Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter 2016

(The President of DIAKONIA World Federation, Rev Sandy Boyce, delivered this sermon for Easter Day at Pilgrim Uniting Church, 27th March 2016)

Jesus is risen! Hallelujah!

Jesus’ risen life means that ‘today we find ourselves in a world where the inevitable no longer seems sure, and we wonder what else is made possible because of the resurrection: what walls will be broken and what darkness will be destroyed; what death will be shown for what it is - the possibility for love to come again’.
(Cheryl Lawrie)

In that tomb, it was love that released Jesus from the bonds of death. God’s love that released the possibility of new life when all looked bleak and hopeless. 

We have heard the story of Jesus told by the generations of our spiritual ancestors - of a betrayal, an arrest, a man condemned to death, and his crucifixion on a cross, and finally laid to rest in a tomb - abandoned, alone. Hate, suspicion, cruelty, and fear, had put him there. All the common elements of our human condition, seen in countless conflicts through human history. Our time is just as cruel and violent, filled with suspicion and hate.  

We have been shocked by the attacks on innocent people in Brussels, as we have been shocked by other such acts of terror. (Editorial: And the news from Lahore, Pakistan, about the suicide bomber who has killed more than 60 and injured hundreds of others, mainly women and children. It is reported that they were mainly Christian families enjoying the Easter holiday). And there are many, many more acts of terror that happen, largely unreported in mainstream media but that bring fear and death to innocent people - regardless of ethnicity and  religious convictions. In fact, since 2000, only 2.6% of deaths from terrorism have occurred in the West. Which is why millions flee from danger, simply seeking safety. 

Jesus’ death on a cross was a political act designed to bring terror to the civilians in the Roman Empire. Sadly, the religious authorities colluded with political might to execute Jesus. He was guilty only of ‘crimes of compassion’, as he sought to embody God’s love and offer God’s mercy and forgiveness. His state sanctioned death by execution on a cross was because his message of love and justice, and his advocacy for the poor and the marginalised, was a threat to those who held power. Brute force sought to defeat love. 

In that tomb, it was love that released Jesus from the bonds of death. God’s love that released the possibility of new life when all looked bleak and hopeless. 

We long to see this love released in our global community - in the actions and words of our political as well as religious leaders, in the actions of those placed in positions of trust, with those who hold power, and with those who make decisions that affect the lives of others. And we long to see that love released between neighbours, regardless of ethnicity or religious convictions.  

It is heartening to see ordinary people embracing love not hate. 10,000 American Jews have signed a petition condemning Donald Trump’s plan to ban all Muslims. To Donald Trump they say, ’When we say ‘never again’, it’s not just about Jews, it’s about everyone. There’s no place for your rhetoric in the 21st century’. 

It is heartening to see the Canadian PM Justin Trudeau welcome thousands of Syrian refugees to his country – people who have been forced to flee their homeland due to war and conflict. We wait in anticipation to see a similar commitment from Australia come to fruition.* 

It is heartening to hear the story from Germany of Syrian asylum seekers who rescued a leading political candidate for a far right party, after the man had crashed his car into a tree. The two Syrians pulled the seriously injured man from the wreckage and administered first aid before an ambulance arrived at the scene. Love overcoming fear and suspicion and difference.  The Good Samaritan story re-told for the 21st century. 

The Australian cartoonist Leunig speaks of love and fear -
There are only two feelings: Love and fear.
There are only two languages: Love and fear.
There are only two activities: Love and fear.
There are only two motives, two procedures, two frameworks, two results.
Love and fear. Love and fear.

Those who perpetrate acts of violence are committed to generating fear and hatred. Those who follow the Jesus way, those who are ambassadors for Christ, are those who cradle and release God’s love in a world longing to be freed from all that binds, that divides, that excludes. This day, resurrection beckons us again to open ourselves more fully to God’s transforming love. It invites us to invest our lives in love, generosity, kindness, justice and peace. 

R. Buckminster Fuller said, ‘It is now highly feasible to take care of everybody on Earth at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. Selfishness is unnecessary. War is obsolete. It is a matter of converting the high technology from weaponry to livingry’. How we live together, at peace with each other, and with the earth. 

And that’s what we see in Jesus’ life - an invitation to live life, and life it in all its fullness. Not just for you, or for me, but for the common good and welfare of all. In revealing the breadth and depth of God’s love for us, the invitation is there for us to open ourselves to God’s love that transforms our lives, and the way we live together. Our faith in God is personal but never private. It must always be revealed in the way we treat one another.

The Moderator (Uniting Church SA Synod), Dr Deidre Palmer, in her Easter message, says: When suffering and trauma are fresh, as they are now in the wake of the attacks in Brussels, it can be difficult to believe in a message of love, hope and peace. And yet today, in Jesus, people experience God’s message of hope that we
can live differently. Love can shape our relationships. Equality, justice and peace can be the foundation of our societies. We can be reconciled to God and to each other. Healing and new beginnings are possible.

As we celebrate Easter, may you dare to hope, as we recall once more Christ’s message of love and peace for all the world. May it be so. Amen. 

(Editorial: *just 29 have been settled in Australia from the 12,000 Syrians Australia committed to settle, though the Immigration Minister has just spent $6.2 million on a film to deter refugees from travelling to Australia)

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