Easter 2013 Messages from Australian Church Leaders
Easter is running into the unexpected
The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. ...Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; (John 20:4-8).
The first century events that are recalled at Easter are filled with people being met by the unexpected. Jesus repeatedly surprised people with the unexpected, talking to the outcast and healing the sick. These events started to open people’s eyes to see Jesus as one who transforms situations. Then when he raised his friend Lazarus to life it pointed to what was to come. That first Easter morning as the disciples went to the tomb to grieve for their friend they ran up the path into the unexpected. The grave clothes lay there and Jesus was not.
Today we also encounter the unexpected yet as people of faith we know how often that leads to situations being transformed. Easter reminds us that when all hope appears lost the unexpected happens.
An ancient Easter prayer of the church says;
“You destroyed death by the Cross,
you opened Paradise to the Thief,
the Myrrh-bearers’ lament you transformed,
and ordered your Apostles to proclaim,
that you had risen, Christ our God,
granting to the world your great mercy.”
This Easter run with Peter and John welcoming the unexpected. Easter tells the good news that Jesus is not dead but he is risen! The National Council of Churches in Australia wishes all a healthy and holy Easter.
Reverend Tara Curlewis, General Secretary
National Council of Churches in Australia
(Note: In the Western Church, the date of Easter this year is Sunday 31 March. Most Orthodox Churches will celebrate Easter this year on Sunday 5 May, based on the Julian calendar.)
Anglican Church of Australia
“The Easter story of life and death is not an ancient story with an out-dated message. It is not a fairytale. It is very much a story of and for today, a story lived out day by day in church communities and more broadly.
The reality of a man in his prime who gave up his life for others finds brutal echoes in funerals I’ve led for Australian diggers – themselves honourable, brave men, also in their prime - who gave up their lives for others.
On our streets, too, life and death wage war. Everyday battles are endured by the homeless, the poor and the sick. Sometimes people are supported into new and safe lives and sometimes death comes, despite the efforts of many, doctors, nurses and welfare professionals included. Church hostels reach out to people living with HIV/AIDS and to those dying from it.
Several decades of abuse scandals have shattered victims and marred the genuine good done by so many faith communities. In tackling these crimes, we have seen the death of denial and the slow rebirth of proper responses, including mandatory reporting to police.
The Easter message of life’s triumph over death is as real today as it was in Jesus’ time. We see again and again that the darkness of struggle and pain, injury, loss and challenge, is not the end. Easter is for us all. And it begins in love.”
The Most Rev’d Dr Phillip Aspinall
Primate, Anglican Church of Australia
Australian Baptist Ministries
The Hope of Easter
David Malouf’s interesting article on “Contentment” (The Age March 12 2013), brings a perspective on the world’s current pandemic of anxiety and depression. He maintains that with space exploration in the 1970’s, human beings who previously felt connected to a small village or suburban community, now had an image from space of living on a small and fragile planet. He said, “The experience made us too, feel small.”
The awareness of “smallness” in people tends to extrapolate into vulnerability and fear and with good cause. Most of us experience negative emotional responses to the plethora of human and environmental abuse that floods our media, and whether it gears us into angry social action or immobilises us with powerless depression, we are impacted. Many people are just plain sad at the demise of a sense of future. The family, cultural, financial and military, bulwarks we once counted on to keep us safe and content are under threat of change and extinction. Where then is the hope we need to keep on?
As Easter approaches the Christian world celebrates the life of Jesus who understood the human need for hope. Every time He healed a disabled or dying person, He restored hope. His life of wisdom and goodness gave a glimpse to the watching crowds, that life could be different if there was an alignment with His values.
Jesus Christ’s life and self-sacrificing death as a ransom for fallen humanity allowed mankind to have renewed relationship with God. Then when He conquered death in the resurrection He gave amazing hope to those who witnessed and heard about it. There was hope for a new meaningful way of living, hope for a connection with a loving God and hope for an amazing life beyond the horror of the grave.
Are human beings being infected by anxiety, fear and depression? Yes indeed! But there is an antidote and it comes in the form of knowing and believing that Jesus stepped into this small planet to transform our lives because of His profound love for all of us.
Rev Keith Jobberns, National Ministries Director
Australian Baptist Ministries
Australian Christian Churches
Celebrating Extravagant Love
Someone once said that you can give without loving but you cannot love without giving.
Easter is a magnificent celebration of love in action – the giving of an incredible gift that demonstrates God’s extravagant love for us.
This is the time when we stop and remember how God gave us His son, Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a sinless life, yet he died for every one of us who is marked with sin. Having given his all on that rugged cross, they took him down and put him in a tomb.
It didn’t end there. On the third day he rose from the dead and this is why Christians have a reason to celebrate Easter. It is the same resurrection power and extravagant love that impacts our lives today.
It’s worth stopping and thinking about the depth and breadth of God’s love for us. Our prayer is that this Easter, you will find the true meaning and wonderful love that is behind the Easter story.
Wayne Alcorn, National President
Australian Christian Churches
Catholic Church in Australia
My dear Friends,
With the approach of Easter there is time for reflection, for family and for each other. On Good Friday, Easter remains an inspiring hope. At Easter, that hope is turned into reality.
We cannot live without Easter because we are made for God, for hope and for love. Jesus’ rising from the dead shows us that for the Christian death is not the end. Our capacity for life opens out into what God can make us and helps us to overcome the sorrow and limitations of daily living, to know that we live for God and for each other.
As Pope Francis recently reminded us we are all on a journey, walking in the light of the Lord; we are invited to build up the family of the Church and to make our public confession of Christ crucified the motivation of all that we do on our journey. We walk in the presence of the Lord with his cross. By making this the centre of our lives we will go forward together.
May this Easter bring you a surety and hope that God is with you, that his love encircles you and that he is leading you on your journey. May the risen Lord be with you always.
Archbishop Denis J Hart, President
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Chinese Methodist Church
A Living Saviour
The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is described as the hinge event of the Church for very good reasons. The true Light always overcomes the darkness. In the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we know that the power of sin has been broken, and we can live in the knowledge and experience that we are no longer slaves to sin. In the Risen Saviour, we know that the sting of sin has been overpowered, and we shall rise again from the dead and be with the Lord forever. We serve a Lord who has been and remains walking “with us” through all the ups and downs of our life. In the living Saviour, the face of God has been revealed, “full of grace and truth”, to us mortal men so that we no longer have to grope to know who he is. Looking to the living example of the Risen Lord, we are inspired to live as he has lived, in wholehearted love for and total obedience to God, and in humility, compassion and grace.
Let this Easter remind us that we serve a Risen Saviour and Living Lord. In Him, we know that our true calling is to live holy lives and represent the holy face of God to the world.
Bishop Dr James Kwang
Chinese Methodist Church in Australia
The Congregational Federation
One event separates the Christian from the non-Christian: the resurrection. Belief in the resurrection is a leap of faith that Christians make.
Jesus’ resurrection was a controversial topic at the time, not because it was dismissed as a story but because of the thought that it could be possible. Jesus had said that he would die and rise from the dead. It was an outrageous claim but in the midst of what he had been saying and doing, and in the emotions of the time, it started to seem plausible.
So when Jesus had been crucified his body was placed in a tomb that was sealed and guarded by soldiers. As long as the body was still there, no one could believe that he had come back to life. With the body gone, all sorts of claims could be made – and believed. As we know, the body did vanish and the rumours did spread but the Jewish religious leaders knew the truth and had to suppress it quickly. Matthew’s gospel tells us that they bribed the guards to say that it was stolen “and this story has been spread … to this day.”
But another story was spread and survived and is believed by far more people, not to Matthew’s day but to ours, that as implausible as the thought was, Jesus had indeed risen. It goes totally against all reason, all logic, everything we know about science. Yet we have ask ourselves, why is it that Jesus’ followers were so convinced that someone had not pulled a confidence trick on them?
Why did they not only spread his teachings but leave their old lives to do so? What moved them to persist in the face of hardship, persecution and torture? Why were they so sure that they were willing to pay with their lives rather than abandon their conviction that Jesus was the living messiah?
Jesus had indeed risen. He lived in them and he lives in us, and we live in his promise of eternal life.
Dr Joe Goodall, Moderator
The Congregational Federation of Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand
Coptic Orthodox Church
Diocese of Sydney and Affiliated Regions
Feast of the Resurrection 2013
Christ is Risen ………………… Truly He is Risen!!
We rejoice in the Resurrection of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Indeed today is the day which the Lord has made. The Resurrection of Christ is not just a historical event, but is a living event which we live and rejoice in. The Resurrection of Christ is the resurrection of all of us, as St. Paul said, “Even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:5-6).
We were dead because of trespasses, and we were under the sentence of death and the control of Satan, the evil enemy. Who can liberate man from this bitter bondage? The Lover of mankind, our Lord Jesus Christ, through His incarnation, death on the Cross and Resurrection, liberated us from slavery to sin and ended the power of the evil enemy over us. He granted us a new life, since He is the One who said, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin……Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:34, 36).
Our resurrection with Christ means that we live the new life, as St. Paul the Apostle said, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”(Colossians 3:1).
The new life in Christ means:
First: the death of the old man. St. Paul the Apostle said, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5).
Second: that we put on the new man, “that you put on the new man, which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24); that we put on the Lord Jesus, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts.” (Romans 13:14); and that our life agrees with our calling, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long suffering.” (Colossians 3:12).
Let us pray to our Risen Lord that He may grant us the gift of discernment to lead a life of holiness and righteousness, so that we may have a share to sit with Him in the heavenly places. Let us pray for our beloved country Australia, its people and government and for the peace of the entire world.
The Grace of the Lord be with us all.
Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Sydney and Affiliated Regions
Indian Orthodox Church
“This is to us a Feast of feasts and a Solemnity of solemnities as far as exalted above all others as the Sun is above the stars.” St. Gregory Nazianzen.
We have got another opportunity to celebrate the Resurrection of our Saviour Lord Jesus Christ. This holy day is the first of the Sabbaths and the feast of feasts which far exceeds all events and festivals in life. Christ gave birth to the creature through His death and redeemed the Church through His Resurrection. His suffering and death have been accepted voluntarily in order to bring about the redemption of Adam and our liturgy emphasizes that Hades was broken open in the process of rescuing Adam who represents us.
Resurrection brings light and joy to the whole creation and it bears its fruit in reconciliation and forgiveness. Christ descended into hell in order to deliver the souls and to bring light to those in darkness and life to the dead. He was sent by God the Father to bring about reconciliation to the foes, unite the scattered, humble the proud, eliminate greed, jealousy, strife and to bring about a total transformation to the entire cosmos just like converting plain water into the wine of best quality.
The entry of Jesus into the Hades and the redeeming of souls is sometimes picturised by our Forefathers as the entry into one's own heart wherein the depths and powers of one’s heart and soul are laid open to the light of Christ, to His healing love and forgiveness and are transformed by Christ. Our heart is like a tomb where our thoughts, intellect are buried and imprisoned in the darkness of sin which can be released only by the true light. The choice is ours, whether to keep our heart open for our Lord or to remain in darkness whether to comply to the worldly standards or with the spiritual standard. It is indeed a challenge which requires an active response and a continuous effort and it can be obtained only by treading the path laid down by Christ.
It is very unfortunate the present day world is unfit to dwell which is only becoming worse as the days progress. Every second day we are awaken by the news of violence against women, hatred, strife, pain, substance abuse and the list goes on. The root cause for most of the problems is the self-centred attitude. Man has become so selfish that he has shrunk to himself and there is no space for the other. This attitude is present in almost all the cases and man is only aiming to quench the individual selfish desires by even resorting to unethical illegal means. This situation should be transformed and that can become possible only through the absolute submission of one’s body, mind and soul so that the human heart is released to respond in love and adoration to the Saviour who takes us by the hand and lead us into the Heavenly Kingdom. This is the message of Easter where the entire Cosmos is transformed into New Heaven and New Earth.
Wishing you all a Blessed and a Happy Easter.
May the Risen Lord rejuvenate and rekindle the light within us.
May God Bless You.
Dr Yuhanon Mar Diascoros, Metropolitan
Indian Orthodox Church
Lutheran Church of Australia
It is of benefit that churches and service clubs are active in matters of peace and wellbeing, locally and internationally. Where health and education are high on the agenda and some hope is evident among the less fortunate in the world then good comes.
For Christians, however, there is a unique reason to live and hope beyond dreams, aspirations and wishful thinking. At the very core of life, not subjected to proof, the weight of probability, belief or unbelief, is the action of God in Christ, celebrated in the event we now call Easter.
Easter morning began as a dreadful start to a day. Hopes had been dashed with the demise of the touted ‘messiah’, the saviour of the world, the glimmer of hope at least for a small band of followers.
Death had its way and there was no coming back. And then the inconceivable. ‘He is risen’.
Nothing has changed history like Christ risen from the dead. Now there is real hope. The death barrier is broken. Those who die of starvation, disease or who lie lifeless in ditches after a tragic road accident, have hope beyond this life.
Across the world in worship, the unique and central reason for the church to exist, the message will be heard and celebrated.
‘It’s good to be alive’, takes on a whole new meaning.
We now have the blessing to rise with Christ when our time comes.
That is why he did it.
Rev’d Dr Michael P Semmler, President
Lutheran Church of Australia
Presbyterian Church of Australia
Just before he died Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24).
Jesus is the Seed who falls dead into the ground, but rises up new to produce MANY seeds. His death and resurrection is the pattern and prototype and power for MANY resurrections. Jesus is the Head of a new creation. He takes the old humanity down into the grave and He rises as Head of a new humanity.
Put another way – Jesus is like the needle going through the thick black cloth of suffering, judgement and death, bursting through the other side – taking with Him, the thread.
Anyone who trusts in Jesus is united to Him and takes the same path. And all who are united to Him by faith are raised with Him.
Easter Sunday is not just an example of new life. It is the pattern, the prototype, the power for cosmic resurrection.
The Right Reverend David Jones, Moderator General
Presbyterian Church of Australia
Seventh-day Adventist Church
Absolutely everyone loves a good news story - and all the more when that story involves us.
Easter is a good news story. And the story of Easter involves us.
But let’s first consider why we need a good news story Even in such a great a country as we have in Australia, normal life is infused with fear, sadness, loneliness and pain. And all that has at its core, sin. Every Australian, whether young or old, needs hope, peace and meaning. And the foundation to long lasting hope, peace and meaning is the story of Easter.
The good news Easter story is that the all-loving Creator God has Himself resolved the core problem facing the world while still providing for free choice. He has died for your and my sins. And He has risen from the grave, confirming the success of His venture to save us. Further, He has promised to come back for those who have freely chosen to accept His free salvation. This second coming will bring that salvation to its real time eternal conclusion. And with it never again will there be fear, sadness, loneliness or pain.
Now that’s good news! That is what Easter is all about.
Pastor K L Vogel, General Secretary
Seventh-day Adventist Church
The Salvation Army
Australia Eastern Territory
A GOD WHO BLEEDS
Blood brings life. We cannot physically exist without blood. The blood of Jesus makes eternal life possible.
As we approach this Easter time and look upon the crucified Christ, let us never forget that His blood flowed for us.
Isaiah 53:5 reminds us – “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed”.
Jesus is the God who bleeds – no one else could do it to bring salvation to a sinful world, and He did this, not for his own benefit but for every sinner.
The blood of Jesus brings forgiveness from sin and gives peace and joy and transforms the lives of those who accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
When our body is attacked by a virus, the white blood cells start to fight the virus. The blood of Jesus destroys Satan’s power and brings victory to those who trust Him. He protects them in the battle.
The blood of Jesus has power to deliver us from the bondage and guilt of sin and brings freedom and hope.
The blood of Jesus brings healing and cleansing.
We need the God who bleeds. Without His blood shed on the cross of Calvary we would still be in our sin without hope of eternal life.
The words of Andre Crouch’s song are still most relevant for today.
The blood that Jesus shed for me,
'Way back on Calvary;
The blood that gives me strength from day to day,
It will never lose its power.
As we worship the God who bleeds this Easter time, may we be thankful for the wonder working power of the Blood of Jesus.
James Condon, Commissioner
The Salvation Army: Australia Eastern Territory
Uniting Church of Australia
Because Christ is risen, we need never give up on the pursuit of justice and peace. Whatever the likelihood of immediate “success” in this or that particular struggle we persevere in hope and joy, assured that Christ, the risen crucified One, lives and reigns.
It is 1700 years since the Edict of Milan extended toleration to Christians. So this Easter I am especially conscious of Christian communities that are marginalised, discriminated against or suffer from injustice. I think of churches in parts of the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Pacific and their diaspora communities here in Australia. I remember too the pain of our sisters and brothers among the First Peoples of Australia and their continuing search for justice and reconciliation.
I invite you to join me in praying for these communities this Easter, and in reaffirming a commitment to work with them for the justice, peace and reconciliation promised in the resurrection of Jesus. For “he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead…in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:18-20).
Rev Professor Andrew Dutney, President
Uniting Church in Australia