Thursday, April 05, 2007

Faith Works 4-7-07
Jeff Gill

Holy Saturday Anticipation

Even those who aren’t in the mainstream of Christian observance have some knowledge that we just had Maundy Thursday and Good Friday on the liturgical calendar.

Tomorrow, of course, is Easter Sunday, where the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth on the “first day of the week” is celebrated not only once a year, but in each Sunday worship celebration. Jesus the Christ, the “anointed one of God,” proves the truth of all he’s said in the days before by living out his truth in rising from the grave, leaving behind an Empty Tomb.

But what’s today?

If you check out the calendar pages of this paper or most Christian church newsletters, you’d be forgiven if you thought it was the liturgical holiday “Easter Egg Hunt Saturday.” Folks of all sorts of faith perspectives hold this date as the sacred obligation to sugar up the little darlings as much as possible, from Kiwanians and Rotarians to Presbyterians and Free Will Baptists.

That actually isn’t what the day is for. Long enough ago, the eggs were rolled and hidden and hunted for after you got home from Easter worship and had a big family dinner – and many families do this themselves.
But with the advent of ending Lent with an outburst of nice clothes and flowers for mom, people didn’t want the chilluns rolling in the fresh, green grass in their powder blue slacks or white dresses with pink bows. That, and the big Easter egg hunt folks wanted to get it over with so they could go home and eat their ham with their family (and watch The Masters’ golf tournament on TV in the afternoon, falling asleep around the 14th fairway).

Any preacher worth their salt, or sugar, can justify the connection of bright colors, eggs, and rebirth, new life, and Easter. NASCAR theme pre-decorated eggs and Spiderman gift baskets, maybe not so much.

I have no concern with Easter Egg Hunts per se. But there is something reflective and profound about thinking, in the context of Holy Week, what this day really represents.

Yesterday, Good Friday, Jesus died. Were you there? . . .as the song says. We saw the centurion drive a spear in his side on the cross, and carried his lifeless body to the tomb.

Just the day before that, on Thursday, we celebrated the Passover with him, in a borrowed upper room, but with the timeless story of Egypt and the Red Sea and Mount Sinai. The Talmud teaches that we were there, that “all mankind was present at Sinai, at the giving of the law.” And we were there in Maundy Thursday services, as Jesus pointed out a different way of looking at the loaf of bread, and the cup of wine.

Today? Today he is dead. And we don’t quite know what to do. Some of us have hope, some have already lost it. Some know what to do, going around and gathering up spices and oils to prepare the body for the long sleep until the fullness of God’s plans are revealed, and others of us are just sitting, staring, wondering.

Were you, are you there? In Holy Saturday is a reminder that, even for all those whose faith is strong, there is the reality that death comes. Could God have raised Jesus in the moment the cross was lowered and the body touched the ground? If one, why not the other.

There is a significance, and importance that was hinted at with the references Jesus made to “the sign of Jonah,” to the “three days” from Friday noon to Sunday morning. There is an interval, a space set apart, and while we might want it arranged some other way, there is this pause, when all creation seems to stop breathing for a moment. Waiting to see what will happen, and only understanding it truly when -- what has already happened is accepted for what it was. Easter needs Holy Saturday for it to be fully what it is.

And what is that? Well, I suspect there’s a Sunrise Service somewhere near you, or you are most cordially invited to come to downtown Newark, before the sun rises, and join us in the Midland Theater at 6:30 am.

The Newark Area Ministerial Association is hosting a community service, and joining Second Presbyterian after to sponsor a breakfast whose proceeds go to the Licking County Jail Ministry. I hear that the sermon is on “Resurrection, Right Now!”

And if you don’t want to hear me preach, there’s going to be some joyful music and other prayers and dramatic readings shared. Wherever you go, may tomorrow be a day when new life and the rising of the Son be a Light for you and yours.

Today, reflect on the story not quite completed, and the place of Holy Saturday in that tale.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story at

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