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"Do not be afraid."
On the very first Easter Sunday
these were the first words Jesus said to his disciples
after his resurrection.
In the face of this joyous news
how did they respond?
They cowered in fear
Some couldn't believe their eyes and doubted.
"Do not be afraid."
It's as though Jesus knew what kind of a response
his resurrection would provoke in his disciples.
Fear, panic and disbelief
are all familiar responses to us today too.
How often in our lives do we respond in this way
when the truth is staring us in the face?
Easter is a time to remind ourselves
of the victory over fear that Christ's resurrection brings.
The fulfillment of God's promise of the power of love over hate
of the coming of justice and true reconciliation
means that we need have no fear of what lies ahead.
Earlier this year I joined
young leaders in the Uniting Church from all over the country in Sydney.
One of the exercises required us to face our fears
and to help each other to conquer our fears as well.
Some people are afraid of snakes.
Others fear people who are different.
What we learned was that when we care for and support each other
those fears don't have to defeat us.
For many people
the most fearful thing is death.
Be it their own death
the death of their loved ones
or even the death of the institutions they hold dear.
Some of us got so afraid
that we become paralysed or run away and hide.
Today Australian churches face many challenges.
Yet when we open our eyes and look closely
there's always hope for the future in the signs of renewal
right there in front of us.
In the future
our Church may not look the same
or be exactly the same as it is now.
But I'm sure
our passion for the Gospel
and for its power to heal and transform
broken lives and societies
will be as strong as ever.
We'll still be committed to the importance of every human being
of the need for integrity in public life
and the proclamation of truth,
justice and reconciliation.
As we celebrate Easter
let's all take a deep breath
lay down our fears
receive again the spirit of hope
that comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I 'd like to take this opportunity
to wish all Australians
a safe, happy and blessed Easter.
"Do not be afraid." Peace be with you.