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.
For several years I’ve made statements like, “My theological gravity well is in Eastern Orthodoxy…” and I did mean it, but I’m really only now discovering what that really means to me.
I have loved the Orthodox emphasis on the incarnation and the deep incarnational theology for a while now, though I would hazard to say that I’m just beginning to identify an internal shift within me to feel the significance of the incarnation and what it means to see it as what I will call the “hinge” or pivotal moment of the scriptural narrative.
As the vast majority of Western Christians have, I have always operated my faith and life in relation to the crucifixion being that pivotal moment of the biblical narrative. The Orthodox however choose the incarnation as that point, and it’s finally gotten down into me.
You see, it changes things when you make these kinds of shifts. I am not saying that the crucifixion is not a hugely meaningful and important event in the narrative. I believe it happened, happened as scripture tells us, and it had deep significance for our faith and life. I’m not even trying to convince you to think as I do… the last thing I want is some kind of fight over who’s got the best hinge passage or story.
But different things take on different hues and natures as we shift from one focus to another. For instance… God’s love, care and concern for all of creation become so much clearer and real when the event of God’s arrival is loosed to be the clarion call of our salvation, a salvation we share with all things created, not just human souls. Stop and recall that we read “For God so loved the world (kosmos)…” There’s more than a small problem with our crucifixion-heavy view of narrative which allows us to unthinkingly interpret that to an exclusively human experience of “For God so loved us…”
And it feels right to fully rejoice with the scriptural writers that “Word became flesh…” and “Now God has spoken to us through his Son…” and that “He humbled himself, taking the form of a slave…” The good news of Immanuel is self-evident and really doesn’t need too much explaining, “God is with us.”
A few weeks ago at CiB we made an attempt to capture gospel or “good news” in a way that we could live it and share it with our neighbors… we tired to gain a hold on the essence of the good news. What we landed with were three big ideas that we’d like folks to experience: 1) God is real, 2) God is near, and 3) God is love. That is the story of incarnation, the story of our salvation, in three terribly simple sentences. It’s a reflection of a titanic shift (hinge) in the biggest story of all, the time when God drew near.