Easter 2012 messages from Australian church leaders
“On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they[the women] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.” (Luke 24:1-3)
Easter is filled with surprise and amazement. In the first Easter we recall the women coming to the tomb of Jesus and saying “but when they went in, they did not find the body”. As they stood there perplexed they heard the message “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”(Luke 24:5)Today people still go to the tomb, recently I attended a service at the site the church remembers as the tomb where Jesus was laid in Jerusalem. The words that struck me then were “we stand here today not because of what is here but because of what is not here. We are here because Jesus has risen from the dead.”
In this place where history has been shaped the morning light shines through the dome illuminating the tomb. The light points to the place where we remember the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus points to the Christian hope and the capacity of God for newness in the world transforming sadness to joy and death to life.
God surprises us today in many ways; the smile of a child, new life after a disaster, signs of peace in our conflicted world. This Easter may God surprise each of us with peace and newness life.
The Rev. Tara Curlewis, General Secretary
National Council of Churches in Australia
(Note: In the Western Church, the date of Easter this year is Sunday 8 April. Most Orthodox Churches will celebrate Easter this year on Sunday 15 April, based on the Julian calendar.)
Anglican Church of Australia
Christ is Risen!
As the events of Holy Week unfold we gaze upon the wounded and suffering figure of Jesus. We meditate on the depth of his self-sacrifice and wonder at his capacity to resist retaliation in the face of great injustice and provocation.
Easter brings with it great joy at Christ’s victory over the powers of this world, and over death itself.
These dynamics encompass the whole pattern of the Christian life. It is a life of “dying and rising”—a life of dying to selfishness, violence and isolation and rising into a new community in company with many brothers and sisters and with relationships transformed.
Recently, governments have swept to power in Queensland and in New South Wales, and the Prime Minister has headed off a leadership challenge. In these upheavals, we have seen the harsh reality of political struggle and the toll it takes. Many times we have been reminded that it is a tough, even violent, game.
In the end, though, our life and health depend not only on governments but also on each other. What matters is the quality of our community life—that shared life, which grows up between us, and within us. If we share nothing, if we stand only for self-seeking and gaining power then no government can save us.
When Christ rose he transformed human relationships. A new kind of world was born. We can still meet the risen one among our brothers and sisters, in the new community he began.
The Most Rev. Dr Phillip Aspinall
Primate, Anglican Church of Australia.
Armenian Apostolic Church
As Christian’s worldwide join together to celebrate the glorious occasion of the Holy Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we once again stand before the empty tomb that heralds the wondrous message “Christ is risen from the dead”.
Indeed the Resurrection of Christ brought new understanding and consciousness into the world. Until Jesus’ death, life had an end. However in Christ’s Resurrection, death became a transitory position from the worldly to the heavenly, the passage to eternity.
The events that unfolded during holy week with the betrayal, trials and judgements, afflictions and suffering, crucifixion and burial brought with them the victorious Resurrection which gave new dawning to mankind. With this new hope came meaning and value to life with the great plan to bring mankind closer to God.
By the grace of God we are called His children. By trusting the blood shed by His Son we call Him our Father. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16]
May this Easter celebration be a time of reflection to honour our Heavenly Father with renewed commitment to revere, follow, love, serve and obey Him.
“Blessed is the Resurrection of Christ.”
Archbishop Aghan Baliozian, Primate
Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and New Zealand
Australian Baptist Ministries
Time For Some Good News
At Easter, followers of Jesus wonder again at the good news of God’s love which was announced on the very first Christmas; – that Jesus came to be the Saviour of the world. This is why, despite the trauma and trouble that humanity inflicts on and in our world, Easter can deliver a continuing message of Hope and meaning. In the Easter truth, we find a God who comes close to us. That is good news for all who feel isolated and alienated. In the Easter truth, we encounter a deliverer who wore our flesh, entered our life, and encountered our death. That is good news for all who feel that no one understands their struggles of life. In the Easter truth we see one who had the power to overcome death. That is good news for all who fear their own mortality and wonder about any hope for the future. Easter then, is really good news, because it announces that by the death and resurrection of Jesus, people may receive His Love, find forgiveness of sins, and enjoy a restored relationship with God.
The story behind the famous Taj Mahal represents one of deep love and passion. One magazine posed the question: “Which other love story has so grand a memorial? Well there is another — but it comes in the shape of an old rugged cross and an empty tomb. Nothing says I love you like the cross. Jesus said “There is no greater love than this that a person lays down his life for the sake of another”. Real love does just that — it seeks the good of another. Such love may be hard to get our head around, but it doesn’t mean that it’s any less lavish. The cross at Calvary may not seem as lavish as the Taj Mahal — but it does represent the most lavish love of all, that is, the love of God for each one of us. Jesus’ call is still to “follow me” — and all who choose to do so, find something much sweeter than chocolate, and of far greater substance than a hollow egg.
The Baptist Church family wish you a very happy Easter — full of good news.
The Rev. Dr John Beasy, President
Australian Baptist Ministries
Australian Christian Churches
A tone of uncertainty is evident in society today. Winds of change are blowing and their effects are being felt on many fronts – politics, business, finance and even personal relationships. So many factors, once thought predictable, are no longer rock-solid. Thankfully, there are some things that never change.
The Easter message remains a constant source of confidence in every season of life. The powerful symbols that come into focus at this time – a rugged cross and an empty tomb — offer to every one of us what the writer of Hebrews identifies as “Hope which is an anchor for our soul.” It’s not mere symbolism alone though, for there’s a declaration that accompanies each of them.
From the cross, the words of Jesus carry such compassion: “Father forgive them …” Shame and regret are dealt with through the power of Divine forgiveness.
From the empty tomb, we hear those life-giving words: “He is not here for He is risen.” This offers us incredible strength for every challenge we face.
The story is told of a little boy rescued after being lost at sea. When found clinging to a rock, he was asked if he was afraid. He answered, “I sure was. I shook all night … but the rock didn’t move.” The same can be said of the Easter message — it’s timeless and secure.
God loves us. He showed this graphically through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. You may find yourself feeling uncertain about many things at the moment. Our prayer is that you would discover the real hope and genuine security through the life-changing message that Easter brings.
Wayne Alcorn, National President
Australian Christian Churches
Catholic Church in Australia
In his Lenten message this year, Pope Benedict XVI speaks of a brief biblical passage in the Letter to the Hebrews which says: “Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works”. The words are part of a passage in which the author exhorts us to trust in Jesus Christ as the High Priest who has won us forgiveness and opened up a pathway to God. In examining the words, Pope Benedict reflects on the need for us to be concerned for one another and not to remain isolated and indifferent to the fate of our brothers and sisters. All too often, our attitude is just the opposite — an indifference and disinterest born of selfishness or masked as a respect for privacy. Yet the great commandment of love for one another demands that we acknowledge our responsibility towards those who, like ourselves, are creatures and children of God.
This Easter as we prepare to enjoy our four-day break with friends and families, our brothers and sisters in the ancient city of Homs in western Syria are experiencing terror and grief as violence continues to spiral and the rest of the world stands by and watches helplessly. How do we show our concern for these people when we are so far removed from them and their crisis? It is easy to despair about our powerlessness to help the victims of this conflict but the way to show our human solidarity is to follow God’s commandment to love one another in our own lives and through our interaction with the people around us.
By showing concern for those who are suffering in our midst, we are reaffirming that good will prevail over evil. Reaching out to others and opening our hearts to their needs can become an opportunity for salvation and blessedness. Sometimes our affluence and wellbeing prevents us from seeing, and responding to, those in need and we can become complacent in showing compassion and empathy.
On Good Friday, the crucifixion of Christ reminds us of our responsibility to be guardians of our brothers and sisters, to care for one another and to follow the example of the way Christ lived. His resurrection on Easter Sunday is the ultimate symbol of hope and the very essence of our faith which gives meaning to our lives. We can’t necessarily change what is happening in Syria but we can show the world that by living in Christ’s footsteps and with God’s love at the centre of our lives, we are brothers and sisters in humanity. Our love of Christ is powerful and enables us to do good.
Archbishop Philip Wilson, President
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Chinese Methodist Church in Australia
Easter is a reminder of the joyous hope that brings the promise of new life that we found in Jesus Christ. Christ’s suffer for our sake on Good Friday; he died, was buried and rose again on the third day. This is the unique and only message that brings that assured eternal hope when we proclaim that Christ is risen, and that is what Easter is all about.
May this auspicious occasion of Easter bless our nation of Australia and the masses with peace, love and prosperity! I pray that this Easter enlighten our hearts and overflow with spiritual blessings. May we, take time to pray together for the world peace, strength and grace to unite and strengthen us! We can only thank the Lord for giving mankind its warm love and forgiveness through our Lord, Jesus Christ!
I am most honoured to convey my best wishes and prayers to our nation on the sacred occasion of Easter. Easter is a grand occasion for people all over the world; this is the time when God expects positive responses from mankind!
The Cross of the Christ shows that that God’s love is the deepest decent, I hope this Easter occasion fulfil all of your wishes! Wishing you all a joyous Easter!
Bishop Dr James Kwang
Chinese Methodist Church in Australia
Churches of Christ in Australia
John 20:10-18 is a story of mistaken identity. Mary Magdalene, overwhelmed by grief, fails to recognise the risen Jesus until he says her name. It is a powerful cameo from the Gospels, hinting at how grief can separate us from hope and from God.
The overwhelming theme of the Gospels is that evil exists, but it can be overcome. Yet when people are caught in the narratives of economic doom, environmental catastrophe and the personal battles of rents, mortgages and bills, it is natural to focus on us. In so doing, we miss both the evil that exists and the Jesus who promises to overcome it. To miss both is to miss the Easter message.
The crucifixion is an evil, perpetrated by an oppressive Empire on an innocent man. Paradoxically, it is also our great hope: God will take on suffering, evil and injustice, identify with us in it, and triumph through the risen Christ. Many have waited too long for this to come to pass.
The role of the church becomes not just to point out the reality of evil, but also to point to the Christ who has — and will — overcome evil. It will never be soon enough. A hopeful church, anchored in Christ, can remind people that we often live in an Easter Saturday world: the worst has happened, and we are yet to see the best with our own eyes.
Craig Brown, Federal Coordinator
Churches of Christ in Australia
The Congregational Federation
“Put your money where your mouth is” is an expression we have all heard. It is a challenge to stop talking and start demonstrating, to stand up for your principles in hard reality.
Throughout his three year ministry, Jesus returned continually to a few themes when he was speaking.
Spread peace: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called people of God.” Love your enemies: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” Break the cycle of violence: “To him that strikes you on the cheek; offer him the other cheek also.” Self-sacrifice: “The son of man came…to give his life as a ransom for many”. Of his own divinity and the promise of eternal life: “The son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.”
When he spoke he used his impressive learning to challenge his listeners, but never to humiliate them. He used his spiritual powers to heal countless people, but not once to hurt anyone.
After three years of talk, Jesus had the enormous courage to put his money where his mouth was. He allowed himself to be subjected to the humiliation and agony of a horrifying public death. He acted out his convictions of peace, love, non-violence and self-sacrifice.
And greatest of all: because he was the Messiah as he said he was, on the third day he did indeed rise.
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!!
This year, as we celebrate the Feast of the Resurrection, shortly after the departure to heaven of the Father of Fathers and Shepherd of Shepherd, His Holiness Pope Shenouda, III reposed in the Lord after serving the Church faithfully for 40 years and 5 months as the 117thPope of Alexandria, and successor of the See of St. Mark, we feel sorrow and grief. However, we hold firmly on the Risen Lord and to His powerful message of strength in the midst of tribulations, pain and persecution.
It is my pleasure to wish you a glorious Feast of the Resurrection, asking our Good Lord to grant us the joy and power of His Resurrection. The Resurrection of Christ gives us power and joy in the midst of the difficulties and suffering.
On the eve of His Passion, our Lord Jesus Christ faced all the power of evil and “The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6), for God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Our good Lord, who took our human nature, expressed the feelings of the righteous person as he faces the powers of evil. But in the midst of the sorrow that filled His compassionate heart and His disciples’ hearts, He gave both them and us the promise of resurrection. He told His disciples, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night….But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” (Matthew 26:32).
Wishing you and your families a joyful Feast and may the Risen Christ bless Australia and its people and “May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, fill your hearts and guard you.” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Bishop Daniel, With the Grace of God
Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Sydney and Affiliated Regions
Lutheran Church of Australia
Worshippers of the Risen Christ may look to have new faces of hope on Easter morning. It is a look that does not dwell on a fading flower, but on a fresh blooming bud.
The astonishment of hearing of new life and new beginnings, even in life before the grave, visibly fades as the cares of day to day experiences take over.
An Easter afterglow may change, but the reality that the Saviour bridges the chasm between God and us does not alter.
Easter can be just a brighter spot in a dull year, but it can also be our comfort every day in that we are in the hands of the one who has victory over death.
The Rev. Dr Michael P Semmler, President
Lutheran Church of Australia.
Serbian Orthodox Church
Now all things are filled with light:
heaven and earth and the lower regions.
Let all creation celebrate the rising of Christ.
In Him we are established!
(Paschal Canon—Song 3)
An encounter with the Risen Lord is to live in accordance with the Gospel of our salvation. For God raised Christ! And because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions . . . and God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. . . (Eph. 2:4-7). And in Him, in Christ, are the mysteries of eternal life and the source of endless joy.
Because He lives, and bestows upon us the Holy Spirit who frees us even from ourselves so as to enable us to live a Godly life with all the saints. And that, in contrast to contemporary society in which, even the killing of infants is justified as being “morally irrelevant”. For that child to the fallen world does not represent a person, but merely a living being, which is only a “potential person” and therefore without the right to life. What, then, and what kind of justice are we to expect for the humiliated or abused, imprisoned or exiled, or those who are forced to live on the margins of society?
However, God is good! And despite all rejoice, for the Lord said: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble; but take heart, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
For we, entering into union with the resurrected Christ, are established in Him who came down to the lowest of human condition in order to raise us: Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord, dear friends. . . Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say: rejoice! (Philip. 4:1,4).
CHRIST IS RISEN!
INDEED, HE IS RISEN!
Bishop of the Metropolitanate of Australia and New Zealand
The Serbian Orthodox Church
Seventh-day Adventist Church
EASTER IS ALL ABOUT LOVE BEING STRONGER THAN HATE.
And it is about God’s love!
Oh, how God’s love is so needed when hate is being expressed within nations and between nations; when hate is undermining communities and families.
While hatred drove people to put Jesus Christ on the cross, it was love that drove Jesus to allow them to kill Him. He knew that only through His death would humanity have any hope beyond today. It is by Jesus’ death that we can have our sins forgiven.
But Easter is not just about the death of Jesus. The story progresses to His resurrection. If there were no resurrection it would mean hatred had conquered God’s love.
But Jesus is alive! Death could not hold Him. Jesus has risen from the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus is the triumph of God’s love over all that human sin and hatred could and can do.
Why not, right now, call on God to envelop you in His love, forgiving you for your sins and giving you hope.
Pastor K. L. Vogel, General Secretary
Seventh-day Adventist Church
The Salvation Army
Australia Eastern Territory
A SACRAMENT OF LOVE
The Australian Red Cross encourages Aussies to”roll up your sleeves and give blood” and each year many people support the call to give blood. There is life in the blood!
There is life in the blood of Jesus!
At this Easter time, we remind ourselves again of the immense value of the sacrifice of Jesus, His shed blood for each one of us.
The blood of Jesus will never lose its power to heal, to save, to transform lives.
Isaiah says — “he was wounded for our transgressions” and someone else wrote — “Jesus’ marks are not merely scars but the sacrament of love.”
May we never treat lightly the healing power of the blood of Jesus because of His great love for us. The best known verse in the Bible captures it so beautifully — “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3 : 16
This verse speaks of the incredible characteristics of His love. It is unconditional and not just for those who are good. It is for all because of His grace.
CS Lewis said “Christianity uniquely claims God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached”.
This love is sacrificial because God GAVE and it’s valuable because God gave His ONLY Son. He gave not only out of his abundance, but His only Son. And this love is accessible and within reach of anyone who believes in Jesus.
Jesus entered our world and longs to enter our lives because He loves us. He is not judgmental. He did not come to condemn but to draw us into relationship with Him.
“Jesus marks (wounds) are not merely scars, but the sacraments of love.” A sacred sign of His love for us which ought to be treasured all the more because of the Giver and His grace.
Nothing we can do can make God love us more
And nothing we can do will make Him love us less.
Because of His great love, He gave His only Son as a sacrifice and a sacrament of love.
May we live as beneficiaries of His Love and allow His love to compel us in all we say and do.
Jan Condon, Commissioner
The Salvation Army: Australia Eastern Territory
The Salvation Army
Australia Southern Territory
Easter tells the story about two pathways, one which leads to death and the other that leads to life.
The journey of Christ to the cross is a tragic sequence of events, reflecting life that is consistent with the world around us today, a mob, violence, hatred, cruelty, victimisation and punishment. Human nature does not change; it lives out the inward separation from God.
The journey to Christs’ burial place three days later found Him to be alive. Resurrection, the restoration of life as God intended it to be.
The message of Easter is simple enough. We don’t have to live the way we are when God has made it possible for us to be restored to new life in Him; a new life that lives out the nature of God, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
If our world needs anything, it needs a resurrection to new life so as to live out a new way.
Raymond A. Finger, Commissioner
The Salvation Army: Australia Southern Territory
Uniting Church in Australia
I’m writing from Jerusalem having just visited various sites associated with the Easter story. The message of reconciliation at the heart of the Christian faith has never seemed more important or, sadly, more ironic. As one rabbi commented in reference to the disputes in Israel-Palestine: ‘welcome to the dysfunctional family of Abraham!’
Even within the Christian family in Jerusalem there are on-going squabbles between various churches about control of the site associated with Christ’s death and resurrection. As Christ prayed for those who crucified him, perhaps he still prays, ‘Father forgive them, they know not what they do’.
This Easter pray for peace in the land so central to the ‘Abrahamic’ faiths. Pray that each religion can be true to the message of peace that lies at the heart of each but which is tragically so often obscured.
Pray that the light and hope of Christ’s victory over death might bring light to every dark place, hope to all who currently journey through the valley of the shadow of death; and courage and strength to those who struggle for justice.
The Rev. Alistair Macrae, President
Uniting Church in Australia
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