As the Easter weekend tracks through the story of Jesus, Saturday sits somewhat awkwardly between Jesus' gruesome sacrificial execution on the Friday, and the victorious triumph of Jesus' resurrection on Sunday. Over the centuries, as Christians have observed Easter by walking day by day through the passion narrative at the end of the gospels, the church has been faced with this weird day of dark and lonely in-between-ness: Saturday.
On Easter Friday we are invited into a day of reflecting on our brokenness, on God coming towards us and giving himself sacrificially and lovingly for our sake; it's a moment to reflect on the pain and suffering that sin causes in the world, and the love of a compassionate God who comes towards us in the midst of it all.
On Easter Sunday, we can celebrate God's 'becoming King' through triumphing over the hold of sin and death and evil. The Christian faith sees Jesus as the prototype, the first 'seed', the firstborn of a coming resurrection available to all, grabbed-hold-of through simple faith. We celebrate that Jesus has begun a new cosmic project where love and light has the last word, not death, darkness, or suffering.
But Easter Saturday is a day of in-between-ness. Easter Saturday is such a weird and difficult day to process. It must have been such a confusing time for Jesus' disciples. A time of seemingly unanswered prayer. Of new questions. A feeling of abandonment. A sense of hopelessness - the flame of hope extinguished. A cul-de-sac. A wondering: where is God in all of this? And each year, as Christians walk through the gospel story, we are invited not to rush on to the Sunday, but rather to sit with the awkwardness and discomfort and dis-ease of not having all the answers.
But this dis-ease is also a gift. I think this in-between can be good for our souls.
In this dis-ease, we are invited to rely not on simple answers, but rather to turn to God with honest, uncensored prayers of lament and mourning and questioning. As we learn to lament, we draw close to God despite unanswered questions and prayers; we hope with an incomplete and sheepish faith. We seek out in our own Spirit-provisioned-reserves the faith to believe that God is still with us and for us, even when the circumstances appear otherwise.
Dis-ease and disease
This year we are faced not only with the burden of dis-ease, but also of 'disease'.
As we celebrate the Easter weekend this year in the midst of Covid-19 and global pandemic, this Easter Saturday perhaps comes to us with new layers of agony. New questions. New challenges to our faith and hope. New circumstances that cause us to ask: where is God in all of this?
It as if the whole world is in a season of in-between-ness. Right now, the whole world sits between the beginnings of a pandemic, and it's coming climax. This Easter Saturday, the whole world sits with so much that is unknown; so many of us sitting with heightened anxiety and we sense the rumbles of a dark cloud on the horizon, not knowing how bad this storm will be.
And for people of faith, we sit in the moment of in-between-ness. We lament, we question, we pray, we wonder, we turn to God and perhaps sense something of a sealed tomb.
This is not the sort of blog that tries to provide simple answer to such complex problems and questions. But I do sense two invitations for us this Easter Saturday.
Firstly, I think we're invited to notice and sit with the discomfort and dis-ease. As we hear the thunder rolling in, as our questions sit unanswered, as our heart seems confused and bewildered, let us not ignore the deep work of the soul and the invitation to bring it all - all that we're feeling and experiencing - to the God who loves us.
Secondly, in the midst of the anxiety or fear of Easter Saturday, to know that Sunday's coming. To hold on to the core Christian hope that while we don't know what this global pandemic will mean for us and our loved ones and our neighbours near and far, we can know that ultimately, at some stage, in some way, God will bring this big cosmic story to a cosmic resurrection.
Easter has been training us over the years to learn to hope in the promise of resurrection light and life that lies beyond our current vista.
May we all know God's loving presence this Easter, in the midst of global in-between-ness.