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National Council of Churches Easter message

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  • frjohnbrian@priest.com
    Eds: Following is the National Council of Churches Easter message issued today by His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, President, and the Rev. Dr. Michael
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7, 2009
      Eds: Following is the National Council of Churches Easter message issued
      today by His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, President, and the Rev.
      Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary.

      "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to
      do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We
      love because he first loved us." - I John 4:18-19

      April 7, 2009

      Dear Sisters and Brothers:

      Grace and peace to each of you as we approach the holiest time of the
      Christian year. Easter is celebrated in the Western tradition on April 12,
      and Pascha in the Orthodox tradition on April 19.

      As we reflect on our Lord's passion and crucifixion, we are reminded that so
      many of God's children are burdened by suffering. The 17th century
      mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal, whose faith was tempered by
      chronic physical pain, wrote that in the history of this tortured world,
      every day is Good Friday.

      In our own century, the litany of pain gets longer every day. Women and
      girls in the Congo are raped and murdered daily by men who wish to display
      their power. Myanmar has been described as the world's largest concentration
      camp. Genocidal death squads roam with impunity in Darfur. Innocent
      civilians are trapped in the murderous crossfire in Sri Lanka. The death
      rate in Afghanistan continues to rise and insurgent forces are still
      responsible for scores of murders in Iraq. In central Italy, scores are dead
      and thousands are homeless as a result of a devastating earthquake near
      L'Aquila and other towns.

      Closer to home, the American appetite for illegal drugs has sparked deadly
      skirmishes between authorities and drug dealers along the Mexican-U.S.
      border. The threat of terrorist attacks has not abated. In cities and
      villages throughout the United States, unemployment lines are growing, tens
      of thousands have lost their homes and pensions and millions ponder the
      future with fear and uncertainty. Many of the member communions of the
      National Council of Churches have been forced to cut programs and dedicated
      staff. In our meditations, we hear the agony in our Lord's cry: "My God, My
      God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34). And our own hearts search for
      assurance that God has not abandoned us.

      The joy of Easter is precisely that assurance, and it comes to each of us
      the very moment we connect to the reality of the most dramatic two-word
      dialogue in world history, the exchange between the risen Lord and a
      terrified woman. "Jesus said to her, 'Mary!' She turned and said to him in
      Hebrew, 'Rabbouni!"

      Easter is the feast day of our own transformation as we turn to encounter
      the resurrected Christ. Easter marks the day God reached into our lives and
      defeated that which we fear most: death. Easter is God's assurance that no
      matter how bad the world may be, it is not God's final word.

      That, of course, doesn't make it easy to face the horrors of the world. Fear
      is not so easily banished, and it may even have a legitimate role in human
      life. It can move us to marshal our resources in the face of crisis, to act
      on behalf of neighbors who are threatened (and there are real threats in
      this sinful world). But fear can also turn neighbor against neighbor and
      friends to enemies. God's power over death helps us set that fear aside and
      enables us to accept God's call to be the instruments of intervention in the
      anguish of the world.

      Our most prayerful message to you at Easter is this: the God of hope is
      calling us again to love one another, to uphold one another, to bear each
      other's burdens, and to cast out the fear that leads to destruction. This
      Easter let us renew our commitment to bring the gospel to bear on the
      underlying fearfulness of our world. Let us offer a witness, rooted in our
      faith, that engenders hope for a different approach to common life.

      Remember I John: "We love because God first loved us." It is the best
      possible reminder that self-centeredness is the root of fear. If our
      well-being is gained at the expense of others, we will live anxiously. If
      our security is based on treating others as enemies, then we will live
      anxiously. And if our focus is on the survival of "our church" rather than
      on the one body of Christ and our common witness to God's coming reign, then
      we will live anxiously.

      Our calling as a community of Christians is to point beyond ourselves to the
      One whose love casts out fear, and to demonstrate that love by living it
      with one another.

      The Lord is Risen! He is risen indeed.

      H.E. Vicken Aykazian, President
      Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary


      National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA: 35 faith traditions
      encompassing 45 million Americans in 100,000 local congregations . . .
      joining hands and voices in witness to their unity in Christ. 

      NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212
      (cell) , pjenks@...
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