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Holy Saturday 2022

Holy Saturday is the day of grief.  It's the middle of here and now.  The body of Jesus lies in a tomb, and we are the grieved and sorrowful followers.  However, as Father Todd has said in some of his previous Holy Saturday sermons, he talked about this Holy Day as the moment of now as we lived dying yesterday and await tomorrow for everlasting life.  But today is just that, a realization of what was dying to what we can become.

The place of here and now is filled with possibilities.  There are many ways to experience our Jesus lying in a tomb, awaiting the rising of new birth.  The tomb reminds me of Plato's Cave or the Kiva for the Native Americans.  Still, the tomb reminds me of being a part of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, a beautiful Incarnational God who shares our turmoil, suffering, and death with us.  Let us walk in the tomb now with our eyes wide open.

Jesus surrendered to the pain and torture on the Cross and took his last breath.  He is placed in the tomb by Joseph of Arimathea and his helper Nicodemus.  The scriptures tell us this is a new tomb, and it is in a garden.  This tomb was not meant for the common criminal like a crucified victim.  It was a private, clean tomb.  Others would eventually lay in this tomb, and the custom was to allow the body to decompose, and once the bones lay bare, gather them in an ossuary. 

Let us stand by Joseph and Nicodemus as they prepare the body.  They cleansed the body with myrrh and aloes and wrapped it in linen cloths.  We will see images as we stand there watching with only a little light.  Perhaps these images will take our attention away from what is going on.  Maybe these images will inform our minds of what is happening, and perhaps in this cold stoned place, we will pull away from our reality of Jesus being lifeless.

Perhaps this is an allusion to how we live today, missing the NOW of heartbreak, the NOW of not yesterday's dying or tomorrow's everlasting life, but of this day of now.  We fill in the blank with our human presuppositions and our brokenness, and we may forget the moment's meaning.

Plato's Cave is the background for what we might see philosophically.  We are spiritual people and not Platonists.  As a people of God, let us go back into the tomb hewn out of rock and walk in with a more spiritual self. 

Let us imagine seeing images on the wall in the Indigenous people's Kiva.  The Kiva, a place below the ground, carved out of creation, we can make it new and unused.  The Kiva is a place with little light, and perhaps we will see shadows.  As native spiritual people, they know the Earth is sacred, and the darkness in the Kiva is soothing.  Here, if we were the Natives of this land, specifically the Massawomick among other tribes, this dark place is where we would be seeking guidance from the Creator, the Earth itself.  We would discern our way of life from within the tomb or Kiva.  In the Kiva, we are gifted with the Creator guiding us with those images on the walls.

We may have some commonalities with the spiritual nature of the Indigenous people, and we may hold onto some philosophical ideations.  Still, we are a part of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. 

This season of Lent, we have prayed, given our alms, and fasted for our coming transformation to be new creations in Christ, and today we focus our spiritual energy on the grief of our God in the flesh, without breath alone, in cold stones.  What can we see in this place?  How do we enter this space?

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus have started.  They serve the Lord; I do not imagine much talking but a lot of action.  They pour the aloes and myrrh and wrap the body in linen.  We see the shadows of images on the tomb wall as they solemnly complete the task.  They offer us a heartfelt moment of love and deep adoration.  We can feel the grief of loss.

Our Lenten journey is about how we draw closer to our Lord.

In these last few hours before the Eastertide begins, we can wrestle with our human ideas of what we want to see on the tomb's walls, we can discern what our Lord intends for us in this tomb, or we can just lament.  We can grieve, turn, and serve with tears of love.  We are allowed to wail, we are free to feel the coldness of the tomb, and we can live in the promise God gives us.  Life and Life Abundantly.

I’d like to read a short passage from Cole Arthur Riley’s Chapter called lament in her book, This Here Flesh.  Ms. Riley is the creator of Black Liturgies and she inspires me with her tenacity to say what is true for her and her intended audience.

As we stand with Joseph and Nicodemus hear her words echo in this tomb.

“Too often I have heard people’s pain met with a Christian consolation which essentially communicates that the person in pain should learn to cling to hope, to trust God.  More often than not, I ‘ve found this unhelpful, and at worst a form of spiritual abuse that uses language of hope to manipulate the hurting into feigned happiness.  This is also a foundational misreading of lament.  Lament is not anti-hope.  It’s not even a stepping stone to hope.  Lament itself is a form of hope.  It’s an innate awareness that what is should not be.  As if something written on our hearts tells us exactly what we are meant for, and whenever confronted with something contrary to this, we experience a crumbling.  And in the rubble (paraphrase the tomb), we say, God, you promised.  We ask, Why?  And how could we experience such devastation if we were not on some mysterious plane, hoping for something different.  Our hope can be only as deep as our lament is.  And our lament as deep as our hope.”

Today is a day of mourning.  In just a few hours we will finish this lament, tomorrow the tomb will be empty, but here and now, we cry. Amen

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