Tag Archives: Resurrection

Eucatastrophe and Resurrection in a Thin Place

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 1 Corinthians 15:54

I am a geek at heart. Exhibit A is my life-long love for the works of Tolkien. I recently finished listening to the entire audiobook version of The Lord of the Rings and am now reading The Silmarillion again. They call me back again and again, an my appreciation only deepens each time I pick up the adventures.

Tolkien himself coined the phrase eucatastrophe to describe the moment when the tide turns and victory is gained amidst in the moment when defeat seems a sure thing. Eucatastrophe would be a theme that he used again and again:

  • Most famously, the arrival of the eagles both at the Battle of Five Armies in The Hobbit, and at the Battle of the Black Gate in The Return of the King.
  • Gollum’s final treachery that is the salvation of Frodo
  • When Gandalf arrives with Erkenbrand at the battle of Helm’s Deep
  • When the Ents and Huorns rise up unexpectedly against Isengard
  • The arrival of Aragorn upon the Corsairs of Umbar

Tolkien loved the dramatic moment when the light of hope springs unexpectedly in the deepest darkness. In his personal letters (which I have also read; behold Exhibit B of my geekiness), Tolkien explains that the model of eucatastrophe, and its greatest example, is the incarnation of Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

In today’s chapter, Paul argues for the resurrection of the dead against those in the city of Corinth who were teaching that there is no life after death. Paul, who had a life-changing encounter with the resurrected Jesus (read Acts 9), now explains that if there is no life after death then the whole of Christian belief is null and void. If there is no life after death, then his life-changing encounter was nothing more than a hallucination; His work to share the message of Jesus to the world a huge waste of time and energy.

It is Paul’s description of resurrection in today’s chapter that brings Tolkien’s eucatastrophe to mind:

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

This morning I sit with my cup of coffee at the lake and watch the warm sun coming up over the back of the cove, where bald eagles often roost. Staring back at the treeline I, from time-to-time, get to shout “The eagles are coming!” This is, for me, a thin place; An earthly location where the impermeable veil between the mortal and immortal becomes sheer. Eucatastrophes of various shapes and sizes are experienced here. In this place my faith in resurrection takes shape and mass. 

“I Will Bring You Home”

“At that time I will bring you home….”
Zephaniah 3:20 (NRSV)

Here in the heartland of America, in the great state of Iowa, we have been experiencing an early spring. It’s March Madness, which is usually a time when we receive the final blast of winter’s fury. The state high school girl’s basketball tournament is mythically synonymous with “blizzard.” But not this year.

The temperatures have been unseasonably warm. The tulips are already shooting up from the earth. We’ve already used the grill on the patio multiple times. The sounds of Cubs baseball is becoming daily ambient audio here at Vander Well Manor, even if it is just spring training.

There is something exciting about spring. The death of winter gives way to new life in spring. We celebrate the journey from gave to empty tomb. Shivering in the cold yields to basking in the sun’s warmth. Resurrection, hope, and joy are kindled in our souls, reminding us that old things pass away and new things are coming.

How apt, I thought, that in this morning’s chapter we find Zephaniah’s predictions of doom and gloom giving way to hope and salvation. And, amidst the hopeful promises God gives through the ancient prophet is the simple phrase “I will bring you home.” That phrase has so much meaning for me in so many layers:

  • As I care for aging parents and grieve the “home” that I once knew.
  • As I watch our girls spread their wings and scatter to their respective paths and realize the “home” that I have so recently known and loved has suddenly gone the way of winter in an early spring.
  • As I come home from three long days working with clients to find Wendy waiting at the door for me with a cold beer, hot meatloaf, and a warm kiss; realizing in that moment the home that I am so blessed to experience each day, right now.
  • As I wax poetic in my annual giddiness for baseball season and ponder anew the game in which the goal is to arrive safely home.

I will bring you home,” God says through Zephaniah.



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To Believe, or Not to Believe

Jesus said to [Thomas], “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
John 20:29 (NRSV)

It is the most startling claim of all of the startling claims that were made about Jesus. The One who cured lepers, cast out demons, made the lame walk and the blind to see. The One who raised a little girl from her deathbed and called Lazarus out of his tomb. This Jesus, whose beaten, tortured, and crucified body had lain dead and lifeless in the grave since Friday afternoon, is resurrected on Sunday morning and appears numerous times to different followers, including a sudden appearance behind locked doors to show his wounds as proof to a doubting Thomas.

There are many over the centuries who appreciate Jesus’ teachings and example, but fall short of believing the miraculous claims about Him. Yet it was the surety of the resurrected Jesus that led His followers to burst out from their hiding behind locked doors to boldly proclaim the most audacious claim of all. Each one of Jesus’ inner circle who saw Jesus present Himself to a doubting Thomas behind those locked doors would later prove willing to travel to the ends of the known world, to suffer terribly at the hands of unbelievers, and to die horrific deaths in proclaiming that which they had heard with their own ears, seen with their own eyes, and touched with their own hands.

It is one thing to nod acknowledgement and appreciation toward Jesus’ Pinterest worthy sayings. It is another thing to truly believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be and who His closest followers proclaimed Him to be though it cost them their own lives. If you believe the audacious claim, then it requires something of you. It requires everything of you.

For the record, I believe.

Strong Women

VW FamilyWhen they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened. Luke 24:9-12 (NIV)

I am married to a very strong, intelligent woman. I have raised two very strong, capable daughters, and a very capable sister-in-law is living with us now. I’m surrounded by strong women and have been for many years. If there is even a hint of misogyny in the air, I’ve learned to recognize it because I’ve learned over time what sets the ladies of the VW household off.

Let me tell you that my misogyny detector was going off loud and clear when I read this morning’s chapter. The women who had been strong followers of Jesus (and, at least in the case of Joanna, most certainly a financial supporter) come running back from the empty tomb sharing what they witnessed. The response of the men:

But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.


Mistake. These were not flighty women. They had been companions and supporters of the cause for a long time. This was not one raving lunatic, it was several people all saying the same thing. The men, however, dismiss the ladies and their account. Only Peter and John had enough of a shred of faith to make a personal investigation of their claims.

Today, I’m thankful for strong women in my life, and I’m grateful for the life lessons they have taught me. I have had to learn a thing or two along my journey about my own prejudices of gender and the subtle misogynistic notions that I’ve held. I love that Jesus cared deeply for women and honored them in sharp contrast to the deeply misogynistic culture of His day. I like to try and follow that example.

New Life Emerges Out of Death

celtic cross tatHe who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5 (NIV)

A decade ago, this verse from Revelation was about to take on tremendous meaning for me. Upon hearing and digesting my story, I’ll never forget the word picture my therapist gave for my troubled, seventeen year marriage:

It seems to me that you and your wife have been standing over the casket of your dead marriage for many years, but neither of you have been willing to acknowledge its death.”

Ugh. Divorce was not a snap decision. It was not what I had intended. Yet, there I was standing at a place on life’s road I had never intended on ending up. It was painful. It was hard. It is never pleasant walking through valley of death’s shadow no matter what it is that has died.

In those days I learned to cling to hope that at the other end of the valley of the shadow of death lies the house of the Lord. God redeems broken things. Easter, after all, is about resurrection. New life emerges from that which is dead. Behold, God makes all things new. I even had the Rev 21:5 referenced in the crux of the Celtic cross tattooed on my back during that particular stretch of my journey (it was my first tat).

I am glad to look back across a decade. I have experienced much, learned much, grown much, and I see things with greater clarity than when I was in the chaos of those stressful moments. This Sunday, as Wendy, Taylor, Suzanna and I celebrate Easter together, I have a deeper and more profound understanding of resurrection. I have experienced a kind of death and resurrection which at once provides me evidence of Easter Sunday and foreshadowing of today’s chapter.

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Chapter-a-Day John 20

That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. John 20:19 (NLT)

The religious leaders of Jerusalem had conspired and in less than 24 hours they had apprehended, tried and executed Jesus. If they were so intent on killing their master, it would make sense for them to go after Jesus’ core disciples as well. They could make a clean sweep and be rid of this pesky sect that had caused so many headaches for them.

It is not surprising that Jesus’ followers were shut up behind locked doors fearing for their lives. They had nothing with which to defend themselves. They were uneducated men from the rural Galilee region in the north. They had no money, no political power, and they were in grief over the death of their master. They had alway depended on Jesus to lead them and tell them where they were going and what they should do. Now, they were distraught, afraid, leaderless and utterly without direction or hope.

So, what happened over the course of the following six weeks that changed this fearful, directionless, uneducated lot into a fearless, impassioned, articulate group of men boldly standing up in public to proclaim that Jesus was alive? In fact, all twelve would eventually spread out around the known world to experience persecution, torture and death in order to share with others the story of Jesus, His death and His resurrection.

Today I’m thinking about the fact that following Jesus and experiencing a relationship with Him results in changed lives. Death becomes life. Hate becomes love. Bitterness becomes forgiveness. Selfishness becomes selflessness. Prejudice becomes grace. I see that change in the story and testimony of Jesus’ first followers. I’ve seen it in countless others. I’ve experienced it in my own life, and I pray to experience increasingly more each day.

Day 21: Something You Can’t Seem to Get Over

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30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 21: Something you can’t seem to get over.

I’ve come to learn that there are some events in life that you never truly “get over,” nor do I believe you should. They become a part of your journey. Some events, whether positive or negative, become a waypoint; they are a demarkation point of your life. They were a factor in determining your course, they become a part of your story, and a part of who you are.

When I was going through divorce I had a dear friend who’d been there before tell me that the day her divorce was official “was the worst day and the best day of my life.” I’ve never forgotten the words and have learned the truth of them. Friday, May 13, 2005 was a huge waypoint in the journey from which the course is forever altered. There are feelings of sorrow and pangs of failure that are forever attached to the event. And, yet, God is a God of resurrection and redemption specializing in creating new life out of things which have withered and died. I look at the present abundance of life and joy I daily experience and marvel at how the Creator never ceases His artistic pursuits of using broken, dead things to create new expressions of life.

 Resurrection comes with the prerequisite of death. There’s no getting over it.

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