We sure live in unusual, uncertain, and scary times.
COVID-19 has got the whole world jittery and on edge. So, to help us all get through this thing, I want us to focus on hope.
That's what Easter is really all about - hope!
We hope for an end to this time of social distancing, we hope for a time when we can all resume what used to be our "normal life". We hope for a cure and healing for those who are infected and we hope for the blessing of peace for those who have lost a loved one (and not just from this pandemic).
Here is the great thing for all of us. Through Jesus' death on the cross, on the first Good Friday, and his world-changing resurrection on Easter Sunday, we are given hope. A hope that no pandemic, no raging bushfire, no drought, no war, no vehicle accident, or any other disaster can possibly destroy. The bottom line is, we all need hope!
To put some context on this hope that we have, I invite you to consider this:
Very soon, Australians will be commemorating a special event that we as a nation hold dear in our national psyche and identity.
We will be commemorating Anzac Day, and paying our respects to all the Australians and New Zealanders whose lives were sacrificed in the defence of our countries, on behalf of our allies. This year, we will be commemorating Anzac Day in a very different way because of the restrictions on social gatherings, but, "we will remember them".
We hold the Anzacs in great awe and honour and have an almost spiritual reverence for their sacrifice. We tell and retell the heroics of our men and women, and we give thanks for what they did, as we should. But the Anzacs' sacrifice only gave us a temporary hope. Many more wars have come and gone since 1915. Droughts, floods, recessions, global flu outbreaks and many more trials have been weathered and, despite them all, we have soldiered on in hope.
But be assured of this, what the Anzacs did for us is a mere shadow of Jesus' triumph, remembered on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
The Anzacs' sacrifice was for king and country, while Jesus' sacrifice was for the whole world. The common factor is that, neither sacrifice was for nothing. Both sacrifices give us hope for the future. But the difference is that through Jesus' sacrifice the whole world has hope for an eternal future.
This Easter, I pray that you will look to Jesus because he gives you hope.
So now what? There's no camping. Holidays have been turned upside down. I'm not even sure it's possible to buy chocolate.
What will Easter mean? Easter continues to celebrate Jesus came amongst us, transformed the way we view God, one another and the world.
Because he upset the systems of the time, he was crucified. Death, however, couldn't contain him - he rose again!
That's a truth that hasn't changed, there is new life because Jesus has overcome death.
In the midst of this craziness, consider the possibility that God is making all things new, including you!
At this busy time of year, the various churches in Horsham would like to offer you our best wishes.
Easter is often a time for the family. And for this reason, it can be for some of us a very busy time. But for others it may be a time of rest, maybe a long weekend away with the family.
For those of us in the churches, it is the most important time of the year. It is a time when we remember the central fact of Christianity, not just the death of Jesus, but his resurrection. Jesus who for us was "God with us". Without his resurrection, there would simply be no Christianity.
In the heart of many of us, there is the question; how can I prove my love? At Easter, we may buy chocolate eggs to show we care, or we may be thinking of some greater gift. The shops are wanting to help us to answer that question by offering us things to buy.
The church is here to help answer this question also. We believe that at Easter, someone died to show their love. We teach that Jesus rose from the dead. God's gift to us. We say that this is the greatest gift. It is how God has shown his love. Sometimes we need to show our love for someone by sacrifice, of our time or perhaps money, giving so that others will see our love.
Christianity believes that God gave the gift of his son to show his love. His resurrection on Easter Sunday shows his love in that through it he brings us into his family.
We hope that whether you have a busy Easter, or a restful one, it will give you fresh hope for the coming year.
Best wishes and a happy Easter from all the Christians in Horsham.
I write this message on the fifth Sunday of Lent, the story of Lazarus, where Jesus calls him forth from the tomb, and tells the people to "unbind him and set him free".
We are all bound up by the coronavirus, so the words of Jesus show us his infinite mercy and compassion where human weakness does not have the last word. God's word is incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He is God's means of rescue and salvation, fully present as a person like us.
That is what we celebrate at Easter. The events of the first Good Friday seemed to Jesus' followers like failure, and despair. Easter Day celebrates truth, with the good news of hope and salvation. Jesus' resurrection teaches and reveals to us we were crucified together with Christ, we were buried with Christ, and we are risen together with him.
For Christians, no calamity - this coronavirus - however unbearable, is the end of the story. This is what Christians celebrate at Easter. Have a happy and blessed Easter.
Easter Sunday doesn't totally remove the pain and uncertainty in our lives, but it lights up our lives with hope. All is different, because we know Jesus is alive, and speaks his words of peace to us as he spoke them to the apostles. Faith in the resurrection of Jesus is the basis of our hope of eternal life, a hope which enables us to bear patiently the trials of this life. There for when we trust in God there is a quiet certainty and peace in our hearts, because we know that life is stronger than death, love is stronger than fear, and hope is stronger than despair.
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