Hope of resurrection amidst darkest hour of Good Friday
Alf McCreary rounds up the Easter messages from the main Northern Ireland Church leaders
In a joint message, the Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Richard Clarke, and the Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin, told how Easter Sunday is more than a happy ending after Good Friday. They said:
"Rather, it is the celebration of the ultimate victory of God over all that damages, terrifies and destroys us. The crucifixion was the rejection of all that is to be truly human. But in the compassionate cry of abandonment from the cross, Good Friday reminds us that God is to be found not among those who can destroy others most effectively, but rather totally with those who are at the receiving end of the envy, spite and viciousness of others."
Challenge from the crucifixion
Presbyterian Moderator Dr Michael Barry reflected on defining a victim. He said:
"It is a discussion that often divides, and a debate that will undoubtedly continue and will require much sensitivity.
"Jesus was not a victim. His crucifixion was clearly within His control. He was not forced onto the Cross, but lay on it willingly. He offered his hands and feet to the nails. He gave His side to the spear.
"He has the right to demand of His followers that they in turn show love to their enemies. That is something we cannot do in our own strength, it only comes when we share in Christ's resurrection."
'There is always hope'
The Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe Ken Good said the message of Easter was one of hope. He said:
"Whatever the challenges we are having to deal with right now, no matter how overwhelming our problems may feel, the message of Easter is that we can face tomorrow with hope, not on our own strength, but in Christ who has conquered the grave."
'No one is beyond Christ'
The Church of Ireland Bishop of Down and Dromore Harold Miller said the message of Easter is one of good alongside bad. He said:
"Easter can never be sentimentalised in the way we sentimentalise Christmas, because there is a cruel Cross at the very centre of it.
"No-one is beyond the love of Christ, and no-one is too far gone to make a new start in Him."
'Light that casts out darkness'
The Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor Dr Noel Treanor said Easter is a time when we contemplate the light of Christ. He said:
"It is a light that brings hope in darkness, a light that reveals the radiance and dignity of the human person, a light that conquers sin, a light that casts out fear. Through faith in the saving mystery of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection, our lives are continually filled with a real joy and a lasting sign of hope in a transient world."
'The future is difficult for many'
The Methodist president, the Rev Peter Murray, said the first Easter weekend was a time of "political manoeuvring and intrigue". He said:
"There were crowds gathering for the religious celebrations, but there were also people intent on violence. This Easter may be a time of celebration, but things are very difficult for many. Lack of employment, stress for those in work,threats, intimidation, heartache - all added to the mix of political and economic uncertainties make the future look difficult.
"This Easter I pay tribute to the ordinary Christian folk, who continue today to follow Jesus. They are volunteering all over the place, praying for people's needs, and visiting the sick and elderly."