Not Yet

Todays lectionary text comes to us from Lamentations chapter 3:1-20, which reads:  
3:1 I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God's wrath;
3:2 he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light;
3:3 against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long.
3:4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones;
3:5 he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation;
3:6 he has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago.
3:7 He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me;
3:8 though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer;
3:9 he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked.
3:19 The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall!
3:20 My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me...
It's Holy Saturday.  This is the day when Christians throughout the ages have spent imagining, wondering... and waiting.  

We imagine and wonder about what Jesus did in the in-between time from when he uttered with his last breath the mysterious and troubling words: 

It is accomplished.  

And like the disciples of old we wait.  We don't wait with the same sense of finality that they felt that day.  We don't wait with the same sense of disappointment and loss that they must have felt.  

They did not have the rest of the story, as we do.  

But still, there is disappointment and loss in our waiting, too---despite our sacred knowledge that the story didn't end on Holy Saturday.  There is much that is unfinished within us---so much that is left undone.  

The passage of Scripture from the Hebrew book of Lamentations captures the feelings of that moment perfectly.  

The Poet-Collector who compiled these prayers believed that the tragedy that had befallen the people of Israel was something that God had either directly or indirectly brought upon them because of their faithlessness.   

He struggled to reconcile his belief in a good, gracious and loving God with the reality of the misery, destruction and dread that had come upon God's people. 

This captures our feelings, too.  Now more than ever, we want to move directly to Easter Sunday.  We want to gloss over these feelings.  We want to push them down and ignore them.  

We want this situation to come to an end.  We are tired of waiting.  Because in the waiting we begin to wonder where God is in all of this.  

We try to find meaning in it.  In our own way we find ourselves caught between our beliefs about God's grace and love and the facts that surround us in a world that seems caught in an endless loop of calamity.  

I  purposefully ended this passage early---not including the hope-filled verses that follow.  If you want to read them, you may.  But I suggest that you simply sit with the ones I've included.  

Sometimes it's important for us to live in the tension between the now and the not-yet.  We need to feel grief.  We need to embrace our fears, to let them inside if only for a moment.  

There are a real things here.  

People are dying.  People are losing their livelihood.  There are more vulnerable people in developing countries who have yet to feel the brunt of the spread of the virus, but know that it is coming.  Millions of people are feeling isolated, cut off and alone.  

In the Jewish tradition, family and friends of a loved one who has died will practice something called "Sitting Shiva."  They will gather and pray, sitting together, remembering together, comforting one another.  

It's possible that as Jesus' followers gathered together on that first Holy Saturday, they sat shiva with one another.  They wondered what might come next.  They prayed, they remembered.  And they felt the grief of all that they believed was unfinished and cut short once Jesus was dead and buried. 

The Scripture is largely silent on what happened during this in-between time between Jesus' burial and resurrection.  So perhaps it's fitting that we find time to be silent as well---to shit shiva with the world, and wait.  

We know the rest of the story, so there's comfort in that, to be sure.  But maybe we need to live in this tension for a while--to embrace it, and be sad.  Maybe we need to let ourselves feel the loss of God, just as Jesus did... just as those first followers did.  

As you sit shiva... as you sit and wait... as you wonder and grieve... know this: 

Sunday's coming... but not yet... not yet.  


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