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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Pastoral letter for the season of Easter issued by the Lord Bishop of The Gambia

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To: All the Faithful Members of the Anglican Diocese of Gambia, Home & Abroad
Our Friends and Partners in Mission & Ministry Easter Greetings be with you all.

As we celebrate Easter we need to remind ourselves that the story of the resurrection is not just an interesting feature or intriguing component of the Gospels: it is much more than that. It is the main and central theme of the Goodnews of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is the cornerstone and climax of all the Gospels’ promises of salvation. And as such, the resurrection is the foundational pillar upon which our faith is grounded. St Paul says, “and if Christ has not been raised our preaching is useless and so is your faith…”1Cor 15 :14-20. 

The resurrection narrative from the Gospel of St Mark begins with the story of the women going to the tomb very early in the morning. This scene highlights the deep devotion and loyalty that these women had to Jesus so much so that even in death, Jesus remained their Lord and Saviour. 

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Mark further records that there was a young man there seated on the tomb whose first words to the women were: “Don’t be afraid. He is risen. Come and look for yourself where he was laid.” In keeping with the tradition of the times, the women had come with spices to anoint a dead body.  They had come to look for the dead among the dead. But Jesus was not dead, he was alive which is why the angel asked them, why do you look for the living among the dead? And so reflecting that very same theme, and just like those women several centuries ago, today we often find ourselves in what we believe to be a hopeless and mournful situation. We feel that things are so desperate and that nothing can be done, forgetting that Jesus rose from that tomb, that Jesus is alive and that Jesus always gives us hope and joy. Even in the darkest moments of our lives, the glory of Jesus is able to shine through us like a bright light illuminating our darkness. We simply need to go looking for Jesus just as the women did on that glorious Easter morning.  

The women were then given an assignment: they were told to go and tell the disciples and Peter that the Lord is risen. And it’s important to note the special mention of Peter by the angel. In the last scene where Peter was mentioned, we saw him denying Jesus three times. But by his special mention here, Mark is telling us that Peter still deserved some love and restoration even after his denial of Jesus; that he could still be reconciled to the one that he had denied.  In much the same way, Jesus’ resurrection was all for our forgiveness and for our reconciliation. The charge given to the women is also the charge given to the church and by extension to all of us – come and see the empty tomb and go and tell the disciples and the sceptics and those who may have denied Jesus somewhere along the way, like Peter – that Jesus Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.

This Easter we are reminded of our duty as Christians to go out to proclaim the Goodnews of the resurrection: that Jesus Christ the Saviour is risen from the dead and that mankind’s sins have been forgiven. We are to tell this story over and over again, and live out its message of forgiveness, particularly to those who have hurt us or done us wrong. Earlier this week, all three mainstream churches held a Service of Holy Chrism during which the clergy in a moving example of servantleadership humbled themselves before their congregations and renewed their priestly vows, committing themselves to following the example of Christ in the way they serve their flock. We believe that in His life, Jesus Christ was the epitome of the servant leader, and one that all leaders across the worldwide church of God – and beyond — would do well to emulate.

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As serendipity would have it, we are celebrating Easter at a time when our Muslim brothers and sisters have just entered the all-important last ten days of their holy month of Ramadan: a time of forgiveness, a time of empathy, a time of generosity. Such is the blessing of our country’s interfaith harmony. Just two days ago on Good Friday, many Muslims would have broken their fast with servings of naan’mburu provided by their Christian friends and neighbours. And in a couple of months on the feast of Tobaski, Muslims will return the gesture and send gifts of mutton to their Christian friends and neighbours. None of this unique blend of religious tolerance and harmony should be taken for granted as it has come under threat in so many other countries. And as we wish His excellency the President of the Republic and his government a happy Easter Season, we also congratulate him for his staunch commitment to the peace and unity of this country, our beloved Gambia.

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