An Easter message from the Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council and Primate of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (the Anglican Church in Hong Kong), Archbishop Paul Kwong.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
May the Peace of our Lord be with you!
Three months ago, we celebrated the birth of Christ at Christmas. Our focus then was on the manger, a feeding place for animals where the baby Jesus slept. In contrast, on Easter, our focus is on His empty tomb. At Christmas, the angels sang “Glory to God”; but on the day of Jesus’ resurrection, two angels asked the women who went to the empty tomb in search of Christ “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:5–6). Christmas is full of joy because it is about a baby who came into this world for us. Yet the atmosphere of Easter is more solemn and its message more profound. On Easter, this child who was born on Christmas not only died for us, but was also resurrected for us. If the Lord’s salvation is a musical movement, Christmas is the prelude and Easter is its climax.
Easter reminds us of three key points. Firstly, Jesus truly did rise from the dead and come back to life. However, this is a fact that many deny or are unwilling to accept, including some who were among Jesus’ friends. On the first Easter, two of Christ’s disciples were walking along the road to Emmaus, feeling disappointed about Jesus’ death. They said sadly “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Thomas was also adamant in his denial of the Lord’s resurrection when his brothers told him the news. He said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Throughout subsequent generations, there have been many others like them, who are unwilling to believe that the Lord is resurrected. Some even criticised the resurrection as a product of the Christian imagination or a fabricated myth of an immature faith.
Secondly, although Christmas and Easter differ in many core aspects, they have one point in common: we are the beneficiaries of Jesus’ actions. He not only lived for us and died for us, but was also resurrected for us. The term “us” refers to the whole of humankind, from Adam to the Anti-Christ. The Lord was not only resurrected for those who are good, pious, just, and passionate about serving. He came back to life not only for the Virgin Mary who gave birth to Him, but also for Judas who betrayed him and for Peter who denied him three times before the cock crowed. His resurrection is for every single one of us, irrespective of our ages and gender, even now.
Although people are a large part of the Easter story, the central figure is Jesus Christ – He who is resurrected and lives in glory for us. The phrase “for us” refers to us Christians who are resurrected with Christ. This brings us to the third point. What do we mean by being “resurrected Christians”? St Paul provided an explanation in his letter to the Christians in Rome. He asked, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3–4). This is something we need to think about constantly, especially during Easter.
“Baptized into Christ” is a phrase rich in meaning. However, we have seldom explored its true significance. Baptism originally means “immerse”. Therefore, St Paul used the term “baptised into Christ”. To convey the true meaning of baptism, the early Church immersed candidates fully into the water during the rite. Unfortunately, baptismal fonts in most Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui churches are quite small (although we do have an immersion font in the Holy Spirit Church), so priests can only perform baptism by pouring water over a candidate’s head. Since this form of baptism does not immerse a candidate fully into the water, it cannot convey the full symbolic meaning of baptism: the sinner within the candidate has died, and the candidate is resurrected with Christ into the new life of the baptised community.
To celebrate our new lives at Easter, we need go beyond worshiping God at church every Sunday, reading the Bible, praying, serving with passion, and spreading the gospel. These are all part of our duties as Christians, but we need to do more. I would like to use the prophet Micah’s instructions to his fellow Jews to remind you how you should live your new life. He said, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
The justice to which the prophet Micah refers is neither defined by people’s preferences, nor created by human intelligence. It is built on God’s promise when we made a covenant with Him. God commands us to be faithful to ethical relationships and be responsible, that is, to love, be faithful, and be responsible to God, to others, and to the world. If a Christian is to be resurrected from death with Christ, one should abide by His teachings in daily life.
He said, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. . . Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:35–40).
Resurrected Christians should live their new lives abiding by His teachings. This is a burden the faithful should bear for God, for others, and for the world. The Lord has called upon those of us who are resurrected through baptism to share in His life and bear this burden. In fact, if we do not participate in the life of our Lord, our new lives would not exist, and we would only be surviving alone.
Brothers and sisters, may you be able to live out the life of the resurrected Lord faithfully and responsibly.
+ Paul Kwong