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EASTER MESSAGE 2020 by The Rt. Rev. James Allen Yaw Odico BISHOP OF GAMBIA

Apr 14, 2020, 3:28 PM

My dear viewers, listeners, and readers, “Peace be with you!” as we celebrate the Feast of Easter, the celebration of the supreme sacrifice that brought hope to a world of sin and woe. By His death and resurrection, Jesus destroyed the sting of death, and brought hope to humanity.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:20 NIV). What a joyous moment and sigh of relief? 

My dear people, this Eastertide is greeted by the COVID 19 pandemic that grips the entire world with fear, panic and uncertainty, which our generation struggles to comprehend. Ironically, current statistics reveal that some of the world’s greatest nations are the hardest hit.

According to https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019, as at 6th April 2020, 17:00 GMT-7, there are 211 Countries, areas or territories with COVID 19 cases, with a total of 1, 214, 466 confirmed cases and 67, 767 confirmed deaths. As at 7th April 2020 the Director of Health Services (The Gambia), confirmed that The Gambia recorded 4 confirmed cases, one of whom died, two treated and discharged, and one currently receiving treatment at a government facility.

To date, the World Health Organisation has not endorsed any vaccine for its prevention nor any drug for its cure. Researchers are still busy working on a solution.

Friends, while we continue to keep that social distance and other hygiene standards to flatten the curve, be assured that the risen Lord has brought salvation to the world.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3 NIV)

During this moment of trial, we have a responsibility to share the Gospel to all the people we interact with. “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

(1Corinthians15:20-22 NIV)

Like Peter, Mary Magdalene did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead at the time, even though they received information about His resurrection from scripture and Christ himself. In her ignorance of the significance of the empty tomb, she stood outside crying, assuming that the enemies had stolen the body of Christ.  But when Jesus called her by name, “Mary” recognised Him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). (John 20:16 NIV)

Beloved Gambians and all God’s people, Mary Magdalene immediately had an urgent task to break the news of the resurrection to Jesus’ brothers. Jesus wanted the information of His resurrection to reach his witnesses instantly. He said to her, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17 NIV)

Mary Magdalene therefore went to the disciples and shared the breaking news, with the headline: “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18)

The appearance of Jesus, to the disciples further validated the resurrection that brought hope and joy to a despaired group.

Friends, we too were included in Christ when we heard the gospel of our salvation, and were marked in him with the seal of the Holy Spirit when we believed (Ephesians 1:13)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1Peter 1:3 NIV)

My beloved people, Paul reminds us that those who believe in the Gospel of Christ are raised with Him and will appear with Him in glory. We die with Christ and our “life is now hidden with Christ in God”. (Col 3:3) We are therefore required to put to death the old nature and live a new life in Christ, setting our hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God, and not on earthly things. (Col 3:1-2). 

Like Mary Magdalene, many are still “grief-stricken” during this Eastertide, not recognizing the redeeming quality of Christ; we therefore implore you to own the command to Mary Magdalene: “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17 NIV)

Friends, Jesus having accomplished his task on the Cross therefore returns to His Father and His God, and we are coheirs of the kingdom of God through faith.  Therefore, we too can boldly call God our Father.

Addressing Cornelius’ household, Peter affirms that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. (Act 10:34-35). Through the prophets, God announced the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. (Act 10:36)

Beloved people of God, after His resurrection, Jesus commanded His apostles to preach the good news. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Act 10:43)

My dear viewers, listeners, and readers, Christ is Lord of COVID 19. I do not know what your standing in Christ is at this moment, what is certain is that the time for action is now, and the journey starts now. We need Jesus Christ in our lives to be able to overcome our sinful nature. This is not a matter of religion or sect. We need God in our lives. We need to share the good news to as many people as we have the opportunity.

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17 NIV)

Unprecedentedly, this year we are not able to congregate in our churches to celebrate the Feast of Easter, however, as we stay in our various homes we will still fellowship through the radio and TV programmes.

We commend the Government of President Adama Barrow, his Vice President and Cabinet for bold and smart leadership, while recognising the timely and coordinated responses of the entire administrative and professional inter-ministerial team, the private sector lead by the GCCI, all faith based and other civil society organizations, and individuals in complementing Government’s effort in combating the spread of COVID 19. We also recognize the role of the Media for covering our programs on gratis.

We further extend a special commendation to the law abiding people in the Gambia. However, we want to encourage our people to do more in keeping the health preventive guidelines in order to discontinue the spread of the virus. As we heighten our efforts to stop the spread of the virus, let us recognize the needs of the vulnerable people in our society. We need to show love by caring for them and sharing our resources with them to enhance their capacity to fight COVID 19.

Bringing this to context, let us consider what Jesus teaches about such kind of love:  ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Jesus Christ explains, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’    As we share, God will bless us with greater source in Jesus’ name.

Dear viewers, as I conclude, please be assured of our prayers. Nonetheless, keep following the health guidelines, keep the social distance, don’t shake hands or hug one another, strategically wash your hands regularly, and were possible use sanitizers with 60 % alcohol. Stay safe and keep healthy.

May the Risen Lord strengthen us, as we continue to live by faith, and grant us the grace to secure ETERNAL LIFE.

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN, HE IS RISEN INDEED. ALLELUIA!

On behalf of all Anglican Christians in The Gambia, Senegal and the Islands of Cape Verde, I wish the Head of state, the Government and people of our beloved nation, The Gambia; our ecumenical partners in mission, our brothers and sisters in the Muslim fraternity and other faiths, and all well-wishers, a very Happy Easter.

Your friend and Bishop

+ James The Gambia

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