Archbishop Robert Duncan’s 2011 Easter Message

The Easter Choice

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulchre. [Matthew 28:1]

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he is risen, as he said. Come see the place where he lay.” [Matthew 28:5-6]

Archbishop’s Easter Homily – Easter Vigil, 23rd April, A.D.2011

“It is the difference between night and day.” How often have we used this expression? Countless times. This is a metaphor that makes great sense to humankind, because the night and the day are so different. So little, relatively speaking, is possible in the darkness, and so much is possible in the light. 

The difference between the “stone cold tomb” (as the Epiphany carol puts it1) and the empty tomb is “night and day.” The watch between Holy Saturday and Easter morn is the contrast between the darkest night and the brightest day. 

Before this night all human history ends in night, ends in the tomb. After this night there is the possibility of human life issuing in endless day. Easter changes everything. Jesus changes everything. Technically, of course, it is the cross that achieves what Luther called the “Great Exchange,” but the cross is the ultimate darkness, the ultimate night, in terms of human history as a dead end, where even the light of day (according to the Gospel accounts themselves) becomes dark as night. The ultimate night, Good Friday, ends in the death of Life, followed by the three days night of Jesus’ entombment. Before the dawn of Easter is mankind’s longest and darkest night. Until this night all human life ends in death.

Jesus’ Resurrection makes possible to every man, woman, and child that his or her life might end with life, rather than with death. Jesus’ Resurrection also makes possible “abundant life” before death, life lived without fear of death – life fearlessly lived. It also makes possible life empowered by God’s Holy Spirit, life lived in concert with God’s purposes and God’s will, rather than in the increasing pain of aging and the gathering darkness of the dying that is the consequence of humanity’s endless rebellion. 

Accepting Jesus is a choice, for every individual and for whole peoples. Without Jesus day ends in night. With Jesus night ends in day. And it is not just about the way each of our stories ends, but also about the whole of our story itself. Those who follow Jesus become agents of light – by the working of the Holy Spirit and despite their sin – in the darkness of this world. Those who do not know Jesus are increasingly overtaken by the darkness brought by others or by the inevitable death overtaking their own life. These are the options, this is the choice: darkness and light, night and day. 

One of the Easter Vigil’s most famous stories is of the baptism of an extraordinarily gifted young man who had sought answers in all the philosophies of his age and in all the pleasures of the world. One day he heard a child singing, “Pick it up and read it.” He heard the song several times, but could not see the child. He picked up a Bible and happened to turn to Romans 13:13-142. He later wrote: “My heart was flooded with light.” He would also later pray: “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” The date was April 24th, 387. The place Milan. The young man’s name was Augustine, arguably the greatest intellect in all of human history. For him the decision was to follow Jesus. For him the decision was to allow day to follow night. 

Another of the great Easter Vigil stories occurs in a savage and pagan land on the edge of the known world. On the Hill of Slane, on the night of the spring equinox, in sight of the Irish kingdom gathered around their king to celebrate their deity’s festival, a newly consecrated bishop lights an Easter fire to proclaim to an unevangelized people that true day was breaking in on their night. The evangelist’s name was Patrick. Soon a whole people, a whole nation, would choose for the day that can follow night. The year was 433.

We who gather here for worship on this Easter near the beginning of the 21st century face a world of competing ideologies and pagan savageries. The choice remains one of whether night will follow day, or day will follow night. Every individual must choose and every people must decide. (If there are any here who haven’t yet chosen, it is not too late. Step from the gathering darkness of your night into blazing light of Jesus’ day.) Jesus presents the choice. His cross and empty tomb present a doorway into a very different future, the difference (and the doorway) between night and day. Our call is to live in the day, both by deed and by word. Our call is to the transformation of the world with the love and light of Jesus. We can help one another to live abundantly in the day, and we can help others to choose Jesus and the new day He offers. It is a matter of life and death, of day and night. We here know the tomb is empty. We know what is possible in Jesus. In thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for us, let us be agents of the same Easter choice for others. We know that day does follow night for those who make the Easter choice.

Alleluia. Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia! AMEN.

1 We Three Kings, stanza 4, Hymnal 1982, Hymn 128.
2 “Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” These two verses are preceded by the exhortation: “Let us then cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

Good Friday Offering to Benefit Christ Church Jerusalem

The Anglican Church in North America is asking congregations across the Province to collect a special Good Friday offering to bless the good works of reconciliation and outreach at Christ Church Jerusalem.

“In the midst of conflict, Christ Church models reconciliation numerous ways,” Archbishop Robert Duncan noted in a March 20th letter to member churches. 

“The staff is comprised of Jewish and Arab believers who regularly pray and worship together. Their schools provide Christian education for Arab and Jewish children. Their ministry to the poor includes all the religious communities, but especially assists Arab Christians and Messianic Jews,” Archbishop Duncan stated.

Archbishop Duncan also noted the blessings that many have experienced over the years as a result of Christ Church’s teaching ministry. Shoresh Study Tours and Alexander College are committed to teaching the Jewish roots of our faith to Christians.

According to Archbishop Duncan, “The aim of Alexander College and Shoresh is best described in one word: discipleship. Their premise is that with greater knowledge of the Jewish context of the Bible, participants will better understand the life and teaching of Jesus.”

“It is traditional to share the Good Friday offerings with the church in Jerusalem and fitting to bless the dynamic works of Christ Church Jerusalem,” Archbishop Duncan said. “Good Friday is Good Friday because of what Jesus Christ did at Jerusalem once for all two millennia ago.”

All churches are encouraged to participate in the offering. Receipts sent to the Provincial Office (Anglican Church in North America, 800 Maplewood Avenue, Ambridge, PA 15003) should indicate “Good Friday Offering” in the memo line.

History of Christ Church
Christ Church Jerusalem is the oldest Protestant church in the Middle East. It was founded by British Anglicans who wanted to share Jesus with the Jewish people and teach the church its biblical roots.

Its first bishop, Michael Solomon Alexander, was a Jewish rabbi who came to faith and taught Hebrew to Christians in order for them to better understand Scripture. Upon his arrival in Jerusalem in 1841, he also built Jerusalem’s first modern hospital, and became known for his care for the poor and persecuted of the city.

Anglican Conference Focuses on the Holy Spirit

By Robert Lundy, AAC Communications Officer

On Friday, March 25, over 250 people gathered at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Akron, Ohio to rekindle an old flame. No, the occasion wasn’t a class reunion, it was the “Rekindling the Fire: Power in the Church” conference. The three-day teaching conference focused on the all too uncommon topic of the Holy Spirit and His ministry. “The conference sought to rekindle and re-energize Christians with the power of the Holy Spirit for ministry in the new Anglican Church in North America,” said Bishop Roger Ames, one of the conference organizers and presenters. “We want to bring the Holy Spirit more intentionally into the DNA of this new province and to capture again the excitement, energy and power that was a part of the renewal movement in the 60s, 70s and 80s.”

The renewal movement Bishop Ames referred to was a unique period where mainline denominations (Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc.) saw large numbers of priests and laity experience a first-time or renewed relationship with the Lord as well as being filled with the Holy Spirit. Many associate the beginnings of this “renewal movement” to Episcopal priest Dennis Bennett and his book “Nine O’clock in the Morning.” This was the story of what took place in Dennis Bennett’s church in Van Nuys, Calif., after he preached a Sunday morning sermon on April 3, 1960, about the underground Charismatic Renewal that was quietly racing through so many churches in America.

Bishop Ames, along with his fellow presenters, Bishops David Anderson and David Bena and their wives, were all part of the renewal movement and experienced the fruit of this revival within the Episcopal Church. Bishop and Mrs. Anderson both say that they came into the baptism of the Holy Spirit in February, 1978 at St. Andrew’s Church in Basin, Wyoming. As they moved through three pastorates from Wyoming to South Dakota to California, the church growth they witnessed paralleled the spiritual renewal in parishioners’ lives. As people came into a closer and fuller relationship with the Holy Spirit, Bishop Anderson observed that people seemed more devoted to Jesus, more interested in outreach ministry, read their Bible more, and found it much easier to pray.

Bishop Anderson recalled a time when a parishioner who was baptized in the Holy Spirit came to him and asked how he could help in ministry. This man was an oilfield trucker and was very strong. Anderson had wanted to have a ministry in the local county jail, but hadn’t gotten to it. So when the rugged parishioner asked for a ministry opportunity, Anderson called the Sheriff and arranged for him to visit, share the gospel and pray with prisoners. The image of a powerful muscular oilfield trucker wanting to talk to prisoners about Jesus apparently was compelling, as this ministry blossomed.

Read the full story on the American Anglican Council website.

Photo captions: Homepage - Bishop Roger Ames behind the podium, Above - Bishop David Bena and his wife, Mary Ellen, address attendees.