That’s the message I received early on Holy Saturday. Our Easter service was uploading, and it was taking a while, and we are getting nervous. The holiest celebration of the Christian year, now dependent on the bandwidth of residential internet. So many anxieties rushed to the service. What if it doesn’t upload in time? What if it never uploads? What if there’s a glitch? What if our church fails to offer an Easter service?
Holy Saturday, Easter Vigil, this is a day of waiting and asking questions. Can you imagine that first Holy Saturday? It was still sabbath. Jesus had died and was buried before sundown on Friday. The disciples were gathered in a locked house. They were afraid for their lives. They had so many questions. Would they be next? If the ones who killed Jesus discovered their hide-out, would they be dragged before Pilate, too? Would they be flogged and nailed to crosses, too?
I imagine the questions got more profound as the day and night dragged on. Had the movement been for nothing? Did they leave their nets, their professions, their families for nothing? What about all those miracles, the healings and exorcisms? That had to mean something? Was it all over? Jesus said he would be crucified, he was right about that. Didn’t he also say he would rise three days later? Could he be right about that? What if he is? What if he isn’t? Do we continue to follow? Can this movement be saved? Is it finished?
Holy Saturday is the day we pause and think. The vigil is a time to reread the stories, starting with Genesis. We read the whole narrative of scripture and let it sink in. What has God been up to since the beginning? What is God up to now? We pause to let the questions linger and to offer our prayers and to ask God to help us make sense of what’s going on.
Why has God allowed this pandemic to sweep the world? What does it mean when we say “we’re all in this together?” What is the most faithful way to wait for this to be over? How will it be different? Will it ever be the same again? Where is God in all of this?
We’re waiting to find out. I’m waiting for Easter to upload. In the middle of the unknowing, the waiting and the questions, I’m turning to God and trusting. Trusting God knows what I don’t. Trusting God is with us when we are anxious, afraid, curious, and filled with questions. Trusting that the God of Easter is with us and will see us through. And so we wait.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
This is the verse in the bible that always strikes me as the saddest. I find that it makes me tremble. This lament coming from Jesus on the cross is one that brings me both fear and hope, knowing that Jesus will be killed, but that is not the end of the story. Lament does not mean that our faith is weak, but that we can express darkness live into our feelings and know that our relationships are strong enough to withstand the lament. This was Jesus relationship with God, and is ours all the same.
So much of scripture includes lament, a third of more of the Psalms, a whole chapter named Lamentations, and so many more places scattered throughout. Our scripture gives us prayers of lamentation, prayers for help coming out of pain. Laments turn toward God when sorrow tempts us to run from him.
On this Good Friday, I urge you to do as Jesus did and take up your lament with God. It is healthy to share wounds and hurt that you cannot carry on your own and to ask for help. God can handle the laments that we voice, he is our listener, our healer and our hope. So today we turn to God, we voice our complaint, we ask for help, and we trust.
Thanks to First Lutheran member Lisa Christopherson for the beautiful artwork!
The LORD said to Moses at Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.’ ” Leviticus 25:1-5
The idea of a fallow year, or year of rest for the land is an ancient one for farmers. God commands Israel to give their land a rest every seven years. No plowing or planting, no reaping. Just let the land do nothing. We know now that this is important to keep the land healthy, to allow it to recover from being farmed so it can nourish plants for generations to come.
We are in a fallow time now. The difference is we didn’t choose this; we have to stay home and do little for the sake of our neighbor. But most of us are at home now running out of things to do. I wonder if God could redeem this slower time for us. Could this turn into a time of rest and renewal? I’m spending a lot more time with my kids now and feeling the bonds of our relationships strengthened. I’m really glad I like my wife; our relationship is strengthened as we pitch in together to meet these challenging times. We actually get to worship together, as a family. My son started making Bible scenes on his Minecraft game. My girls are playing with Sam more than ever. Both my wife and I are exercising more. We’re eating more too, but that’s beside the point. Maybe God is redeeming this fallow time.
I’ve been interested to see that pollution is way down across the globe. The waters in Italy are clear again. Animals are coming out of hiding. Maybe God can teach us about what our planet can be like, again.
Please don’t misunderstand me. This virus is real, and it’s scary. Some of us in essential services, like healthcare, are working harder now than ever to fight against it. And some of us have gotten sick and others have died. This is a terrible time in our world. We are all affected differently.
God is here with us. God is with the nurses and doctors on the front lines. God is with those who are doing their part by staying home. God isn’t just with us; He is working through us and on us. For those of us who find these days to be quiet and still, God may just be doing the work of renewal deep in your soul. What is God reminding you of? How is God giving you new life? Pay attention and embrace God’s work, even when it’s invisible.