Holy Saturday: The Waiting Period

This morning, the church sanctuary was filled with a chorus of Halleluiah!’s as the choir rehearsed for tomorrow’s Easter worship. Joy was nearly tangible, as violins soared through scales alongside bold trumpet blares. Children’s squeals of delight rang through the air, floating in from outside where they were hunting brightly colored Easter eggs stuffed with sweet treats.

This is it, I thought. This is what church is: Jesus manifested in joy and life and love.

But then I looked out across the pews and remembered–not yet. It’s still only the day after Good Friday. Heavy black cloth still hangs over the windows, blocking out the array of rainbow-colored sunlight that should be scattered across the crimson carpet. Jesus is still laying lifeless in the tomb. The world is still dark and quiet, grieving a separation from God.

We are still in the In-Between, in the Not Yet. We are still in the Waiting Period.

I found myself asking it then, as I sang Handel’s Halleluiah: What does it mean to live on Holy Saturday? There are no sermons given today, no pastor is standing up to explain to us what we do here in the waiting. Instead, we go on Easter egg hunts and have dinner with those we love. We don’t know what to do with this extra day, so we just start the Resurrection joy early.

And it feels good, but it separates us from those first-century followers of Jesus who did not have the understanding of this day that we do. We rehearse with trumpets and take pictures of our kids with the Easter Bunny, but they were in agonizing pain.

Having just seen the worst thing they could think of happen right before their eyes, some of them even participating in it–the betraying kiss, the three denials–I imagine joy was far from their emotional vocabulary. I can see them, huddled around a small table in one of the Twelve’s home, tears blurring their vision. I can hear them, asking it softly: “What do we do now?”

The worst has happened and they don’t know what is coming. It feels like the whole world is holding it’s breath, feeling the weight of Jesus’ death all around.

And we, too, know this feeling all too well. The breathlessness when a loved one draws their last, the white-hot anger of a community when the police shoots an unarmed black man in the back 10 times, the confusion when a woman is told to shut up and sit down (in nicer words, of course) because 2,000 years ago Paul said she was unfit for leadership.

Oh, yes, we know it. The fear of the LGBTQ+ community of being beaten to death in the name of Jesus if they walk into the wrong church, the fury in the remembering of indigenous people’s land stolen by the Colonizers, the injustice of an innocent person executed at the hands of the State.

We each have our own story of how this darkness has crept into our lives, don’t we?

Just like the disciples, we can’t see past our suffering yet. It’s only on Sunday that Friday makes sense, and it will only be someday that today makes sense.

Maybe we forget this dark, grief-filled day so easily because it feels just like every other day. Perhaps we have gotten so used to the pain that our tolerance has risen. Maybe we don’t need one day each year designated to sit in this nearly unbearable pain because we feel it every single day, whether we want to or not: fear, death, the worst of humanity on display.

If we are honest, most of our lives are Holy Saturdays. Most of it is lived here in the in-between, waiting with baited breath to see if Good will win out over Evil. This day is for Jesus, and for all of us. This day honors our suffering, whatever that may look like, gently reminding us that we are bound together through pain just as much as joy.

When I look at it that way, I don’t want to rush through today quite as badly. I’m okay to sit in the quiet darkness–just waiting upon Jesus. Each of us stands in our own form of the gap of darkness that bridges old life to new. We stand, exhausted but hopeful, waiting with outstretched arms raised to the heavens–crying out for our Savior.

And today, that is enough.

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