Divided, apart, alone, lost. These are hard words when they apply to ourselves, but how much harder are they when they apply to those we love?
The natural thought is, "What can I do to change things?" Sometimes we might even think, "I wish that had happened to me, not them."
And yet our power to change things is limited, and we have no ability to swap places, no matter how much we love someone.
But those limitations don't apply to God. Knowing that the cause of His children's lostness was sin, God swapped places with the whole of humanity. He took the penalty of that sin on Himself, at the same time blessing us with His righteousness - for those who choose to receive it by accepting Christ.
Knowing how much we can love our children, we can begin to understand how God's love - which is so great that the Bible tells us "God is love" - would lead God to offering Himself in the place of His children - us. So Easter, despite or even because of all that Jesus suffered for us, is a time of celebration of the greatest love of all. Know that you are never alone, that God is always with you, because of that love.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16a,NIV)
By Major Peter Townsend, of The Salvation Army, Inverell.
During the season of Lent, we prepare ourselves by prayer and humility, for a ministry of regeneration and renewal. And that is just what Easter is about; regeneration and renewal. In the humiliation, suffering and unjust death of the Lord Jesus, he for the sake of sin (and that includes ours), suffered death, and for three days his body lay in the tomb.
Death however, could not hold him down, and his resurrection on the third day, was not only God's affirmation of His Son, but it was also the promise and guarantee to us, that life and hope, forgiveness of sins, regeneration and renewal of soul and spirit, are ours through faith and trust in the Lord Jesus. This is a message of hope, not simply in a future and eternal life in heaven, but also of a life well lived in the present. A life in community, a life in God's kingdom, where hope springs eternal, because God's word and name are honoured.
Rev. Daniel Avenell, Inverell Anglican Parish.
Imagine what it would have been like for Mary Magdalen as she searched for Jesus on that first Easter morning. She would have looked at the scattered cloths lying around in the cave and have been nearly desperate. When she sees the Risen Lord, she mistakes him for a gardener and it is only when she hears her name, Mary, that she recognises Jesus at last.
We too have difficulty in recognising Jesus, especially in his suffering and death. At this time, we can travel along the Way of the Cross, hear the words, see the suffering and know a little of the great love that Jesus has for each of us. At the time of crucifixion, we can see Jesus hanging there in agony yet still having time to tell the Good Thief that this day he would be with him in Heaven.
And this story does not end there. We know there are moments after the Resurrection when the apostles saw and heard Jesus and their faith in Him was restored. We know that for Christians down the centuries Jesus is alive in so many ways and his presence is with us still. May the Risen Christ be with us all this Easter and throughout the coming year.
Rosemary Breen, Catholic Church
This year, when I think of Easter, my mind has gone to Simon the Cyrene, this is the man that was forced to help Jesus carry His cross. Jesus had fallen for the second time, that huge tree of a cross, falling on top of Him, as He was struggling to get up, blood pouring off of and out of His body, everywhere, His strength fails Him and that weight falls on Him again. The soldiers respond by whipping Him some more, then one of them grabs Simon, who just happened to be there, and pulls him in to help lift this cross, I can only imagine the look of love he receives from Jesus, the Saviour of the World, imagine being able to assist the Saviour, to help in some small way, as He accomplishes this amazing journey, a journey He has freely chosen, so we and all peoples past, present and future, would be able to spend eternity in Paradise, with His beloved Father.
We to, are asked to carry our cross, in this life, we all have a cross to bear, sometimes it is within our own bodies, a cancer, or we are deformed, have a disability of some kind, sometimes it is, like Simon, we are grabbed from the sideline and made to help another, or we choose to walk a difficult walk to assist another, an aging parent, a person with some disability, we choose this but it will change you forever. As Simon would have been changed forever, new understandings, a new heart, a new life.
Mary also chose, when she was a young girl, to follow what was asked of her, to become the mother of the Saviour of the World, it ended at the cross, where she stood in solidarity to the end.
Jesus sees her and gives her a son, to help her, comfort and protect her, in a sense John is pulled into this role, like Simon, I find this so helpful to think on, when called on to perform a duty for someone, that may be a struggle...carrying a cross with and for someone else, I see Jesus' look of love, looking back at me, through their eyes, I am forever changed.
We can never out give, the Giver of Life, whatever we give we will be repaid many times over, giving becomes a joy, joy changes your life, changes the world. Become a giver, receive the joy.
Happy Easter everyone.
Diane Whan, South Inverell Fellowship.
Jesus lives! The message - and the life-changing power - of Easter comes down to these two amazing words. His resurrection on that first Easter Sunday isn't just a story; it's a reality that can fill our hearts and lives with purpose.
As the chorus of a well-loved hymn expresses it, "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone." It does not matter what life throws at us: Jesus is alive, and he promises to stay with us, every step of the way.
The chorus finishes: "Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives." Tomorrow may bring uncertainties, loss or heartache. But because Jesus lives, we are not afraid. We can choose to love, and to forgive, as he taught us to.
As incredible as it sounds, Easter is about more than "just" the one-time miracle of Jesus' rising from the dead. Jesus lives! Yesterday. Today. Forever. He is a living reality who shapes every day of our lives. He is the reason we celebrate Easter with such joy and thanksgiving!
Stephen Blough, Senior Pastor, Danthonia Bruderhof.
The Lord is my shepherd, that's a relationship. I shall not want, that's supply. He makes me lie down in his green pastures, that's rest. He leads me beside still water, that's refreshment. He restores my soul, that's healing. He leads me in the paths of righteousness, that's guidance. For His name sake, that's purpose. Even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, that's protection. For you are with me, that's faithfulness.
Your rod and your staff they comfort me, that's comfort. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, that's hope. You anoint my head with oil, that's consecration. My cup runs over, that's abundance. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, that's blessing. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord, that's security. Forever, that's eternity. Jesus is my shepherd.
The Easter story tells me, tells us, about Jesus who wants to offer the very best Easter gift, a gift that includes a life-giving relationship with Him, supply of our daily needs, inviting us to times rests and renewal, times of refreshment, offering us healing, offering us guidance, giving us purpose, offering us protection, promising faithfulness, offering us comfort, the promise of consecration, abundance, offering us a blessing bringing us security- lasting for eternity.
What an amazing, lasting Easter gift. Have you invited or allowed the good Shepherd into your daily life?
Rev Jean Bell, Inverell Uniting Church.
The children were rushing all over the park. They were looking everywhere for the body of Jesus. Well, it wasn't actually the body, but a card with a message on it saying "the body of Jesus". They hunted high and low looking for the card but all they found was lots of cards with a picture of an empty grave on them. Each card had the message "no body".
It was a game- a game at the park at Easter. The game ended and the children were given rewards for all the cards they'd collected. But no one found a card saying "the body of Jesus". Of course, that was the point of the game. It was to help the children understand that on one was ever able to find the dead body of Jesus. That first Easter, the grave was empty.
Neither friends no enemies were able to find the dead body of Jesus. Three days after His death, Jesus rose bodily from the grave and he showed himself alive by walking and talking, and eating with friends. Jesus has conquered death. He lives, He promises resurrection life for all who die trusting Him.
Rev David Stone, Inverell Presbyterian Church.