Easter is the most important message any of us will hear

By Riverine Herald

Christ Church Anglican

George Hemmings

Easter service times:

Good Friday — 9am

Easter Sunday — 9am and 11am

■ How/when did you personally become a Christian and when did the Easter story first become real for you?

Growing up I can’t ever remember going to church, not even for Christmas or Easter and so I’d only ever heard bits of the Easter story in RE classes at school. It all became real for me one day when I was 16. I was at boarding school and had been battling with depression following my parent’s separation. It was a very dark time, but on the day I reached the lowest point, someone shared with me the light of God’s love. They explained that God loved me, that he demonstrated his love on the cross at Easter and then asked if I wanted to live for God. I said yes and have been striving to live for him every day since.

■ What would you say to people who are sceptical of the Easter story – those who say it sounds unbelievable?

There is really solid historical evidence that someone named Jesus lived around 2000 years ago and that he was put to death on a cross. But I totally get those who say the resurrection part of Easter sounds unbelievable. After all the dead stay dead! Jesus’ closest friends and disciples didn’t believe in the resurrection either. It wasn’t until they met the risen Jesus that they believed. We can’t travel back in time, but we can meet Jesus and decide for ourselves. We can do that by reading the accounts of his life, death and resurrection in the Bible. We can also meet Jesus in the church, in the lives of those who follow him. I’d encourage anyone who was sceptical, anyone who was curious, anyone who was interested to do those things.

■ How does your church observe Easter? Has this changed much over the years you have been involved as a minister of your church?

As the death and resurrection is so central to the Christian faith, in some ways we celebrate Easter every day. Through the week of Easter we have a number of special services. They begin on the Sunday before with Palm Sunday, where we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Our services on that day are usually filled with palm branches and lots of singing. The mood changes from triumph to tragedy as the week moves on. On Maundy Thursday we gather for a simple meal and service in the evening, remembering the last meal Jesus shared with his friends. Our services on Good Friday are sombre and reflective. I’ve always worked to include lots of drama and multi-sensory aspects to the service and it’s one of my favourites in the whole year. The mood changes back to triumph again on Easter Sunday as we celebrate the resurrection. Probably the biggest change that’s come in my time at the church is the addition of our second Sunday service, where we include those of all ages across all that we do.

■ Is the message being diluted, even lost, in the commercial white noise around record chocolate sales?

There certainly is a big focus on chocolate, Easter eggs and bunnies at this time of year, but it’s nothing like all the commercialisation that surrounds Christmas. In a way these are just symptoms of a much larger malady afflicting our society. As a community, and as individuals, we’d much rather focus on the immediate than on the ultimate. It’s much more pleasant to eat and enjoy hot cross buns than to think about the cross that’s on the top. We avoid thinking about the reality of death and the meaning of life as much as possible. But the message of Easter is that life can have meaning, that death need not be the end and that we can have hope. Those are far more satisfying than all the things we could buy and enjoy at this time of year.

■ If you could talk to everyone in town, what would be the single most important message you would like to share with them?

It sounds cliché, but the story of Easter is really the most important message we could ever hear. It is the news that God has done something about the mess of our world and our lives, that he has forgiven us for all that we’ve done wrong and that he has rescued us from the grip of death. No matter who we are, no matter what we’ve done, no matter what situation we are in, we can be assured of God’s great love for us, which he demonstrated on the cross at Easter. Jesus laid down his life for us and he calls us to put our faith in him, to take up our cross and to follow him. The promise of Easter is that if we do that we can be assured of eternal life, just as surely as Jesus was raised from the dead!