Saturday, April 3, 2010

This Saturday is for All of Us

A few years ago, I preached at my home church on the Sunday after Easter. I did so with great trepidation ~ after the triumphant display of lilies and the magnificent music of resurrection the preceding week, my topic was doubt. Doubt with a capital D. My hero Thomas does have a way of appearing each year in the immediate aftermath of the celebration.

I need not have worried. Numerous people thanked me, that day and for a couple of weeks afterward, for bringing our genuine experience of uncertainty and trepidation into the pulpit. Except for one lady, who stood in line that Sunday after Easter to tell me sweetly that, "He's always there. All you have to do is pray."

I smiled and shook her hand, but inwardly I sighed. "Most of the year is for folks like you," I thought to myself. "This day is for the rest of us."

Today, Holy Saturday, seems much the same ~ except that this one is for all of us.

I live here these days, all the time, here in these hours between Friday evening and Sunday morning. Judging my from tour around the blogosphere today, so do, or have, a lot of others. And so will, eventually, almost all of us ~ the only exceptions being those who someone manage to die themselves before losing anyone beloved to them.

In real life it lasts, of course, longer than thirty-six hours. But in our world, thirty-six hours is a long time to pause and acknowledge the awful silence for which there is no consolation. We have things to do and places to go and yes, even reasons for celebration. It is a rare thing for us to come to a complete stop and stand in contemplative awe before anything, even before the apparent disappearance of God from our midst.

I heard a beautiful homily at the Carmelite monastery yesterday afternoon. The next-to-last sentence was the question, "Would we have wanted him to die any other way?" And now, just as that particular homilist has been thinking about my question, "Is Easter possible?" ~ so I have been thinking about his.

I've been pondering three things: death as a public spectacle, death as the end product of a violent and torturous assault on a human body, death motivated by the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven in the form of someone walking among us. A death which is in its reality as nightmare-inducing as the other deaths I have seen and grieved in the past few years ~ and yet, so we believe, in all of its dimensions overcomes and sets right all of the others.

I will leave you to your own meanderings of thought on this one. But it's another good question, isn't it?

Would we have wanted him to die any other way?


  1. In my theology class in seminary I wrote a paper on this very topic...or rather I think it was, "Could he have died any other way?" and of course the answer as no. Sigh.

  2. Hell, yes. Just as I would have wanted my daughter to die another way. And just as I would have wanted my own body and spirit, and those of so many others, to be spared similar--and sometimes far longer lasting--horrific abuse and desecration of the image of God/dess, who I believe weeps over it all.

  3. Now I'm worried that maybe I've confused the question in my mind, and maybe it was really MP's question. Perhaps I'll get a chance to ask tonight. Or if not, I will, later.

    But regardless, it raises all kinds of other questions, some of them debated in seminary last week and I'm sure in many other places:

    Does God die when Jesus dies? Who suffers what? Did Jesus have to die? Is violence a necessary component? I'm reading Volf, Scotus, and Calvin all almost simultaneously this afternoon, so I'm no doubt influenced by that combination. But most of all I am influenced by the reality that death in the form of outright violence has interjected itself into my life one time too many, and I am trying to come to terms with that and with 2000 years of people trying to do the same in the context of Christian theology.

    This is proving to be a very interesting Easter. Keep talking!

  4. I sometimes wonder how Mary bore it, I am not so sure I could have watched my son die. And then if He really knew that he would be raised from the dead, or was this total faith in the Father? And if He trusted the Father to do this, how did he do so so willingly?

    I think I would rather He didn't have to die at all. But humans seem to demand it.

  5. And yes it is a good question.

  6. Yes, very good question.

    I'm not sure if this will make sense, but I normally do everything I can to avoid violence. I don't watch television, I screen movie images, I discuss books and current events with people I love rather than processing it through some random journalist.

    And yet, violence and a violent death inserts itself into my life anyway.

    My experience this Passiontide has been paradoxical. Yes, I would change the human circumstance if I could - that is part of my humanity. But since I cannot, then I choose to stand in it with as much consciousness as I can, and I am forever changed.

    I don't think I ever approached Easter this way before. Now I'm not sure I can look at it any other way.