Easter 2014 Messages from Church Leaders in Australia

Easter: the time to celebrate new beginnings

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay (Matthew 28:1-6).

Easter is the time to celebrate new beginnings. Easter commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and is the most significant Christian celebration. It is the time that is at the heart of Christianity. Good Friday recalls the death of Jesus on a cross and then being laid in a tomb. When his closest friends went to the tomb very early on the Sunday morning they encountered the unexpected and the news that Jesus was not there. Jesus had been raised from the dead.

Christians believe that Jesus was without sin and an innocent man sentenced to death on the cross. God in raising him from the dead showed all that Jesus had victory over death. God enables life, reconciles differences and upholds justice.

Reconciliation and justice are as important today as in the first century. Easter is a time for new life a time to reconcile differences with family or neighbour. Easter is a time to stand for justice;

for our first peoples,
the refugee and asylum seeker,
for children and
all whom society has marginalised.

This Easter celebrate new beginnings in relationships with others and God. 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: 1n 2014 both Western and Eastern rite Christians will celebrate Easter on Sunday 20 April.)

Armenian Apostolic Church

HE HAS RISEN; HE IS NOT HERE (Mark 16:6)

The angels’ words uttered to the women at the tomb of Jesus outside Jerusalem heralded the beginning of Christianity more than two thousands years ago.  These words as than to the first Christians, so now, transform all those who believe in the Risen Lord. Those mostly uneducated fishermen in order to save their skin fled and left their Master alone to suffer death on the cross. These same people however, encouraged and transformed by these words came forth bravely and without fear to proclaim the Good News of Resurrection. Their faith in the Risen Lord was so strong even persecution and death did not shake their belief in the risen Lord.

Christ trampled death by His death. Death for Christians is no more the hopeless Sheol, it’s force of utter darkness and oblivion was shattered by the light of Resurrection, so that St. Paul would write, “Where, o death, is your victory, where, o death, is your sting.”  (1 Cor. 15:55).

Resurrection of Jesus, freed men from the slavery of sin and from the bondage of Satan; it brought hope to humanity that even after death there is life in Christ.

As Christians we are called to be the children of light, let us put on the full armour of God so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11).

Through the resurrection of our Lord we have been given a new life, let us use that time not only to save ourselves but for mutual upbuilding and for the peace of the world.

Under the umbrella of NCC -Australia may all Christians in this country come worship the Risen Lord,  pray and work together in this special land blessed by God. May we be the true salt for all others so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend ..and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philip. 14:11-12).

Christ is risen from the dead, blessed is the resurrection of Christ

Bishop Haigazoun Najarian
Armenian Apostolic Church

Anglican Church of Australia

Easter celebrates Jesus’ victory over death. Before his accusers Jesus keeps silence; he does not resist the violence done to him, and he appears to go to the cross a victim. Yet in apparent defeat is revealed to be victory. In dying and rising Jesus triumphs over the powers of dehumanization. Jesus, the man of non-violence, triumphs over the violence of the world.

We are invited to become Easter people, sharing in the life of the risen Christ. As we break bread our eyes can be opened and we can catch a glimpse of the risen One. We dare to hope for the transformation of society which begins with the inner transformation of the individual. As the violence in our hearts falls away so the renewal of humanity itself becomes possible. We become an Easter people.

Yet this victory is seen by those with the eyes to see. It is known in faith. The powers of violence seem to rage in the church and the world. In Australia we continue to detain for indefinite periods people fleeing war and persecution, including around 1000 children.1  ‘Can this possibly be right or good?’ is a question more and more Australians are asking.

This Easter may we see again the Risen One and find a new vision of ourselves and our communities, a new moral courage, and a new humanity.
__________________________

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-31/children-in-detention-is-australia-breaching-international-law/5344022

The Most Rev’d Dr Phillip Aspinall
Primate, Anglican Church of Australia

Australian Baptist Ministries

One of the most life changing things you can experience is forgiveness. That is what Easter is all about.

Yes of course there is the break from the normal routines of life that the Easter holidays afford many of us. There is opportunity to meet with family and friends. However to miss that Easter is about forgiveness is to miss God’s gift of personal and communal transformation.

As Jesus hung on the cross at Calvary he prayed the remarkable prayer, “Father for give them for they don’t know what they are doing.”  It is only as we have been made right with God as we have sought and experienced the forgiveness that Jesus offers through his death and resurrection that we can offer forgives to others.  In the words of Martin Luther King,  “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.”

Might this Easter provide the opportunity for each of us to know the unmerited forgiveness that Jesus offers and then be courageous in offering forgiveness to those who have offended us. Genuine restoration and peace, both individually and communally can only come when Christ-like forgiveness is practiced.

Rev Keith Jobberns, National Ministries Director
Australian Baptist Ministries

Australian Christian Churches

As Christians prepare to celebrate Easter, many around the world may try to make sense of why the death of a man two thousand years ago is worth celebrating.

At first glance the Easter story seems paradoxical; that a loving Father would send His Son to die for a human race that did not return the love that it was shown. Though profound, we know it’s true and it’s reality has the power to change lives. So, as we come into this season, let’s take the time to stop and reflect on both the cross and the empty tomb, for they both carry a powerful message.

We look at the cross and we are filled with gratitude for our past has been dealt with. The sizeable debt of our sin has been cleared – paid in full by the life of God’s own Son. The Christian message, therefore, is not about what we have to do to please God, but rather about what has been done because He loves us. Sin and shame are a thing of the past because of Jesus’ sacrifice.

We look at the empty tomb and we are filled with hope, for our future is secured. Faith in the resurrection gives us hope for a new life; one where the Bible says “all things have become new”. It gives us hope for an empowered life because of the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. It gives us hope for eternal life – living with the confidence of life beyond the grave.

Two short sentences summarise this magnificent story.
From the cross, “It is finished” means my past can be forgiven.
At the empty tomb, “He is risen”, means my future is assured. I pray we all understand the magnitude of God’s love in a fresh and meaningful way this Easter.

Wayne Alcorn, National President
Australian Christian Churches

Catholic Church in Australia

Dear friends,

As we prepare to celebrate Easter, let us reflect on the period of Lent and how we may have taken the time to repent and reflect on our lives. With praise and then rejoicing in the Easter triduum, may we reflect upon Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Through the Easter triduum, the risen Lord shows us that good comes out of suffering through his conquering sin and evil by his death and resurrection on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

I encourage you to remember the hope in life that Jesus brings through the resurrection. He died so that we might all live free from sin.

In this Easter message, I’m drawn to the words of Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium; The Joy of the gospel.

“There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born out of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.” 

“With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards.”

I wish you all a joyful and blessed Easter.

Archbishop Denis J Hart, President
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

Chinese Methodist Church

“Be Faithful Witnesses”

Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. This is the truth. This is the sole reason for the existence, life and power of the church. 

As we know, there are truths that cannot be established upon mere circumstantial evidences, but require the united corroboration of truthful witnesses. God, in His wisdom, has provided us the united word of over five hundred witnesses who testify to this amazing truth of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3-11), witnesses who were willing to make the greatest sacrifices, witnesses who remained steadfast in the face of threats, persecution, and death. 

What the church needs today to accomplish her mission as a transforming force for the glory of God is our united and steadfast testimony to this life-changing truth.  If we truly believe in the Risen Lord, we must show our faith by the transformed way we live. So, this Easter and everyday of our lives, let us all take up the challenge to be witnesses to the Resurrection of our Lord through the faithful testimony of our godly words and deeds, as true disciples of Jesus Christ. May God be with us all.

Bishop Dr James Kwang
Chinese Methodist Church in Australia

The Congregational Federation

The Easter story is a remarkable one. It is wonderful that Jesus should die for other people whom he did not know, who were not even born at the time and who like us would not be born for another 2000 years. Would you make such a sacrifice? Do you know anyone who would?

But the real miracle of Easter is not death but resurrection. The resurrection conquers death. Consider how Jesus’ followers would have felt. Their hopes, dreams and aspirations had died on the cross with Jesus. The excitement of the last three years had turned to despair and confusion. They were afraid, on the run, expecting their own arrest and imprisonment – or worse. The party was over and the best they could do was go their separate ways to quietly pick up their own lives and put it all behind them.

But Jesus was not dead! He was alive and so were their grand plans and the things he had taught them. It was a revelation so stunning that they devoted the rest of their lives to carrying the news to the world. Jesus’ death did not inspire his disciples to carry his message forward. His resurrection did.

There is a message here for us. The resurrection shows that no matter how hopeless a situation may be, no matter how broken a relationship - whether it is between two people or two nations, it can be saved. Nothing is so destroyed it cannot be fixed, not as a repair but as a transformation. There is no such thing as “the end” unless we want it to be.

Dr Joe Goodall, Moderator
The Congregational Federation of Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand

Coptic Orthodox Church
Diocese of Sydney and Affiliated Regions

Christ is Risen, Truly He has Risen!!

It is my pleasure to wish all of you a glorious Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Today, we rejoice and are glad because Christ is risen and we have been raised with Him.
 
This is the Feast of feasts, and it is the day which David the Prophet referred to as, "This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24).
 
On this joyful Feast, let us listen with pure hearts, prepared to obey St. Paul's exhortation to the Colossians, "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 minds on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:1-3).
 
The new life is led by a new mind, a mind that seeks what is above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. It is a mind that is not concerned with the earthly, but rather with the heavenly.
 
The new mind sees how God's hand has created everything with wisdom, for, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament show His handiwork." (Psalm 19:1).
 
The new mind sees liberty, not as freedom from God's commandments, but rather freedom from slavery to sin for, "Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin." (John 8:34).
 
The new mind sees all of mankind as God's good creation, because, "He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth." (Acts 17:26).  Also, he sees that evil is a foreign element to human nature, and therefore, does not retaliate and face evil with evil.  Rather, he conquers evil with good, as it is written, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21).
 
The new mind is concerned with accumulating heavenly treasures rather than earthly ones, since he seeks first God's heavenly Kingdom and its righteousness.
 
Let us lift our minds and hearts upwards, where Christ is sitting on His throne, telling us, "Behold, I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5).
 
Let us live a new life with a new mind, which is the mind of Christ, who leads us in the march of victory, so we may have an inheritance in the Holy City, the Heavenly Jerusalem

Bishop Daniel,
Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Sydney and Affiliated Regions

Indian Orthodox Church

We have got another opportunity to celebrate the Resurrection of our Saviour Lord Jesus Christ. As St. Gregory of Nazianzen says, “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.” 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.

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. 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.

The root cause of most of the problems in the modern world is the self centered attitude. Man has become so selfish that he has shrunk to himself and there is no space for others. 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 all

Dr Yuhanon Mar Diascoros, Metropolitan of Parishes in Australia
Indian Orthodox Church.

Serbian Orthodox Church

O Christ, great and most holy Pascha,
O Wisdom, Word and Power of God!
Grant that we may more perfectly partake of You
in the never-ending day of Your Kingdom.

(Paschal Canon—Song 9)

CHRIST IS RISEN!

Pascha is our greatest and most joyous feast – the Feast of Feasts! It is the crown of all feasts and indeed, their very essence. Without Pascha and the Paschal truth – that fills us all with the greatest hope of our faith and gives meaning to our lives – in the words of the Apostle Paul, "our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (I Cor. 15:14). That is why this great Apostle wrote to the first Christians: "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile . . . Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all persons most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep" (I Cor. 15:17-20).

Only those who refuse to believe in the reality of the Resurrection deprive themselves of His grace. According to the Holy Apostle: "If therefore you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved" (Rom. 10:9). For Christians this is not merely a given pledge, as we have recognised the source of our joy in the Resurrection of Christ, and we receive it as the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The joy of faith, therefore, means rediscovering life itself anew, discovering a pure heart, which would behold God and in which one will recognise their brother or sister in the community of Christ's love.

In just the opposite, hopelessly rushing about in darkness without the light of the Resurrection, nowadays many experience tremendous terror, pain and suffering from violence that spreads rapidly enveloping with it the rest of the world which merely stands by and watches helplessly. How will we show our care for those people, for those brothers and sisters and those children when we are so far removed from them and their crisis? It is so easy to despair about our inability to help the victims of distant conflicts. However, our human solidarity is the way that follows God's commandment to love one another, beginning by our interactions with the people around us, with our neighbours, even as He loves us.

Therefore, with the fullness of Christ’s Holy Church, our firm community and sure source of our faith, hope and love, let us from all our heart exclaim:

TRULY, HE IS RISEN!

Bishop Irinej
Bishop of the Metropolitanate of Australia and New Zealand
Serbian Orthodox Church

Seventh-day Adventist Church

Around 2000 years ago…

Stop press – The Jerusalem Age, Sunday evening edition!

RAISED EYEBROWS AT RESURRECTION CLAIM

Jerusalem – Sunday

Can it be that Jesus of Nazareth is 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 soldiers, that Jesus has today risen from the grave. And this despite confirmation on Friday that he was truly dead.

John the Baptist had pointed out Jesus as the one that had been sent by God to save the world. With these resurrection claims, even some church leaders are now acknowledging that this Jesus may, 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 authorities of the time never could find any evidence against the reality of the resurrection. Jesus is risen! Jesus is truly the Saviour of the world!

Pastor K L Vogel, General Secretary
Seventh-day Adventist Church
 

The Salvation Army
Australia Eastern Territory

All you need is Love 

This is the title of a song made famous by the Beatles. The song “All You Need Is Love" was written by John Lennon and first performed by the Beatles with a viewing audience of over 150 million in 26 countries.

The Beatles were asked to come up with a song with a message understood by everyone. "It was an inspired song and they really wanted to give the world a message," said Brian Epstein. "The nice thing about it is that it cannot be misinterpreted. It is a clear message saying that love is everything."

Love is everything. Love is life.

We read in the New Testament in Galatians chapter 2 verse 20 – “Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (The Message)

How deep is the Father’s love for us? It cannot be measured.  God showed us the full extent of His love when He sent Jesus to die for our sin. In order to show God’s love Jesus gave His all, His throne, His manhood, His life, His suffering, His death, but best of all He gave Himself. There is no deeper love than that of Jesus.

God is not like a parent who says to their child – “I will love you if you be a good boy or girl”. God says I love you as you are.

All you need is love – yes it is true because God’s love brings life, forgiveness, peace, freedom and joy and much more.

James Condon, Commissioner
The Salvation Army: Australia Eastern Territory                 

Uniting Church of Australia

Because Christ is risen, we never give up on the pursuit of justice and peace. We do not lose heart in the face of cruelty or oppression. 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.

One area of suffering that seems intractable is the disadvantage and marginalisation experienced by Australia's First Peoples. During Lent the Uniting Church held a week of prayer and fasting for justice for Indigenous Australians. In every corner of the continent individuals and congregations found ways to take part in this act of solidarity and prayer. A public prayer vigil was held in Canberra, where I had the privilege of presiding with Rev Rronang Gurrawurra, the chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress. We came together to express our sorrow, but also to express our shared hope for reconciliation and justice - hope grounded in the news of Christ's resurrection.

I invite you to join us this Easter as we continue to pray together for justice and reconciliation between First and Second Peoples in Australia, recommitting ourselves to work together for that reconciliation and renewal promised in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 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


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