In his 2019 Easter Message, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rt Rev Dr Charles McMullen, writes how Jesus continues to come alongside his followers, just as he did in the immediate aftermath of that first Easter, not only to comfort but empower – and how today, with all the negative headlines that surround us, there is a better story.
The full text of the Moderator’s 2019 Easter Message
‘Jesus Christ makes available his incomparably great power to all who believe. As we recount the individual stories of Easter, we experience that same resurrection life being imparted to despairing disciples as they discover that the tomb in which Christ was buried is now empty.
The risen Christ draws alongside followers locked behind closed doors for fear and as they see his wounds they experience great joy and deep peace. Thomas has his doubts answered as Jesus addresses him personally. Each of Peter’s denials is cancelled out as Jesus asks him three times, “Do you love me?” Disconsolate in her grief, Mary Magdalene is transformed by Jesus as he speaks her name reassuringly.
Christ reaches into the coldest, darkest tombs of human existence and brings the warmth of his loving kindness and the light of his beautiful presence. Where there was once only brokenness and pain, now there is healing and renewal. Where there was grief and sorrow, there is comfort and hope. Death has been defeated, and good triumphs over evil, as the weeping of the night gives way to the joy of a new dawn.
This Easter Sunday morning Christians throughout the world will gather to proclaim in large cathedrals, or small country churches, the joy of the risen Lord. Some will do so in the idyllic setting of the seashore, or on the mountain top as they celebrate in dawn services – as many in our denomination will do here. Others will exercise their Christian faith in countries where there is no freedom to do so and many will suffer opposition and persecution for their beliefs. Regardless of circumstances, the triumphal songs of Easter Day will be sung, in secret and in public: “Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son, endless is the victory Thou o’er death hast won.”
There is so much of our society that needs this same resurrection life and power, a vision for a better future. Politics in Northern Ireland show signs of increasing polarisation and the impasse at Stormont has meant that our schools and hospitals are not receiving the vital attention they deserve.
There are many unresolved peace and reconciliation issues from The Troubles and Brexit negotiations are continually stalling, while homelessness and economic deprivation seen in the proliferation of foodbanks are among some of the urgent issues needing to be addressed on our island home.
Two millennia ago the stone was rolled away from the borrowed grave where the crucified Jesus had been buried. Sadly, for whatever reason, many live in the gloom of the tomb rather than in the glorious hope of Easter Sunday and its better story. The good news is that Jesus still moves those stones of stress and anxiety, hatred and resentment, heartache, suspicion and distrust.
To all who are seeking to remove the stones that divide and build relationships for the common good, I want to offer my heartfelt support and encouragement. There are so many in the service of the caring professions, in business, politics, police and emergency services, voluntary sectors, education and in church ministry, who do not make the headlines, but make such a difference – they are unsung heroes and wonderful influences for good.
I believe in the distinctive contribution of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only one who has conquered suffering and death. As he revealed himself to those first disciples in his risen power, his message has its most enduring impact when it takes hold of us personally.
In John’s Gospel we see Jesus proclaim, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.’ That we too would all see and believe!’
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