Sermon; Holy Saturday 2021
Every year I give pretty much the same sermon on Holy Saturday. I do that because it's so appropriate to the day.
I've followed a blog called Slacktivist since I was in seminary. To be honest, I follow it much less often now than I used to, but that's neither here nor there. Years ago he published a post on Holy Saturday which, for the Slacktivist community, has become required reading every year on this day. So, crediting my sources, this whole sermon has that post as its basis.
In essence, he says that today, Holy Saturday, is all we've got. We are perpetually living into this particular day. Good Friday with the execution and burial of Jesus was yesterday. The resurrection of tomorrow is yet to happen. Today Christ lies dead and buried in the tomb. Tomorrow's resurrection is promised and hoped for, but is yet unrealized. All we really have is today, a day surrounded by the tragedy of yesterday and the hope of tomorrow.
We can't live in the past. We are unable to live in the future. We can only live in the present, in the moment of today, this Holy Saturday.
In previous years, and thanks to a former parishioner, today has been dubbed the day of the dash. If you go to a cemetery, any will do, take a look at the tombstones and grave markers. There will be two dates – one of birth and one of death. In between those two dates is a dash. It is in that dash where the person lived. Today is the day of the dash for Christians. The crucifixion happened yesterday. The resurrection of tomorrow is promised but unfulfilled. So we live in Holy Saturday.
2020 has been called a lot of things. With respect to Saint John's, I've called it both an extended Lent and a never-ending Advent. In Lent we are often asked to give up something. COVID Lent forced us to give up a lot of things, and for much longer than 40 days.
By the time we got to Advent with its focus on preparation and waiting, I said that the Season of COVID may be more Advent than Lent. That is, we were waiting for the end of the pandemic and preparing for the arrival of better times. Advent is a both/and season. COVID has been both Lent and Advent.
But the other thing that people experienced during COVID, especially during the lock-down period, was time distortion. Someone asked me what the date was once. I said, “I could be March 83rd, or maybe it's April 47th, I don't know.” I talked about the 117th day of Lent. At some point I came to realize that there were only three days of COVID – yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
On this Holy Saturday in the midst of the Triduum, there are also only three days – yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Yesterday we participated in the execution of Christ. Yesterday we watched him die on a cross. Yesterday we saw where he was buried. Yesterday we hid ourselves away from fear of those in authority. Yesterday was a day of violence, hate, and sacrifice.
Tomorrow is Easter. With the hindsight of 2000 years, we know tomorrow is a day of celebration. Tomorrow is the day we celebrate Christ's victory over death. Tomorrow is the day life is changed, not ended. Tomorrow is the coming of the promise of new life. But for all that, tomorrow is not guaranteed.
For now there is only today. For now there is only this Holy Saturday, sandwiched between the certainties of yesterday's death and the hope of tomorrow's promise. This is the way it has always been – between yesterday's memory of what was and tomorrow's promise of different, there is today. There is only today. There has only ever been today. There will only ever be today.
Ever since the crucifixion we have been living in Holy Saturday. We live with the knowledge of Christ's death and the hope of the resurrection. As we move forward, let us remember his death, proclaim his resurrection, and await his coming in glory. Let us not wait passively, but let us wait actively in the knowledge that today the kingdom of God has come near.
Today we live in the dash. Today we live between the certainty of death and the promise of resurrection. Today let us proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God because today is holy. Today, like every day, is Holy Saturday and we have much for which to prepare.