According to John's Gospel in the Bible, it was Mary Magdalene who ran and told the disciples "I have seen the Lord!" (John 20:18).
It was earth shattering news. It changed everything.
The disciples had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah, who would set the people free (Luke 24:21). And not only the disciples either. The crowds of desperate people who flocked to see Jesus speak wherever he went had been hoping the same thing. But in the end it had all come to nothing. Worse than nothing. He'd been humiliated, tortured and killed like any other nobody who became an irritant to the Roman occupation.
But now, on the third day of that tragedy, Mary comes running with the news that changes everything. "I have seen The Lord!" Jesus has been raised from the dead. God has vindicated him, confirmed him as the Christ, initiated the dawn of the promised age of reconciliation and renewal for all creation. This changes everything. The resurrection of Jesus Christ sounds God's judgement on every injustice, oppression and cruelty. At the heart of history, it is the sign and promise of the final victory of justice, freedom and peace.
Because Christ is risen, we never give up on the pursuit of justice and peace. We don't lose heart in the face of cruelty or oppression. Whatever the likelihood of immediate "success" in this or that particular struggle we persevere in hope and joy, assured that Christ, the risen crucified One, lives and reigns. Every time we pray with Jesus, "your kingdom come, your will be done", we identify again with this message of Easter hope, claiming it for ourselves and for the whole world.
One area of suffering that seems intractable is the disadvantage and marginalisation experienced by Australia's First Peoples. During Lent the Uniting Church held a week of prayer and fasting for justice for Indigenous Australians. In every corner of the continent individuals and congregations found ways to take part in this act of solidarity and prayer.
A public prayer vigil was held in Canberra, where I had the privilege of presiding with the Reverend Rronang Garrawurra, the Chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.
We came together to express our sorrow, but also to express our shared hope for reconciliation and justice - hope grounded in the news of Christ's resurrection. And we have other bold hopes too.
We hope for the day when Australia welcomes strangers in need, rather than punishing them as an example to others who might seek our help.
We hope for the day when Christians, Muslims and Jews can live together in peace and safety.
We hope for the day when no one is disadvantaged by race, gender, class or by physical or intellectual difference.
We hope for the day with joy. Because we have heard Mary's Easter sermon: "I have seen the Lord!"
So, on behalf of the Uniting Church in Australia, I pray that such hope and joy will be yours this Easter.
God bless you and those you love.