This year I celebrate my fourth Easter as Bishop of North Queensland – and my third Easter during the pandemic. It has been an interesting couple of years with unusual challenges.
As we approach Good Friday we are well aware of the brokenness and sinfulness of humanity. We see that sin in our world. We are all very aware of the war in Ukraine, but probably less conscious of the seemingly endless wars in the Middle East and Africa. Even after two world wars, we still see conflict and even genocide. Add to this the evil of climate change, which is now recognised by almost everyone, but about which we seem powerless to act with the urgency required. So we pray for a broken world.
Our Church is also mired in sin. Historic child sexual abuse is probably the biggest moral issue facing our church: truly the sins of the fathers have been visited upon the children. We may not have caused it or taken any part in it personally: but the sins of the church are still our sins. We can also be mired in self-righteousness which threatens the unity of the church. May God grant us the humility to recognise our errors, and also the humility to seek forgiveness for our sins and reconciliation with those whom we have sinned against.
And of course each of us has our own burden of sin and brokenness. We have all betrayed God and our neighbours: we have failed to love as we should have loved. So we approach Good Friday, the day on which Jesus died on the cross for us and took upon himself all our sin: we lament and bewail our own sins.
So this Good Friday – in a time of conflict, pandemic, climate change and natural disaster – we recognise the brokenness of this world and of our own lives. But we also give thanks to God that the story does not end at Good Friday. On Sunday we celebrate resurrection: Jesus is alive! Jesus is resurrected! Just as Jesus died and took upon himself our sin, so he also rises and takes us with him to joyous new life.
Now, this gives rise to an obvious question: what do we do in response to this? We are certainly not called to give in to evil; we are not called to be passive bystanders. But then what is our response?
One understanding of Christianity is that our response is only to save other individuals: that Christians are only called to save other souls. But this strikes me as being an inadequate summary of the Gospel. Often communities are condemned, not just the individuals in those communities. For example, we see how Jesus condemned the communities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum in Luke 10.13-15. It therefore follows that salvation is about more than just individuals. And of course we are commanded again and again to do justice. So our responsibility is not just to save individuals, but to do justice for those whom we know and those whom we do not know. And we also know that faith without works is dead (James 2.14-17). So I think that there is a real challenge here: if we really believe in the saving work of God, then our job is to proclaim it not just by evangelism, but in how we act both as individuals and as a community. We are called to love God and neighbour, and to do justice. This must impel us beyond passivity.
How we act will depend on the gifts we have. All of us have gifts (1 Corinthians 12). Some people will best express their gifts in a ministry of prayer. Others will express their gifts in a ministry of evangelism. And yet others will express their gifts in working for justice. These are all essential expressions of the Christian faith and all necessary in and for the Church, which as a whole is called to prayer and to evangelism and to justice.
So as we observe Good Friday and observe the brokenness and sin of the world and in our own lives: we also look forward with joy to Easter. This Easter, consider what your gifts are and what you are called to do with those gifts. May God bless you and your family with joy and love, and may you in your prayers, faith and actions share that joy and love with a world yearning for God’s love, justice and salvation.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
The Right Reverend Dr Keith Joseph
Bishop of North Queensland
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