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Easter messages from the Moderator Rev Dr David Pitman and President Rev Gregor Henderson

Easter message from Rev Dr David Pitman Moderator of the Queensland Synod

Mark 16:8 says of the women who found the tomb empty on Easter Day: “they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Many biblical scholars agree that this was the original ending of Mark’s Gospel and that the other variations found in our Bibles were added at a later time.

In spite of being entrusted with the responsibility to share this incredible news with others, the women were so traumatised by their experience that they did not tell anyone what they had seen and heard.

When we put this account alongside the other gospel versions it quickly becomes clear that the reactions of these women were quite consistent with how almost everyone responded to the news of Jesus’ resurrection when they heard about it for the first time. Shock and disbelief were the norm. The idea of resurrection was foreign to them. They really had to struggle with the idea that Jesus might be alive and what that meant.

That is why this ending to Mark’s Gospel is so believable. In our hearts we know that it’s real! But 2000 years later we also understand that, for us, the resurrection is primarily a spiritual reality.

The message of Easter is dramatic! “Christ is risen! Alleluia!” The words are one thing. The reality is another. Jesus either lives on in our hearts in such a way that our lives are changed, or the belief means nothing!

The New Testament story makes it clear that the disciples of Jesus only really became alive to what it meant for them to be a resurrection people when Jesus was no longer with them – when they could no longer see him, or touch him, or talk to him face to face. Only when the resurrection became for them a spiritual reality, a matter of the heart, were they ready to claim their new identity as a resurrection people and move on.

The abrupt ending to Mark’s Gospel also helps us to understand that sharing the good news about Jesus is a responsibility entrusted to every generation of the disciples of Jesus.

Today we hear the words of mission and commission from Jesus with the ears of faith and so we hear them differently. We understand that Jesus lives on in us. We realise that the gospel story is unfinished. If we don’t share the good news about Jesus with others, how will they ever hear?

There’s a song I first heard in Fiji many years ago that goes like this:

He came singing love,
and he lived singing love.
He died singing love.
If the song’s to go on,
we must make it our own.
You and I are the singers.

This Easter Day we will share once again in declaring that Christ is alive.

Will we then go away in silence, afraid to share the good news?

Or will we claim our unique identity as people of the resurrection, and offer to others every opportunity to meet and get to know the Christ who is alive in us?

Resurrection is a matter of the heart.

When it has become a matter of the heart for us we are ready to live it and to share it!

Rev Dr David Pitman

Easter Message from Rev Gregor Henderson, President, Uniting Church in Australia

Despite walking this earth 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ continues to make more impact for good on people in the world today than any other single human being.

We hear much these days about the tension, competition and conflict between people of different faiths. This Easter it is worth noting that the stresses that can occur are generated by a very few people. The far more common story, not often told, is the good relationships that are being nurtured, together with a commitment to maintaining peace and harmony, by the vast majority of people of faith.

In the Indian city of Machilipatnam, thousands of Hindus and Muslims come to the city cathedral every Christmas Eve to pray, in respect for the Christian faith and in commitment to community togetherness. Further, each visitor drops a few rupees into the cathedral’s offering boxes and, on that one day, they contribute more than 10% of the cathedral’s annual budget.

In Jerusalem last year, a new Council for Religious Institutions was established. Membership includes the Jewish chief rabbis; the Christian heads of churches; and the Muslim supreme judge and mufti. They are particularly working on the very sensitive issue of the long-term future status of Jerusalem.

In Australia the leaders of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths are planning a joint visit to Israel and Palestine in 2009, in order to see the conflict there from all sides and to work out together how faith leaders may contribute to peace in the region.

None of these things would be happening were it not for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to live out and teach God’s love for the whole world, not just for his particular followers. That is why, in respect for Jesus, people of many faiths observe Easter.

Whether you are of the Christian faith, another faith, or a person of no religious faith at all, I encourage you to at least enjoy the Easter holiday season and to give thanks for Jesus; a man who promoted peace and advocated for justice for all humans; and the man whom Christians worship as Son of God and Saviour of the world.

Rev Gregor Henderson