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Christ is risen: he is risen indeed!
I wish you all a happy Easter, on behalf of the Uniting Church in Australia. I hope that this Easter is a time of peace for you and that you have opportunities to share it with your family and friends. Holidays are precious, but the meaning of this one in particular is profound.
The Apostle Paul summed up Easter like this:
“…in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace…and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”
Paul’s message of equality and mutuality remains as radical today as it did 2000 years ago. It wasn’t just a religious elite or a specially favoured clan or class or community who could become people of God. All people were people of God through Jesus’ death on the Cross and his resurrection. For Paul, this equality surpassed the bounds of race, class and gender.
He said, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
This is the consistent message of the New Testament that echoes to us down the millennia: In the risen crucified Christ, God gathers people together who don't belong together, and have no history of getting along together.
God puts together people who don't belong together and says to them, “You are all my children, and sisters and brothers together. Love one another.” There’s nothing easy about this. And churches throughout the centuries – the Uniting Church included – have struggled to express that kind of equality and inclusion in their own communities. Christian institutions and societies have fallen short of that goal too. Nonetheless, we persevere with the call of God. In the name of the risen crucified One, love one another. And from time to time we get glimpses of the promise of Easter here and now.
Let me mention two important anniversaries in the life of the Uniting Church. It’s 30 years since the formation of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress – an independent and self-determining part of our Church. Congress provides ministry to indigenous Australians by indigenous Australians – and stands with the whole church as we seek justice for First Peoples and reconciliation between First and Second Peoples.
It’s also 30 years since we in the Uniting Church first acknowledged that we are a “multicultural church.” And today, on any given Sunday our congregations worship in more than 40 different languages including more than a dozen indigenous languages. Our diversity is increasingly reflected in our ministry, and the cultural heritage of more than half of those training to be Uniting Church ministers is now from the Pacific, Asia or Africa.
Year by year, friendship by friendship, we are learning to live and share our faith in ways that reflect the reconciliation between First and Second Peoples, the global North and the South, the rich and poor, citizens and refugees.
And while we freely acknowledge that there is much that is unresolved among us, in a time of growing fear and mistrust between peoples of different languages, cultures and religions,
it is vital that we continue to hear and share the message of Easter.
“Christ is our peace …and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”
The Gospels describe Jesus constantly transgressing the barriers between people – between the righteous and the sinners, between men and women, children and adults, the rich and the poor, between the racially-defined “people of God” and the foreigners who were routinely excluded, mistrusted and feared.
Jesus was remembered as gathering together people who, by definition, had to be kept apart.
He was making a new community of reconciliation and peace in the name of the Kingdom of God.
This Easter I ask you to think about reconciliation where you live – be it with family, neighbours, or any around you from whom you are divided, and how you can receive the peace that Christ gives and seek the justice he promises in your own life and community.
“For Christ is our peace…and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”
On behalf of the Uniting Church in Australia, I wish you a safe and happy Easter.