Scripture Passage: Matthew 12: 38-42
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’ But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was for three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! The queen of the South will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!
It is interesting that there are really no “Holy Saturday” Scriptures, per se. The Lectionary readings jump to the passages that will be used this evening for the Easter Vigil as we hear again the covenants, God’s promises of a world made new. But what about this morning? There are no words for the way we feel. There are no Scriptural or theological platitudes that we can toss around this day to feel better. There are not even any pictures. The sun came up just like it normally does and everything looks the same. Everything, that is, except the empty chair at the table, the missing voice of a teacher, and the closed tomb waiting for the Sabbath to pass so that we can do our work. The world is still waiting for a sign, waiting for a miracle. But there will be no calming of waves of grief this time; there will be no healing of our pain; and a quick peak shows only tepid water in the jars. There is no wine this time. There will be no sign. The miracle this time is that there will be no miracle. God, it seems, has finally left us to ourselves.
Perhaps the reason that there was no miracle is that the world itself had changed. The New Creation had begun. We were just too wrapped up in our grief and our despair and some of us in our guilt and shame to see what God had begun to do. The traditional Apostles’ Creed says that Jesus “descended into hell” after the Crucifixion and before the Resurrection. Most mainline churches (at least of the ones that still choose to even say the universal creeds!) respectfully or regretfully or embarrassingly leave that part out. After all, what does that mean? Hell is for those who have no hope; hell is the finality of being so bad that you cannot be redeemed, right? How can Jesus go to hell? How can the Son of God, the Messiah, wander around and be seen in a neighborhood like that. It’s just not right.
Maybe the miracle is that hell and heaven, just as humanity and the Divine, were somehow poured together for all eternity. Maybe the miracle is that God has now come so close to us that there is no longer a place that we can go without God being there with us, whether or not we can sense that. Maybe the miracle is that hell, itself, like death, is no more. Maybe the miracle is that we no longer need a miracle. Because, my friends, we have been promised life.
Jesus laid out what would happen earlier this week. In the Lectionary Passage from Holy Tuesday (John 12: 20-36), Jesus depicted the events of this week-end as the Christ being “lifted up” and then “gathering all in”. Now everyone knows that when you begin gathering something, the first sweep starts at the bottom. You extravagantly dig deep, trying to get everything you can on the first pass. Maybe on this morning as we grieve and regret and wonder what life will be, God through Christ is digging deep into the bowels of hell and extravagantly gathering them in. Jesus descended to earth that we might be shown the Way, that we might know what Life means, that we might be redeemed, renewed, and recreated and then be poured over with Light. Jesus descended to earth that we might be “gathered in”. Why, then, couldn’t the Lord of Life, descend further, descend beyond where we even thought God could go, and do the same thing? After all, who are we to say how big or how loving or how extravagantly welcoming God is?
Are you looking for a sign? There is no need for one. There is no more need for miracles, no more need for one-time, unique “fixes” to Creation. It’s ALL being recreated. Even God can begin again. But THIS time, God desires not to do it alone. THAT is the miracle.
In the silence of this day, feel your grief and mark your shame, knowing that the dawn of life is there even for you. And once the Sabbath passes, we, too, can begin our work.
For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever. Amen.
Grace and Peace on this Holiest of Gathering Days,