“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
It Holy Saturday! A day to reflect, a day to ponder and to prepare for a celebration that comes tomorrow as we celebrate the risen Christ and the defeat of death. But if you are like me, you have probably been pushing through yesterday and today in order to get to tomorrow. Heeding the famous words of that now infamous sermon, we’ve probably been thinking: “Its Friday, but Sundays is coming!”
If you are like me you are uncomfortable on Friday. It is dark, emotional, and there is tension. And then comes Saturday. An empty day! A day to forget Friday, a day where you and I are allowed to go back to normal life before the party that is Easter Sunday. If you are like me – and I venture some of you are – you are in a rush to move past the tension, the awkwardness and to settle into the celebration of Sunday. Its Friday… but phew, Sunday is coming!
And yet over the last few Easter seasons I have come to think about what the disciples have felt on this day. Because over the last few years I have seen friends and family lose loved ones tragically, be struck by suffering and pain tragically and seen them take blow after blow after blow. I have seen them on their Good Fridays: the day of suffering, moaning and excruciating mourning. And I have realized something. What follows our Good Fridays in life is not Easter Sunday. As a matter of fact, for many Easter Sunday is long in coming and has not yet arrived.
What follows Good Friday is the hollow emptiness of Holy Saturday plagued with nagging questions: “Why?” “What I do do now?” “How can life ever be normal again?”
And I have realized that my tendency to rush through Friday and look past Saturday to get to Sunday, I ignore the reality for many of the people I encounter each day. Because so many of neighbours live in the reality of Good Friday or Holy Saturday. It is the reality of suffering, pain, death and senselessness and the reality of its aftermath. And if we do what Peter Enns has described as “using Good Friday to anticipate Sunday” as if it were a Easter version of Advent not only do we ignore the reality of many of those who right now don’t see hope, don’t see an end to suffering and those who of us who are still struggling to understand why!
And more importantly we forget that the road to resurrection starts at the Cross and weaves its way through the emptiness of Saturday before arriving at the hope of Sunday. And we forget that this world has still not arrived at the reality of Easter Sunday!
For this reason I opened the blog post with a verse from the book of Revelation. It is at the beginning of the book, reassuring a concerned flock of suffering believers that God indeed is the beginning and the end and that through Christ who suffers on the Cross and defeats death there God will bring all things to a good end. And that is where we like land isn’t it?
And yet, throughout the book of Revelation the believers are reminded again and again that before that good end is to come, more suffering is to happen. Because while God was and is and will be, this world still finds itself in the in between. Indeed, at several junctions God reminds the believers that more suffering is yet to come before the end arrives.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given; they cried out with a loud voice, “Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed.
So todays post goes to all my friends who find themselves looking at Easter Sunday from the reality of Friday or Saturday, wondering how they can ever get to the hope and celebration of Sunday. I hope you take courage with the fact that both Friday and Saturday are places you are allowed to be in. They are places you don’t have to rush through. They are places in which God walks with you, listens to you and loves you. The hope of Friday and Saturday is this: they are not places where God has not been.
When God walks with us on those days, it is because the Son of God found himself in those places on a weekend a two thousand odd years ago and his Father in heaven mourned as the earth darkened and the veil was torn. It is a worn path and one that God chose to walk on before us and with us!
And for all of us who rush through, who prefer the easy comfort of Sunday to the emptiness of Saturday or the tension of Friday may our hearts be tender to those who cannot yet follow us there. May our lives slow down enough to sit with our friends in the tension and the emptiness. And may our souls become attuned to the reality of the in-between that is the reality to most of this world. Because only when we realize the importance of the in-between the hope of Easter Sunday can finally permeate through little cracks of an otherwise hopeless world as we live in the already and not-yet.
We finish with an echo from the end of the book of Revelation. Spoken first as a promise it is now spoken as a statement of fact, prefaced by the words of Christ on the cross: “It is done”
“It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children”
May we live with the knowledge and hope of the Cross and the Resurrection that allows us to conquer and to inherit, but with the tenderness and compassion of a God who walked the road of suffering, mourning and pain and who walks this road with us wherever we are.