Easter Messages from Leaders of the Christian Churches in Australia 2016
The National Council of Churches in Australia is pleased to publish Easter messages from Leaders of many of the Christian Churches in Australia.
Writing as they do each year, the Church leaders address the significance of Easter, the high point of the Christian calendar, the feast of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a season for rejoicing.
Many of the Church leaders reflect on the myriad challenges facing people in our society, sometimes leading to despair and hopelessness, even death. But they remind us that there is always hope, achieved for us by Jesus Christ who died on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.
Ultimately the leaders are calling people to recognise this Sunday is not an ordinary weekend, but a special celebration of peace, joy, love and hope in the resurrected Jesus.
The messages follow.
For more information, contact the NCCA Secretariat on 8259 0800.
Archbishop Philip Freier, Primate
The key to Easter – God’s love will endure
Easter is preceded by the long preparation period of Lent where Christians follow the example of Jesus' 40 days of prayer and fasting in the wilderness. For the many who take this seriously, and observe disciplines of prayer, fasting and generosity over Lent, it is a freely chosen spiritual commitment.
In much of the world, far more serious deprivation is a constant and lived reality: human evil abounds, we see evidence of it daily. For many in the world, suffering and deprivation are constant realities.
Has Easter anything to say to human evil? And if it has, what does it tell us?
On Good Friday, evil deals its merciless hand. Jesus Christ in the face of this utters the words of the peace-maker and reconciler: "turn to them the other cheek", "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you".
Nonetheless he is unjustly condemned to death by the cruel torture of crucifixion. Why then, 'Good Friday'? Surely in this death we must confront the possibility that evil has triumphed? What, too, do we make of our readiness to concede power and victory to evil?
'Good Friday' is appropriate because in his cruel death, Jesus takes evil into himself and demonstrates his triumph over it by rising from death two days later on Easter Day.
Good Friday can be claimed to be 'good' because the untold tragedy and trauma of evil is shown not to have the final word. Rather, Easter Day, the day of Resurrection, celebrates that Christ overcomes death. Life triumphs, evil does not have the last word. In Christ's Easter drama, justice and mercy are firmly grounded in our human experience.
In the narrative of Holy Week, we see the love that suffers: God's decision to engage human evil, the victory of divine love, evil's inevitable defeat and God's offer of peace.
Can the Easter love that suffers be God's rescue of our humanity and invitation to join in divine peacemaking with the accompanying presence of God?
Easter cries, “Yes!”
The darkness of human evil is all around, as always, but it is confronted in the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday, and overcome in his resurrection on Easter Day.
This biblical truth, which we celebrate week by week but especially at Easter, invites us not to lose courage in the face of human cruelty or to lose hope on account of the apparent triumph of evil and despair.
What is the resurrection promise of Easter Day? - God's love will endure and continue, no matter what. Christians look to Jesus' rising from the dead as not just an historic action but as the promise of his presence with us today – even in the worst of circumstances.
Believing and understanding this is the key to the peace of God that surpasses all understanding: the key to Easter.
Have a blessed and happy Easter.
ANTIOCHIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
Archbishop Paul Saliba, Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines
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 '.
AUSTRALIAN BAPTIST CHURCHES
Rev Keith Jobberns, National Ministries Director, Australian Baptist Ministries
EASTER THE SECOND CHANCE
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.
AUSTRALIAN CHRISTIAN CHURCHES
Wayne Alcorn, ACC National President
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.
CHINESE METHODIST CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA
Bishop Dr James Kwang
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.
CHURCHES OF CHRIST IN AUSTRALIA
Reverend Janet Woodlock, Federal Coordinator
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)
CONGREGATIONAL FEDERATION OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
Dr Joe Goodall, Moderator
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.
COPTIC ORTHODOX CHURCH
Bishop Daniel, Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church-Diocese of Sydney & Affiliated Regions
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.
INDIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
Dr. Yuhanon Mar Diascoros, Metropolitan of Madras, Australia and New Zealand
The Feast of Feasts
The Feast of Resurrection is the greatest of all Feasts for the Christians all over the world and it reminds us of the redemptive work of God to free us from the enslavement of death and sin. The Holy Immortal descended into the tomb out of His own will and broke the shackles of sin and death and emerged victorious. This is a time to rejoice and this is the day the Lord has made for us to rejoice the triumph of truth.
The Resurrection of Christ is the Resurrection of all of us and we become a new being. The old man filled with evil and all worldly things is put to death (Col 3:5) and a new man clothed with the spirit of Divinity and Holiness of God is born (Eph 4:24). When we are born anew the worldly things do not attract us anymore as the garment of darkness and lust is removed forever. Our journey through the Great Lent enabled us to participate spiritually in the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and we have become the Temple of God. It is our duty to preserve the sanctity of His dwelling place and not to defile it by our deeds. I would like to highlight the fact that quite often an individual falls into the trap of evil due to the lack of one’s discerning capability which is the gift of the Holy Spirit. The ability to judge between what is good and bad is very much a pre requisite to preserve the sanctity of the Temple. This Easter season when we rejoice in the Resurrection of our Saviour let us vow to ourselves that we do not get carried away by the worldly things and become defiled rather we use the discerning faculty and stay chaste all through our lives.
We are living in a world that is gradually becoming unsafe with hatred, war, unrest, corruption spreading rapidly. The lust and greed for wealth and authority is increasing amongst individuals and humane values are decreasing in individuals. The greatest message of Easter is Peace, as Christ promised His disciples “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (St. Jn 14:27). Jesus Christ through His Resurrection granted peace to the heavenly hosts and also bestowed it on the earthly beings. It is the peace that transcends uncertainties, disputes and all evil. It is the peace that fosters love and harmony amongst brethren. The Resurrection of Christ must illumine our lives more radiantly than the bright light of the rays of the sun, and kindle our hearts with the real Christian hope and spirit. There is absolutely nothing in this temporal world which can compensate for the joy one gets through the resurrection of Jesus.
This Easter Season let us hold onto the new life that we have acquired through the Resurrection of Christ and spread the divine peace given by our Saviour.
Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him.
Yesterday I died with Him; today I am made alive with Him.
Yesterday I was buried with Him; today I am raised up with Him.
Let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us ... ourselves, the possession most precious to God and most proper
-- St. Gregory The Theologian
LUTHERAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA
Bishop John Henderson 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.
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Archbishop Denis Hart, President, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Easter means that the God who came as a tiny babe at Christmas, in the full growth of his humanity on Good Friday, has given himself completely to the Father and on the third day rose again glorious and ever-living. Easter is the completion of the mystery of God’s love.
God loved the world by sending his only Son, inviting us to believe and have eternal life. Rising again from the dead is a great mystery given alone to us by God. To enter into the mystery means the ability to wonder; the ability to listen to the silence and to hear the tiny whisper amid great silence by which God speaks to us. Easter invites us not to be locked into ourselves, but to listen to God and see him speaking and accompanying every man, woman and child with the offer of his love and of eternal life.
We have been so conscious of wars, hatreds, the suffering of refugees and the burdens of many people through drugs and alcohol in our society. Yet God offers us another reality; that our hearts are made for God and they will only be happy when they rest in him as Saint Augustine said.
Today the great feast of Jesus rising from the dead is a new hope for all of us to live by the fact that God is near, to adore the God who comes to each of us, to respond joyfully and with hope to the invitation, which he gives us to live a new life, mindful always that here on earth we are on pilgrimage, on a journey to where Jesus will call us to be with him and with those we love in the destiny of heaven. “Jesus is risen, he is the light of the world, alleluia.”
THE SALVATION ARMY
Commissioner James Condon, Australia Eastern Territory
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.
SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH
Pastor Ken Vogel, General Secretary
What might the media have looked like around 2000 years ago?
Stop Press – The Jerusalem Age, Sunday evening edition
RAISED EYEBROWS AT RESURRECTION CLAIM
Jerusalem – Sunday
Witnesses today claim seeing Jesus of Nazareth alive!
Church and political leaders thought they had rid themselves of Jesus. The crucifixion this Friday just gone was meant to have dealt a death blow to this Rabbi and his growing movement.
But reports have come in, substantiated even by seasoned Roman soldiers, that Jesus has today risen from the grave. And this despite confirmation on Friday by the authorities that he was truly dead.
Before his own execution, John the Baptist had claimed that Jesus was the one that had been sent by God to save the world. Now, with these resurrection claims, even some church leaders are beginning to acknowledge that this Jesus might, in fact, be the Promised One.
A temple staffer has leaked information that authorities have begun an investigation. If they find even the slightest fabrication in the resurrection story, our readers will be the first to know.
Church, political and military authorities of the time never could find any evidence against the reality of the resurrection. Why? Because Jesus has truly risen! Jesus is truly the Saviour of the world!
UNITING CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA
Stuart McMillan, President
My Yolŋu friends use the expression liya marritjin meaning my mind is travelling. My mind as I reflect on the Easter story is travelling back to a garden, sometimes called Gethsemane or the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley outside the city walls. In 2014 I sat down among the one thousand year old olive trees looking across the Kidron Valley to the Judgement Gate in the wall of what today in Jerusalem is called the Old City. This place of all the holy places in that city was for me the place I most strongly connected with the presence of Jesus.
The book of Luke records Jesus going to this garden to pray before his arrest and crucifixion: “Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done...In anguish he prayed more earnestly and his sweat became drops of blood falling down on the ground.”
I’m drawn to the scene time and again, reflecting on the selfless choice of Jesus who was truly human and suffered as do you and I. Medical science has explained how in absolute anguish blood might come forth from our sweat glands. How did he make this choice for the sake of humanity? He did so trusting in God’s goodness and love, in God’s plan to reconcile and renew the whole of creation.
Do you trust in God’s goodness, love and reconciling, renewing purpose? I do and so my friends I seek to live selflessly as Jesus did. I fail often but this remembrance of Jesus, now made even more alive because I have sat in the garden, causes me to try again. This Easter may I encourage you to sit in a garden and remember the selfless way of Christ, and so be enabled to try again this way in your life.
Mägayamirri rom means “the way of peace and tranquility, harmony with the whole of creation, be with and within you.” in the Yolŋu languages of North East Arnhem Land.