I witnessed a miracle when I was an intern minister (Minister-in-training) at First United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas. For years, the balcony of the church had been closed off but Dr. Jack Heacock, the senior pastor, had insisted that it be dusted and prepared for use on Easter Sunday. (I confess that I thought he was dreaming.) Easter morning came and the entire church, balcony included, was packed full! We had a tremendous celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Afterwards, I shared with Dr. Heacock my amazement at the size of the crowd. With a smile he commented, “Easter morning worship attendance offers tangible proof of the resurrection.” Over the years, the comment has stuck with me. People who seemingly have no active sense of the Christian faith or allegiance to Christ as Lord still show up to give thanks, praise and even affirmation on that one special day. Almost in spite of ourselves, for that one moment, we become again (or for the first time) believers. I am reminded further of a family conversation with some cousins who were not practicing Christians and confessed to not being sure that God even existed. At the death of a mutual, much-loved relative, the family gathered and they all spoke of how she (our relative, my aunt) was in heaven. I couldn’t help but challenge them on why they seemed to believe in some kind of life after death when they weren’t even sure they believed in God and were certainly doubtful about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (With integrity they professed to not being sure themselves; they just believed despite all conviction to the contrary.) A poem by W. H. Auden sticks in my mind:
Nothing can save us that is possible: We who must die demand a miracle.My Easter morning found me touring the ruins of a magnificent castle in Heidelberg, Germany, and then dropping in at a Lutheran Church in Heidelberg (see photo to right for a glimpse of the church). There was a large crowd in the cavernous cathedral. A child was baptized with much joy. Despite the foreign language, I had no trouble following along with the gospel reading and singing lustily in English (as they sang in German) the 1970 Christian hymn “Pass It On.” With the benefit of years, I think there is something to Dr. Heacock’s claim that Easter worship is evidence of the resurrection. (Please don’t miss understand me, there is more, much more evidence and much more to said here.) If the church is the body of Christ, as the Bible attests (1 Corinthians 12:27), then Christ is alive indeed! We see evidence of this resurrection reality all over the Central Texas Conference. For instance, take a look at the following photograph (click photo to see full size image). Central District Superintendent Dr. Leah Hidde-Gregory reports: “First United Methodist Church of Corsicana has made a WIG (Wildly Important Goal) to invest in Hispanic Ministry through welcoming Spanish-speaking neighbors into our midst and assigning Pastor Martin Orozco as a Lay Supply Pastor. Our Spanish Contemporary Worship Service, Iglesia JEME (Jesucristo Es Mi Escudo - Jesus Christ Is My Shield), worship attendance is growing and reaching new families for Jesus Christ!” A small congregation in the North District reports baptizing four Muslim converts recently. (The name of the church and the converts is withheld by request for protection.) Similar stories from around the world abound. The rapid growth of Christianity in China is such an example. Amazingly, amid persecution, there is a small but very significant growth of Iranian Christian converts going on today. Kneeling with throngs of young adults at Taize a few years ago, the very presence of Christ was experienced. The Risen Lord’s touch was tangible in such a gathering. The church is, in its own flawed way, evidence of the resurrection. May you know the Lord’s rising in your life! P.S. As you are quite likely aware, former First Lady Barbara Bush passed away at the age of 92 earlier this week. The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church sent a letter of condolence to former President George H. Bush and the whole Bush family on behalf of the Bishops and the entire United Methodist Church. The resurrecting Christ enfolds them and the former First Lady in His grace and love. Please click this link to read the complete letter.