Three aspects, one great event

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Joe Tkach and Tammy TkachIn his Gospel and epistles, the apostle John tells us that God is light, love and life. These three key words are especially appropriate to consider as we approach Holy Week, which begins this Sunday (March 29). The apostle Paul also uses these three words in his epistles, where typically they appear in connection with the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Echoing Jesus’ proclamation in John 10:28-29, Paul declares that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, emphasis added). In his first letter to Timothy, Paul indicates the connection between life and light:

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen (1 Timothy 6:12-16, emphasis added).

The biblical revelation is that our triune God is one and acts as one. We could summarize the Triune God’s unity of action by saying that the Father calls light and life into existence, the Holy Spirit illumines our lives with his light, and Jesus Christ is sent as the light and life of the world. Our Triune God does all this out of the overflow of their eternal holy love: “For God so loved the world.”

Light, love and life. Something about these three words evokes pleasure, and that leads to celebration. Have you noticed that weddings, renewal of vows, and even fundraising events are referred to as “celebrations of love”? Christmas and independence days are called “celebrations of light.” Late-life birthdays, funerals and memorial services are called “celebrations of life.” Such celebrations view light, love and life as gifts. But do people know the gift-giver?

In Scripture, light, love and life are interrelated as gifts that flow from the very being of God: “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). The story of Jesus is about this light coming into the world to give us life because of the love of the Father. Indeed, light, life and love convey the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This is seen in the last three days of Holy Week, which focus on Jesus’ passion (suffering), death and resurrection. These are three aspects of one, indivisible, unrepeatable, unique event that points us to one, indivisible person—Jesus Christ.

It is finished LizThe one great event of Jesus’ “passover” from life to death, then back to life is called the Holy Triduum (and sometimes the Easter or Paschal Triduum). The word triduum (meaning “three days”) was first used by Augustine to express the essential unity of the three-day-long Paschal event beginning at sunset on Maundy Thursday (many GCI churches hold a Last Supper commemoration service that evening), leading into Good Friday (when we remember Jesus’ crucifixion and death), followed by Holy Saturday (when we remember Jesus lying in the tomb), and culminating with Easter Sunday, when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.

Though Holy Saturday often is overlooked in Protestant churches these days, it has been emphasized throughout Christian history. Orthodox Christians refer to it as “the Great and Holy Sabbath.” Part of their liturgy is to sing “This is the Day the Lord has Made,” taken from Psalm 118, the last Psalm of Passover, which was believed to be the hymn Jesus last sang with his disciples. Coptic Christians refer to it as “The Saturday of Light” and “Joyous Saturday.”

Jesus at the Tomb 1879 Jean-Jacques Henner Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

We should not miss the imagery of Holy Saturday, which portrays Jesus’ lifeless body spending the Sabbath in the darkness of death, buried in the tomb. As explained by the apostle John, this imagery points us to the light and life of God: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). John reminds us that darkness and death did not hold Jesus in bondage. God entered the darkness and broke through. The good news for all is that, for the sake of his love, God brings resurrection light to dispel all darkness; to bring life out of death.

resurrection of Christ Carl Heinrich Bloch public domainBecause of Holy Saturday, we need not fear the dark. When young, my sisters were afraid of the dark and wanted a night-light in their bedroom. But then they experienced some panic when seeing strange shadows. I remember what my mother said to comfort them: “God is always with us, even in the dark.” My mom’s words were a cogent reminder that God loves us in ways we cannot imagine. He loves us in our darkness, ignorance and foolishness. Hearing we are forgiven and that, in Christ, there is no condemnation for us, not only makes me appreciate the depth of God’s love, it makes me want to light up fireworks! I sometimes dream of enjoying supernatural light shows when we experience eternal life in the fullness of God’s kingdom.

It is the light of God that reveals reality to us. Physically, we are unable to distinguish color in the dark. Darkness hides dangers, while light exposes them. We need light to see. We need God to see reality. The three days stretching from Maundy Thursday through Good Friday, to Holy Saturday and Resurrection Sunday point to three aspects of one great event—what Jesus has done to reclaim, redeem and reconcile us to God, bringing us into the radiant light of the glory of God. It was the love of God that sent the light of God to bring us into the life of God.

Living with you in God’s love, light and life,
Joseph Tkach

PS: For a helpful Holy Week meditation by Gary Deddo entitled, “Don’t Cry for Jesus” go to https://update.gci.org/2014/04/dont-cry-for-jesus/.


Picture credits (top to bottom): It is Finished by Liz Lemon Swindle (used with permission); Jesus at the Tomb by Jean-Jacques Henner (public domain via Wikimedia Commons); Resurrection of Christ by Carl Heinrich Bloch (public domain via Wikimedia Commons).

Disaster in Vanuatu

Here is an update on our earlier prayer request concerning the situation in Vanuatu, which was recently devastated by super-cyclone Pam.

Rex Morgan (GCI pastor in New Zealand) reports that communications have been restored in Vanuatu and Billy Taren, the pastor of GCI’s congregation in Rory, on the island of Malekula, advises that six of the homes of church families were devastated by Pam, and all of the gardens in the village were flattened. During the storm, members sheltered in our church building, a solid concrete and timber structure that suffered only minor roof damage.

Billy reports that the members in Rory will run out of food in about three weeks, so William Davies, GCI’s pastor in nearby Santo Island, shipped them food. Our pastor in Fiji, Isei Colati, will be there soon, bringing support from members in Fiji who made a special collection to assist their neighbors in Vanuatu. They have sent a large quantity of vegetable seeds to help re-establish the gardens, along with medical items and other supplies. Having experienced tropical cyclones in Fiji, Isei is well aware of what is most needed to help the Rory members at this time. In Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila, GCI members Euan and Eveline Kanas lost part their roof and sustained some water damage in their home and have already made temporary repairs.


Note: If your congregation would like to help members who suffer from disasters like the one in Vanuatu, you can donate to the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. The Fund assists members in disaster areas with emergency needs such as food, water, medicine, clothing, temporary housing, home and/or church hall repair, temporary local pastoral salary expense and other emergency needs. Monies received into the Fund that are not immediately needed will remain in the Fund to be allocated in future disasters. To donate to the GCI Disaster Relief Fund, have your treasurer set up a one time or monthly donation through the GCI Online system (http://online.gci.org). If your congregation prefers to send a check, make it out to Grace Communion International, indicating on the memo line that it is for the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. Send the check to:

GCI Disaster Relief Fund
Grace Communion International
P.O Box 5005
Glendora, California 91740

Janet Shay retires

Employees in GCI’s Home Office recently gathered for a luncheon to honor Janet Shay for her 37 years of faithful service as an employee of Grace Communion International. Janet retired in January.

Janet with cakeJanet, who was originally from Oregon, started working for GCI while attending Ambassador College in Pasadena, California. Like most AC students, she held a variety of jobs during her college years, working in the custodial departments and then as a keypunch operator and terminal operator in mail processing. During her college years, Janet traveled to Israel to serve on the student archaeological project in Jerusalem. She then transferred to AC in Big Sandy, Texas, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree before returning to Pasadena to work there in the AC registrar’s and admission’s office. Janet married her husband Gary in 1971.

After taking time off from full-time work to be with her family, Janet returned to work in GCI’s personnel department, first as a secretary and then as a benefits specialist, risk/benefits manager and finally human resources manager where she served until her retirement. As human resources manager, Janet was responsible for both risk/benefits administration and the human resources functions with the able assistance of Maureen Warkentin. During her tenure with GCI, Janet held several professional designations including Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) and Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).

Janet celebration with Mat and JoeDuring the luncheon, Dr. Joseph Tkach, President, and Mat Morgan, Treasurer (pictured with Janet at right), recounted with appreciation Janet’s work history with GCI, to the applause of the other Home Office employees. They presented Janet with a large card signed by the employees and a gift card.

Please join us in expressing appreciation for Janet’s faithful service to the Church, and wish her a wonderful retirement with much reading, gardening and time with her grandchildren. Notes of appreciation can be posted in the “comments” section below, or emailed to janet.shay@live.com.


Please note: Maureen Warkentin now serves as GCI’s Human Resources Manager and Cheryl Corson serves as the Risk/Benefits Manager. Both can be emailed at humanresources@gci.org. Maureen can be phoned at 626-650-2372, and Cheryl at 626-650-2352. We thank these women for accepting these additional responsibilities.

Connecting and Bonding conference

Jannice May, president of Connecting and Bonding, hosted the annual Lexington, Kentucky conference for pastor’s and minister’s wives on March 13-15. Women came from various parts of the country to enjoy the time together.

Connecting and BondingConnecting and Bonding 2

Connecting and Bonding 3Jan Taylor kicked off the conference with a devotional showing how much God loves us. Keysha Taylor led the group to “the heavenly places” in worship. Powerful, heartfelt messages were given by Leslie Howard, Alma Smith, Doreen Ray, and Leigh Sniffen. A concert of praise was given by Edna Barr, Tamar Gray and Keysha Taylor. The group also heard an audio-taped message from Naomi Beard, who, over the years, has served as a valued mentor to the group. Little did they know that this would be Naomi’s last message—she died of a heart attack just a few weeks ago.

Jannice honored the wives of retired pastors for their many years of service to the church. These women truly are a gold mine of godly wisdom. The group ate, sang, laughed, cried, prayed and played together. They left feeling pampered and loved with “full cups and full hearts,” ready to face the joys and challenges of participating in ministry with Jesus.

Perc Burrows

Perc and Shirley BurrowsPrayer is requested for GCI-Canada elder Perc Burrows. Perc is suffering with various health problems. He sleeps a lot, suffers shortness of breath and walking is a problem due to lack of balance. He and his wife Shirley are looking at obtaining a walker to help improve Perc’s mobility.

Perc and Shirley (pictured at right) have served faithfully in the Toronto, Canada, churches for many, many years, and are widely known in our fellowship. Your prayers for Perc and Shirley at this time would be greatly appreciated.

Cards may be sent to:

Perc Burrows
208-115 Bonis Avenue
Scarborough, Ontario M1T 3S4

Jim Cook

Please pray for Jim Cook, pastor of the GCI church in Bangor, Maine. Jim suffered a mini-stroke on March 6, losing his ability to speak. Though his speech is returning, he still occasionally “drops” words. Your prayers for Jim and his wife Theresa are much appreciated.

Cards may be sent to:

Jim Cook
PO Box 50
Windsor, ME 04363-0050

Death of Susan Williams’ father

We were saddened to learn of the recent death of Susan Williams’ father, Paul Lang. Susan works for Grace Communion Seminary and is married to Greg Williams (GCI-USA, Church Administration and Development director). Here is Paul’s obituary.  

Paul Richard LangPaul Richard Lang completed this life’s journey on March 5, 2015. He was born in Bismarck, North Dakota in 1933 and grew up on the family farm. Paul married Jennie Marie Mandigo in 1954. In 1978, after 24 years working the farm, the couple moved to Eugene, Oregon where they owned and operated P&J Tool Company until retirement.

Paul is survived by his wife Jennie (they were married for 60 years); three daughters, Debbie (Mark) Larson, Connie (Art) Cady, Susan (Greg) Williams; 11 grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and siblings John Lang, Corine (Marvin) Hasson, Marilyn (Robert) Showalter. Paul was preceeded in death by his sisters Pauline Jackson, Maxine Gleason and Verna Schumaker.

The pillar of his family, Paul loved unconditionally, worked tirelessly, was quick with a smile and faithful to his Savior. His family share that faith and take comfort knowing they will be reunited one day.

Cards to the family may be sent to:

Grace Communion International
Attn: Susan Williams
PO Box 5005
Glendora, CA 91740