As the catastrophic effects of this pandemic have continued to grow, I was reminded of a word that J. R. R. Tolkien coined, eucatastrophe. He added the Greek prefix “eu” (which means good) to the word “catastrophe” (which we all know is bad) to describe a sudden and unexpected turn of events for good when all seems lost. The good catastrophe.
Tolkien called the incarnation of Jesus the eucatastrophe of human history and the resurrection the eucatastrophe of the incarnation. Saturday as Jesus’ body lay sealed in the tomb, all seemed lost. But the day He rose and walked out of the tomb, everything changed.
A new message of hope arrived. Because of Jesus’ redemptive work, the death that had spread to everyone born of Adam can now be reversed. Peter preached this message on the day of Pentecost.
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself (Acts 2:38-39).”
As this pandemic has had us all thinking about the spread of the contagion COVID-19, I’d like to coin another word, eucontagion. The gospel is the good contagion for a world “dead in [our] trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1).” But unlike COVID-19, the eucontagion of the gospel displays clear symptoms in all who receive it. In fact, some of the signs of being “infected” by the gospel are found in the passage Jason Oakes will preach for us this Sunday.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality (Romans 12:12-13).”
The hope of the gospel and the indwelling Holy Spirit empower this sort of living and display the glory and goodness of the eucontagion. Also unlike COVID-19, the eucontagion of the gospel can’t be stopped by social distancing or home quarantining because it spreads through the hearing of words spoken by those whose lives manifest its good symptoms. How incredible is it that overnight thousands of churches are now livestreaming the eucontagion to millions through Sunday worship service broadcasts and social media?
So how should we be praying in preparation to “gather” for worship this Sunday while scattered in our homes? Pray that we would each continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of God and that these “symptoms” of the eucontagion would increase in us, glorifying our Father in heaven.
And as we are praying for a cure for COVID-19, let’s also be praying that the cure for sin and death, which already exists, would spread to more and more people in these days. May God use this current catastrophe to grab people’s attention and point them to the eucatastrophe of human history in the days ahead, especially through our Passion Week services April 5 (Palm Sunday), April 10 (Good Friday), and April 12 (Resurrection Sunday).
Pray for Jason Oakes as he prepares to preach this Sunday and for Kenny Clark as he prepares our sung worship. See you online, Grace family!
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