Saturday, April 07, 2012

Saturday Living

Strange as it may sound (or as normal as it may sound for those who know me), Holy Saturday is my favorite part of Holy Week. It's the forgotten day, the one between the sorrow of Good Friday and the celebration of Resurrection Sunday. Traditionally, not much has happened on Holy Saturday. Some places hold a vigil in the evening, but that's really just a countdown to Sunday.

A few years back I was helping to lead a weekly Saturday service at Victory Hills Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City. Obviously, with a Saturday service, we had a service scheduled for Holy Saturday. Since all of the other Holy Week traditions were also in place, I had to some up with something different for a sermon. That's when I had the chance to delve into Holy Saturday.

I called it "The Time Between the Times." You see, while Holy Week is a re-enactment of the past, a remembering of Jesus' death and resurrection, it is also representative of the future. We look forward (in the directional sense, not necessarily the emotional one) to our own death and mortality - and ultimately the bodily resurrection of all people.

Holy Saturday reminds us that we live in a limbo, of sorts. We remember Christ, who inaugurated the Reign of God that will last for eternity, but hasn't returned to finish the job just yet. So we live in the midst of a world that is dying and also in the midst of a world that is coming alive. There's a lot of tension there.

Tension between a world of universal love and acceptance and a world that routinely leaves people out and unloved. A world in which all life in precious and a world in which we justify killing in so many ways. A world with more than enough food to go around and a world in which hundreds of thousands starve every day. A world in which the Body of Christ provides an example of how God intended us to live together and a world in which the Body of Christ presents itself hateful, abusive, ignorant and selfish far too often.

On Holy Saturday we remember the disciples, lost and scattered. They never quite understood what Jesus was trying to teach them and now he was dead, like so many Messiahs who came before. Sure, he was different in speech and habit, but little good that did him on the cross.

The fear and terror of the upper room, as they wandered back from wherever it was they were cowering, is reminiscent of our own - a fear we try to ignore, defeat, and oppress most of the year. Holy Saturday is the day to let it out, to relax and stop repressing. It is a day to admit we're not good enough, we're not who we claim to be, we're weak and feeble and entirely incapable of being anything else. It's a day to be comfortable with the idea that all hope is lost.

In the back of our minds we know Sunday is coming, that resurrection has happened and our hope is in the resurrection to come. But there's nothing wrong with a day to linger in the time between the times, to recount the hope we had in Christ when he was preaching and healing and bringing good news, to recount the pain and fear and doubt that creeps in when we look at the challenges and failings of the world around us.

I am relieved to read Peter's words towards the end of John chapter 6. Jesus has some difficult teachings and many of his hangers-on have walked away. He turns to the Apostles and asks if they, too, want to leave. Peter replies, "Where else can we go You have the words of eternal life." I just love that Peter essentially says, "Yes, we'd like to go - we just haven't found a place better than here."

The question we face every day is, "Is our God really big enough?"

Today, of all days, we can and should be comfortable saying, "I don't know."


Jonathan Phillips said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Ryan. Yesterday (Holy Saturday) I attended my great aunt's funeral. I had similar thoughts as I was there. It was a fitting day for a Christian funeral - death has come as we await the final resurrection.

Unknown said...

I was thinking on Saturday morning that it is my favorite day of Holy Week, too. For me it's a day of "rest." The way I read it Jesus is doing one or both of two things on Holy Saturday. Either the repentant criminal is enjoying a day with him in "paradise" or he is preaching to those in Hades who came before his time (see Peter and Creeds). In either case he is doing something that only he can do in a place/dimension of reality that I am not able to fully share with him (yet). In other words, he is doing what only God can do for us and that leaves only one thing for me to do. Rest.