PRESBYTERIAN MODERATOR EMPHASISES HOPE IN EASTER MESSAGE

8 April 2020 No Comments by The Northern Standard

For obvious reasons, as Christians throughout Ireland and around the world, celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus this Easter, it will be different. This year the familiar cry, ‘He is risen, He is risen indeed, will not resonate across the aisles of congregations up and down the land. But, as the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rt Rev Dr William Henry, says in his Easter Message, we have hope and it is more than a simple aspiration.

  Dr Henry writes, “the Bible speaks of hope as a possession – God gives us hope…This hope that we have in Christ is not wishful thinking. It is not based on circumstances, or the strength of ambition. It is given to us through the resurrection of Jesus and this is why we believe the peak of hope is seen at Easter.”

The full text of the Moderator’s 2020 Easter Message is as follows:

 Isn’t it amazing how during certain crises, or events, that some words and phrases which ordinarily would have meaning only to a very small set of people suddenly become part of everyone’s vocabulary?

 You can think of phrases like ‘Stockholm syndrome’, ‘Tech Bubble’, “Ground Zero,” and you can probably identify the news stories simply because these words were commonplace at the time. How else would a volcano with the Icelandic name, Eyjafjallajökull, ever be remembered? Ten years on from this particular eruption, which caused most air travel in Europe to cease, we are now familiar with today’s phrases of ‘social-distancing’, ‘flatten the curve’ and asking, “when will the peak occur?”

 We feel for those who have suffered and for all those who mourn the loss of loved ones prematurely. Of course, this anxiety is not purely related to illness, as the economy has been jolted and many are afraid for their livelihoods. These are worrying days and the impact of the measures to deal with the Coronavirus has affected us all across our island home. Yet amidst these worries, we are thankful for our healthcare workers and all those who continue to enable society to function at this critical time.

 Currently, the latest estimate seems to suggest that the peak number of cases of people suffering from Covid-19 will be over the Easter weekend. In the midst of these days, we need hope – and hope is precisely what the Christian message is about. The peak of the Christian gospel is also centred on the Easter weekend. God raising Jesus from the dead and ending the gloom and despondency of the early disciples, which they must have felt, is the most glorious demonstration of hope.
 But normally, when we speak of hope, we get it wrong. We usually think of hope as an action, like, “I hope it will be sunny”, or in our present context, “I hope this virus will soon be past.” But any aspiration of ours will always be uncertain. In reality, we have little power over these things. It may describe what we would want, but of course not necessarily achieve. It carries the risk of deep and troubling disappointment.

 But the Bible speaks of hope as a possession – God gives us hope. It is all about looking forward with certainty. We still do not control the circumstances of life, and there may be many points at which we are puzzled and perplexed; but we look forward with certainty to the future that God has perfectly prepared for us. Because of this sure and confident hope, we can live more fully and assuredly in this present uncertain world.

 As the Apostle Peter exclaims, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Peter 1:3).

This hope that we have in Christ is not wishful thinking. It is not based on circumstances, or the strength of ambition. It is given to us through the resurrection of Jesus and this is why we believe the peak of hope is seen at Easter. Peter connects an event from 2000 years ago with what happens in our lives today. That is why he writes of a living hope that has a life all of its own. Significantly, at this time, this means that we can have hope even in the chaos and uncertainty of lockdown life. To have this hope is the reason many of us decided to follow Jesus.

 This peak of hope now needs to be made real in a peak of caring and compassion towards others, as Christians demonstrate the eternal hope they possess, so that others will see the reality of it themselves. Crucially, do you have this hope as you live in these uncertain days?

Photo: Rt Rev Dr William Henry, Moderator, Presbyterian Church in Ireland

 

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