perhaps painfully, but all things are coming together.
It’s good to come back once again to Easter, to share the days that continue to change us and change our world.
This Easter, may we receive a fresh revelation of all God is and all we can be in Christ Jesus. As a result, may we choose again to see the image of God in the most broken of people, and believe that the Creator God redeems all things. May we rest in His love, and find hope and confidence for the unknown days ahead.
UNITING CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA
Stuart McMillan, president, Uniting Church in Australia
SHARE THE LOVE OF GOD
In John 13 we read that in the hours before He was crucified Jesus shared a meal with His close followers, His friends, and during this meal He washed their feet, this was done as a selfless act of love. In this Easter story we are reminded of the full extent of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.
"The Easter story is an outrageous love story of a Creator God who wants to reconcile the brokenness of his creation and to make peace. The Risen Crucified One accomplishes this."
The Easter story is an outrageous love story of a Creator God who wants to reconcile the brokenness of his creation and to make peace. The Risen Crucified One accomplishes this. God’s love compels us to put the needs of others first, to love as God loves, and to serve. God invites us to do likewise through selfless action and radical hospitality that enables reconciliation and healing.
Easter is a time for new beginnings for each of us personally. It is also an opportunity for our nation to compassionately reframe and renew policy approaches for those in need: like single parent families, as the Senate was so poignantly reminded in recent weeks; for asylum seekers and refugees; for sovereign First Peoples; and in so many other ways to share with greater equity and in a spirit of generosity, the wealth of this lucky country.
I pray we each take every opportunity to share the love of God, shown us in Christ, with others. On behalf of the Uniting Church in Australia I wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy Easter.