It is my great joy to welcome our dear friend, Dr. Brent Fulton, founder and catalyst of ChinaSource, to this space. I know you will be encouraged and renewed as I have been, by Brent’s timely message below. May you know the renewing presence, power, peace and grace of our risen Lord in the days ahead!
On the Way Home from Easter
This month Christians around the world observed an Easter like no other. Celebrating under the cloud of COVID-19, many traded cantatas and sunrise services for a somewhat sterile digital rendition of “resurrection day” (as the holiday is called in China).
Returning to the touchpoint of that very first Easter Sunday renews our belief in life beyond the grave, offering hope in the midst of desolation.
Yet as Easter recedes into recent memory, the fog of uncertainty lingers. Like the two men on the road to Emmaus described in Luke chapter 24, we find ourselves pondering the connection between the Easter event and the tragedy happening around us. And, like these two followers of Jesus, we find ourselves drawn into a conversation with Christ.
“Are you the only one living in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have happened there in these days?” they ask.
Theirs was a shared experience. Everyone knew what had happened, much like the pandemic sweeping over our world today. As I wrote recently, COVID-19 brings believers in China and Christians globally together in an unprecedented way. We no longer talk about “their experience” or “our experience.” We are in this together.
Jesus listens as his friends begin describing all they had seen and heard. He, of course, has no need for their narration of the events that had just taken place in Jerusalem. Yet he patiently invites them to pour out their hearts, for he knows that, in doing so, they will eventually catch a glimpse of him in the midst of the chaos.
The two men begin earnestly relating the facts as they understood them. Jerusalem was already rife with rumors about what had taken place. Some of the stories added up; many of them didn’t. Even without social media and network news there were more than enough conflicting accounts swirling around. No wonder in our 21st century world we find it hard to make sense of it all, as rumors fly and accusations are traded regarding the coronavirus and its devastating consequences.
Finally Jesus begins opening the scriptures to them, and the tangled events of the previous days start to take on new meaning. Their clouded vision of Jesus was not, it turns out, tangential to the biblical narrative as they understood it; he emerges as the central figure.
As to the spiritual significance of COVID-19, Professor N.T. Wright wrote recently in Time magazine:
No doubt the usual silly suspects will tell us why God is doing this to us. A punishment? A warning? A sign? These are knee-jerk would-be Christian reactions in a culture which, generations back, embraced rationalism: everything must have an explanation. But supposing it doesn’t?
When we allow Christ to take us into the scriptures, the significance we do find will likely be less cosmic and much more personal. Our awkwardly imposed isolation takes on new meaning as we discover God speaking in the silence about the condition of our hearts. Jesus meets us in the void created by our stripped-down existence, where we are forced to revisit fundamental questions about our purpose in God’s kingdom plan for the world. He challenges long-held assumptions about worship and ministry. Relationships we had taken for granted blossom in their significance as our lives are radically rearranged around what is most important.
At their persistent urging, Christ agrees to join the two travelers for dinner. Having walked with them, having listened, and having made sense of their confused world, he now simply blesses them with his presence. Sitting together at the table, their eyes are opened. Then he is gone.
The hope of the resurrection allows us to see beyond the ravages of COVID-19. As we wait, Christ blesses us with his presence. This precious moment of waiting with him will also pass, but, like the two travelers on the Emmaus road, we will emerge forever changed.
Founder / Catalyst
Ways to Pray
- Pray that the Lord will help the global church learn from the church in China, especially the church in Wuhan, to trust God and mobilize to pray and serve, while reaching out during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Pray for God’s continued protection in this season of pain and suffering for so many.
- Pray for safety and health for the ChinaSource team, located in Asia, and the US. Pray that each one and their families will be kept in his firm embrace.
- Pray that the Lord will continue to help ChinaSource provide encouragement, counsel, and timely resources to China ministries seeking God’s direction in a radically changing China ministry environment.
- Ask the Lord to provide the resources needed for ChinaSource to continue serving in these challenging days.
News and Notes
Dr. Andrew Kaiser will share some of his research on the remarkable 45 years Timothy Richard worked and ministered in China. This review of Richard’s understanding and practice of mission from 150 years in the past will reveal several important insights that are vital to cross-cultural ministry today.
- Date: Thursday, April 30, 2020
- Time: 7:00 US Central Daylight Saving Time (DST)
The event is free and open to the public, but registration is requested.
ChinaSource Team News
- This month Joann Pittman recorded a webinar for Global Trellis, titled “Ongoing Language and Culture Learning.” You can access the webinar here.
- Brent Fulton contributed to the China section of the World Christian Encyclopedia, 3rd edition. It is now available from Edinburgh University Press, Christianbook.com, and Amazon. E-versions will be available soon.
In Case You Missed It
A selection of recently published items:
- Now We Know, ChinaSource Blog, April 15.
- Observing Qingming during the Coronavirus Crisis, ChinaSource Blog (CCV), April 14.
- Stories of Christian Women in China, ChinaSource Blog, April 13.
- A Celebration of Emptiness, ChinaSource Blog, April 10.
- Can I Leave Now? ChinaSource Blog, April 8.
- Encouragement for Those Contemplating Post-Virus Divorce, ChinaSource Blog (CCV), April 7.
- Should I Stay or Should I Go? ChinaSource Blog, April 6.
- Plans Can’t Keep Up with Changes, ChinaSource Blog, April 3.
- Social Distance, ChinaSource Blog, April 1.
- Concerns of a Three-Self Pastor for 2020 (2): . . . before the Covid-19 Crisis, ChinaSource Blog (CCV), March 31.
- COVID-19: The Response of Faith, ChinaSource Blog, March 30.
- The Coronavirus Dashed My Dreams: Thoughts from a TCK about Her Senior Year, ChinaSource Blog, March 27.
- The Coronavirus: A Shared Narrative, ChinaSource Blog, March 25.
- Concerns of a Three-Self Pastor for 2020: . . . before the Covid-19 Crisis, ChinaSource Blog (CCV), March 24.
- Mission Ministry in Hong Kong, Part 2: Sunset or Sunrise?, ChinaSource Blog, March 23.
- Books for Wuhan, ChinaSource Blog, March 20.
- We Live in Different Worlds, ChinaSource Blog, March 18.
Image credit: Alana Harris on Unsplash
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