Easter love story offers hope in world of hate and turmoil
ABUSE scandals within the church had shattered victims and marred the genuine work done by so many faith communities, the leader of the Anglican church said in his Easter message.
But Rev Dr Phillip Aspinall said nothing could take away from the truth of the Easter story - one of sacrifice and love.
"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."
Dr Aspinall said the Easter story was being lived out day by day in church communities.
"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,'' he said.
"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.''
Rev Keith Jobberns, National Ministries Director, of the the Australian Baptist Ministries, said the story of Easter was one about Christ offering 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.''
Wayne Alcorn, National President of Australian Christian Churches, said Easter was a wonderful celebration of love in action.
"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.''
Archbishop Denis J Hart, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said Easter was a time for reflection, for family 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.''
Bishop Dr James Kwang, of the Chinese Methodist Church in Australia, said Easter was the story of true light overcoming 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.''
MESSAGES FROM OTHER MAJOR CHURCHES
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
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 in 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