friday, saturday, sunday

The long Easter weekend is the heart of our life as a people. Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday are the crucial days that pattern the gospel into our minds and hearts, speech and action. The church is like a figure skater, repeatedly practicing the same figure until the movement is imbedded deep in her muscle memory. So in every season and every sermon we rehearse moving through this three-day narrative of the good news. This figure of the Triduum has become our short hand of the gospel, a way of asking each other “How is the gospel with you today? Are you living in Friday, Saturday or Sunday today?”

To live in Good Friday is to enter the gospel of Jesus Christ. We hear “good news” and assume that the gospel is all Palm Sunday “Hosanna” and Easter Sunday “Hallelujah”. But the gospel always begins with a radical break and a terrible ending. Jesus comes preaching the good news of repentance. He calls for an ending of the ways we have been living. The font is our constant reminder that when we were “baptized into Jesus Christ, [we] were baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3). Good Friday is the entry point into the good news. Here we witness the results of our idolatrous ways and here we die to those habitual patterns.

The gospel patterning of our life as a cruciform people takes a surprising turn on Holy Saturday. This crucial day is often forgotten, slipped past in the hope that Easter will come quickly and painlessly. When asked what occurs in the biblical story between the Cross and the Resurrection most answer “Nothing.” It is true. Jesus is dead and buried. He is mortal, not immortal. The story is over. Those who recall the Apostles’ Creed have a different answer. They remember that “He descended to the dead”. All agree that whatever God is up to on Holy Saturday it is not visible to the living. On Saturday God’s presence looks mostly like absence. To live on Holy Saturday is to find oneself living between a tragic Friday ending and the wondrous newness of Sunday (see “Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday” by Alan. E. Lewis, Eerdmans, 2001). Saturday is the long day of discovering a daring hope in the midst of a culture of corrosive despair. Saturday is the day when God seems to be overwhelmed by chaos, unable to bring life out of death. Many in our churches have assumed that to live on such a day is to be outside of gospel faith. But Holy Saturday reminds a forgetful church that the long day of apparent absence is embodied in the heart of the good news.

Now Easter Sunday is no longer a predictable occurrence on the solar calendar. It is not to be marked as a northern hemisphere celebration of the earth’s slow warming. Now it is more like the shock of Easter erupting into the southern hemisphere’s journey into winter. Resurrection does not cause the women at the tomb or Peter to burst forth with singing: “Jesus Christ is risen today, hallelujah.” Instead, they “were perplexed ... terrified ... [they] did not believe ... [and were] amazed at what had happened” (Luke 24:4,5,11 & 12). This is the type of Easter witness that we watch for in our midst. We do not want to hear canned testimony in which faith in the power of God in Christ to make new beyond death sounds phony or pre-scripted. A gospel people include many who inhabit Good Friday and Holy Saturday, while waiting upon God for Easter Sunday newness. And when the baptismal “newness” of God (Romans 6:4) catches them up in perplexity, terror, disbelief and amazement we are eager for them to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about their journey through Good Friday and Holy Saturday to Easter Sunday.

                                                              (from "Telling Time" by Edwin Searcy)

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