Don’t lose hope – Clerics encourage Nigerians

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In the spirit of the season, some clerics tell TOFARATI IGE, OGHENOVO EGODO-MICHAEL, FAITH AJAYI and NAOMI CHIMA about the essence of Easter, and how it should be spent, while giving hope to the despondent

Birth, resurrection of Jesus most significant events in Christianity — Rufus Ositelu

Primate of The Church of the Lord Worldwide, and President of the World Council of Churches for Africa, Rufus Ositelu, tells TOFARATI IGE about the true essence of Easter, as well as his most memorable celebration of the season right from his childhood days

In what ways do you think Easter should best be spent by Christians?

The birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the most significant events in Christianity.

First, God took up the human form to redeem man from condemnation (spiritual death), and give him everlasting life.

The Bible says that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.

Second, the risen Christ is the hope of Christians. As a matter of fact, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundational truth of the faith of every Christian. Without it, our faith would be in vain, and our hope in Christ Jesus would be shattered. It underscores the central role of resurrection in Christian belief. Because Christ rose from the dead, we (Christians) have hope and salvation.

Christians should spend the Easter season in sober reflection, while thanking God for the joy of our salvation. We should rejoice because we have forgiveness and hope of eternal life.

Essentially, Christians should come together in the spirit of togetherness, and enjoy quality time together.

What is the most memorable Easter celebration you have ever had?

In our days as children, about 64 years ago, we usually dressed a banana stem as a symbol of Judas Iscariot on Easter eve (Saturday night), and drag it around the community, while giving it a thorough beating, and singing in Yoruba, “Judasi o ole, o pa Jesu o, ole (Judas, the thief. You killed Jesus Christ. You are a thief).”

That used to be a lot of fun for us young boys then, and we always looked forward to it every year.

Special seasons, such as Easter, are times when most people bond with their families. But, it is usually a busy time for clerics like you, with different church activities taking place. How do you make sure you create time to celebrate Easter with your family, so that they don’t feel left out?

For me, there are two important families— the spiritual family (members of the church), and the natural family (members of the Ositelu family). To the glory of God, after spending time with my spiritual family, there is always time to spend with my natural family.

At a time like this, when there is economic hardship and insecurity in the country, what message do you have for Nigerian leaders?

It is the constitutional duty of every government to protect the lives and properties of her citizens. At a time like this, Nigerian leaders should remember the oaths they took when they were being sworn into the offices they currently occupy. They should show more compassion to the people, and govern with the fear of God.

They should also remember that all actions have consequences. Leaders should, therefore, do good to the people. Our choices and actions (as humans) have consequences, and God’s judgment is certain.

In a similar vein, the harsh economic climate in the country is making many Nigerians to lose hope and go into depression. What do you have to say to such people?

First, we thank God that the Naira has been appreciating continuously in the last few days.

Second, we appreciate the governors, senators and other elected public officials that have been giving palliatives to their people to alleviate the burden of the harsh economic situation. I urge other leaders to emulate this good gesture.

I also wish to encourage Nigerians not to give up on God. Rather, they should keep hope alive. The future of Nigeria is bright, and I pray that the Almighty God will continue to preserve us.

Should Easter only be celebrated with Christians, or can people of other faiths be involved in the celebration?

Easter can be celebrated with all mankind. It is a celebration of life and hope. It is also a time for sharing. It is a time for people to enjoy quality time with those around them.

What Easter traditions do you hold dear?

I recall with nostalgia going to church and coming back home for family gatherings, sharing meals, and playing different games. The spirit of Easter encourages inclusion and togetherness.

May God keep us and sustain us both as all.

Easter after wife’s death memorable to me — Ituah Ighodalo

The lead pastor of the Trinity House Church, Lagos, Ituah Ighodalo, speaks to Oghenovo Egodo-Michael about the Easter celebrations

How do you observe and celebrate Easter?

Easter is a perfect mixture of feelings. We have the Good Friday, which gives room for reflective thinking and to absorb the nature of this God who was extremely sacrificial, because He loved man and went through the kind of unbelievable pain that He (God) went through for man. So, there is that sober reflection of Easter.

There is also a part of deep thinking and insight, as to what life really is all about. What is the purpose of man and why are we here? Then, there is the triumphant thanksgiving on Sunday that because He lives, we can face tomorrow, just because we have a God that is willing to do all the work for us. We go through a mixture of what I like to call ‘life feelings’ that makes life to be what it is. That is the true representation of Easter for me

What are some special services your church organises during the Easter period?

During the Easter period, we usually have praise night on a Wednesday. Then, on Good Friday, we have a drama documentation of what Christ went through, which is usually an afternoon service that starts at 4pm at the church. It is to put people in reflection, worship and appreciation of what Christ went through. We also take some time to reflect on his burial.

We also have a Saturday of quietness and reflection, and we come back to a triumphant service of thanksgiving.

We finally conclude on Sunday with a short piece that shows the triumph of Christ; and that we are celebrating and thanking God.

Which particular Easter celebration holds a memorable place in your heart?

Almost all the Easter celebrations have been very special for me since I was a child. But, the one in 2021 after my wife passed away (in 2020) was most reflective for me. I also celebrated the first birthday after her passing. She died a sacrificial death for so many reasons. It was very memorable, very moving and very emotional; but we thank God for all things.

During this trying time, what words of hope do you have for Nigerians out there?

The simple words of hope I would give are, ‘as long as there is life, I am living, there is hope’. A lot of people are going through things but things can only be tight for a season. Adversity always brings about the best creativity in men and adversary makes one reflect on the mistakes that one has made, and sometimes, some of the things that one says ‘never again’ to. One of the reasons for China’s phenomenal growth was the kind of pain and bondage they went through in the hands of the British, and they were able to come to a very deep and sober moment. They rose up and said never again will they experience that kind of poverty. What is happening in Nigeria is that we don’t have a mass of people saying ‘never again’. It is time that we come together and say ‘never again’. Never again would we have leadership that is not direct and focused, never again would we allow ourselves to be cornered into poverty, never again would we not come up to say that we can do it well and we can do it better. What is really missing in Nigeria is all round ethical, moral and disciplined behaviour. It is not just a question of leadership. From top to bottom, we have lost our values and our sense of what is right from wrong. We all need to rise up and identify good from bad, and follow good, rather than bad. We need a total re-orientation of every Nigerian.

‘Easter a season of love, forgiveness’

Christians should celebrate Easter with everybody around them — Stephen Adegbite

A lot of people celebrate Easter but do not really seem to understand what it signifies. Could you share your perspective on the season, especially as a cleric?

I describe Easter as the exchange of salvation, because Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price by dying for our sins.

We begin the commemoration of the season with Ash Wednesday, and it runs until the resurrection morning, which is Easter Sunday. In between, we commemorate the 40 days of fasting and prayer which Jesus underwent in the wilderness.

So, the Easter message is that of salvation. That was why after His death and resurrection, He could approach the throne of grace, and we got our salvation on a platter of gold. He used His own life as a ransom. Never again do we need the blood of a bull, dove or cow for the remission of our sins or as an atonement for our sins, because Christ has died for us. He paid the price once and for all. That is why until today, we don’t refer to Jesus as late Jesus. His name is forever and ever.

Considering that Easter is a busy period in ministry. How do you make time to also celebrate the season with your family?

After the Sunday service, I am usually back home with my family. They know the kind of job that their father does, so it is part of our life and tradition. However, I usually create time to wind down with family, and celebrate with them.

What has been the most memorable Easter celebration you have had?

Every Easter is memorable to me, because for the past 30 years, I have been observing the Lenten fast without missing any one. This year, God also gave me the grace to do same. It is a great opportunity, and I give glory to God for it.

Every time I take part in Lent, I know miracles will follow, and my family knows that too, so they always encourage me through the season. They pray for me to have the strength to wait upon God, so that He will renew my strength.

A lot of people are suffering because of the economic situation in the country at the moment. What message do you have for such people this Easter?

It is a message of hope, grace, new beginnings, deliverance and salvation. Ramadan (Muslim’s holy month) is also going on in this period. I know that God will come to the rescue of Nigeria, and the country will never become an abandoned project. It shall be well with Nigeria and Nigerians. People should rejoice, because our God is on the throne. We are winners and victors; we will never be losers and victims. I pray that the grace of God will continue to increase in our lives.

Should Christians celebrate Easter with non-adherents of the faith?

Christians should celebrate with everybody one. Whenever one is celebrating as a Christian, one should extend the hand of fellowship to those who are around one. There is nothing we have that we cannot share with others, because the life of Christ Himself was shared to all of us. That is why we will emulate Christ.

Some people are of the opinion that religion is one of the problems of Nigeria. What are your thoughts on that?

I don’t believe that the people who are killing others are Christians or Muslims. They are unbelievers. None of the holy books approves of the killing of innocent people. The Bible emphatically states that, “Thou shall not kill”. So, where do they get their own laws from? Anyone that is killing is not doing it in the name of any religion. They are terrorists, and should be treated as such.

What message do you also have for Nigeria’s leaders, seeing that the hope of the nation rests on their shoulders?

They have done well by giving palliatives to people, and they should continue with that. God has put them in charge of this nation at this time for a purpose, and for that purpose, they should show that they care for the people. It is not easy to be giving to people, but they should keep giving, so that they can also receive the blessings of God. Our time here on earth is very limited. How many things does one person want to consume, so let’s extend hands of fellowship to people, and let the name of the Lord be praised.

Helping people is best way of celebrating Easter – Feb Idahosa

Bishop Feb Idahosa is the Overseer of the Church of God Mission International, and President, Benson Idahosa University, Benin City. He talks to FAITH AJAYI about what Easter means to him

What does Easter mean to you?

It is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ from the dead; so, a more appropriate way to describe it is ‘Resurrection Sunday’. Easter is a celebration of the day I was resurrected with Jesus Christ from the person that I used to be, into the person I am supposed to be.

During seasons like this, people seem to focus more on superficial celebrations, rather than on the significance of the season. What advice do you have for people in that regard?

When one lives in an economy and environment such as the one we do, people tend to look for reasons to celebrate, simply because they need to forget their pain and suffering, even if it is only for the day of the celebration. It is interesting to note that Christ took on pain and suffering in order to bring us to the other side of pain.  My advice is, please, celebrate, but in your celebration, look for ways by which you can help the people near you, who seem to be suffering. Whatever help you can give is your way of following the example of Jesus Christ.

What is the ideal way to celebrate Easter?

On the night before Jesus Christ died, He had his final supper with His disciples and told them to always have that supper in remembrance of him. Resurrection Sunday, activities and festivities should all be done as we remember the purpose of what Jesus Christ did for us— a reconciliation of man to God.

Should Easter be celebrated with non-Christians?

Yes, it can be celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike.

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