Easter Greetings – 2018

The Garden Tomb outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem Israel.
Entrance to the tomb. The Garden Tomb outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem Israel. BigStockPhoto.com

I greet you in the name of our Crucified and Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

Easter is about boundless grace, victory, joy and renewed hope.  It is a divine proclamation of God’s decisive victory over the evil forces of sin and death. Easter is an announcement to the world that the cross of Jesus was a victory, not a defeat.

In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, death is described as, “The road from which no traveler has ever returned.” (Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1) He was wrong because we believe that one did return and his name is Jesus, the Christ. For this reason, the words hopeless and impossible lose its meaning.

The story of Jesus would have been nothing more than an occasional point of reference of an inspirational teacher, a charismatic figure or a martyr if it had simply ended with the crucifixion, but Jesus defeated death and rose from the grave on the third day. We are the people of the resurrection and can affirm with the writer of Romans and Christians throughout the centuries that; “God raised Jesus from the dead.” (Romans 4:24)

We are a people who know that we cannot have Easter without Good Friday. We cannot have Christ without the cross, a symbol of a compassionate, loving God who identifies with human suffering. The cross is God’s instrument of salvation. No other faith speaks of a suffering God who opposes injustice and oppression.

Theologians like Jürgen Moltmann, (The Crucified God) James Cone, (God of the Oppressed), Kazoh Kitamori (The Pain of God), Maria Pilar Aquino (Our Cry for Life) Mercy Odduyoye (Beads and Strands), Choan Sen Song (The Compassionate God and Jesus, the Crucified People) and Allan Boesak (Farewell to Innocence) all lived through their own modern-day Golgothas in their various countries and bring their unique perspectives of the suffering God. Their scholarship questions the concept of Divine Impassibility. They bear eloquent testimony to a God who shows compassion and loving solidarity with all who suffer. They point out that God remains intimate with those who suffer and is the hope of the world.

During Eastertide, it is my hope and prayer that all who are anxious and fearful of life circumstances will experience the presence of the Risen Lord and hear the words spoken to the women at the tomb, “Do not be afraid.”

Shalom,
Ivan Abrahams
General Secretary

Honoring the Ministry of Evangelist Billy Graham

Throughout his life, Billy Graham preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ to some 215 million people in live audiences (Crusades, simulcasts and evangelistic rallies). Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film and webcasts. Photo courtesy Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

The World Methodist Council mourns the loss of a great preacher, evangelist, and friend. The Rev. William Franklin “Billy” Graham, Jr., who died today (Feb. 21) at the age of 99.

Known as “America’s Preacher,” Graham ministered worldwide, bringing the gospel message to billions. His Crusades, along with radio and television broadcasts encouraged millions of people to decide to follow Christ. He counseled presidents dating back to Dwight Eisenhower, and was one of the most influential evangelists of his time.

World Methodist Council General Secretary Ivan Abrahams reflects, “Billy Graham was a man of his time, an evangelist par excellence who touched the lives of many including heads of State. We thank God for his life and witness and express condolences to his family.”

Evangelist Billy Graham speaking at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida. Photo in the public domain (State Library and Archives of Florida).
From left to right: Dr. Joe Hale, Rev. Billy Graham, and Rev. Donald English at the Graham home in Montreat, N.C. World Methodist Council file photo

Graham was raised in a Presbyterian family and lived on a small farm near Charlotte, North Carolina. He became a Christian in 1934 at the age of 16. In 1939, he was ordained a Southern Baptist minister, and ten years later he captured the nation’s attention at a Crusade held in Los Angeles, California. In all, Rev. Billy Graham preached 417 Crusades.

In Graham’s early years of ministry, he spoke out against racism in the United States, and later publicly opposed apartheid in South Africa. He prohibited segregated seating at his crusades, which caused friction with some. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Had it not been for the ministry of my good friend Dr. Billy Graham, my work in the civil rights movement would not have been as successful as it has been.” Likewise, Graham often spoke of his friendship with religious leaders such as King and Pope John Paul II.

Left to right: Rev. Billy Graham, then Vice-President Richard Nixon, and WMC General Secretary Elmer T. Clark at the 1956 World Methodist Conference at Lake Junaluska, N.C.

Through the years, the World Methodist Council maintained a friendly connection with Rev. Graham and his Evangelistic Association. In 1956, Rev. Graham was a guest at the World Methodist Conference held at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Dr. Joe Hale met with Graham at his mountain home in the 1980s, and considered Graham a mentor, often exchanging letters with Graham during his tenure as General Secretary of the World Methodist Council. Hale heard Billy Graham preach when he was 16 years old and recalled, “It was then that I was led to commit my life to Christ, and as a result, the faith that I had been taught from childhood came to be meaningful and alive. I realized that Christ had died for me and provided salvation for my sins.”

Rev. Dr. Eddie Fox, Director Emeritus of World Methodist Evangelism also remembers his interactions with Rev. Graham. Having served on the faculty of the Billy Graham Schools of Evangelism for more than 15 years, Fox recalls “On more than one occasion [Rev. Graham] would send a message of encouragement to us.  We joined with him and leaders around the world in a great gathering at the beginning of this new millennium for a renewed, deeper commitment to the spreading of the good news ‘That the whole world would know Jesus Christ.’”

Graham, despite his success and notoriety, was deeply humble. He stated, “My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which I believe, comes through knowing Christ.” In 1980, Graham preached at the United Methodist Congress on Evangelism, a recording of which can be heard at https://methodistthinker.com. He received many honors and awards, including the Philip Award from the Association of United Methodist Evangelists in 1976, The Distinguished Service Medal of the Salvation Army, and The Presidential Medal of Freedom (U.S.) in 1983.

The World Methodist Council extends its deepest condolences to the Graham family and friends. We pray that Rev. Graham’s passion for sharing Christ’s love will live on in the many lives he trained and touched.

Rev. Billy Graham’s Official Obituary may be found at https://memorial.billygraham.org/official-obituary/.