Word of the Week

worship-suggestions-for-holy-saturdayFor years, Holy Saturday was my every day. I knew all too well the death of Good Friday.  Easter had not yet come.

Pain, loss and more pain and loss. Kicks in the gut. No obvious way out. No clear path about the future. Days when I didn't know how to get out of bed. I wondered if my life really matter to anyone or anything.

As much as I wanted to move on to the joy, to the hope to the shouts of affirmation of "The Lord is risen! The Lord in risen indeed!" I couldn't. (In 2013, I even wrote about my depression during Holy Week).

Actually during this time, I didn't like Easter Sunday at all.

Not because I didn't need its hope. Not because it wasn't a good story to preach. Not because it wasn't fun to see the big crowds the Sunday draws.

No, I didn't like Easter because it came too quick. I needed a longer Saturday.

I hated that Holy Saturday was only one day.

If that. We do such a poor job in the church of teaching people to stay put on Saturday. To sit with the hopelessness of our world. To cry tears for the injustice. To mourn what the world must have felt like when Jesus was gone.  And to remember that our world, even with risen Christ here doesn't always feel like it.

This world can really beat us down sometimes. And in life we're good at avoiding this kind of pain.

For most of us the Holy is taken out of the Saturday because we spend the day running around preparing for a big meal, shopping for new clothes or even dying eyes and hiding them in the backyard.

We start the feast too early.

And for me, during my years of many Holy Saturdays, I just felt so lost at church-- no matter if I were the preacher in charge or not. I can imagine tomorrow there are countless people sitting in the pews of your resurrection celebration that might feel the same way.

They'll be struggling to sing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today."

They'll be crying tears for the loss of someone who is not sitting beside them this year.

They''ll not be able to shout about any good news in their life.  

And so, how can we be good church to them? How can we better observe Holy Saturday?

I think we start by remembering that as much as we are a people of the supper of Maundy Thursday and the "It is finished" of Good Friday and Easter to come, we also belong to Holy Saturday.

We belong to that yucky, in between, not sure how the story is going to ever get better club.

We belong to a God who doesn't answer prayers in a timely way (according to us at least).

We belong to a world of so many unanswered questions. And because our faith story includes Holy Saturdays, we must champion those who are stuck there.

As for me, today, I woke up with such gratitude for those who were companions for all of my Holy Saturdays.

I'm grateful for those who were never afraid of my tears, my questions or even my rants on hard days about "How I didn't believe in the resurrection" even as a pastor.

I'm grateful for the pulpit that gave me words to preach my way through these hard days.

I'm grateful, too, that I'm not there anymore.  (I've got SO much to say about Easter that I can't wait to preach soon!)

Here's my word; if you're stuck, see it through. Take all the time you need. I promise you won't be there forever. Sunday is coming! It really is. So keep going.  This is the best Holy Saturday prayer I know. Just keep going.

Welcome to one of the darkest days of the whole year— for Christians that is—the day we wait with Jesus in the tomb.

It’s the day that no one visited the tomb of Jesus.

It’s the day when nothing happened in the gospel narrative.

It’s the day that can be summarized in one word: silence.

As if Jesus’ cries from the cross of “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” were not hard enough to bear yesterday, today we sit with the reality of our Lord’s death.

And the fact that God’s son wasn't exempt from heart stopping suffering.

Even Jesus once died.

But, in most of our traditions, we have little room for Holy Saturday theology.

Though our Anglican friends often host Easter Vigils—the rest of us have no clue as to why we’d want to go to church on Thursday, Friday AND  Saturday too. What really changes from Friday to Saturday after all?

Isn’t the Saturday before Easter all about egg hunts, food preparation and shopping for new Sunday shoes? (well maybe not shopping for shoes this year)

Not that there is anything wrong with these things (and I’m going to be making some deviled eggs today myself). But I believe if we have our eyes already so set on Sunday, we miss out on a important part of who we are as followers of Jesus.

Again, even Jesus died. Part of what it means to be human is suffering and death.

Throughout our lives we will ALL face suffering that is so painful that we think it might kill us and then one day it actually will.

And if you’ve ever gotten to the point when the dreams you once hung your future upon are no more, you know Holy Saturday.

If you’ve ever woke up one morning to find that your child, your spouse or your best friend to whom your life was deeply connected was gone, you know Holy Saturday.

If you’ve ever wagered all your hope on one event going just as planned, only to find it blowing up in utter disaster, you know Holy Saturday.

Holy Saturday is accepting death.

Holy Saturday is embracing grief.

Holy Saturday is most of all -- surrender.

Pope Benedict XVI once said: “To be sure, it was not Easter Sunday but Holy Saturday, but, the more I reflect on it, the more this seems to be fitting for the nature of our human life: we are still awaiting Easter; we are not yet standing in the full light but walking toward it full of trust.”

So, my word for this Holy Saturday is...stand here.

Take in this day. Breathe in, breathe out.

And let us wait for Easter together—both on its date on the calendar to come tomorrow and all the resurrection moments to come.

Some of us are going to be in Holy Saturday for much longer than just one day. . .