This Easter message is intended to greet us with hope and to assure us of life amid the relentless onslaught of challenging circumstances. It is an affirmation that the God of life beckons us to reject the notions of defeat and to rise and claim the possibility for renewal and transformation.
This Easter confronts us with widespread grief and distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the extent of the social disparity it reveals; the military coup and wanton killing of innocent civilians in Myanmar; the reality of endemic and systemic racism and violence; and the unfortunate train crash in Taiwan, which has claimed some forty lives and injured over 150 persons. These are only a few of the painful and emotionally draining situations that confront us in the world in which we live and the place we call home. The usual positive, and sometimes triumphalistic, message of Easter is challenging at this time; and yet at the core of our conviction, as resurrection people, is the belief that the God of life has a plan to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29: 11).
Jeremiah’s message to the exiled people of Israel, at a time when the prospects of home seemed dim and remote, must have met them with consternation and confusion. And yet Jeremiah was resolute in his proclamation that yielding to, or surrendering under, the pressure of captivity was not an option (Jer 29: 1-14). This was also the message of the first disciples of Jesus, after the cruel execution that Jesus, their leader, experienced at the hands of both the political and religious leaders of his day. At that time, the message of resurrection was a risky one but Peter refused to be quieted. Speaking to a large crowd, he declared: “you handed him over to be killed; you disowned him before Pilate; ygpd ou killed the author of life; but God raised him from the dead” (Acts 3: 13-15). This message got them into trouble and they were jailed but it did not stop them. Despite the experience of imprisonment and the threat of it, Peter spoke up yet again: “It is by the name of Jesus…, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed” (Acts 4: 10).
Easter is the message of resurrection and rebirth. It speaks to the spirit of resilience and resistance that God’s activity portrays and God’s people proclaim. “God raised him from the dead” is a statement of defiance. It is another way of saying God turned the table, revealing the finiteness of life’s setbacks, of human suffering and struggle, and of systemic evil to have the final word. God acts to vindicate the oppressed, to heal the wounded heart and to revive the broken spirit; and in so doing, God keeps alive, the story of those who dare to be brave in living out their faith, even if it means suffering and death.
Yes, Easter conveys a positive message, one that invites us to pause long enough to ponder its meaning, especially in times such as these, ravaged with the pain and bewilderment, caused by the current disruptions and dislocation.
Council for World Mission, a partnership of churches spread out across the continents of the world, declares that its vision is “Life-flourishing communities, living out God’s promise of a New Heaven and a New Earth”. This articulation signals unrest and discontent with the present social order; and a determination to faithfully carry out God’s mission of resisting life-denying forces, affirming peace, doing justice and enabling life-flourishing communities. This is our way of living the resurrection story, rejecting the notions of defeat and renewing our faith, our confidence in and our commitment to the God of life.
We greet you in the spirit of Easter and invite you to share with us the conviction that, “no matter what our circumstances may be, God will make a way”; and that we are prepared to stay on the side of God until our change is come.
Hallelujah, He is risen! He is risen indeed.
Rev Dr Collin Cowan