In the name and on behalf of the entire Council for World Mission family, a partnership of churches in forty-two countries around the world, I salute you in the name of the risen Christ; and I pray with you that the meaning of Easter will inspire us all to hope and work for change by embracing the resurrection spirit of determination and defiance.
‘We have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:4)
Jesus was always on the move. Our stories depict him as a holy wanderer, a vagabond stranger who journeyed from place to place to announce the nearness of the kingdom. He was taken along the path of a refugee to Egypt, wandered the sheep trails of Galilee, led the way of the pilgrim to Jerusalem, staggered the way of the cross to Golgotha and then stepped into the dew of Easter morning risen and alive and leading all of us into the way of new life. He was always moving, and always moving people on. The Romans thought their Empire was the way, but the followers of Jesus found another Way, the Way of community, marked by peace and goodwill for all.
So, we have joined the pilgrimage, moving with Jesus, following him to Jerusalem; and we joined with his followers in ushering in his arrival there with shouts of ‘Hosanna!’. We were as shocked and inspired as they were when he walked into the Temple and overturned the tables. Like his first disciples, who dodged around the streets of Jerusalem, avoiding the Temple authorities, we are challenged by Jesus’ passionate teaching and transformed by the Upper Room experience where he broke his heart and body for us. On this pilgrimage, we find ourselves betraying, denying, escaping, hiding like the first disciples; and we witness as they deserted him, except for a few, the women, who alone were faithful and walked with him, watched over him at his death and brought to us, with wet feet and tears of joy, the holy and startling news that he is risen. This is the amazing discovery that has fuelled the Christian hope in the midst of turmoil – The Lord is risen indeed!
These women call to us still, declaring Christ’s passionate mission. They announce it from the places of death and suffering like Aleppo in Syria, Mosul in Iraq, Bethlehem in Jesus’ own land. They speak in rage and tears having witnessed the punishment killings of Dalits in India, or the drug dealers of the Philippines. Their sons and daughters have been taken and abused as child soldiers in South Sudan or as sex workers in Thailand. They speak up for the earth as trees and protestors have been cut down in Honduras and marched for change in Washington. And they invite us to renew our discipleship as followers of Jesus, joining him and them in their walk to new life, witnessing in our hopes, relationships and actions to the fullness of life which Christ intends for all creation.
I pray that we may all be filled with the joyful defiance of the witnessing Easter women, believing in God’s liberation in the face of oppression, oppressive forces and the consequent depression and sense of futility. We look to each other for hope and encouragement in the steps we must take to build on the change for which Jesus lived and died and for which his resurrection is an act of defiance against empire and a definitive statement that change is possible – change of heart, mind and structure. Through these changes, we will die to ourselves, the habitual self-centred, self-seeking and self-absorbed ways of being; but we will certainly rise to be signs of the new heaven and earth now – life-affirming communities in which all of God’s creation relate with integrity, honouring the intrinsic value of each other.
May Jesus, Way of Peace and Life, inspire our walk and witness as Christians; in our celebration of the Easter story may the risen Christ meet us in hope and joy; and may the power of resurrection certainty enable us to serve and bless others who travel with us the way of peace and life.
A holy Easter to all.
Rev Dr Collin Cowan