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Selfies make us feel important. A quick snapshot with a mobile device and instantly our pictures are viewable by billions of people around the world. If we’re honest, we often take selfies with the intention of getting as many “likes” as possible by our followers.
Each year, Easter, for Christians, welcomes a different energy in our places of worship. Proclaiming with loud voices in song, “He Lives!” always stirs the soul!
What I did not realize, however, is that when I went to my office after Easter worship and checked social media, I would have an epiphany–Easter is the greatest “selfie” Sunday for Christians as well.
As I reviewed my timelines on Facebook and Instagram, the pages were saturated with selfies of worshipers in their Easter finest. Picture after picture of different colors and patterns from various denominations and cultures!
Religiously, we celebrate Easter because Jesus Christ rose from the grave, overcoming the power of sin and death and offering us the gift of eternal life and communion with God our Creator. Yet, because our post-modern culture has become saturated with the commercialization of major Christian (and non-Christian) celebrations, we must often approach those unfamiliar with centuries-old traditions with a new way of explaining the effect of the resurrection in the lives of human beings.
Here is the reality of Easter: Death and the grave are overcome. Good Friday is conquered by Resurrection Sunday. The Messiah lives and reigns. God’s Kingdom is here and now and is prepared for those in the eschaton (the life the come).
As a result, followers of Christ should be changed and transformed from the inside out. We should, in effect, have something glorious to capture–that is, a new life living in the power of the resurrection.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of going to the Order of the Flame conference sponsored by World Methodist Evangelism. It was a gathering of around 100 pastors and their spouses from the Pan-Methodist connection. We had seminars around our responsibility as witnesses for Christ and were encouraged to remain Faithful Leaders as Mission Evangelists (F.L.A.M.E.) throughout our ministry.
Many moments during this conference were powerful, but perhaps the most touching moment happened when the entire group prayed for one of our brothers’ infant daughter who is battling a rare form of cancer. With our hands laid upon him, we prayed that the power that raised Christ would also heal his daughter.
It was a request for a miracle.
What makes us think we can make such an audacious request? My answer is clear, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In his book on the “Dynamics of Faith,” Paul Tillich says that, “faith is not an act of any of [humanity’s] rational functions, as it is not an act of the unconscious, but it is an act in which both the rational and non-rational elements of his being are transcended” (Tillich, 6).
Believing in a miracle, a rationally unexplainable occurrence, takes exactly what Tillich describes–a faith that transcends our comprehension without excluding our consciousness. In other words, we should know what we are asking for but not expect the miracle to come in ways we can understand. This is the great mystery and power of our faith.
Do we know how God is going to heal this little girl? No, we do not. But we believe God is able. The resurrection gives us this hope.
This hope reminds me of a “witnessing” experience I had during my undergraduate studies. It was late one night and my friends and I were leaving the library. We departed in my vehicle and proceeded to our dorm. I parked, and as we were getting out, a homeless gentleman approached my driver’s side door.
His clothes were physically torn and he carried a trash bag that I assumed contained his personal belongings. It was dark and late and from my perspective, an inconvenient time for God to place me in a witnessing situation – especially after the gentleman explained to me that he had just been released from the state mental institution for stabbing someone with a knife.
Ten dollars is what he wanted. But God showed me something different.
Standing in front of me was a brother in Christ who was not only physically hungry, but also emotionally and spiritually hurting. So I asked, “before I give you the $10.00, may I pray with you?” He consented.
I prayed that the power of our risen Lord would overtake his life and heal any past or present pain. After we prayed, tears were flowing from his eyes and he simply said, “thank you.” I gave him the $10.00 and we parted ways.
My hope was that our interaction would be the gateway to his experience of a new life in Christ. But I did not know what would happen.
Some would argue rationally that this man’s life was unsalvageable. But where some rely on reason, God’s message is always, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Therefore, we believe that the power of Christ can change someone’s life–whether we witness it or not.
One Thursday evening about nine months later, I was leaving my father’s office which is close to the university. As I was getting into my car, a man yelled at me from across the street. “Hey, hey, brother!” he said, as he began running towards me. I asked him, “Sir, do I know you?”
He said, “You sure do! I am the man you prayed with in the parking lot at your university. I left that night and read the book you gave me; in fact, I still have it. I made amends with all of my family members that I hurt and now I am a changed man. I saw you and I knew I had to thank the man who led me to Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord. But now I have to go, because I am volunteering today at the shelter up the street.”
He left jogging towards the shelter about a half-mile away looking and feeling physically and spiritually different. He had obviously experienced the power of the resurrection!
My only regret is that I didn’t take a selfie with him as proof of his transformation. But I finally realized that he had already taken plenty with Jesus on his personal Resurrection Day. They may never make it to social media, but Christ will assuredly remember them in his book of life.