Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday

Today is a day of confusion.

Last night was Good Friday (always ironic to say) and tomorrow is Easter Sunday. On Good Friday, God's love went to the cross, the king of the Earth suffered the death of a terrorist, a death of utter shame and defeat. Christ showed us just what love looks like, the kind of love to which he commanded his disciples on Maundy Thursday. Jesus died on the cross, having been tortured and crushed by the powers that be, by the empire, and by all those complicit therein. Jesus, in solidarity with the lowest of the low, cried out, "it is finished." The power of death was put on display, a mockery made of it, as the God of life hung on a cross of death. No longer would death have authority to name between honor and shame, for by death's distinction the man on the cross was its' subject and a failure--an utter shame. But the truth was that the man on the cross was the God of glory, the artist who made creation, to whom death itself is subject. He was by no means a cursed man, as death was trying to proclaim, he was defeating the curse, reversing it, and proclaiming in deed, "the crucified are not cursed!" Only God can name between honor and shame.

The ironic and dramatic defeat of death was acted out in Jesus' death. And on Easter Sunday the realization of that defeat would be celebrated. On Easter Sunday Christ's kingdom work would be implemented in the world, ushering in a whole new creation. Easter is the restoration of God's masterpiece. The evangelical church with whom I joined in worship last night for Good Friday, was referring to Easter Sunday as "the day death died." Easter Sunday proves death's defeat, as the healing of the paralytic proved his forgiveness (Mark 2:1-12).

Today we stand between those two realities, confused at Christ's death since we expected victory... confused at the thought of God in a tomb, dead and buried. We hear the words of Christ, "it is finished!" echoing in our ears but we're still waiting on that reality to come to bear upon us.

This is a day with which we should relate and in which we might take comfort, for it is a day which might sum up our existence: somewhere between death's defeat through Christ's death and the realization of that reality... Somewhere between Christ's resurrection and our own... Somewhere between new creation's beautiful beginning and new creation's glorious eschaton. Here we stand on this Holy Saturday, confused and waiting but already implementing Christ's victory in our world wherever we can, with the Holy Spirit empowering and teaching us, calling into the present that future hope of God's Kingdom.
On the seventh day God rested
In the silence of the tomb;
Having finished on the sixth day
All his work of joy and doom.
Now the world had fallen silent,
And the water had run dry,
The bread had all been scattered,
And the light had left the sky.
The flock had lost its shepherd,
And the seed was sadly sown,
The courtiers had betrayed their king,
And nailed Him to His throne.
O Sabbath rest by Calvary,
O calm of tomb below,
Where the grave clothes and the spices
Cradle Him we did not know!
Rest you well, beloved Jesus,
Caesar’s Lord and Israel’s King,
In the brooding of the Spirit,
In the darkness of the spring.
_N.T. Wright

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