Easter Messages from Australian Church Leaders

body-and-blood-smallThe National Council of Churches in Australia has issued the Easter Messages from Australian Church leaders.(Note: In the Western Church, the date of Easter this year is Sunday 12 April. Most Orthodox Churches will celebrate Easter this year on Sunday 19 April, based on the Julian calendar.)

EASTER 2009

MESSAGES FROM AUSTRALIAN CHURCH LEADERS Easter Hope in a financially fallen world

The global financial crisis, fires and floods at home, violence and abject poverty overseas: all are signs of a deeply fallen world. Yet, as our Churches celebrate Easter this year, we affirm the mystery of God’s saving grace, born precisely out of suffering, destruction and death. Recent events have confirmed that true security is found not in material speculation but in the solidarity of love, profound signs of which we see expressed in support for the victims of disasters at home and in the sharing of the burdens of others further afield. We pray therefore that the global financial crisis may be seized as a deeper global faith opportunity: in the assurance that after fire comes new life, after flood comes fresh security on dry land, and through the mystery of the Cross comes Resurrection.

(Note: In the Western Church, the date of Easter this year is Sunday 12 April. Most Orthodox Churches will celebrate Easter this year on Sunday 19 April, based on the Julian calendar.)

anglicanAnglican Church

The recent bushfires in Victoria and flooding in Queensland have shocked us with their reminder of the violence of the forces of nature and the vulnerability of life. Our communal images of death this Easter are fresh and stark.

Jesus’ death by crucifixion also shocked his community. It was inconceivable to his followers that this man, in whom they were beginning to sense the presence of God, could die in such a cruel and inhuman manner. It was inconceivable to them that life could go on in any meaningful manner after his senseless death.

Two thousand years later we continue to celebrate the victory won through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Each Easter season we have the opportunity to travel alongside Jesus on his journey though death toward life. God’s promise to us is that the light of resurrection life will always come, no matter how impenetrable the darkness may seem. I pray that all Australians may know that life in their lives and that this Easter may be an opportunity to stand back and to see the light that is shining and to give thanks.

Archbishop of Brisbane 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

Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East

To our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ:

Prayers and blessings receive:

On the occasion of the Holy Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (Easter), we take this opportunity to extend our Episcopal greetings to the faithful sons and daughters of the National Council of Churches in Australia’s member churches, all Christians in Australia and around the world and to convey upon them our blessings.

The Feast of the Resurrection is Christianity’s most sacred and holy of commemorations. The Christian church universally without regard to differences of doctrine and ecclesiastical dates, remembers the life, death and resurrection of He who is ‘The Way, and the Truth, and the Life’ (John 14:6 NIV).

God’s love for humankind is exhibited in the sacrifice of His only begotten Son for the salvation of humanity, the remission of sins and the commencement of new life for His creation. As Christians we look to the Cross which resoundingly symbolises our faith and rest assured that the Lord, our God, has conquered death and trampled evil. God has given eternal life and everlasting happiness to all Christians who live in the hope of salvation.

While we as Christians celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, we must also remember in our thoughts and prayers those who suffer under the burdens of poverty, oppression and injustice, both in Australia and around the world. It is our conviction that the hope bestowed upon us by our Almighty God in this Easter season reverberates in the hearts of those who suffer and at the same time, compels those graced with positions of power and honour to make a difference. Let us all look to the plight of those who suffer with compassion and resolve to give their lives positive rebirth.

In particular the Assyrian Church of the East prays for the protection of suffering Assyrian Christians in their ancestral homeland of Iraq who continue to face the onslaught of persecution and fear. We implore our brothers and sisters in Christ to remember them during this holy season. May the Lord God look upon them with mercy as they, like us, shout ‘Hosanna in the Highest’.

Christ is Risen! May His resurrection be a blessing unto us all.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, forever and ever: Amen.

Mar Meelis Zaia AM, Metropolitan
Archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand
Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East

australianchristianchurchesAustralian Christian Churches /Assemblies of God

He is Risen.

Have you ever stopped to think about why we call it ‘Good’ Friday? Jesus Christ was tortured, battered, bruised and He died on a rugged cross. There was nothing ‘good’ about it! Yet, for those who know the story, the cross is only the very beginning of Easter. Three days later, what seemed so hopeless for the followers of Jesus turned into a glorious picture of a redemptive Saviour. As Christians, we can look beyond the cross and claim His goodness, because He rose again on Sunday!

What an incredible exclamation and a lasting promise. In the midst of all the devastation around us; economic despair, disease, broken families, and natural disasters, we gather to proclaim that He is Risen. We sing that death could not hold Him down, and believe that these very tragedies do not have the last word over us.

This Easter, as we watch countless Australians emerge from horrific, painful, and seemingly hopeless situations, let us remember that Christs sacrifice gave us victory over this present darkness, and His resurrection brings the hope of new life.

May you find this Easter weekend a time to reflect on God’s incredible sacrifice, the empty tomb, and our lasting hope.

Wishing you and your family a truly wonderful Easter weekend.

Brian Houston
Senior Pastor, Hillsong Church
National President, Australian Christian Churches

Baptist Union

The story behind the Taj Mahal is 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. This love story finds its memorial in the eating of Bread and the drinking of Wine as celebrated variously by Christians around the world. The loved Bible verse tells the story: Jn 3:16 ‘For God so loved …the love of God is Inexhaustible…The World – God’s love is Inclusive …that He gave His only Son – God’s love in Intentional. Nothing says I love you like the cross. Jesus said (John 15:12-13) There is no greater love than this that a man would lay 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 may not seem as lavish as the Taj Mahal – but it does represent the most lavish love of all – the love of God for each one of us. Take a look at the cross this Easter for in that story of Jesus’ death you can discover a life-changing reality…that God loves you. Look further to the empty cross and open tomb to see the power of this love to restore you to new life in Jesus in this life and the next. Have a happy Easter – for He who died is now risen and has promised to come back again. This remains the greatest hope the world could ever have.

Revd Dr John Beasy
National President
Baptist Union of Australia

catholic-bishops-conf-jpegCatholic Church

This Easter has special significance because of the regeneration of those communities affected by the devastating Victorian bushfires. For me, this regeneration is symbolic of the meaning of Easter in the way that fire can be so powerful and destroy everything around it and yet out of the blackness comes greenery and new life. Communities can be really knocked over by such disasters but good people come to their aid to support them and to help them rebuild their lives. This is a real resurrection experience and a reminder to us that the horizon in which we live is the horizon of the resurrection after death. The death and resurrection of Christ permeates everything in our lives through the gift of eternal life that God gives us.

Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson
President
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

Churches of Christ

“Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.” (Matthew 27:61)

As a society, our gods are failing us.

We have lived through a time of unprecedented wealth coupled with unaccountable credit. And, when the good times roll, we rarely pause to consider the possibility of higher unemployment, falling investments and recessions. We are now busily assessing where our security lies in such turbulent days. Having enjoyed the boom, many simply struggle to survive the bust until the next boom provides economic salvation.

Easter is a time where we recall that our God has not failed us.

Through the Gospels we can enter the experience of the first disciples and identify with their experiences. We can sense the shock of Jesus’ arrest and Judas’ betrayal, see the innocent Jesus mocked, beaten, spat upon, crucified. We share the numbed stillness of the Saturday as the disciples first contemplate life without Jesus. Then comes the joy, unlooked for and all encompassing, as Jesus fulfils his promise to conquer death and the disciples first contemplate an unending life with Jesus.

For many people globally, they have suffered. Their security has been ripped from them, their hope for the future cruelly crucified. Resurrection and rebirth are far from their minds. Yet, by looking back at the Easter story we are invited to participate afresh in it. We may not be able to conceive how hope will be again restored to us, but the Jesus story is stark in its promise: hope will always return.

Even as we stand – figuratively – outside his tomb, wondering what the future holds, we can be assured that Jesus will not fail us.

Mr Craig Brown
Federal Coordinator
Churches of Christ in Australia

Coptic Orthodox Church

It is my pleasure to congratulate you on the Glorious Feast of the Resurrection of our Saviour and Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Resurrection of Christ gives us the power to be a strong and dynamic Church calling on the world to believe in Christ.

Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed to the Father for His disciples and for us, that we may be one, so the world may believe in Christ and His redeeming act, “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:21).

Our Lord Jesus Christ wants us to be one, taking as our pattern the unity of the Holy Trinity. The One Church is a strong and dynamic Church, and it is impossible for Christians to be one except through the power of the Resurrection.

Before the Resurrection, the disciples were scattered, as our Lord Jesus Christ told them, “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone.” (John 16:32). Judas betrayed Christ and Peter denied Him; just as the Holy Bible says, “Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” (Matthew 26:56). Afterwards, when the disciples were gathered in the Upper Room, “the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews.” (John 20:19).

When Christ rose from the dead, the disciples were completely transformed. Their fear turned to joy; their scattering to unity; and their weakness to power. When our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to the disciples and told them, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19), He showed them His hands and His side. Then the Holy Bible says, ‘Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”

May the Risen Lord bless our country Australia, its people and its Government.

Daniel,
With the Grace of God
Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox
Diocese of Sydney & its Affiliated Regions

lcaLutheran Church

When we nurture children we make a real effort to settle them quietly at night to prepare them for sleep. Many a child in a Christian family will have learned the prayer ‘If I should die before I wake, I pray thee Lord my soul to take’.

Is this an early preparation for death? Is a night light sometimes used so that a child settles into sleep meant to introduce an expectant ray of light to begin a new day on the other side of sleep?

Surely these practices point to Easter. The ray of light after his sleep of death is the risen, once crucified Lord Jesus Christ. In his light we have the hope of a new life and a new day.

Our darkness may not always be the night. It may be a tragedy, a sickness, a loss of a job or an investment, or the evaporation of our ambition.

The message of the risen Christ sheds on the world the light of a new beginning, a new life that has new priorities, expectations, direction and destination.

Revd Dr Michael P Semmler
President
Lutheran Church of Australia

logo_presbyterian_church_of_australiaPresbyterian Church

Easter: “I want to know what really matters?”

Busy, busy, busy. The commercial world craving more trading. More swiping of plastic cards. More packages to take home.

I’m forced to think of the good old days. Days when people would read “the old, old story”. They would sing, “There is a green hill far away outside a city wall, where the dear Lord was crucified, who died to save us all.”

And I think too of that autumn afternoon when Craig and I sipped our coffee. “I just want to know what really matters,” he said. His deep, dark, searching eyes displayed sincerity. “I’ve tried religion – it doesn’t work. But surely there must be more to life.”

What do I say to this genuine Aussie bloke?

The words of the Apostle Paul came to mind. “I passed on to you what I received which is of the greatest importance”.

Surely this was a good starting point.

Paul continues, “Christ died for our sins, was buried and was raised to life three days later … as was written in the Scriptures.” “Jesus, the perfect one, dying for us, imperfect ones, that he might bring us to God.”

This is the message I shared with Craig that sunny autumn afternoon while our coffee grew cold. For it is the message of forgiveness, of hope and purpose. It’s the message of being put right with God, of comfort for those whose heart is aching, empty or confused. It’s the message of peace.

It’s God’s message. It’s at the heart of what we call Easter.

Revd Robert Benn
Moderator General
Presbyterian Church of Australia

the_salvation_armyThe Salvation Army

May the Easter season be a most significant time for you and your family. For Christians around the world, it will be a time of reflection and remembrance, focussing on the death of Jesus Christ. This will be no morbid reflection. The crucifixion of Jesus was not the end of a good man. Jesus, God in flesh, died for the sins of the world. His was a sacrifice that spells salvation for all who believe in Him and recognise Him as the universal Saviour. Yet the reflection will not be limited to his death but will celebrate His resurrection, knowing that all He had promised has been fulfilled. He lives! He truly lives! The message of Easter therefore is one of love and hope. These are days when such a message needs to be heard. If God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, we can be assured that His love is unconditional and unfailing and is available for such a time as this. When the news of the world and the trauma of daily events would cause us to despair, the risen Christ calls us once again to hope. Someone has written, Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Yes that is true but because He lives, we can face today, not somehow but triumphantly!

Commissioner Linda Bond Commissioner James Knaggs
Australia Eastern Territory Australia Southern Territory
The Salvation Army in Australia

Serbian Orthodox Church

Addressing you: beloved monastics, clergy, all sons and daughters, the faithful spiritual children of our Holy Church, with a heart resounding and overflowing with joy in the victory of the inextinguishable light over the death-bearing darkness of sin, the great and victory-bearing Feast of Feasts – The Resurrection of Christ, We wholeheartedly greet all of you with the salvific Christian greeting:

CHRIST IS RISEN!

Shine, shine – let us all sing –
O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!
Exalt now and be glad, o Zion; and rejoice, O Pure Theotokos
in the Resurrection of your Son!

(Paschal Irmos – 9th Canon)

And again, We reiterate, sing dear spiritual children, for the Resurrection has brought forth joy in abundance! Together with the Most Holy Theotokos let us rejoice in the Resurrection of her Offspring, convinced that the Lord will fulfill the promise given to us, His disciples and friends (Jn. 15:14) and that the answer will radiate out of the life-giving Tomb in response to the lament of His Mother, and to our sorrows and bitter tears: For I shall arise and be glorified with eternal glory as God and I shall exalt all who magnify you in faith and in love (Irmos of Holy and Great Saturday—9th Canon). And that is truly the joy of Zion, the joy of those persons who live and desire to live on the Mount of the Lord and to maintain an indissoluble bond with the Risen Lord.

Therefore, exalt today for we are surrounded by the radiance and brilliance of the New Jerusalem – that Heavenly Kingdom – which is revealed in the celebration of every Divine Liturgy, and especially today’s – Paschal Liturgy. Truly, the Divine Liturgy is bestowed upon us as a visible gift of that inextinguishable light of the Eighth Day, that day which stands apart from time and space, in eternity. Zion exalts, for even the hills and mountains and all that God has created rejoice, and we exalt in Zion and rejoice in our One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and indivisible Orthodox Church!

We rejoice in the Church, for, according to the words of the famous Theologian, Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, we know that the Church is not an institution with Sacraments; but rather a Sacrament with institutions, wherein we experience the world being made the Kingdom of God through Christ. Also, precisely for the sake of our salvation, Fr. Alexander’s warning is revealed unto us: You will not save the Church; rather the Church will save you! And that we could comprehend this as something which is essential to our daily lives, it is good to call to remembrance the Proverbs of Solomon wherein it is stated: Where there is no vision, the people perish (29:18).

Therefore, in the Church, outside of which there is no salvation, a person of faith cannot and will not perish. It is never too late for anyone to repent and believe, for this generous Master receives the last as the first. It is necessary to open our ears and hearts and our entire being unto the hearing of faith. Then, when we open up ourselves so that the Divine Logos may abide in us (cf. Jn. 1:14), truly the light of the Risen Lord will shine upon us. Let us extend a hand of reconciliation to one another, embrace each other and forgive all by the Resurrection. Only then will we be able to preserve that which we already are. And the paradox of our holy Christian Faith is found exactly in that: if we do not open up ourselves, if we do not come out of our self-sufficiency, we will not be able to preserve anything. And precisely such a sacrifice of love is impossible without the Resurrection.

Inspired by the sacrificial love of the Theotokos – the Mother of the Light, let us hasten to our Mother Church as to the ship of our salvation, so that we may sail upon the waters of a clear vision of ourselves, our identity, our vocation and our holy mission, both as individual members of the Church, according to our Baptism, and as one holy Body of Christ’s Church. This is the holy Faith which we have received through Tradition and which We impart unto you, our beloved faithful, not only for preservation, but also for enrichment and advancement. Truly, this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith (I Jn. 5:4) and that is the only and unique source of our entire joy and fullness of our Christian victory – the victory of the Risen Lord! Therefore today, as all creation rejoices in the victory of love over death (cf. Songs 8:6), We greet you with the victorious greeting:

CHRIST IS RISEN!
TRULY, HE IS RISEN!

Given in Sydney, at Pascha in the Year 2009.

Your fervent intercessor before the Risen Christ,

His Grace Bishop Irinej, Bishop of Australia and New Zealand
Administrator of the Diocese for Australia and New Zealand
New Gracanica Metropolitanate

Seventh-day Adventist Church

“No news is good news!” Well, that is the way the saying goes. And it certainly is true in some circumstances. But with the state of the world as it is – abuse within relationships; corporate greed and financial collapse; loss of integrity; and so much more – it is time for some serious news that is linked to good news, really good news!

That serious news confirms that the world is in such a bad state that humanity cannot get itself out of it, and sin is at its core. The good news, really good news, is that the all-loving Creator God has resolved the core problem facing the world while still providing for free choice. He has died for your sins. And He has risen from the grave, confirming the success of His venture to save you. 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.

Let the Bible tell it best:

“So also Christ died only once as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again but not to deal with our sins again. This time he will bring salvation to all those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Hebrews 9:28 (New Living Translation)

Easter is a time to consider that really good news – a time to let that good news touch the course of your whole future life.

Pastor Ken Vogel
General Secretary
Seventh-day Adventist Church

uca-logoUniting Church

How refreshing to hear politicians saying our capitalist economy needs to be humanised. To the “values of security, liberty and prosperity must also be grafted the values of equity, sustainability and community,” said Kevin Rudd last week. Gordon Brown and Barack Obama have made similar statements.

What economic advice does the Christian faith give us? The founder of the Christian faith, Jesus Christ, actually spoke a lot about wealth and money. Jesus would agree that equity, sustainability and community are key values, but what he most stressed was that greed and selfishness are wrong and that personal generosity and care for the poor are right.

Jesus lived very simply. He died penniless, a victim of the religion and politics of his day. What he left us through his death and resurrection is priceless – the offer of God’s love and forgiveness for us every day, the promise that those who put their faith in God receive God’s guidance and peace every day, and the promise of eternal life beyond this life.

As we celebrate Easter 2009, in a period of economic turmoil and suffering, look to the example of Jesus. He wanted the rich to share their wealth with the poor. He wanted the world to be free of oppression and suffering. He wanted everyone to know God’s love. As our political leaders try to create a reformed world economy, may they heed the voice of Jesus calling for generosity, equity and care for the poor.

Revd Gregor Henderson
President
Uniting Church in Australia