My apologies, Reader, for the lateness of the post this week. Beyond the normal difficulties of the busy-ness of the week, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday both threw me some pretty intense curve balls that quite knocked out my scheduled plans.
I’ve made no secret of the difficulty I have with this part of the year. Interpreter mentioned in his sermon this past Sunday that many of us would prefer to skip straight from Palm Sunday to Easter and leave behind the unpleasant middle and I laughed, knowing that I would love to do that and knowing that I never could. I have to come to this space, this “unpleasant middle” that rips my heart out every year, to remember. I have to take the time to know that there are these days, too; this Thursday of commandments we so easily slide through when all friends were still given the chance to love; this Friday on which nothing was good, on which the earth itself closed her clouded eyes against the pain of such ungodly anger; this Saturday of waiting.
It’s a weird holiday in that it’s not really a holy day at all. It’s the in-between space shoved into the end of Holy Week because the Bible says “three days” and we can’t really fudge that. It’s the day to plan ahead, to prepare for tomorrow’s trumpeted celebrations; it’s not even a full day to itself, as the Catholic Church and many Protestant churches do evening vigils to get a head start on Easter. We’re not much of a culture for waiting, we Westerners with our fast food and instant Internet and phones to connect to everything and everyone right now. We don’t know—I don’t know—what to do with a day of, well, being dead.
There’s a delightful article by Barbara Brown Taylor I highly suggest to you about this (don’t worry, it’s short). This business of waiting for Jesus not to be dead anymore is boring, really; even the “He descended into Hell” bit is happening offstage (although there are some great medieval plays about the Harrowing with phenomenal sets). What are we to do with this day?
Live it, I suppose. I helped set up the sanctuary for Easter today, partly because I flatly refuse to set up Easter before or on Good Friday and partly because it takes a while and Saturday morning was my biggest block of free time this week. I got my hair cut. I went to breakfast with friends and had a grand time. I’ve been checking emails. I’m planning on folding laundry before tonight’s service. Very exciting, this waiting.
And I think that’s kind of the point. Jesus is not currently dead—we commemorate His death, we don’t relive it. And we are not the dead ones, either; our lives continue to roll through all of their mundane necessities and their wonderful gifts.
On my printer at work I have a little slip of paper taped that reads, “What has Easter redeemed for you?” I put it there last year and I look at it often and wonder. I don’t have an answer this year. I will not be perfect on Easter Sunday, or Easter Monday. I will not like my job any better or be any more “fixed” in my personal problems. I will not be in a new and stable relationship, I will not have all of my projects done, I will not even have cleaned my house. What will Easter redeem? Why am I waiting on this holy Saturday?
Because I am remembering. Remembering won’t take the whole day, but it will be something I can do while folding the laundry and setting up the altar. I am remembering that Death took its place in the drama of this week, that Easter is remarkable precisely because Jesus’ death wasn’t some accidental burial quickly remedied. He was really most sincerely dead—and then He wasn’t.
I don’t know what tomorrow will look like. I don’t know what Easter will redeem. I don’t even know if tonight’s service will go well. I only know that today, I wait in the excitement of expectation and the comfort of the quotidian, the pain of yesterday and the hope of tomorrow. I stand in the shadowed place because I know it well, and today Jesus stands there with me and says rest, child. We have much to do yet.
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. (Matthew 6:34a, MSG)