In the face of adversity, celebrate the hope of renewal

Since the sixth century the six weeks prior to Easter have been known as Lent. During this season Christians contemplate the cost of their salvation. It is a time for self-examination, reflection, fasting and repentance. On a voluntary basis Christ-followers identify with the temptations of Jesus and personalize his suffering. It is a slow-motion journey that culminates in Holy Week and Easter Sunday.

In the midst of the Lenten season, the massive mudslide in the community of Oso precipitated involuntary suffering that ground “life as it was” to a halt and saw attempts to experience a new normal move ahead at less than normal speed.

The aerial photographs contrasting the hillside prior to the slide with the debris field following it are mind-boggling. I called a friend who has been a parish pastor in Darrington for over thirty years. The Reverend Les Hagen described for me the aftermath of a tragedy whose cost may never be fully calculated.  He related to me that what he saw was worse than a war zone.

Buried bodies and leveled homes explain the community-wide sorrow that still hangs over Oso like a low-lying emotional fog. The continual motorcade of hearses from local churches to area cemeteries provided a visible reminder of the perpetual pain that remains. Death hangs in the air. Fractured dreams lay in the dust. Heartache hovers over a homes (and homeowners) that are no longer.

As I watched the ongoing media coverage of the recovery zone, I pictured the Skagit Valley some thirty miles to the west of Oso. While film crews captured the chaos of a collapsed hillside, thousands of digital cameras were clicking at the fields of tulips that draw tourists from around the world each spring.

I found the contrast in scenes deeply moving. It was, in fact, a dramatization of the Easter message churches will be articulating this weekend. What is buried and seemingly gone need not result in hopeless despair.

Buried tulip bulbs are not visible. They are as good as dead. But come this time of the year, tulips rise from their earthen graves in a brilliant display of color and design. Like a miniature trumpet, each flower bugles an Easter tune announcing the cycle of the seasons. Winter has surrendered to spring. It is Mother Nature’s symphony that affirms the Biblical message: Death is swallowed up by life.

That message offers comfort to those in Oso who are, oh, so sad. As Saint Paul wrote long ago, “We do not grieve as those who have no hope.”

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Pastor Greg Asimakoupoulos is the Chaplain at Covenant Shores.


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