Grace Presbyterian Church

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Holy Saturday Meditation: The In-Between

Grace Presbyterian Church

April 8, 2023, Holy Saturday A

Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24; John 19:38-42

The In-Between

I almost want to ask Becca to read that reading from Lamentations again. 

It isn’t often we hear the kind of desperate, unadulterated, almost unhinged kind of lamentation we hear in this reading. And yet, with the gospels remaining resolutely silent about anything on this day between the awful Good Friday and the terrifying morning of Easter Sunday, this depths-plumbing wail of suffering isn’t the worst possibility for filling that gap. 

Friday ends with the unexpected disciple Joseph of Arimathea and the unexpected sympathizer Nicodemus showing up to perform a nearly-royal burial on Jesus’s body, in Joseph’s own tomb at that. The narrative then goes silent until the morning of the first day of the week, when (in John’s gospel at least) Mary Magdalene shows up by herself, waiting for who knows what.

What Mary Magdalene, along with Peter and the other disciples and fellow travelers might have noticed on that day in between was that the world did not stop for their grief. Just as the world is not stopping for this small observance today, just as traffic on 13th Street never stops, the world keeps doing what it normally does. Faithful Jews are not necessarily out and about, but it’s the Sabbath, so they wouldn’t be out and about anyway. The Romans? They’re probably doing what they usually do most days: whatever they want. Aside from being Sabbath, it’s just another day out there.

Imagine Peter, three times verbally and quite loudly having denied Jesus, alone somewhere in his grief. Not to let the other disciples off the hook; at least Matthew’s account makes sure we know they “deserted” Jesus, just as he said they would. For Mary Magdalene and the other women, who followed Jesus and might well have provided for the whole party out of their own resources, the one man they knew who treated them as fully human was now dead. Where could they possibly turn to now?

And yet, in even this bleakest abyss of despair, our lamenter can’t avoid hope; “but this I call to mind…the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end…“. You have to wonder if any of the disciples or followers of Jesus managed to have even a tiny bit of such a moment on that bleakest of Sabbaths. 

For this day, Jesus was dead. We of course know what happens tomorrow morning, but for this day, Jesus was dead.

This is our day, you know, the in-between day in which we live our lives. We have seen Good Friday happen; we know Easter Sunday is coming, but it doesn’t take much of a look-around to know we don’t live in an Easter world. And our headlines remind us that some of the worst anti-Easter-ness out there is practiced by religious authorities and those who seek cover from them, which would sound familiar to these followers too. 

And in this dark in-between, our Lamentations reading amazingly offers the word of hope for the day: “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end…“.Thanks be to God. Amen.

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