Christians defend certain days of the Holy Weekend. For instance, we’ll defend the idea that on Friday Jesus actually dies on a cross to save the world from its sin. Then we’ll turn around and defend Easter Sunday as the day that Jesus actually rose from the grave… But nobody defends Saturday. Nobody writes apologetics defending the belief that Jesus actually lay dead for one long, endless day two thousand years ago.
This is a big week for those of us who are local church pastors. It is a week where chances are, no matter what tradition you are from, your calendar is filled with luncheons and pastels and extra sermons and fresh faces coming to church for the first time. For those of you from more liturgical traditions, you have lots of Holy days this week. Many of them I can barely spell, and certainly can’t pronounce (Maundy Thursday I’m looking at you!)
But there is one day this week that will not get a lot of attention, and that is a shame, because this is a day that is probably more true to our everyday reality than any other. Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, kind of embodies the awkward tension of the Christian faith. We have great hope, and we also often feel overwhelming despair. It embodies the tension between the Jewish belief in resurrection, and what God did with Jesus.
The Jewish belief in the resurrection started long before Jesus. It was the day when God was going to raise the dead and judge the world, the day when everything was going to be set right. For the first apostles, telling Jewish people that God had raised Jesus from the dead was ludicrous. Their natural response would have probably been something like, “Is all the injustice of the world gone? Has all war and poverty and disease been eliminated from God’s good world? If not, then stop talking nonsense!”
But that is exactly what these first Christians believe happened. They believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead as a way of making a promise about where God’s good world was headed. Jesus’ resurrection points to a future resurrection, but until then, we wait.
In his new book, The Glorious Dark, A.J. Swoboda asks the question, “Did you ever wonder why Jesus picked a bunch of fisherman to start this new movement?”
I don’t know about you, but I know a lot of fisherman, and I have never had an experience with them that made me think they were the ideal demographic to start a religion. My brother is a very good fisherman (he once lost a finger while fishing) and he is a good dude, but nobody is going to pick him to be the Pope…especially if they were on the boat the day he lost that finger.
But there is one gift that fisherman have that other people don’t. Fishermen know how to wait.
The way Swoboda says it “Jesus loved fisherman because fisherman knew what faith is all about.” They know everything there is to know about disappointment and going home empty handed, but they know to keep showing up. In a way, fishermen are like Cubs fans…There’s always next year.
But ask anyone whose life is paused on Saturday, waiting is hard.
Remember that old poem “FootPrints?” You probably saw it at your Grandma’s house with the words overlaying a framed picture of the beach. It is about a dream someone has of walking with God on a beach. As they look back on their life they notice that during the hardest parts of their life there is only one set of tracks, and then God explains that it was during those times that God had carried them.
It is a fine poem, but Swoboda says it is only part of the truth. It doesn’t factor in the whole story. Because there are days when we have to carry God.
Think about the story of people like Joseph of Arimathea, the wealthy Jesus follower who took Jesus’ body off of Rome’s hands and gently wrapped and cared for Jesus’ body, placing the body of God in his own tomb.
Joseph had given up a lot to follow Jesus, and now he was placing his dead dreams in the grave. He had no idea that his story was going to be told in every Easter sermon for generations to come. He had no idea that this was going to be some of the primary evidence for Christian apologetics to say that Jesus’ body wasn’t just thrown in a dump filled with other crucifixion victims. He had no idea that all of history hinges on his decision to go on, even when his heart is absolutely broken.
This is a unique aspect of Christianity. “…only Christianity insists that a legitimate stage of holiness is hopelessness.” The story of resurrection starts with people having to carry God to the tomb.
Saturday is the day where we carry God. It isthe day between the death of Jesus and Easter. It is the day between the days of great loss and great joy.
In that sense, all of our days are Saturdays.
And the Christian story calls them Holy.