“Do Not Be Afraid.” On the very first Easter Sunday, these were the first words Jesus said to his disciples after his resurrection.
In the face of this joyous news, how did they respond? They cowered in fear. Some couldn’t believe their eyes and doubted.
“Do Not Be Afraid.” It’s as though Jesus knew what kind of a response his resurrection would provoke in his disciples. Fear, panic and disbelief are all familiar responses to us today too. How often in our lives do we respond this way, when the truth is staring us in the face?
Easter is a time to remind ourselves of the victory over fear that Christ’s resurrection brings. The fulfillment of God’s promise of the power of love over hate, of the coming of justice and true reconciliation, means that we need have no fear of what lies ahead.
Earlier this year I joined young leaders in the Uniting Church from all over the country in Sydney. One of the exercises required us to face our fears and help each other to conquer our fears as well. Some people are afraid of snakes. Others fear people who are different. What we learned was that when we care for and support each other, those fears don’t have to defeat us.
For many people, the most fearful thing is death. Be it their own death, the death of their loved ones, or even the death of the institutions they hold dear. Some of us get so afraid that we become paralysed or run away and hide.
Today Australian churches face many challenges. Yet when we open our eyes and look closely – there’s always hope for the future in the signs of renewal right there in front of us. In the future our Church may not look the same or be exactly the same as it is now. But I’m sure our passion for the Gospel and for its power to heal and transform broken lives and societies will be as strong as ever.
We’ll still be committed to the importance of every human being, of the need for integrity in public life, and the proclamation of truth, justice and reconciliation. As we celebrate Easter, let’s all take a deep breath, lay down our fears, and joyously receive again the Spirit of hope that comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all Australians a safe, happy and blessed Easter.
“Do not be afraid.” Peace be with you.
Rev Professor Andrew Dutney
This video message is available for viewing and download at http://assembly.uca.org.au/eastermessage2013