On Tuesday evenings at 8PM, if you try to contact me, do not expect replies to your texts, emails, or phone calls for at least an hour.
Yes, we live In an age where I could easily hit "pause" when watching my favorite TV show, This Is Us, knowing that the DVR has me covered. If the DVR malfunctions, I have yet another backup with the show's availability on NBC's website the next day. Still, I prefer to sit down at the actual time of airing with kleenex (always), cake (usually), and a cup of tea (or a glass of wine, if the previews look especially tear-inducing).
With so much accessibility to the show, why sit through the commercials? Why prioritize time spent with a fictitious family? Why set a table of sugar and tissue and a silent cell phone in front of the television for the sake of a story?
Because This Is Us tells a really good story.
And a good story, founded in love and meaning, makes you feel not like an observer but like part of "us"--part of a community that draws you outside of yourself.
A good story deserves good, focused attention.
A good story brings out the best in us.
A good story draws us back to the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
For weeks leading up to a special episode airing after the Super Bowl, the buzz among This Is Us fans was that we would finally find out exactly how patriarch Jack Pearson died. Hints had dropped throughout the show's two seasons, but the particulars were unanswered until Super Bowl LII ended. Actor Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Jack, told Entertainment Weekly that he "found it amazing that people are so engaged by the morbid mystery."
I think one of the reasons fans have been so curious about the morbid mystery of the way Jack died is the way that Jack lived. In flashbacks that make me nostalgic for the early 1990s (pagers instead of cell phones!), we encounter this father of triplets as a cool dad. A devoted husband. A creative guy. Jack is not flawless. He is a recovering alcoholic, like his father, for whom he still harbors anger. He suppresses his grief about time served in war.
Still, he lives well. He loves wholly. His impact on his family lasts.
Next week we enter the Lenten season--a 40-day time framed by another morbid mystery. We begin with the reminder that we are all dust with Ash Wednesday. We conclude with the pained last breaths of a wrongfully accused man executed for the sins of the world.
The four gospels of the New Testament brim with stories about this man. Some accounts are the same from one book to another, but Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have chapters unique to them, too. The common thread among them, the story that each of them does tell, is that of the man's death. It is the story of unexpected hope and new beginning around which a community of faith formed--a community grounded in the truth that this man was more than mere human. He was God's Son. He defeated death.
Before we rush to that Good Friday, though, and how he died, we must use wisely the time of Lent to observe how he lived well. How he loved wholly. And how his impact not only lasted but is also still alive in us as the body of Christ today.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are only part of the good news that we call gospel. His life that we study in the Word helps us to better understand his death, and remembering his death helps us to better understand his life.
How will you spend time with the life of Jesus Christ over the next 40 days?
May we all embrace this season as a time to live well, to love wholly, and to learn how our impact as the body of Christ might last beyond our days here on this earth. Let's be a part of the bigger story of "us."
all good things to each of you,