I have found that each year I tend to focus on one aspect of Holy Week, usually one reflecting the current circumstances in my life. This year I have been fixated on Holy Saturday. Let’s face it, Holy Saturday doesn’t get much airtime in the Protestant church. No Easter vigils, baptisms, bonfires, etc. We tend to move quickly from the drama of Good Friday to the joy of Easter morning, and often use Saturday for Easter Egg hunts and children’s events.
I don’t think we are giving Holy Saturday its due. It is a day of silence and waiting, a day when the disciples must have contemplated the horror of the crucifixion, agonized over their fear and betrayal, and succumbed to the depths of despair. All must have seemed lost.
But while the disciples wandered around in a fog of despair, God was doing God’s finest work. Within the dark and silence of the tomb, God’s resurrection power was bringing life out of death. The tomb became a womb of new life and possibility. And Jesus, firstborn from the dead, laid aside his grave clothes and neatly folded up the cloth from his head. He then headed to hell to proclaim that death had been conquered. And that’s that. The mystery of the ages, the miracle of all miracles, completed in a Saturday.
I think I’m captivated by Holy Saturday this year because it feels like the United Methodist Church is living its own Holy Saturday. Many seem ready to proclaim it is dead (some quite jubilantly, which saddens me). But it seems to me that what many see as a tomb is really a crucible for God’s power to transform our church. The signs are all around: churches reclaiming mission as their focus and moving out into their communities in new and creative ways; clergy eager to lead and reach ALL people for Christ; large classes of ordinands committing their lives to the UMC despite an uncertain environment; laity willing to discuss hard issues such as racism, economic disparity, and human sexuality; gifted young clergy bringing new vision and insights to our work.
I believe the UMC will emerge from the Holy Saturday tomb with new spirit and energy, eager to follow the resurrected Christ in mission and ministry to all people in all places. The Holy Spirit’s transforming power is at work. We wait and pray, not giving in to despair, daring to hope that God is again doing God’s finest work. So I will sit on Holy Saturday, humming to myself the ancient resurrection song, yearning for Easter morning when, in unity, we can joyfully sing it together in chorus.