Grace Presbyterian Church
April 20, 2019, Holy Saturday C
So this is the in-between day.
For Jesus’s earliest followers, the horror and terror of the crucifixion was past, but the confusion giving way to celebration of the risen Lord was not yet. Even the gospels give us nothing, really; the reading from John we just heard happened “last night,” in the disciples’ world. It’s a curious enough story, how two of Jesus’s followers who even Jesus’s followers didn’t know were Jesus’s followers coming to claim Jesus’s body and give it a king-like burial? An overwhelming amount of burial spice and a never-used tomb? But again, that was all last night. Today? All of the gospels fall silent.
The medieval church couldn’t stand this, apparently, and offered forth all manner of explanations of “what really happened,” often having to do with Jesus’s “harrowing of Hell” or other such spiritualized speculations (if you’ve ever wondered about that “he descended into Hell” line from the Apostles’ Creed, well, there you go). But if you’re Peter or John or Mary Magdalene or anyone else in this gospel account, you’re probably at home taking pains not to violate the Sabbath in your grief, and that’s about it.
Jesus was in the tomb. Dead.
It’s not as if he hadn’t told his disciples this was going to happen, or even that this had to happen, but nobody listens to bad news until it cannot be avoided, and on this day it cannot be avoided. Amazing things will be happening twenty-four hours from now, no matter what gospel you read, but for now, it is a day of in-between.
This isn’t the worst way of understanding our lives on this earth as Christians.
Good Friday is done, but in a way it’s not really Easter yet. We know it’s coming. We know Jesus isn’t in that tomb anymore. We know the good news. We have that hope.
We really don’t live in a resurrection world, do we? Just read a headline or make the mistake of turning on the news and you’ll know that most people, especially those who “lead” us – even those who bleat on about God the most – do not live in a resurrection world. We know it’s coming, but we are still doing something we are so bad at: waiting.
And yet waiting is so much our human condition. Waiting for test results. Waiting for the storm to pass. Waiting for the loved one to finally pass on. So much of life is waiting, whether we want to or not.
But the waiting is oh, so important, for it is when we truly learn to be with God. To listen for what God says rather than clamor for our wants; to learn the sacredness of every moment, for as Frederick Buechner writes, “all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
In the conclusion of his poem “For the Interim Time,” John O’Donoghue writes:
What is being transfigured here is your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.
So, for the “renewing of your minds” as the Apostle Paul says, for the waiting and listening for the rustling of the Holy Spirit, for these we pray, and for these we yearn, and for these, unable to see what is to come and yet knowing it is coming…we wait.
Thanks be to God. Amen.