By Christine Sunderland
Christian novelists are tasked with a great responsibility in today’s world. They must civilize the state with the church, freedom with faith, and the present with the past. They must tell the truth about man and God, as best they can, and do so in a manner layered with meaning, woven with texture. They have been given great treasures – faith and artistry. Much is expected.
And so it is good that we cultivate humility and dependence upon the will of God as we sail in these tumultuous seas, in an ark of words and pages and metaphors, symbols and seasons and saints. It is good our calendars anchor our stories, and in my own tales I populate settings with Church holidays as well as American holidays.
Today is the Feast of St. Joseph of Arimathea, prosperous tin trader and Apostle to England in the first century, who buried the body of Jesus in his newly hewn tomb. After the resurrection of Christ from the dead, he carried the news to Glastonbury, England, then under Rome’s rule and pagan gods. It is said that Joseph brought with him the Holy Grail, the cup of the Last Supper, the cup that received the blood and water from the heart of Christ on the cross. He planted his staff on Weary-All Hill, where a thorn tree grew and flowered in the middle of winter.
Today is also the birthday of George Washington, our first American President (1789-1797) and Commander of the Continental Army in the War of American Independence. He presided over the Continental Congress which drafted the Constitution of our fledgling nation. He was a hero, and we remember how he fought for us and protected our freedoms, especially freedom of religion and speech.
This year Ash Wednesday falls on February 22, linked to the date of Easter. Today we mark the beginning of the forty days of Lent, preparing us for Holy Week, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection on Easter morning. We are reminded that our bodies will decay and turn to ash when we die, as our souls go home to God. We act out this truth with humility, entering the story of our own redemption, as the priest draws an ashen cross on our foreheads and intones: “Remember O Man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”
These stories enlighten our human condition, sanctifying our time on earth with meaning and truth. They remind us that we are citizens of both America and Heaven.
In my novel-in-progress, The Music of the Mountain, I am setting the story in January 2023, for the light of Christ manifested to the world in the Feast of Epiphany and Epiphanytide is appropriate to the theme of freedom in a censored world.
The Fire Trail (eLectio, 2016), my sixth novel, is set in September 2014. The midpoint is anchored with memories of the Nine-Eleven World Trade Center bombing in New York City in 2001, reflecting the very real threats to Western Civilization today.
In Angel Mountain (Wipf and Stock, 2020), my seventh novel, the story takes place in November, bracketed by Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving, reflecting the theme of gratitude for America and those who fight for freedom.
As Christian fiction writers we tell our stories of grace, giving hope to a despairing world. We weave secular celebrations with Christian ones, placing the reader in the real world and giving him the means to understand his world.
Christians are a people bound by Time, preparing for Eternity. We see meaning in every moment. Nothing is wasted; nothing is lost. Everything counts. When we step into a story and live in its pages, we yearn to be healed of Adam’s curse. We want our vision restored; we want salvation, no less. When we enter the pages, we learn how to love, how to live, how to step into the next day as a Child of God, wholly holy in our own time.Christian fiction writers tell stories woven with faith and freedom, set in a real world, enlightening our human condition with hope. @ChristineSunderland #ACFWBlogs #writetip #critiques #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet
Christine Sunderland has authored seven award-winning novels: Pilgrimage, set in Italy, Offerings, set in France, Inheritance, set in England, Hana-lani, set in Hawaii, The Magdalene Mystery, set in Rome and Provence (all Oaktara), The Fire Trail (eLectio), set at UC Berkeley, and Angel Mountain (Wipf and Stock), set on Mount Diablo, east of Berkeley. She serves as Managing Editor for the American Church Union and is a member of the Anglican Province of Christ the King. Visit Christine at www.ChristineSunderland.com (website and blog) and www.fictionfinder.com/book.
They want to send our Lord away
from the public square,
usher in a pagan day,
and let the kids beware
of adults become predatory,
urged by custom and by law;
this is their intended story,
but it has a hidden flaw,
that our faith won’t gently go
into that good night;
we will serve the Christ we know,
and we will stand and fight
with our words and song and rhyme,
laying our hearts on the line.