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'The great sacrifice': Easter reminds that story of Jesus, his resurrection remain relevant, ministers say

As the Christian world celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ this Easter, local ministers say they will remind their congregations that the events that took place almost 2,000 years ago remain important today. “There is nothing like the story

As the Christian world celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ this Easter, local ministers say they will remind their congregations that the events that took place almost 2,000 years ago remain important today.

“There is nothing like the story of Easter and the reality of Christ’s resurrection that demonstrates God’s great love for us and the great lengths to which he has gone to take up our cause, even when we have failed to take up his,” said the Rev. Martin Ankrum, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Greensburg.

In the story of Christ’s incarnation, life, death and resurrection, “we see that God has taken up our cause — we who have constantly and consistently deserted God and God’s cause have witnessed God’s gracious response,” Ankrum said.

“We dare not walk away and think it but a quaint and pretty story. By the help of God’s presence in our lives, we hear it for what it is: the truth … the Gospel truth as they say,” Ankrum added.

Pastor Frank Brown, who has been at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greensburg for the past four years, said his Easter message to his congregation of about 26 members will be that what Christ did in being crucified on a cross in Jerusalem was for all of humanity.

“I will be reminding the congregation of the great sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for each and every one of us,” Brown said.

Easter is at the heart of our faith life and belief system as Christians, said Bishop Larry Kulick of the Catholic Diocese of Greensburg.

“It really is the preeminent feast of hope and, I think particularly as we have gone through this past year, the pandemic. For the church liturgically, Easter is not separated from Good Friday. Good Friday would not have any purpose or meaning if it weren’t for Easter,” Kulick said.

Noting that last year at this time, Easter came as the nation was entering the pandemic, “I think we could really focus more on Good Friday, on the suffering, on the darkness, on the isolation,” the bishop said. “Now we still have some way to go, but I think all of us would agree that we’re starting to see light, we’re starting to see hope, we’re starting to see things change around us.

“God’s best day” is truly the day that he becomes your savior, is the message that the Rev. Chris Livermore of Latrobe United Methodist Church said he intends to impart to his congregation.

“When I accepted his gift of himself,” is truly God’s best day, Livermore said. “It only becomes that (best day) when we accept it as individuals.”

Jesus had to die in the first place through crucifixion, rather than being able to live a long life, said the Rev. Clifford Hockensmith, pastor of First Baptist Church of Jeannette.

“Jesus absorbs the worst the world can give,” Hockensmith said, and by doing that, it “shows His strength and suffering.”

“God doesn’t save the world by force, but by becoming human and suffering himself,” said Hockensmith, who was baptized in the Jeannette Baptist church and ordained there in 1978.

Had Jesus not died on the cross and had been able to live a long life, like Moses or Abraham, Hockensmith said he believes Christianity as it is known today would not exist.

“He would have been another rabbi, and Christianity would have been a sect of Judiasm,” Hockensmith said.

Said Brown: “If there is no resurrection, then everybody is miserable. Without the resurrection, it is meaningless.”

In the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in the message of Easter, Ankrum said, “we hear again that love is stronger than death.”

Without his death on the cross, “there would not have been the atonement for our sin and my sin,” Livermore said.

While his contemporaries would refer to him as a rabbi or teacher, Livermore said, Christ never portrayed himself in that role as he spoke to people who gathered to hear him.

“He claimed to be the messiah,” Livermore said.

Jesus did not just teach with words, He taught with actions, Kulick said.

Although he performed compassionate actions of healing the sick and raising the dead, Kulick said it was “Jesus’ own perfect act of unselfishness of dying on the cross that indeed gives us that perfect example.” The continued miracles and teachings that could have occurred with a longer earthly life, “would not have the same power or equility as dying on the cross.”

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, jnapsha@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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