Holy Saturday

Today's 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 Christians have spent imagining, wondering... and waiting throughout the ages.  

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, and 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 there is still 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 and left undone within us.  

The passage of Scripture from the Hebrew Book of Lamentations perfectly captures that moment's feelings.  

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 the hard things to end. We are tired of waiting, and in the waiting, we wonder where God is in all of this.  

We try to find meaning in it.  In our own way, we find ourselves between our beliefs about God's grace and love and the facts surrounding 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 must embrace our fears and let them inside, if only for a moment.  

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, and comforting one another.  

It's possible that as Jesus' followers gathered 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 between Jesus' burial and resurrection during this in-between time.  So perhaps we should 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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