Here’s something I’ve never done: Celebrate Easter on a Saturday night. And I should add that if you were somehow able to speak to any version of me from years gone by, any one of those earlier me’s would probably tell you future me “will never celebrate Easter on Saturday.” Because every earlier me believed the silent ache of Saturday is necessary to both the grieving and celebration process. But this year’s me is winking at all those earlier me’s, because tonight – Saturday night – I’m celebrating Easter.
For the longest time I thought my/our decision to do so this year was something of a gift to the congregation we’ve been a part of since the church we moved down here to serve, and serve alongside of, closed. They’ve experienced tremendous growth over the last year, resulting in crowded space, and that “problem” led to the solution of multiple services that have had to spill out of Sunday morning and back into Saturday evening. Knowing Easter is a time several neighbors and friends will visit a local church, and that they will surely think in terms of a Sunday visit, I felt a nudge to free up a seat for them. “Saturday night it is,” my wife and I said to one another. And Saturday night it will be. But for a reason that was nestled far deeper in my soul.
Last night I sang (mostly cried) my way through a few songs at our Good Friday gathering, and about halfway through I thought, I can’t wait until Sunday this year. I can’t. As much as I’ve taken up the mantle of a prophet urging congregations and smaller communities in my past to relentlessly eliminate the rush to Sunday – to opt instead to sit in the silent ache of Saturday, beholding the desire of Jesus to sit with us in the roar of quiet that comes in the world’s/our pain – I am playing the role of an entirely different prophet this year, and I am my own audience (and I suppose my family with me). I have said to myself/us, “Go to him now, even now, to see he and his kingdom are not among the dead.”
Friends, the start of 2017, taken with the second half of 2016, blur together as the most painful and confounding ministry stretch of my life, and from a more personal standpoint, all of it is second only to my father’s death in terms of pain and confoundment. My family has sat in Saturday for a year now, especially so in the handful of months to begin 2017, and we need Sunday. Friends, we need it now. And I do think this reality was at work in us as we made our way toward the decision to celebrate Easter a day early. Does it sound selfish to say I think we’re ministering to ourselves in doing this just as much as we are ministering to our neighbors in the surrender of a Sunday seat?
I greatly suspect we’ll be right back at our silent Saturday next Holy Week. But I awoke early this morning thinking of Mary at the tomb. Of the two strangers on the road to Emmaus. Perhaps today I should even be thinking on those Roman guards at the foot of the tomb. I understand they would have seen and heard the Resurrection early and still on Sunday, but please don’t miss my point as I make it now: Maybe some folks need to see and hear a little earlier than others. I know we do. And we will.
To read Monday’s Passion Week reflection, click here.
To read Tuesday’s, click here.
To read Wednesday’s, click here.
To read Thursday’s, click here.
I chose a bit of silence for Friday, but goodness – if you read one thing, read this.