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Easter Greetings from Aussie Churches

Friday 3 April 2015

Rev. Professor Andrew Dutney, President, Uniting Church in Australia
Wayne Alcorn, Australian Christian Churches National President
Archbishop Denis Hart, President, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Archbishop Stylianos, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia
Dr Philip Freier, Anglican Primate of Australia
Dr Ross Clifford, President, NSW Council of Churches
Rev. Keith Jobberns, National Director, Australian Baptist Ministries
Rev. Dr James Kwang, Bishop, Chinese Methodist Church in Australia
Rev. Janet Woodlock, Federal Coordinator, Churches of Christ in Australia
Dr. Joe Goodall, Moderator, Congregational Federation of Australia and New Zealand
Bishop John Henderson, President, Lutheran Church in Australia
Commissioners James Condon and Floyd Tidd, Salvation Army
Archbishop Glenn Davies, Anglican Diocese of Sydney

Rev. Professor Andrew Dutney, President, Uniting Church of Australiagraveyard
The meaning of Easter is summed up like this by St Paul: “…in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace…and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”

Paul’s message of reconciliation remains as relevant and radical today as it did 2000 years ago. It was not just a specially favoured clan, class or community who could become people of God… All people were people of God through Jesus’ death on the Cross and his resurrection.

For Paul, this equality surpassed the bounds of race, class and gender: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

So too the Gospels describe Jesus constantly transgressing the barriers between people – between the righteous and the sinners, between men and women, children and adults, the rich and the poor, between the racially-defined “people of God” and the foreigners who were routinely excluded, mistrusted and feared. Jesus was remembered as gathering together people who, by definition, had to be kept apart. He was making a new community of reconciliation and peace in the name of the Kingdom of God.

This is the consistent message of the New Testament that echoes to us down the millennia: In the risen crucified Christ, God gathers people together who don’t belong together, and have no history of getting along together. God puts divided people together and says to them, You are all my children, and sisters and brothers together. Love one another.

There’s nothing easy about this. And churches throughout the centuries – the Uniting Church included –have struggled to express that kind of reconciliation and mutuality in their own communities. Christian institutions and societies have fallen short of the goal too.

Nonetheless, we persevere with the call of God: In the name of the risen crucified One, love one another. And from time to time we get glimpses of the promise of Easter here and now.

This Easter I ask you to think about reconciliation where you live – be it with family, neighbours, or any around you from whom you are divided –and how you can receive the peace that Christ gives and seek the justice he promises in your own life and community.

Easter – The reason for our hope
Wayne Alcorn, Australian Christian Churches National President
Easter is a special time for Christians, because it’s a celebration of the reason for our hope.

The day we call Good Friday is oh so necessary, because that’s when we remember the Son of God died for our sin.

But the Sunday morning is a real game changer. They discovered the grave could not hold Him…and that’s the thing that separates Jesus from other religious leaders.

Because Jesus is alive, I have hope for the future – regardless of what comes my way.

Maybe this is a good time of year to find a Bible and read the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection; have a conversation about faith with a Christian friend; or connect through prayer to our living and loving God.

Archbishop Denis Hart, President, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
My dear Friends,

Just as a seed planted in the ground, watered and nourished, bursts forth into life as food or beauty, I rejoice when the silence and suffering of Good Friday and Easter Saturday give way to the resurrection of Jesus in a glorified form, God’s only Son, who came back to life to show us all that life cannot be extinguished if we are in Jesus Christ.

We know that Jesus came back to life by his own power as God and in so doing reminds us that death, suffering, tragedy and the burdens of our world are not the end. Rather if we believe in Jesus and in what he offers us, life takes on a new and fuller dimension. Darkness gives way to light, despair to hope, and the realisation that Jesus is with us brings us to share in his glorious victory over sin and death. In Jesus our world, our life and our community are transformed.

Our world is burdened by material, moral and spiritual destitution. God is greater than our sinfulness. He freely loves us at all times. We are made for communion and eternal life. The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds this Easter of the message of mercy and hope. May it be so.

Archbishop Stylianos, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia
By the grace of God
Archbishop of Australia
to all the Reverend Clergy and devout faithful
of our holy Archdiocese

Brother Concelebrants and beloved children in the Lord,

Christ is Risen!

The period of mourning and cleansing in Great Lent has culminated, as every year, with Holy Week and the sacred Passion of Jesus Christ.

Following this purification, then, we have prepared ourselves to listen, and to understand correctly, the exhortation of the Church towards a reclassification of the values in our lives:

“Come let us drink a new drink, not one from a barren rock, worked by a miracle”!

This, in summary, is the recommendation of the Church for renewal:

To greet and accept life, not as we know it in its biological dimensions, but rather as Christ has transformed it through the trial of the tomb and death.

Of course, the tomb and life, death and resurrection, are concepts that are opposite and contradictory. And it is only natural for one to think in this manner, when using the criteria of the world and the things of the world, rather than the Omnipotence, Freedom and Love of God, which predate the existence of the world and man himself.

The world, as a creation of God, is the object of absolute Love, because it was the product of absolute freedom. Therefore, who can place limits and barriers on Love which is absolute, which is free, and which is indeed the Love of God? What is our experience and our logic compared to the abyss of the Love of God?

This Love became incarnate so that we could touch it.

This Love was crucified so that we might commune with it as a “ransom for many.”

In light of this unprecedented cosmogony of Love, no matter how much darkness may still accompany our lives, the Church emphasises the most harmonious hymn:

“Now all things are filled with light;
heaven and earth and the subterranean regions.
Let all creation therefore celebrate the Resurrection of Christ,
by means of which it is established”

To Him be glory and power unto the ages.


Wish fervent prayers in the Risen Christ.

Dr Philip Freier, Anglican Primate of Australia

Dr Ross Clifford, President, NSW Council of Churches
At Easter, it is worth reminding ourselves of the positive role of faith, not only for our personal lives but also for the health and strength of our communities and our nation.

In the death and resurrection of Jesus, we find a model of loving our neighbour, servanthood and forgiveness that empowers our personal lives and community. The resurrection of Jesus shows that God is concerned about the whole person, as the grave could not contain him. It is essential that we continue to live out these values in our community, and remind our community of the strength of the Easter message. We as a nation do not need a godless society, but one based on the foundation and values of the risen Christ.

As we head into the long weekend, we risk the danger of missing the shocking central message of Easter: everything depends on the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the humble carpenter’s son who is the Son of God.

The early church championed this radical message. Today we struggle to accept the need for rich words like “sin,” “evil” and “repentance,” but look how alcohol abuse and problem gambling destroys people, families and communities. At the heart of our broad social problems and ethical challenges is the question of personal responsibility and accountability to God.

Easter is the most significant celebration in the Christian calendar, a reminder of the depth of God’s love for us and the extent to which God was willing to go to demonstrate his love for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God.

Surveys consistently indicate that Easter is the most recognised Christian event and that over 50 per cent of Australians believe or are open to the message of the empty tomb. In this spirit, let us together confess our own personal and societal sins and look for personal and societal transformation.

Easter is a time for all of us to reflect on being who God has called us to be.

Rev. Keith Jobberns, National Director, Australian Baptist Ministries
The Easter weekend can be a very difficult time. Whether it is the mundane exhaustion after a day at the Royal Easter Show, or the pain of relationship stress as the family and friends gather over an extended long weekend. However neither of these types of experiences can compare to the outright horror of traffic accidents over the Easter period that leave families shattered, as lives are crippled or heartbreakingly cut short. Easter can be a really terrible time.

The first Easter week was terrible as well. Jesus’ followers had seen their charismatic leader judged unfairly by a kangaroo court, beaten, humiliated, stripped and horribly nailed to a cross to die an excruciating death. Finally, the ignominy of his body being buried in a borrowed tomb. It is little wonder after these events on that terrible Friday they dispersed; downcast, disillusioned and defeated. Their dreams smashed, they faced a future without hope. These events are recorded succinctly in chapter 15 and 16 of Mark’s
Gospel in the Bible.

Friday night was awful. Saturday was a prolonged period of gloom and Sunday didn’t start well with the horror of finding that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb. The shock and surprise of the women who found the tomb empty on the Sunday morning turns to exhilarating delight as they meet Jesus risen from the dead. It changed their world. Indeed it changed the course of human history. Death had been defeated. Hope was restored and the future guaranteed.

As we pause over this Easter long weekend, might the reality of God’s conquering love in raising Jesus from the dead refresh your hope that disaster can be changed into triumph, injustice will be overturned and evil will be defeated.

Rev Dr James Kwang, Bishop, Chinese Methodist Church in Australia
The only people who witnessed our Lord alive again were his disciples. Mary Magdalene was the first witness among them all (Mark 16:9), but her testimony was not philosophically cogent or judicially “beyond reasonable doubt” to persuade her listeners to believe (Mark 16:11). The combined testimony of the disciples could not convince Thomas that the Lord Jesus had risen either (John 20:24,25). Indeed, the testimony of the disciples only roused Saul to such great antagonistic zeal that he “persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13). And the testimony of more than five hundred witnesses did little to change the minds of those who did not want to believe.

Despite the seeming failures of the witnesses at the beginning, first the disciples, Thomas, Saul, and “multitudes” came to faith as the Gospel of the Resurrection was faithfully preached, first by Peter, and then by other disciples and believers. Believers who had not witnessed the Resurrection stood ready to die for the Gospel. Three centuries later, the mighty Roman Empire came under the power of the Gospel. The testimony of the witnesses had moved the hearers to do something, and God took the momentum and did the rest to lead them to faith.

We must not think that it is the clever minds of philosophers, or the zealous souls of the priests, or even the combined might of the communal spirit that will persuade others to believe the Gospel of the Resurrection. Ultimately, it is simply our obedience to the plan and purpose of God to be his witnesses, to testify to his only Son with simple yet steadfast faith and to display the power of the Resurrection through our transformed lives. If we are obedient to God’s word now, we shall have the joy of observing God’s work in time to come. The truth of the Resurrection is greater than all of us. That’s what the Easter story reminds us of.

Rev. Janet Woodlock, Federal Coordinator, Churches of Christ in Australia
At Easter we remember how those in power collaborated in a horrendous injustice. An innocent man was tortured and killed for political expediency.

The extraordinary claim of the Christian faith is that God in Christ was the victim of this injustice; that God aligns with the weak, powerless, and suffering; and that evil can be overcome not by the love of power but by the power of love. That death itself is transcended by the power of Christ’s resurrection. The cruel might of the Roman Empire was ultimately overcome by the moral influence of one who taught of love, forgiveness, and grace, and inspired a movement in his name.

As we open our newspapers we still daily read of injustice and abuses of power, but those inspired by the way of Christ, empowered by the resurrection life of Christ, continue to share the love, kindness, and grace that is a healing balm to a broken world.

“So we’re not giving up. How could we? Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace”. (II Corinthians 4:6, The Message). May that new life renew our hearts, and ultimately transform our world as we pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

Dr. Joe Goodall, Moderator, Congregational Federation of Australia and New Zealand
Everyone knows the story of Jonah and the Whale but not everyone knows the whole story, including the end, when God asks a fuming Jonah who felt that God had made a fool of him, “Do you do well to be angry?” It is a clever question which avoids confronting Jonah and points out that there are times when being angry can be a good thing.

Jesus got angry. He was angry at the moneylenders and merchants defiling the temple and he drove them out. He was angry at the Jewish leadership: “You brood of vipers” he called the Pharisees and Sadducees on one occasion and “hypocrites” on another. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said to Peter who wanted him to turn from his path of sacrifice, “You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.”

When it came to his own betrayal, abandonment and death, he was not angry. He was sorrowful and forgiving. He healed the soldier sent to arrest him, he asked the father to forgive the jeering crowds and his executioners, and when he was being cheered as he came to Jerusalem rather than feeling proud because of the people honouring him or angry knowing what was really in front of him, he wept for the future of the city and its inhabitants.

Jesus never thought of himself, only others and the pain they were bringing on themselves by their action. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” he said. There is the key, that even on the occasions when he would have been justified in asking “What about me” he did not. It was always about the other person.

This Easter, may we ask ourselves the question, “Do you do well to be angry?” May we respond as Jesus did at the time of his great trial, by thinking not of ourselves but of others, even those who have caused hurt. May we think not of revenge for ourselves but grace for those around us. May we spread Christ’s love.

Bishop John Henderson, President, Lutheran Church in Australia
Christians are Easter people. Easter is God’s tour de force when we drown in his love and he raises us to life. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the front and centre of our faith, everything we are and will ever be, “… because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them (2 Corinthians 5:14–15 NRSV).

A new start; a clean slate; what could be better? “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Ephesians 2:8–10 NRSV)
What are these ‘good works’ God has prepared for us? Sure, you can find the answer in places like the 10 Commandments. Jesus was quite clear about what he expects when he said things like, “Love your enemies” (e.g. Luke 6:29).

But perhaps the first ‘good work’ God has prepared for his Easter people is to make us one body. When St Paul writes in Ephesians 2 that we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, he goes straight on to talk about the peace that now exists between us. The blood of Christ breaks down the dividing wall. Now there is a single new humanity.

So our first ‘good work’ as Easter Christians is to live as that new humanity. Putting aside our natural divisions, resisting the temptation to separate, we live the common life God has prepared for us. We know we’re far from perfect. The visible church has more factions than an Australian political party. We know that is a scandal, an offence to the body of Christ. Our external divisions give people the excuse to be hurt, angry, and disdainful of others and the Christian faith. They can block God’s clear message of the gospel of grace. That is not something we want.

Each of us, in our own small or large way, has a part to play in this good work of living in the unity of Christ. It begins with you and me. Christ died for the whole world, not a select group. None of us owns the truth. It is God’s and he does with it what he will, giving it even to unworthy people like you and me.

Christian churches today face major issues that can threaten us with further divisions. I pray, and I hope you do too, that we keep the truth of God’s love for us in Christ, and live in the unity of that love, selflessly sharing the good news of our Saviour with each other and the world.

Commissioners James Condon and Floyd Tidd, Salvation Army
We all make plans from time to time. We look at the plans for a new house, we plan a holiday, some of us have a fitness plan. Easter time reveals to us God’s redemption plan.

Our Redeemer, Jesus Christ was willing and able to pay the high price necessary to free us from the power of sin. And because of his redemptive love we can experience hope and freedom. If Jesus had not died, the world would be in a hopeless state.

Redemption involves buying back or repurchasing something that belongs to someone else.

That is why Jesus is referred to as the Redeemer, because His redemption plan was that He gave His life as a ransom for the sin of the world when He died on the cross. His blood was the purchase price as the ultimate plan of redemption.

Our Redeemer reversed and broke the curse of sin and death and freed us from the powers of evil. Jesus bridged the gap between sinful humanity and a holy God and provided a way for us to be united with God forever.

Ann Spangler said – “through a divine transfusion of his love and mercy we have literally been transferred from death to life”.

So as we celebrate this Holy time, let us give thanks to our Redeemer for removing the burden of sin and making it possible for us to live in freedom.

Archbishop Glenn Davies, Anglican Diocese of Sydney
It is a measure of our society’s fast pace (or perhaps commercialism) that this year, hot cross buns came on sale just after New Year’s Day.

By now, three months later, we have become so used to them that we forget they are marked with a cross.

The speed of our lives leaves us little time to reflect on the timeless truth of this symbol.

You may eat and enjoy your hot cross buns without ever noticing. But if you stop and think about it, the cross is out of place on such a treat.

Because the cross is an instrument of torture. The cross means pain. The cross means death.

So why was Jesus, God’s righteous son, on a cross at all?

The Bible tells us that on the cross, Jesus took the judgment that we deserve. He died, was buried and three days later, rose again.

What does the cross mean to you?

For followers of Jesus, the cross is now empty because Jesus has risen from the dead and offers us new life.

This Easter, the mark of the cross can mark a new beginning for you, too.

Image: Brian Smithson on Flickr, used under CC License.

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