This week is the highest and most holy week of the year for all who follow the Christian faith.
It begins with Palm Sunday, and moves through the week coming to Good Friday and culminating on the holiday commonly called Easter — but I love to refer to this day as Resurrection Sunday. On that day we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, thereby signifying the victory we can have over sin and over death!
All of that is for most people, whether Christian or not, nothing new. What is new this year is how we celebrate it!
What with social distancing and shelter-in-place or stay-at-home regulations governing our movements and such, “church” will take on a different flavor this year. This year, the “way” we worship may change, but the “why” we worship will never change! That why is what we call the gospel!
Do you know what the word gospel means? Euangelion. It means literally the joy news.
J.R.R. Tolkien says there’s a kind of story … that brings us unbelievable joy … He says these stories always have a certain kernel to them. There’s always some incredibly hopeless situation, and victory is snatched out of the jaws of defeat.
But how? Always through someone who comes in, and whose weakness turns out to be strength, someone whose defeat turns out to be a victory.
He says it’s those kinds of stories that just seem to bring us joy. He called them eucatastrophes.
Do you know what the word eucatastrophe means? The joyful catastrophe. The tragedy that turns out to be a triumph. The sacrifice that turns out to bring joy.
He said, however, there’s a eucatastrophe of the eucatastrophes. There is a story in all of the stories. He believes there’s a bass string to the human heart, and those stories can kind of make it reverberate a little bit but can’t pluck it.
Tolkien says the gospel story is the only story that will pluck that string so the whole heart never stops reverberating and vibrating with joy.
The reason it will reverberate is … this is the reality to which all of the other stories point. It happened. It really happened. There really is a hero who defeats the villain.
There really is Jesus. The word gospel means the joy news. Joy. It’s real. You have to have it.
The other evening, all around the country we experienced the natural phenomenon known as the “Pink Supermoon”. My bride and I ventured out of our home to find a high place where we could (alone!) enjoy the wonder of this large full moon, and the moments when the moon is the closest to the earth it will ever be!
Being the photographer that I think I am, I took lots of pictures, very few of which were much good and none of which truly reflected the beauty of the creative handiwork of God.
Dr Jim Denison made a wonderful application of that whole experience. He said: “Tonight’s moon is a full moon because the sun, earth, and moon are on a direct line in that order so that the moon is fully visible to us. It is a supermoon because it is especially close to us, reflecting the sun’s light even more brightly onto our planet…When we are focused fully on the Son and visible to others, we will reflect the light of his love to our dark world. And just as the moonscape is clearer to us as it draws nearer to us, the closer we are to others, the more they will see Jesus’ light in us.”
In this pandemic environment which is becoming the new normal for a while, it may seem harder for us to get closer to others this Resurrection Sunday.
But in these days when most people are not rejoicing, but rather are complaining about the likes of quarantines and toilet paper, the more we rejoice in the Lord, the more contagious that disease becomes – even from a distance!
Our joyful catastrophe becomes a very catchable and spreadable virus that God will use to redirect attitudes and infect hearts and change the world we live in.
Matthew 28:6 – “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.”
Philippians 4:4 – “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”
Happy Resurrection Sunday!
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.