It is the day in between the crucifixion and what we know to be the resurrection. It is a day in our church without a service and just waiting.
The gospel writers describe the task of dealing with the body - taking it down from the cross, In John it is Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus together:
"so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid."
And for these people and the disciples, there was no waiting for the resurrection. There was only darkness and hopelessness and despair. He was gone and all that is left is a body. That was their perspective. But in the darkness of the tomb God was doing something that we cannot understand. The empty, dark, seemingly hopeless times of waiting are not without God's presence and activity.
That is what I think about on this Holy Saturday.
I am not going to look forward to Sunday but I will be here and wonder and wait. I received an email this morning from Jim wishing me and my clergy friends a Happy Easter and he named our situations. There are 5 of us who have been meeting monthly in prayer and support of each other's ministries for a couple of years now. For Roger and Alan, this is their last Easter in their respective churches as they each go in a month or so to fulfill new calls. For me this is my first Easter with no ministerial responsibilities. Leaving a church is a kind of death on so many levels. It leads to a time like this - waiting in the darkness.
Barbara Brown Taylor writes: "Whatever happened to Jesus between Saturday and Sunday, it happened in the dark, with the smell of damp stone and dug earth in the air. It happened where no one but him could talk about it later, and he did not talk about it ---at least not so anyone could explain it to anyone else.
That is what Holy Saturday has taught me about being Christian. Between the great dramas of life, there is almost always a time of empty waiting - with nothing to do and no church service to help - a time when it is necessary to come up with your own words and see how they sound with no other sounds to cover them up. "
Of course, Holy Saturday for us is so different from the way it was for the women at the tomb, Nicodemus, Joseph and the disciples. We know the end of the story. But that does not mean that we don't - each of us - have our own versions of Holy Saturday in our own lives. There are - because of the constancy of change - situations that seem like deaths and it is so easy for despair will follow.
Today is a day to acknowledge the darkness but at the same time remember the power of God's constant love and activity in our lives and in the world.
Here is a poem for this day by Jan Richardson:
Therefore I will Hope
A Blessing for Holy Saturday
I have no cause
to linger beside
this place of death
to keep vigil
where life has left
and yet I cannot go,
cannot bring myself
to cleave myself
can only pray
that this waiting
might yet be a blessing
and this grieving
and this stone
yet a blessing
and this silence
yet a blessing