26 March 2016

Easter Messages... theirs and mine


I watched Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's Easter message today. Although it begins with recognition of the Easter holiday on Sunday for most of the Christians of Australia (Orthodox Christians will celebrate on 1 May), the real message sounded more like a public service announcement for the NRMA or the RACV. Four times he uses the verb to drive and encourages us to drive-- defensively, carefully, and take breaks often enough that we actually arrive to see family and friends. Even if we run late. I appreciate his care for road safety, but for an Easter message, it was pretty weak.

Turnbull says the weekend is a time of "new life, hope and renewal" for Christians. And immediately switches to the secular notion of Easter egg hunts and chocolate overload. Then to be political, and that's not wrong for a PM, he boasts about our multiculturalism's success here.

I like what Australia's Anglican leader Philip Freier said in his Easter message to remind followers of the key message of the occasion, that life and love will triumph. "In his cruel death Jesus takes evil into himself and demonstrates his triumphs over it by rising two days later on Easter Day," he said. "This biblical truth ... invites us to not to lose courage in the face of human cruelty or to lose hope on account of the apparent triumph of evil and despair."

When the people of the world are glued to televisions for any further information about the Brussels terrorist attacks, we need real words of hope and confidence from our leaders. Natasha Moore wrote on Wednesday for the ABC this op-ed piece which included these closing remarks.

"But the Easter story inaugurated a new "natural", and Western history and sensibilities carry the imprint of Jesus's life and death, of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday - as well as of Easter Sunday and the promise of resurrection and regeneration, of new life.

The novelist Marilynne Robinson writes of the Easter narrative that its main point "is that God is of a kind to love the world extravagantly, wondrously, and the world is of a kind to be worth, which is not to say worthy of, this pained and rapturous love". That is, human beings are worth (which is not to say worthy of) that love, even - perhaps especially - in our most desperate states. Our instinct to separate ourselves from suffering, to fence off, where we can, the importunate other from our otherwise pleasant lives, is unworthy of us.

Certainly it is unworthy of the God who, Christians are convinced, lowered himself to our infirmities and took up our burdens, that first Easter and ever since."

I believe the Bible's story of the Risen One. And without Jesus rising from the dead literally, then the story of today's "Good" Friday message is a horrible one. After all if Jesus died the horrible Roman death with whippings that ripped his back's flesh, a crown of mocking thorns pressed deeply onto his head, nails hammered into his wrists and feet, and that was the end of the story, then the One who caused this to happen was a sadist. The Bible says "God (The Father) gave His only begotten Son" to this dying. If that be so, and it was purposeless, then the Father is an abuser, and a horrible one at that.

But if Yeshua rose from the dead, and the purpose of the death of Messiah was to forgive our sins and welcome us back into relationship with the Father, then Friday becomes 'good.' And the welcome Yeshua gives to all, even those who tortured Him, is the message of Good Friday. No one is excluded; all can be forgiven. All can be saved. You can be saved. Thanks be to God.
Watch this YouTube Video Song and note that He died for the greatest purpose-- to bring all to Himself. Even me. Even you. That's a Good Friday message of serious hope.

Oh, and don't forget to drive carefully.

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