Who is Jesus: A man or the Son of God?
For Easter, shopfronts are decorated with chocolate bunnies, covered in multi-coloured tin foil to lure in un-suspecting children to be relentlessly begged by their parents to buy them the cute little chocolate bunnies, and tiny little eggs.
So is Easter about chocolate bunnies or Jesus?
As Christians we believe Easter is about Jesus.
It’s the time of year where we celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection.
But to determine if Easter is a man-made way to sell eggs and not about Jesus, I think it’s fitting to ask this question: Who is Jesus to you: a man, or the Son of God?
If Jesus were merely just a man, then you could put him in the liquorice allsorts category. He claimed to be the Son of God, he claimed he would rise again from death; he claimed his kingdom wasn’t from this world.
That sort of talk can only be one of two things, truth or the unedited conversation from a “let me drool on my beard” madman.
After Jesus’ death, the disciples dispersed and hid, scared for their lives.
But after seeing the resurrected Jesus, all of the disciples dedicated their lives to proclaiming Jesus’ victory over death, which led most to die as martyrs.
Because to them Jesus wasn’t just a man, he was the Son of God.
Easter is fundamentally important because it is the time of the year we celebrate not just what he did, but that he is who he claims to be – the Son of God.
If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then our faith as Christians is ‘useless’ and ‘pitiful’.
Because without the resurrection of Christ all we have left are the fraudulent claims of a madman.
No power, no victory, no Christ!
Easter for Christians means Jesus, the Son of God, has risen from the dead, taking victory over our sin, guilt and shame, by taking it upon himself.
Easter, therefore, is a reminder Jesus wants to carry our burdens and reconnect us with a loving God, not an Easter bunny.
So this Easter the question I leave you with is: Who is Jesus to you, a man, or the Son of God?
April 16: Service at 4pm
Judgement won't be a major issue
A MAN’S house was in a low area threatened by rising floodwaters.
As the water rose right up to his front door the SES volunteers came by in a 4WD vehicle to pick him up, but he refused to go, saying: “God will take care of me”
Soon, when the water was three feet deep throughout the house, a motorboat came by to rescue him, but he again refused, saying: “God will save me.”
Finally the rising water drove him to the roof of his house, where a Wales Rescue helicopter hovered overhead and lowered a rope ladder to pluck him to safety.
But he refused, saying: “God will rescue me”.
The man soon slipped from the roof and drowned and when he came before God he complained to the Lord: “Why didn’t you rescue me?”
The Lord answered: “Who do you really think sent the 4WD, the motorboat, and the helicopter?”
Easter is about remembering the saving act of God in sending Jesus into the world.
But before a person can remember being rescued, they need to realise, firstly, that they need saving.
As our Creator, God is kind and loving – but also just and righteous.
Unless that man realised his life was in danger from the floodwaters, he would continue on gleefully, until it was too late.
The word of God tells us every person will come before God for judgment for the life they have lived.
A person does not enter nothingness when they die – they will come before God.
Therefore, Easter is, firstly, about remembering our predicament.
Secondly, a person needs to respond and act on that understanding.
For the man whose house went under the floodwaters, such a confidence that God will rescue without actually responding to the rescuer was sheer folly.
Easter may only be one part of the year, but the truth of receiving Jesus as the One who rescues us all from the judgment to come is an everyday reality.
I play the game of squash and there are two things every squash player enjoys: the journey and the win.
In the game of life, there is a journey and a victory or loss.
Easter reminds us of a wonderful journey with God through life, having our sins and offences forgiven.
It also reminds us the believer will win in the end.
Judgement will not be an issue when you have been rescued from it (John 3:1-36)!
April 14: Good Friday Service: 9am
April 16: Easter Sunday Service 10.30 am
When you are truly blessed
“YOU are blest.” No doubt various friends have informed you of this at times in your life.
When your health ‘stands up’ or your newborn child has just come into the world.
To be blest is to be reminded you have been touched with the Presence of God’s Spirit in your life.
Blessed people are those who gradually allow the Spirit of God to absorb their own, and hence live in a manner which allows others to know and experience the grace or giftedness of God too.
This appears to be the reason why so many grieving people choose part of Matthew’s chapter five as a funeral reading when endeavoring to celebrate who the loved one was in their life.
They perceive the presence of a risen Jesus in particular qualities their loved one has personified.
In other words they are acknowledging Easter or the recognition of life as it’s meant to be lived and enjoyed.
Apparently the Easter we celebrate today derives from secular and religious beliefs; Paganism, Judaism and Christianity.
Perhaps the word Easter refers to the goddess Eostre, one who symbolised the rebirth of the day at dawn and the rebirth of the life of spring.
Christianity adopted and modified her festival, gradually assimilating it into Christian theology.
Because Eostre was the goddess of spring and her symbolism dealt with renewal and rebirth, the Christian belief in the resurrection of Christ fits well with these themes.
It’s the spirit of rebirth, of the depth of lasting life, of the love and message of Jesus and his signifying blessedness to which Easter points.
Perhaps for too long we Christians have associated resurrection with reward alone. Franciscan Father Richard Rohr (Immortal Diamond) asserts “resurrection is not about a man returning to his body, nearly as much as a universal man leading us into a universal future – and doing that by making use of all the past and transforming it (Ephesians 4: 15-16).”
Life then is about uncovering the ‘True Self’, that part of your being which recognises your belovedness. Of being blessed – one with God in the spirit of Jesus.
Jesus’ resurrection isn’t only about our future, it’s for the here and now.
The kingdom of God is within us. And as Rohr reminds us, it’s about finding in this life our true identity in God, as recipient and participant in God’s love, united in Jesus’ resurrection with God’s own self.
Grace isn’t so much what God gives therefore; grace is who God is.
And if we acknowledge we are dying throughout life, we learn grace or the presence of God is “found at the depths and in the death of everything”.
In the courage of accepting death, we discover the presence of God, and we experience resurrection.
“The tomb is always finally empty.”
Guatemalan poet Julia Esquival, reflecting on the killings of her people in the mid-1900s while describing sleepless nights urges her readers:
Join us in this vigil
And you will know what it is to dream. Then you will know how marvellous it is to live threatened with Resurrection!
To dream awake
To keep watch asleep,
To live while dying,
And to know ourselves already resurrected.
April 13: Holy Thursday. Mass of the Lord’s Supper, 7pm, followed by a prayer vigil until 10.30pm.
April 14: Good Friday. Celebration of the Lord’s Passion at 3pm.
April 15: Easter Saturday. Easter Vigil Mass, 7.30pm.
April 16: Easter Sunday. Mass, 8am and 10am.
Our world turned upside down
THE events of the first Easter turned our world upside down forever.
This revolution had already begun at the first Christmas, when the Creator of the world entered into his creation and God the Son became one of us.
This contradiction carried on through Jesus’ whole life, as he came not to be served but to serve, as he demonstrated his power over disease and death, as he was received by the masses but rejected by the political and religious leaders of his day.
Then on the first Good Friday came the most incredible, most impossible, most unbelievable event the world has ever seen.
The immortal God hung on a cross and died.
The only person not surprised by this turn of events was Jesus himself.
Throughout his life Jesus had continually told his disciples not only that this would happen but also why? Jesus’ death was the only way evil and darkness could be defeated.
Jesus’ death was the only way our sins could be dealt with, as took upon all the punishment we deserved for rejecting God.
Not only did Jesus take on all the punishment we deserved he also took all our pain, all our suffering and all our shame to the Cross.
Jesus’ death inaugurated God’s new creation, his kingdom come.
Jesus’ death was the greatest expression of God’s love for us, as God stopped at nothing to win us back.
And the impossible kept happening, for Jesus did not stay dead but after three days rose triumphantly from the grave.
Death had been defeated.
It’s not surprising the first disciples had a hard time believing the resurrection.
It was impossible for someone to come back from the dead.
They’d just forgotten Jesus was in the business of doing the impossible.
This didn’t stop with his own resurrection as Jesus transformed his motley bunch of disciples into the church and sent them out to take the world by storm.
When we encounter and understand the events of the first Easter our lives are turned upside down.
When we put our faith in what Jesus did on the cross we too are transformed.
When we trust in Jesus we become children of God.
When we follow Jesus we become God’s ambassadors, sent out to show and share his impossible love with the world.
This Easter why not believe the impossible?
April 13: Passover at 6pm.
April 14: Good Friday at 9am.
April 16: Easter Sunday 9am and 11am
Hope that comes to all of us for Easter
EASTER is a significant time for Christians.
The journey to Easter morning begins at Lent when we remember the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness.
Lent is a period of six weeks that starts on Ash Wednesday.
During this period many people engage in fasting and practice moderation or self-denial in order to focus on repentance and consecrating oneself to God.
There are three movements throughout this journey.
First is Confession (an inward journey): We are called to release our hold on all that clatters, strains and stains our relationship with God, neighbour and self.
Second is Reflection on Scripture (Centering): We place the season’s prayer into the centering ground of Scripture.
Third is Intercession (An outward Journey): We are urged to look up and out in prayer for the whole hurting creation.
Then we come to Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week when we remember Jesus’ Entry into Jerusalem, welcomed by the crowds.
A lot happened during that week, events came to a head on Holy Thursday: Jesus had the Last Supper with his disciples, was betrayed, went to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, was arrested and tried throughout the night and in the morning, on Good Friday emerged, carrying the cross upon which he died.
We conclude on Easter Sunday when we celebrate his resurrection.
At Easter we are brought face to face with the stark realities of life and death.
In Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, violence is unmasked for what it is, and the compassionate suffering heart of God is seen.
He gives us a way of finding eyes of hope in the midst of grief and hurt, whether for the homeless young and old on the streets of our cities and towns, those killed and maimed on our roads, families and relatives and communities coming to terms with such tragedies, poor kids trapped in poverty or innocent people caught up in wars.
Easter reminds us of the value of ‘one’.
One life, that of Jesus, lived for all lives; one death, one cross, given for all deaths; and one resurrection; a hope for all who live without hope.
To live in the hope of Easter is to confront the evil of those who bring premature death to both the life and dreams of the innocent.
Here is hope that comes to all of us at Easter – the God who raised Jesus from the dead remains with us in a living Christ present in the ordinary and everyday lives of everyone.
Good Friday: 9am
Easter Sunday: Holy Communion 10am
A time to help reveal the extent of what jesus did
IT’S the time of the year when we celebrate Easter again – but what does ‘Easter’ actually mean?
A man named Jesus Christ lived some 2000 years back, gets given hero status for a weekend, and people actually all take this seriously?
Yet what relevance does that have to our lives; what difference does it make? What’s Easter got to do with us, here in Australia in 2017?
Well, before we can respond to those questions, we would first have to work out who Jesus was, to ascertain if He should mean anything to us.
Certainly, if He was just another ordinary bloke, He doesn’t deserve a second glance.
That’s fair enough.
Besides, some folks might happily put Jesus in the ‘fairy-tale’ category, a fictional character deserving no logical explanation.
John Dickson, however, a doctorate in ancient history from Macquarie University, couldn’t disagree more.
John is convinced there isn’t a serious historian anywhere on the planet out to dispute the physical existence of Jesus Christ.
That comment alone prompts further consideration. Jesus, apparently, was a very real human being.
Moreover, eyewitness accounts report while Jesus had a tangible existence, there was nothing ordinary about Him. Not even close actually.
Testimonies emerge of the occasion He told the wind and waves to calm down, and they did; of how Jesus touched people’s eyes and people previously blind were then able to enjoy rainbows in full colour; and when Jesus blessed ordinary tap water, it became fine wine. Yowser, yowser, there’s a handy party trick.
If one accepts the above happenings as genuine, it’s easy to discern these activities lay outside the capacity of an ordinary person.
They reveal Jesus was someone rather unique.
Jesus went even further though, claiming to be God, One who had come down from heaven.
This is where Easter comes in, revealing the depth of these claims more clearly than anything.
Since it was the first Easter weekend where Jesus Christ triumphed over death, and rose from the grave.
These ideas may sound outrageous, but check out the evidence for yourself, and you’ll find it’s remarkable.
Apparently, death couldn’t beat God.
Consequently, now you and I can become active participants in the Easter story, we can make this personal.
Jesus invites us to.
The effects of Jesus Christ conquering life’s biggest enemy (death) live on, as now, Jesus, the living God, invites us to trust Him to do the same for us.
Even the worst of enemies – death – loses its sting, when we know who’s on the other side of it.
Good Friday: 6pm
Easter Sunday: 10:30am