Tag Archives: Christ’s Resurrection

Resurrection Hope Shines Brightly in Dark Times

As most of our friends and parishioners know, my brothers and I, all four of us preachers, head to Robert Lee, Texas, a couple of times a year to spend some time together at the old home place of our maternal grandparents. We were supposed to be there last week, but the Covid-19 virus, national and state authorities, and our wives clipped our wings.

The Coke County Ministerial Conference. That is what I call our usual biannual get-togethers. I’ve derived far more ministerial benefit from those gatherings than any more formal pastors’ conference I’ve ever attended. We always have a great time, and I hope a few months from now we get to make up this missed one.

Summer? Yes, but that reminds me of one of our gatherings a few years ago. We probably should have taken turns preaching sermons to each other warning of hell. We were there a bit later in the spring than usual; afternoon temperatures were already hovering obscenely around 100, and we were roasting. Add a little—actually, a lot—of wind to that, and it was seriously hot.

It was also dangerously dry. I didn’t see any brimstone, but the fire danger was extreme. Not many days before we got into town, a chance of fire had become the certainty of fire as a major wildfire threatened the towns of Robert Lee and Bronte. Some of our family there had to evacuate their homes, and our cousins were among a big bunch of folks who had joined in to help get the blaze under control.

One report mentioned that the residents of the nursing home (I’ve sung there many times) just across the creek from my grandparents’ old place was also evacuated during that crisis. Part of the area threatened was out near Paint Creek (around eight miles out of Robert Lee) and the little cemetery where my parents and grandparents and many other family members and dear friends and others are buried. The fire ended up sparing the cemetery and the two aforementioned towns, but it burned a huge amount of land. Scary, to say the least.

That fire was contained, put out, and became a memory a long time ago. But fires belong on a list of the kinds of crises common to the human race. Along with earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts. Guys with questionable theology and a flare for writing can always stand to make a lot of money lining up those sorts of things in books and making questionable claims about Bible verses. People have been doing that, in one form or another, for centuries. Oh, and right now a writer with a flare for such can add in a very scary virus pandemic.

The Covid-19 mess is on all of our minds. It is a dark and difficult time, for sure. But in Easter’s brilliant light shines the hope of God’s resurrected Son. When the virus recedes and fades, Easter hope will remain.

Sunday is Easter! Even in the midst of the present distress. In Pope John Paul II’s words is still deep wisdom: “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” That’s true even if the ground shakes, or smoke is in the air, or a virus is assaulting the world. Prayer is called for, along with Resurrection hope.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com

 

 

Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


The Resurrection Is the Greatest “Eucatastrophe”

More than a few writers have talked about the place where Joy and Sorrow meet.

In a moment of deep contentment, someone may say, “I’m so happy I could cry!” And in the moments of deepest and most unutterable joy, we say nothing at all. We don’t live long before we learn that tears are more precious than diamonds, and the best tears are tears of joy.

When those joy-tears come, we usually don’t analyze them; we live the moment. But if the time comes to talk about such moments, author J. R. R. Tolkien, most famous for his amazing Lord of the Rings trilogy, has kindly coined for us a very good word.

That joy and sorrow are so closely intertwined is ironic. And so, at first glance, seems Tolkien’s word: “eucatastrophe.” “Eu-” is a Greek prefix meaning “good,” and “catastrophe”? Most of us are all too familiar with the word and the situations it describes.

“Catastrophe” is a Greek word brought directly into English that means “destruction.” According to Webster’s, it has come to hold such decidedly negative meanings as “a momentous tragic event ranging from extreme misfortune to utter overthrow or ruin,” a “violent usually destructive natural event,” or an “utter failure.” Understandably, most of us seek to avoid such. I think of the crash of the Hindenburg (see the first meaning). Or, more personally, I remember the first time I sang publicly in a quartet and we started the same song in different keys (see the third meaning).

But the word first had, and still has, a more technical meaning. In literature, especially in tragedy, the “catastrophe” is the technical term for the final conclusion or “unraveling” of the drama’s plot. No surprise that in tragedy, that conclusion is sad. Tragedies in literature, by definition, have sad endings.

Ah, but fairy tales are different. A true fairy tale always has a happy ending. Thus the master wordsmith Tolkien coined the word “eucatastrophe” to describe just such an ending: “I coined ‘eucatastrophe’: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce).” He goes on to explain that what we call fairy tales actually point to the deepest truth and happiest ending of all (really a beginning), that good will overcome evil.

Tolkien knew that the Cross and Resurrection are no fairy tale. He speaks deep truth when he says that “the Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible.” Its truth “pierces” us with “a joy that brings tears.”

The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God” (12:2).

“Christian joy,” Tolkien writes, “produces tears because it is so qualitatively like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled.”

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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