“At Easter we’re not grieving the dead, but celebrating life and hope”

EASTER MESSAGES
Friday 25 March 2016

This Good Friday, take some time to reflect on what Australian Christians have in common: a crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus. Here are 15 Easter messages from the leaders of major denominations in Australia:

Philip Freier, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Australia
Paul Saliba, Archbishop, Antiochian Orthodox Church
Keith Jobberns, National Ministries Director, Australian Baptist Ministries
Wayne Alcorn, National President, Australian Christian Churches
Greg Clarke, CEO, Bible Society Australia
Denis J. Hart, President, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
James Kwang, Bishop, Chinese Methodist Church in Australia
Janet Woodlock, Federal Coordinator, Churches of Christ in Australia
Joe Goodall, Moderator, Congregational Federation of Australia and New Zealand
Anba Daniel, Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Church
John Henderson, Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia
James Condon, Commissioner, Australia Eastern Territory, Salvation Army
Stuart McMillan, President, Uniting Church in Australia
Keith Garner, CEO, Wesley Mission
Glenn Davies, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Sydney

Philip Freier, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Australia

Back to top

Paul Saliba, Archbishop, Antiochian Orthodox Church
Every deed of Christ is a reason to glorify His Church. But the greatest of all Glory, is in the Cross and Resurrection, knowing this, St Paul wrote: “but far be it from me to Glory except in the Cross of our Lord.”

The 0rthodox Church, in her Liturgical and Spiritual life, never separates the Cross of Christ from the mystery of His Resurrection. She sees the Cross in the light of the Resurrection and the Resurrection as the victory of the Cross.

In our everyday life, the Resurrection should not be only a commemoration of an historical event, because the Cross did not produce a joy that lasted only one day. It permeates all the days of our lives, and through it, our lives are renewed , liberating us from sin and death “If anyone is in Christ, he is a New Creation. The Old has passed away, the New has come (1 1Cor 5: 15).

Christ died “for our sin”.

“He gave Himself as a ransom for all”.

“He died that we might never die”.

“He was buried, it was not His “seeming death” “But death could not keep its prey”.

“He tore the Bars away, for the sin, laden humanity of today, there is no other message but His”.

Many have been crucified throughout the history of mankind but by none of these are the devils scared. All the others died for their own sins, but Christ died for the sins of others. I confess the Cross because I know of the Resurrection; “For, after being crucified, He has remains as He was.

The Cross, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ are of great importance in the history of our Salvation. Without them, the Incarnation of the Son of God has no meaning. This is why the Cross is called “Life Giving” and the Resurrection is the source of joy in the entire life of the Church.

He has said: “Because I live, you shall live also”. We rest upon His word and rejoice in hope of the Glory of the Resurrected Christ.

The Lord has spoken to many of you. He is inviting you every day of your life to celebrate Pasha with Him. He is waiting for you with an open heart. Do not leave the celebration of this year, leaving Him and His Church behind you until next year.

Let the Resurrected One use you as a vessel for His Divine Purposes. Let the One who is risen, live in your hearts. Let yourself be able to sing every day, every moment of your life: “Christ is Risen . . .”
To all of you, May His light that lightened that night, lighten your life and your families ‘.

Back to top

Keith Jobberns, National Ministries Director, Australian Baptist Ministries
George Megalogenis released his new book “Australia’s Second Chance” late last year. It is subtitled ‘what our history tells us about our future’.

In highlighting the current anxiety in society about our future economic development he points to a previous period in Australia’s history that saw a rate of economic growth that was the envy of the world at that time.

In a way that shadows the issue of national economic development there also is an observable growing anxiety about how to build a better personal future.

It also is predicated on the question of a second chance. Is there a way to have a fresh start, a new beginning? It is as though our personal questions have coalesced around the communal hope for a way forward out of the mess of our current situation. Our media regularly carries the images of this anxiety on the faces of refugees behind barbed wire, the bruises of relationships breaking down, the tears of earlier childhood abuse, the isolating impact of racial hatred. Our heartfelt response is that there has to be a better way, the possibility of recovery, a second chance.

Easter remains as an integral part of the fabric of our contemporary Australian society because it points to the moment in history when there was a profound demonstration of the possibility for a second chance. Out of the darkness of tragedy, injustice, despair and failure there is a bright light of hope.

The Easter celebration is a reminder that humans have been given a second chance. The Easter narrative records that in Jesus, and through relationship with Him we can find freedom from the shackles of fear, acceptance despite our faults and the opportunity to begin anew with God and our fellow humans.

No matter how broken, how malevolent, how desperate we are, our lives can be liberated through Jesus Christ. Easter is about new beginnings – resurrection – bringing that which is dead back to life, hope in the midst of hopelessness, peace in the midst of conflict and joy in the midst of despair. Easter is about second chances.

The celebration of Easter begins with the surrender of our struggles at the foot of the Good Friday Cross and allowing the message of Sunday’s Resurrection to speak into our lives to bring wholeness and new life. Easter is the celebration of the second chance.

Back to top

Wayne Alcorn, National President, Australian Christian Churches
The hope and certainty of Easter stands in stark contrast to the doubt and cynicism that defines the modern era.

Society has become jaded by those in positions of influence and power who make bold statements, only to retract them at a later stage. But statements made at the time of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – though challenged – have never been retracted.

The death of Jesus is central to the Christian faith. There are many historical facts surrounding His crucifixion and it is interesting that the Gospel writers pay much more attention to Jesus’ death, than to His birth. This is because He was born to die for us all.

It is His resurrection that separates Jesus from every other religious leader throughout history. His grave remains empty, because He rose from the dead. Followers of Christ at the time were so convinced of this fact that they were prepared to die, rather than deny it.

There are two statements in Easter story that have never been retracted:

‘It is finished.’ This means I can have certainty that my past is forgiven.

‘He is risen.’ This enables me to live energised by hope for the future. As one old songwriter put it, ‘Because He lives, I can face tomorrow’.

We are all looking for certainty in these uncertain times. Easter offers us a wonderful opportunity to stop and ponder the reasons for real hope, found only in Jesus Christ.

Back to top

Greg Clarke, CEO, Bible Society Australia

Back to top

Denis J. Hart, President, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

Back to top

James Kwang, Bishop, Chinese Methodist Church in Australia
Our CMCA theme for 2016 is “Growing in Scriptural Holiness”. We rejoice that the Lord who is holy has “called us for holiness.”

Scriptural holiness is founded on what God, in his marvellous love, has done for us, is doing in us, and will complete in us. He sent his only Son to die for our sins. What a joy to know that God has raised his Son from the dead! Sin conquered by death, but thanks to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! By the power of the Resurrection, he enables us to work out our salvation and grow in holiness as he continues to sanctify us with his Holy Spirit. The day will come when we shall also be raised from the dead and see him face to face. And then “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” He who calls us is faithful, and he will do it. Hallelujah!

As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, let us rejoice in his victory over sin and death. And may the love of the Father so fill our hearts that our every thought is for holiness.

Back to top

Janet Woodlock, Federal Coordinator, Churches of Christ in Australia
A little over a year ago, my sister passed away after a long journey of living with cancer. She was one of those remarkable people who could find joy in the simplest things, who had an extraordinary number of deep friendships, whose life was characterised by kindness and generosity. We were close. I miss her.

The stark truth is that death is inevitable. The last time I checked the statistics for human mortality, it was running at 100%. Our friends die. Our family members die. We will die.
For those of us with faith in Christ, this stark truth does not lead us to despair. Through the eyes of faith, life is pregnant with resurrection hope. We may mourn in the death of those we love, but we hold on to the promise of a joyful reunion. Our lives matter for now; our service and love stretches out into eternity.

May Paul’s words to the Corinthians encourage you this Easter:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time….Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep… Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. (I Corinthians 15: 3 – 6, 20, 58)

Back to top

Joe Goodall, Moderator, Congregational Federation of Australia and New Zealand
Dark before the Dawn

It’s hard to imagine the despair of Jesus’ followers on the Friday night he was crucified. Did they manage sleep that night? Did they sit huddled together in one place for comfort or did they scatter?

At the beginning of the week they had been on top of the world, escorting their leader through the streets of Jerusalem while the crowds of pilgrims, visitors, residents and strangers chanted and waved palm leaves. Jesus was the Messiah and had come to claim his crown. For the next few days there was excitement and turmoil as Jesus went very publicly head to head with the Temple.

And then – disaster! A night time arrest, a morning trial and by afternoon, death. It had all collapsed in less than twenty-four hours.

As that Saturday wore on, there would have been the realisation that yesterday was real and not a horrible dream. And the realisation that they too were in the firing line, possible targets to be hunted down and punished, even executed. Shock, grief, despair, confusion, terror. The end of the dream.

But it was not the end, as we know, because Sunday followed Saturday and resurrection followed death. It was not a resurrection that resumed life from where it left off, but one that unleashed unimagined power. As Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Our darkest times, our moments of greatest despair, will end. The light will shine again, not to bring a return to the way things were but to bring a new beginning and a new enriched life. We should not only hold onto this promise for ourselves but carry the message of hope to others.

May we all be renewed and transformed this Easter. May we in turn renew and transform others. May we bring light in the darkness and hope where there is none. May we be the resurrection.

Back to top

Anba Daniel, Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Church
Christ is Risen, Truly He is Risen!!

It gives me great pleasure to wish all of you the blessings of the Glorious Feast of the Resurrection, in which we celebrate the Resurrection and victory of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ, as well as our liberation from the bondage to evil and death.

I wish to reflect with you on a verse which St. Paul the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians, “Now thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14).

The procession of Christ’s victory is the procession of His suffering, by which He was triumphant over Satan. Our Lord Jesus Christ walked the road of the Passion, which began with His arrest on the Eve of Friday. It was followed by His trials and sufferings, which He endured until the Crucifixion.

Let us rejoice in our Living Christ, who always leads us in the procession of His triumph, regardless of the surrounding circumstances. We are always peaceful and assured that our life is not in human hands, but in the hands of our living, strong and powerful Christ, who died, resurrected and lives to rule over the living and the dead. Let us remember the saying of St. Paul the Apostle, “For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” (Romans 14:7-9).

May our Risen Lord bless and protect our beloved Australia, its people and Government.

May the joy and light of the Risen Christ fill your lives and families with many spiritual blessings and grace.

Back to top

John Henderson, Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia
In Australia Easter is marked by a much anticipated long weekend, a well-deserved break from daily work. Rest and relaxation are important so we can spend time on important things like family and friendships.

This weekend, among all the holiday makers, many millions of Christians will attend worship services. In most places these services will start on Thursday night and run through to Sunday morning, the three days of Easter. We will journey with Jesus in his passion. We will return to the tomb in the early morning. We will be bathed with hope and immersed in God’s promise. Death’s grief will mingle with the joy of being truly alive. We will be reconnected with ourselves, each other, and with God who loves us.

Right across the country, church doors will be open for business more than usual. In some there will be ancient dramas and majestic liturgies. Others will resound with modern praise music. A few will be bathed in quiet contemplation. Styles will vary. There will be churches with brilliant music and choirs and there will be churches struggling to get it all together. Whatever the externals, each will have the same heart of faith, which is the gift of God.

I pray that this Easter Australians of all backgrounds might find the opportunity and the motivation to seek a place in one of those church communities and there rediscover life and our reason for being.

Back to top

James Condon, Australia Eastern Territory, Salvation Army
SUNDAY – what’s so special about today?
The days of the week often blur into each other. They are not as distinct as they used to be especially when we are so busy.
So what’s special about today – Easter Sunday?
I connect with God through His creation. I love watching the sun rise as the darkness of the night gives way to the morning sun.
A new day to live – to love and to laugh – and to serve.
As the sun rises on Easter Sunday, I am reminded of the One who said “I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in darkness.”
Jesus the Light of the world offers us hope to dispel the darkness of our lives. Real hope in the darkness of ruptured relationships.
Hope for those with shattered dreams, broken homes
Hope for those who have lost their job
Hope for those who have an empty faith
And most importantly hope for a life beyond death.
Easter Sunday – it really is special – it represents new life, a new day, a new hope, death defeated and victory is mine.
My destiny is secure.

Back to top

Stuart McMillan, President, Uniting Church in Australia

Back to top

Keith Garner, CEO, Wesley Mission
As Australians eat their hot cross buns and chocolate eggs this Easter, many will do so alone. While one in four Australians live alone and an increasing number choose to, many are forced to do so because of circumstances beyond their control. Loneliness ensues. This is a concern, as people look afresh at the Easter message of the suffering of Jesus Christ and his resurrection. It is against this background that we must understand our message of Easter hope.

Loneliness is one of those experiences which burden many. In recent times the silent and lonely deaths of older Australians have made headlines and created much public discussion.

To live in a sprawling city or community knowing that people can die without other folk realising – or even caring – continues to shock us. As the proportion of older Australians grows and our communities lose their sense of connectedness, we will no doubt see more of this problem.

For some people a lonely death is a concern for another generation. Yet our grief is often hidden, masking our personal anxiety about our future and veiling our own sense of loneliness. None of us want to be forgotten or discarded and all of us want to be cherished, valued and loved.
While some people choose to live alone, loneliness is often a painful and restless experience. In fact we must remember that it is possible for people to live with the appearance of a happy family life or enjoy a successful career and yet be torn apart with loneliness. In our major cities and towns, isolation and loneliness is common.

Each day and throughout this Easter, Wesley Mission will reach out and care for thousands of people who are lonely and isolated: the homeless mum and her children, the older Australian in a nursing home who has no family, the child who can no longer live with their family because of violence, the woman who has been abandoned and has nowhere to live, and the grieving rural parent who has lost a child to suicide.

Throughout his time amongst us, Jesus encountered and embraced those who were lonely, forgotten and abandoned. Yet on the cross at Easter, he faced the reality of apparent aloneness, nowhere more clearly and painfully. It was in a Nazi prison cell that Dietrich Bonhoeffer decided “only the suffering of God can help.”

The good news is that Jesus enters into our suffering.

His whole life spoke of the unbroken relationship with God that helped him face the opposition of foes and the desertion of friends who thought his death was the end of his story. Those who went to his tomb on Easter Sunday found it empty. Hope was almost lost as his downhearted followers were overwhelmed with grief and abandonment. Then came Sunday and the promises made by Jesus Christ made sense as he appeared to hisfriends. It is reassuring to know that the hope of Easter comes in the midst of people whose lives had been shattered and who were not expecting anything.

The tragic aspect of modern loneliness is compounded by the fact that God does not want us to experience it. He created us for relationships and wants us to reach out to him and others. When Jesus met his followers after Easter Sunday and offered his final farewell to his friends, he assured them that he would always be with them – even to the end of life.

This Easter I encourage you to reach out and embrace this real and living hope and extend compassion to others, knowing that Jesus will always be our ever present friend no matter what life has in store for us.

Back to top

Glenn Davies, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Sydney

Easter Message 2016 from Sydneyanglicans.net on Vimeo.

Comments are closed.