Tag Archives: Easter

How Easter Sets the Pattern for Great Storytelling

When I read, I can enjoy following one solid plot line until its resolving end, but in my opinion what makes for really excellent reading is when a story weaves not one thread but three:

  1. The immediate story of the narrator, well-told
  2. The story of the personal life of the reader as drawn out by parallels through personal identification
  3. And the story of Christ’s unfolding drama of cosmic redemption, as the author and the reader both are led to walk through, inhabit, and reenact His life, death, and resurrection

I was reflecting on this storytelling craft this weekend, as the church moved through Holy Week. As hundreds of thousands of people this weekend walked through the greatest story ever told, culminating in Good Friday, Silent Saturday, and Easter morning.

My parents often took my sisters and me growing up to a passion play, and every year I seemed to forget that the play ended just as the sun set, with the sealing of the tomb. It killed me that the story left off suspended in such high tension, everyone walking silently to the parking lot to go back home. But I have since learned of the soul’s need to dwell in the funeral hour before rushing ahead to the resurrection.

Like the hinge of success for the perfect joke, timing and pace matters in storytelling. If we get stuck in the grief of Good Friday, the liminal space of Holy Saturday, our hope will crumble like the dust. And if we skip ahead to the hallelujahs and the empty tomb, our victory becomes shallow.

The Good Story requires us to walk faithfully, thoughtfully, through each scene. It requires us to witness the violence of Good Friday, the disturbing details of which the gospels do not censor, and certainly aren’t family-friendly. It requires us to wade through the shadowlands of Holy Saturday, unsure and in between. And then it invites us to experience resurrection.

This is the kind of story I want to read, live, and worship.

What stories, books, testimonies do you enjoy that have exhibited this redemptive story pattern? Does this kind of story development resonate with you, or not?

P.S. If this kind of story appeals to you, I invite you to check out a new book project from Moody Publishers and STORY Chicago which I’m excited to be working on behind the scenes.


The Inconvenience of Lent

[This post was originally published on Relief Journal’s blog, and I’m happy to say our church now incorporates communion into the service]

In our American culture of drive-through coffee, instant Twitter feeds, and video on demand, we prize immediacy. We like to check our email on our touchscreen phone as soon as it hits our inbox, grab lunch to-go, and download live-streaming news. We are a nation of busy professionals, parents, and students living under the banner of “carpe diem,” driven by the idea that there’s no time like the present.

This “now” syndrome certainly has advantages, motivating us to work hard and invest fully in whatever we’re doing, but what happens when we apply our instant-culture values to spirituality?

I once had a bizarre experience with communion that made me consider this question. After months of exhausting church-searching, my husband and I finally found a church where we wanted to stay. It’s a contemporary kind of church, the kind that has a graphic designer on staff and a coffee bar out in the hall, and we came because we like the teaching and the small groups. But you have to understand, the church we went to before we moved was a liturgical church, the kind with Kierkegaard quotes in every other sermon and weekly communion. So we knew we’d have to make some adjustments at our new church.

But this is what I did not expect: communion that is served before the service, an addendum tacked onto and separate from the worship service. So we set our alarms a little earlier, entered the sanctuary, and found only a fraction of the congregation had shown up. The pastor said a prayer for this handful of early-risers, and at his invitation we filed up front and received the elements, and then it was over. The whole ordeal took literally five minutes. There was no time of confession before receiving the sacrament. There was no benediction afterwards, charging us to go forth bearing Christ into the world. There was no community, only a yawning faithful few. There was no ritual, no careful unfolding of holiness.

It was like grabbing Christ’s blood of the covenant, His outpouring for the world, in a Styrofoam to-go cup. It was a sacrament dictated by convenience, quickly squeezed in between other items on the agenda, and left out of the greater context of cosmic redemption.

The problem with an instant culture, and an instant church, is that a preoccupation with the present diminishes our ability to see seasons, to see story, to observe the unfolding of time. This is the pivotal idea of the sacrament of communion: Christ asks us to remember Him by taking the bread and wine (Luke 22:19), and to anticipate the future when we will eat and drink with Him face to face (Matt. 26:29).

As we now enter the season of Lent, we enter a time of waiting. There is no immediacy or convenience here. But there is a story of cosmic proportions unfolding, as we take the forty days of Lent to remember, to walk through the events of the life of Christ: the temptation in the desert, the agony of Good Friday, the silence and sorrow of Holy Saturday, and the joyful victory of Sunday morning.

It is often difficult for us to lay down our gadgets and agendas to just sit for a while, quiet our souls, and dwell with God. And yet, He laid down everything for us, making Himself “nothing” and emptying Himself to the point of death (Phil. 2:7-98).

In his beautiful poem“Seven Stanzas at Easter,” John Updike writes of the agony of the cross, “Let us not seek to make it less monstrous, for our own convenience…” As we cross the threshold of Ash Wednesday, let us reflect sincerely and sorrowfully on Christ’s suffering for us, so that on Easter morning, our hearts will grasp the incredible joy in His resurrection.

How do you find preparing yourself for Easter through Lent an inconvenience? How do you find it a blessing?

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