Saturday, April 20, 2019

Holy Saturday | Waiting, Longing for the Hope of Resurrection

Emmaus City Church Holy Week Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Multi-Ethnic Network of Missional Communities

Existing in a Saturday World | Trusting Jesus Does His Best Work in Hopeless Situations

The following post is a combination of reflections by Pete Wilson in his essay, "Stuck in Saturday," and Brett McCracken in his essay, "Easter Saturday," along with a few of my words and thoughts.

I continue to wonder and seek to understand more why God would make us wait for what we need in times of struggle and suffering. Compiling and composing this post has helped me during this Holy Week. I hope it helps you, too.

Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is Saturday, Holy Saturday, when the world was still, the tears fresh, the grave sealed—the darkest day past, a brighter morning thought of an hoped for—but until then … waiting.

Life is about waiting. We are all waiting for things. Our schedules are regimented, our calendars marked. What else can we do but wait in a world driven by advertisements, life goals, and time forcing us to move on to what's next? 

And in the midst of our waiting is this idea, this reality, of "Holy Saturday," a day set apart between our deepest fears and our deepest longings. 

God created the world in time—six days—but also made room for an “off the clock” escape: the Sabbath. And before Jesus resurrected on a Sunday morning, the Sabbath was Saturday, a day to drop the grind and forget the hustle.

But the paradox of Sabbath is that we have such a hard time taking a break from our running the world, from managing good and evil on our own. 

How often have we forced ourselves to take a day off, only to spend the whole time struggling through the “to do” list for the next day? Free moments are far too often spent getting ready to resume the frantic race to get the next thing done. 

It is no accident that Jesus died on the eve of the Sabbath and then rose again when time “started up” again. But in the midst Jesus' absence from those who loved Him, He was away from them on the Sabbath day designed to feel Him closest.

But perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps the struggle of that Sabbath—finding peace and rest amid abandonment (Jesus was gone) and uncertainty (God was silent)—is a metaphor for existence at large.

Literary critic George Steiner wrote in Real Presences: 

Ours is the long day’s journey of the Saturday, between suffering, aloneness, unutterable waste on the one hand and the dream of liberation, of rebirth on the other. 

Renowned theologian Lewis Smedes also described waiting like this: 

Waiting is our destiny. As creatures who cannot by themselves bring about what they hope for, we wait in the darkness for a flame we cannot light. We wait in fear for a happy ending that we cannot write. We wait for a ‘not yet’ that feels like a ‘not ever.’

This is what we often see in the anatomy of hope. An event takes place that sucks the life out of you: a relationship ends, a job dissipates, a dream dies. You’re left there standing, waiting, paralyzed by hopelessness. You start to wonder if God forgot His promises. If God knows what you’re going through. If God even cares.

Luke 23:48-49 says: “When all the people who had gathered there to watch saw what happened, they returned home, beating their chests because they were so sad. But those who were close friends of Jesus, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance and watched” (NCV).

Have you ever been so hopeless you couldn’t do a thing? You couldn’t get mad, or fight or even cry? Is this the emotional state Jesus’ followers were in? Nothing seems to be happening. They feel hopeless. They feel alone. We know the end of the story. We know God was doing His best work yet. But there was a waiting period.

Jesus was crucified on Friday. But the paralyzing hopelessness the disciples experienced continued to intensify as they lived into Saturday. And maybe that's why we find it hard to talk about Saturday during the Easter season. We spend plenty of time on Good Friday, the day redemption happened through the work of Christ on the cross. And nobody would argue that we shouldn’t celebrate the resurrection of Easter Sunday. Jesus conquered death so we can have life.

But what about Saturday? It seems like a day when nothing is happening. In reality, it’s a day full of questioning, doubting, wondering and waiting. It’s a day when we wonder if God is asleep or simply powerless to do anything about our current problems. And so much of our life here on this earth is lived out feeling trapped in “Saturday.” 

But in God's great mysterious purposes of us experiencing both the sufferings of Christ and the resurrection of Christ  (see Philippians 3:8-11) so we can overcome with Him, I’m trying to get to a place in my life where I can embrace this Saturday He gives. I’m trying to get to a place where I can view the wait as an essential part of what God is doing in my life.

You may currently be in the midst of a horrible, out-of-control situation. You might feel as if God is not there, that nothing can be done. Here is the message of the Gospel for you while you’re stuck in your helpless Saturday-life: God does His best work in hopeless situations.

The story of our salvation was born out of extraordinary uncertainty. But that’s the way hope works. In this long day’s journey that we all tread—this “Saturday” existence—we are stuck here in time, looking forward and backward for Eden. What we were created to be is lost, though still felt in moments of memory lapse and epiphany. 

Life, and art that reflects life in the here and now, is at its best when it has tension. Why? Because existence is unresolved tension. Music requires minor chords and dissonant themes before it can resolve. Films spend most of their time in the second act, putting constant roadblocks in the protagonist’s path to redemption. Books do the same. Art is our way of reflecting upon the limbo status of living on earth and plowing the path from birth to death.

And this is the key to why embodying “Saturday” is the highest calling of art and life in our current state on earth. When we are reminded of our impermanence and that “this too shall pass,” we are reoriented toward that which is eternal.

And no, that doesn’t take away your mom’s cancer. That doesn’t erase the bankruptcy you’re in the midst of. That doesn’t heal your broken relationship. That doesn’t replace your shattered dream.

But it can remind you that while life is uncertain, God is not. While your power is limited, God is limitless. While your hope is fragile, God Himself is hope.

Your world may feel chaotic, especially when you’re stuck in a Saturday, struggling hopelessly and waiting desperately. But no doubt about it, God is still in control. And one way or another, Sunday will dawn. 

In God’s perfect plan, He sent His son to die at the hands of the world and then rise again to redeem it. But He put a space in between those two momentous events—a space of a day. A Holy Saturday. A day of rest in the midst of the laborious waiting. The Sabbath. 

Now we live on in that day, because even though we are redeemed and our hope is assured in Christ’s victory, we exist in this broken world with our broken lives waiting and groaning for redemption. We must press on and wait for the final Sunday foretold by the original Easter. Until then, we have the art of our lives, our stories in which we experience pain and hope, looking at the cross and looking to the clouds. 

We wait, and as Paul says to the people in Philippi, we learn how "to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead."

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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