This morning I noticed that our daffodils don’t realize it’s still Holy Saturday, they must think it’s already Easter morning! And it got me thinking about Holy Saturday, about waiting, and about the goodness of human beings.
I probably should have blogged about Good Friday yesterday, but it was a full day of work getting things prepared at Church in Bethesda for the evening pilgrimage, and we also ran the boys over to Baltimore for lunch at the nearest Sonic Drive-Through… mmmmm, a family favorite!
We did host the pilgrimage, and Jesus is still in the tomb in our sanctuary. The following is the passage we read at the tomb last night…
Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
I didn’t grow up with Good Friday or Holy Saturday. In fact we didn’t have a Holy Week at all and I remember preachers making a clear point to us that Easter was not a “religious” holiday for us, but only a “secular” fun day. After all, we celebrated the death, burial and resurrection every Sunday! We didn’t need these kinds of holidays. So there.
But more than anything else, I think we feared death. We feared an impression of defeat. We feared a hint of weakness to our cause. I don’t think we were brave enough or strong enough to talk of the death of Jesus without immediately moving right to the resurrection. The church of my youth rejected things like crucifixes, because “Jesus is no longer on the cross!”
Really, I can’t recall hearing a sermon on the death without an exhortation to look to the resurrection. Without a Holy Week tradition that included a Good Friday service, I was never told that “Jesus has been killed, now go home and pray and wait.” Today, I struggle every year to place his “body” in our makeshift tomb in the corner of the Sanctuary. Kneeling beside a weeping pilgrim last night I had trouble praying the usual prayers.
Good Friday is such a beautiful time to hit the pressure valve that has been wound so tight throughout the last year. Let it out, drop some defenses, be human. Jesus was human, human enough to die. The people standing at the cross were human, human enough to jeer and laugh, to weep and cry out, to be afraid, to be proud, and to be humbled. And Joseph was human enough to want Jesus’ body to be in a tomb, not disgracefully hanging in the open. The women were human enough to go home and prepare burial spices, working right up to the start of the Sabbath, then resting and waiting. Holy Saturday is a time to rest in that deflated, relaxed and waiting place.
Dang, have you ever thought how hard it was for those women to sit through Saturday looking at the spices they had prepared, imagining the body of their beloved languishing without the tender attention of their care? And yet God says, “Wait. Rest.”
Today, as I wait on Saturday for the coming morning, as I wait for the right time to get that “body” out of our Sanctuary and replace black cloth with bright white, as I rest from yesterday’s long day of work, I love that man and those women who cared for my Lord so long ago, so preciously.
I look around Starbucks where I’m writing, and I love the people I see all around me. They are diverse, loud and beautiful. They are precious. They are human like Jesus was human, human like the man and women were human, and human like I am human. Thank you, Lord, for reminding me, for making me stop and rest and wait and see.
Most days in my later life I have taken wearing a crucifix under my shirt, laying against my chest, or maybe carried in a pocket of my jeans or backpack. It’s usually near enough to touch and hold. Because Jesus is still on the cross? Of course not. Because he was human, and I am human, and I find some deep comfort and hope in that? You bet. I look at the pain, love, sacrifice and humanity of the crucifix and it helps me look with love on the people around me.
I’ve decided it’s ok for my daffodils to bloom and shine today. I look at these flowers and I think of the women watching their fragrant spices throughout the day. I will watch with them and wait with them. I will love them. And when the morning comes, I’ll go to the tomb to give what I can to Jesus.
Writing about the death of Osama bin Laden is a complex and frightening thing. I was up late Sunday night and caught the earliest rumbles of his demise and then saw President Obama’s comments and official announcement of the operation which found and eliminated bin Laden at his palatial hideaway in Pakistan.
And then I thought about it. I heard of people in the streets just a few miles away at the White House having an impromptu party. Come Monday morning I had heard of the same kind of celebration at Ground Zero. And of course, Monday was a day of Facebook and Twitter soundbites back and forth between many varied and nuanced responses to his death.
I posted the first confirmed report of the death I could find late on Sunday night with only one word to accompany it: “Wow.” I’ve not said anything else online about it. And really that was my first and has been my most poignant feeling since I heard the news. I was stunned. It was long coming and overdue. It was world-changing. I can almost trust myself now, after a day and two nights of thought and listening and reflection, to say a few things.
I still have had no desire or impulse to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden with song and laughter and light heartedness. But I can honestly say that I am glad we now have a world that can spin on without his distorted views and his ability and willingness to impose death sentences upon the innocent and the defenseless. Osama bin Laden was a part of the evil from which so many of us daily ask deliverance, “…but deliver us from evil.” His willingness to kill and to send others to kill necessitated his own death. But I do not want war and death to cross the line from necessity to celebration in my own heart.
It was past time for Osama bin Laden to be gone. I am glad that he has lost the power to kill. I am glad that our world is now without him. I am glad that he is dead. I do not wish he had been arrested. I do not want him to have had a voice any longer than he did. I do not want his stain on our planet to have grown any darker or to have sunk in any deeper. I am glad he is over.
Almost ten years later it is too easy to see Osama bin Laden in a war of ideologies and caught in a contest of competing worldviews. It’s very easy, after ten years of being hunted, to see him in the context of his philosophical arguments. But for those of us who are old enough to have watched the towers fall in 2001, the necessity of bin Laden’s death is not ideological, it is visceral and quite real. From watching the towers fall on live TV, to those earliest tapes of Al Qaeda beheadings of innocent people, we have seen the face of evil in this world. Of course, for the families of those who died his evil is even more real and present.
While I am glad Osama bin Laden is dead, I cannot find it in me to celebrate death, even his. I won’t sing in the streets. That just doesn’t feel right to me. But the women and men of the United States Intelligence Services and Armed Forces have my gratitude and respect. I thank them and I am proud that we have rid the world of that evil. I am glad we persevered in the face of such heavy necessity. Our people who have sacrificed and given so such much in the face of what needed to be done are our heroes and I celebrate them, their courage, their service to our nation and world, and their sacrifice to confront such evil.
I don’t condemn or mean any slight at all to those who are joyfully celebrating in the streets the death of such an evil. I’ve watched threads on Facebook in which people have “unfriended” those who will not celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death with patriotic chants, capital letters and lots of exclamation points. I’ve watched the vilification of many who simply asked something along the lines of, “Wait… am I really supposed to be a happy that death is still the best or necessary option to any problem?” We should not use this as yet another opportunity to divide and feed any hostilities. Whether you or I celebrate the man’s death, or don’t, our need for civility in discourse and conversation is as real as ever.
Here’s maybe the bottom line for many people of faith… we recognize the justice in Osama bin Laden’s death, the justness of it. We recognize the necessity of his death, we feel the relief that he is gone, and we are glad that his hatred and evil have been removed from our world. He earned that death over and over, more than 3,000 times in one day back in 1991, and many times since. But even as we recognize justice, we have been taught to hope for something greater, and that is grace. Our gladness that justice has been served is tempered by regret that grace was missed. Grace was missed so many times in the life of Osama bin Laden. He did not know grace, show grace nor bring any grace to our world.
Our faith has informed us that a better world is possible, and we still wait for it. That better world is forestalled by the evil of creatures like Osama bin Laden and the necessary sacrifice of good people to hunt and kill him.
I pray, from deep down inside, that with the passing of that evil another death dealing prophet will not stand to carry the banner forward. I pray that the great day of peace will come sooner than later for our globe. I pray that we might no longer be a species which produces such a monster and then has to wage ten years of war to find and stop him.