Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sermon for Holy Saturday 2008

The fullness of emptiness

The day after someone dies
often has an emptiness that stuns us.

The first intense and torturous wave of grief has passed--
and in this little niche of the following day--
we find ourselves looking back longingly at the life that was—
and fearfully wondering
how we will endure the emptiness of life without.

We gather this morning to remember the emptiness,
of the hours between Jesus’ death and his resurrection.

Holy Saturday is the brief respite
that allows the death of Jesus
to settle into our souls.

Christ’s body lays in the tomb.
It is the day between two worlds—
Between the world that has gone dark
and the world that is pure light.

We are here in this in-between moment.
Even in it’s echoing emptiness,
this day is pure gift.

I pray we may be mindful
that today is a Holy Day.

Yes, there is work that must be completed today—
for some of us, a sermon to finish;
others will be getting flowers and the altar ready,
rehearsing music, going over scripture readings.

There’s chopping and stirring and cooking to do—
for family who are arriving
or preparing our dish
for our own festive Easter lunch here tomorrow.
There are children or meowing cats to be fed.
Yes, there are indeed, things that must get done. Today.

But I pray we may be mindful
and go slowly.
I pray we may treat our day’s work with the same love and care and tenderness
that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took
when they carried Jesus’ body to the tomb.

Holy Saturday is a day to remember
that losing everything is always a possibility.
We can never predict the day or the time
when the hands of the clock will fall off the face.

We don’t need to hurry towards tomorrow.

We need this time of emptiness
for it is in our emptiness that room is made for God.

Anne Lamott, in her book PLAN B,
tells a lovely Hassidic story of a rabbi
who always tells people that if they study the Torah,
it will put the scripture on their hearts.

One of them asks, “Why on our hearts, and not in them?”

The rabbi answers,
“Only God can put scripture inside.
But reading the sacred text can put it on your hearts,
and then when your hearts break,
the holy words will fall inside.”

Holy Saturday is a day when the holy words
fall inside.

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