Eucatastrophe (A Good Thing)

“The Birth of Christ is the Eucatastrophe* of man’s history. The Resurrection is the Eucatastrophe of the story of the incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

The greatness and power of the Resurrection of Jesus is beyond measure—it’s the superlative of all happy endings. If you are His, revel in it; if you aren’t, plunge into Him. You will live forever. Because He loves you.

Rejoice.

—j

*Happy ending

Coping with the End of Your World

“How can you cope with the end of the world and the beginning of another one?  How can you put an earthquake into a test-tube or the sea into a bottle? How can you live with the terrifying thought that the hurricane has become human, that fire has become flesh; that Life itself came to life and walked in our midst? How can you cope with the concept that mankind tried to kill God, but He lived and now is our judge? How can a person come to Easter services and not be profoundly transformed by the fact that once in the history of humanity a truly innocent man died in our place and rose to life never to die again and he offers us eternal life? Christianity either means all of that, or it means nothing. It is either the most profound and devastating disclosure of the deepest reality in the world, or it’s a sham, a nonsense, and just deceitful acting. Most of us, unable to cope with saying either of those things, condemn ourselves to live in the shallow world in between. We may not be content there, but we don’t know how to escape until we are personally transformed by the resurrected Jesus Christ, from mere observers to worshippers of the living God!” —Author Unknown

The Resurrection changed everything. How has it changed you?

He is risen. Indeed.

—j

Behold.

“Here from this stable, here, from this Nazareth, this stony beach, this Jerusalem, this market place, this garden, this Praetorium, this Cross, this mountain, I announce it to you. I announce to you what is guessed at in all the phenomena of your world. You see the corn of wheat shrivel and break open and die, but you expect a crop. I tell you of the Springtime of which all springtimes speak. I tell you of the world for which this world groans and toward which it strains. I tell you that beyond the awful borders imposed by time and space and contingency, there lies what you seek. I announce to you life instead of mere existence, freedom instead of frustration, justice instead of compensation. For I announce to you redemption. Behold I make all things new. Behold I do what cannot be done. I restore the years that the locusts and worms have eaten. I restore the years [that] you have drooped away upon your crutches and in your wheelchair. I restore the symphonies and operas which your deaf ears have never heard, and the snowy massif your blind eyes have never seen, and the freedom lost to you through plunder and the identity lost to you because of calumny [slander] and the failure of justice; and I restore the good which your own foolish mistakes have cheated you of. And I bring you to the Love of which all other loves speak, the Love which is joy and beauty, and which you have sought in a thousand streets and for which you have wept and clawed your pillow.”—Thomas Howard, Christ the Tiger

On this Good Friday and on the brink of Easter, pause—go quiet and listen. You may just hear Jesus speak. I wonder what He will say to you.

Rejoice.

—j

Miracle

July 4, 2017—Today I was in a miracle. Two years ago we were packing up our annual July 4th picnic/baptism at the American River (Coloma, CA) when were heard sirens converging at the river near our baptism site. I came to the picnic as a pastor and it appeared I was about to shift into chaplain mode. Finding a ranger, I identified myself as a chaplain from the neighboring county and learned that a man drowned upstream from us, was retrieved from the river and was undergoing CPR. The last report I received indicated he had a pulse and was breathing, but the park rangers were still traumatized—especially a young state park employee who was not involved in lifesaving efforts but was badly affected nonetheless. I employed some quick defusing of the involved rangers and of the traumatized young park employee until her father arrived, after which I went home.

Today—two years later to the day—our church family was fellowshipping after the baptism when I noticed two female rangers talking near our picnic area—a long-time employee and a ranger-in-training. My chaplain mode once again kicked in and I walked over to visit with them. As I spoke to the seasoned ranger, our conversation shifted to the near-drowning two years ago and her involvement in the life-saving efforts. I told her how glad I was that he survived, and she dropped a bombshell—he didn’t make it. My wife Kathee and a church brother, Marc, joined the conversation, as they were also there two years ago helping with the situation. We talked together for a while when the rangers left suddenly to address a man flying a drone over the river. The rangers we gone less than three minutes when they returned bringing with them a man with his wife and daughter.

“This is him!” the seasoned ranger said to me. I didn’t recognize him, and all I thought was “Him who?”

She repeated with a tone of wonder and excitement: “This is HIM!”

The man the rangers had brought—the man with the drone—was the drowning victim from two years ago, and he was supposed to be dead. All the rangers in the park thought he was dead, and until now, so did I, my wife and Marc.

The seasoned ranger radioed to another ranger—one who had also performed CPR on the victim—to immediately come to our location—there was someone he needed to meet. And he did, and there were hugs and tears and a supreme sense of wonder. Not only was this man alive, he was here, with us and with his family, near the same spot of the tragedy—in perfect health. Not bad for a dead guy. But wait—it gets better.

We then discovered why the rangers thought he was dead: another drowning victim died that day in the same hospital, in the bed right next to our victim (who was on life-support). When the rangers called to find out his status, they were told he had died—the nurses thinking they were asking about the other victim. Instead, our near-drowning victim—now presumed dead—was actually transported to Stanford Medical center where he lay in a coma for two months.

The man’s wife explained what happened next: two months into his coma, his kidneys, heart and liver were shutting down and the doctors were urging the wife and grown daughter to unplug life-support and let him pass. Though the family was originally from south Asia, they were also Christians, and the wife and daughter ducked into to a nearby church for two hours to seek the Lord before pulling the plug. The wife said God told her not to worry. When they returned to the hospital to (perhaps) say goodbye, her husband moved for the first time in two months. He awoke fully from the coma, remaining in the hospital a total of six months, followed by two more months in a rehab facility. The doctors had told him his kidneys would never function normally again—that one was dead and the other likely wouldn’t work at all, requiring ongoing dialysis. Two days later all his organs were functioning normally—and when we met him today, he was normal—and I mean normal. I have friends who awoke from comas with extensive brain damage. This man was normal—and he’d returned to the site of the tragedy hoping to find and thank the people who helped him two years ago, not knowing we all thought him dead. Earlier that morning he even found the same nurses who treated him in the first hospital—who both happened to be on shift this morning.

We stood together on the bluff overlooking the American River, some of us jaw-dropped and laughing, rangers tearing up, everyone overwhelmed. God is amazing beyond words. The one person not present and whom our resurrected friend wasn’t even aware of was the traumatized young park employee I defused. She’s on her honeymoon.

I wonder what she did when she got the text this afternoon.

—j

The Eucatastrophe of History (Merry Christmas)

Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien declared, “The Incarnation of God is an infinitely greater thing than anything I would dare to write…” (italics in the original). But later on he tried. Here is what he wrote…

The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: ‘mythical’ in their perfect, self-contained significance; and at the same time powerfully symbolic and allegorical; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable Eucatastrophe… The Birth of Christ is the Eucatastrophe of man’s history. The Resurrection is the Eucatastrophe of the story of the incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.

“It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be ‘primarily’ true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the ‘turn’ in a fairy-story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth (otherwise its name would not be joy). It looks forward (or backward—the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is pre-eminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. Because this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves. Legend and history have met and fused.”

Good job, Ronald, and Merry Christmas to all.

—j