Holy Saturday

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I admit that I have never given much thought to the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. As Jesus lay in the tomb, I have gone about my day picking up groceries for Easter lunch and last minute gifts for my children. But this year is different.

I woke up today in what felt like a season of heavy waiting. Waiting for it to be over? Waiting for what’s next? Waiting for what I am not sure. I am just waiting.

For the first followers of Jesus, it was a day of Sabbath rest.  Jesus is dead and buried. Everyone has gone home.

Jesus was dead. The Gospel of Mark wants to make the point when he says, “Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead” (Mark 15: 44-45). Jesus was dead.

On the back side of the resurrection, Holy Saturday is a day that sits between two polar opposites. Between death and life. Between sadness and joy. Between what has been and what will be.

It is a day that describes those who sit in grief. I believe a lot of the angst we are experiencing during Covid-19 is because as a culture we have forgotten how to grieve. We want to simply fix it and get over it. Like everything else we do in modern Western society, we view grief as a problem to be solved. Patch it up and let’s move on.

Megan Devine in her book “It’s OK That You Are Not Ok” writes, “The most effective and efficient way to be “safe” in this world is to stop denying that hard and impossible things happen.” She continues, “Real safety is in entering each other’s pain, recognizing ourselves in it.”

Holy Saturday reminds us that grief is not a problem to be solved. It is an experience to be carried. There is no need to rush redemption. Yes, Sunday is coming but acknowledging and naming the grief before us makes resurrection all the more meaningful.

What gives me hope on this Holy Saturday in the midst of Covid-19 is said best by the poet Wendell Berry when he says, “I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.”

Friends, Sunday is coming!

Be blessed!

Good Friday Meditation

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Good Friday exist between the “Hosannas” of Palm Sunday and the “Hallelujahs” of Easter morning.

“No one has greater love than this,” he said on the last night of his life, “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Having explained this to his friends, he leaves the room to go prove it. Less than twenty-four hours later, it was finished

The cross of Calvary is the place where God, having become flesh in Jesus, took upon himself the brokenness of our fallen world. God did not create a fallen world. We made this mess. Instead of abandoning us to our own transgressions, God chose to reach over an infinite chasm of justice and love and wrap us in mercy. The cross is God’s victory over darkness. From it, we see a love that can only come from God. On the cross we see dying love, and we recognize it as the undying love of God.

Seen from the light of Easter, the Crucifixion is the turning point in history. It is the moment when all the evil and pain of all the world is heaped into one place and there dealt with once and for all. “For God so love the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16).

As we struggle with the isolation and despair that we are all experiencing, I am reminded of the beginning of Psalm 130, “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord!” The writer has found himself in a deep place. A place that he didn’t expect. A place that is fearful, dark, and that echoes with every scream. A place not of his choosing but a place he has found nonetheless. It is in this dark place that he cries out, “Lord, hear my voice.”

The cross teaches us that God is with us in those deep places. God has come among us in the dark places.

The Psalmist words are our words. They are the words of a parent who has lost a child, a couple who has lost a house to a fire, a daughter who is losing her father to sickness, an employee who has been laid off, a parent waiting for the prodigal son to come home, the wife who feels betrayed, the husband who calls for divorce, the child who has been abandoned, the homeless family, the hungry. “Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!” God hears our voice in the depths because God is with us in the depths.

Let me say this……..God is not the kind of God that thinks you and me so awful and horrible that we should get what is coming to us, death and destruction. Instead, God thinks you and me are so beautiful, so precious that our redemption is worth dying for.

At the end his book, What Jesus Meant, Gary Wills comes to Good Friday. He writes, “Dark and mysterious as the whole matter of the Incarnation and the Passion, perhaps a single thing can help us think of them.” He then shares a personal account of a conversation that he had with his son. His young son woke up one night crying. He had a bad dream, a nightmare. When Wills asked what was troubling him, the little boy said that an adult had told a group of children that they would end up in hell if they sinned. “Am I going to hell?” the little boy asked his father. Wills writes, “There is not an ounce of heroism in my nature, but I instantly announced what any father, any parent would: ‘All I can say is that if you’re going there, I’m going with you.”

On this Good Friday, Jesus says, “There is no place – no hell, no suffering, no threat, no virus and not even death that if you are going, I am going with you.” Only God can love like that.

Letting Go of Expectations

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The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!’” (John 12: 12 – 13). 

The waving of palm branches and shouts of “hosanna” are signs of expectations. The first king of Israel, David, rode a donkey as a humble animal reflecting his identity as a shepherd king, The prophet Zechariah, five hundred years before Jesus would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, promised, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Is taken directly from Psalm 118. It is a psalm written to welcome kings back to Jerusalem as they returned form a victorious from war. The crowd would place that image onto Jesus as he comes riding into town. The people are recognizing him as king and liberator. Expectations are high.

And yet their expectations go out the window, as the Jesus parade keeps moving. He rides past Pilate’s headquarters, no overthrow of power. His parade takes him to the temple where he makes a mess by turning over tables and passes judgment on the way their religion is being practiced. His ride takes him through the city of Jerusalem to outside the city gates to a hill called Calvary. The same crowd that shouted hosanna on Sunday will be the same ones who shout crucify him on Friday.

Expectations shattered.

He is a humble king whose way of ruling is the way of love.

It is a love that we will miss if we don’t let go of our expectations of what type of savior we think we need. Don’t let your expectations keep you from experiencing the love of God. Don’t let your assumptions of what you think God is supposed to be doing in this time to keep you from receiving what God has for you.

I know we all want normal. I want normal. I want to get back to living with clearly defined boundaries that keep everything nicely in place. I need a box for everything including God. But if Palm Sunday in a time of quarantine teaches us anything, it is that our expectations are sometimes wrong. Don’t let what you possess, possess you. Don’t let what you have come to define as normal, keep you from the new life that God wants to give you.

What expectation of normalcy do you need to lay down? What possession that has possessed you do you need to release? What sin do you need to lay down? What habit do you need to surrender? What assumptions do you need to just let go of?