Between

Lectionary Scripture Text: Psalm 31: 1-5, 15-16

1In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.  2Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.  3You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, 4take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.

5Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.  15My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.  16Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.

What do we do with this day, this Holy Saturday?  We are still grieving.  The reality of it all is beginning to sink in, beginning to be real.  Jesus is gone, dying alone on some hill that we don’t even know.  So, what do we do today?  How do we pick up the pieces in the midst of our pain and despair and just go on with our lives?  Oh, we 21st century believers know how the story ends.  We’ve already jumped ahead and read the next chapter many, many times.  (Don’t tell those that don’t read ahead, but it all works out in the end.)

And yet, we do ourselves no favors if we jump ahead to tomorrow.  After all, the Scriptures tell us that Jesus rose on the third day, the THIRD day, as in one-two-three.  The third day doesn’t happen without today.  It must be important, right?  But, oh, it’s just so painfully quiet.  The sanctuary is dark, awaiting to be redressed for its coronation.  The bells are quiet, hanging expectantly for tomorrow.  And we still sit here draped in black with our Easter brights hanging there ready for us to don.  What are we supposed to do today?

Tradition (and the older version of the Apostles’ Creed) holds that Jesus died, was buried, and descended into hell.  So is that what this day is?  Descent?  Good grief, wasn’t the Cross low enough?  The well-disputed claim is that Jesus descended into death, descended into hell, perhaps descended into Gehenna (Greek) (Hebrew–Gehinnom, Rabbinical Hebrew–גהנום/גהנם), the State of ungodly souls.  Why?  Why after suffering the worst imaginable earthly death would Jesus descend into hell?  Well, the disputed part is that Jesus, before being raised himself, descended to the depths of suffering and despair and redeemed it, recreated it.  The sixth century hymnwriter, Venantius Fortunatus claimed that “hell today is vanquished, Heaven is won today.” Why is that so out of bounds of what God can do?  Don’t we believe that God is God of all?  Or does it give us some sense of comfort to know that we are not the worst of the bunch, that there are always Judas’ and Brutus’ that have messed up a whole lot worse than any of us and so are destined to spend eternity on the lowest rungs of hell?  But, oh, think about the power and grace and amazing love of a God who before the Divine Ascent into glory, descended into the depths of humanity and redeemed us all, every single one of us, perhaps wiped out the hell of each of our lives rung, by rung? 

Welcome, happy morning! age to age shall say:
Hell today is vanquished, Heav’n is won today!”
Lo! the dead is living, God forevermore!
Him, their true Creator, all His works adore!

And, yet, again, we cannot leave it all to Christ to do.  Just as we were called to pick up our cross yesterday, we are called to descend down into the depths, plunging into the unknown darkness, so that God can pick us up again, set us right, and show us a new Way.  And so, this day, we stand between, between death and life, between hell and heaven, between a world that does not understand and a God who even in the silence of this day has begun the redeeming work.  In some ways, this is the holiest day of the week.  How often do we stand with a full and honest view of the world and a glimpse of the holy and the sacred that is always and forever part of our lives?  How often do we stand together and see ourselves as both betrayers and beloved children of God?  How often do we stand in the depths of our human state and yet know that God will raise us up.  This is a pure state of liminality, a state, as the Old English would say, “betwixt and between.”  It is where we are called to be.  It is the place of the fullness of humanity as it claims both human and divine.  In the silence of this day, we stand with God.  And we wait, we wait expectantly for resurrection. 

Do you remember how we started this whole thing?  Do you remember the Creation account from Genesis, how how God spoke Creation into being, how God spoke US into being.  So today we wait for God to say us into being again.  It is where we should always be.  We won’t though.  We won’t be there. (Remember, we’ve had this problem before.)  And maybe on some level, it’s too much for us to always be there, always be waiting expectantly for God.  Because, granted, today IS very wilderness-like.  In fact, you could say that it is the ultimate wilderness—lonely, forsaken, no clear path ahead.  I know.  You thought we were going to “wrap” this whole wilderness thing up, right?  But, see, wilderness is an opportunity.  It’s an opportunity for God to say us into being again.  But at least we can remember what this day feels like as we stand between who we were and what we will be. 

So, for today, keep expectant vigil.  Do not jump ahead.  We can only understand the glory of God when we see it behind the shadow of death.  But, remember, shadows only exist because the Light is so very, very bright. 

The shadows shift and fly.

The whole long day the air trembles,

Thick with silence, until, finally, the footsteps are heard,

And the noise of the voice of God is upon us.

The Holy One is not afraid to walk on unholy ground.

The Holy Work is done, and the world awaits the dawn of Life.

(“Saturday Silence”, Ann Weems, in Kneeling in Jerusalem)

You must give birth to your images.  They are the future waiting to be born.  Fear not the strangeness you feel.  The future must enter you long before it happens.  Just wait for the birth, for the hour of new clarity. (Rainer Maria Rilke) 

Grace and Peace,

 Shelli

In the Hours Before the Dawn

dark-before-dawnScripture Text:  Genesis 1:1-5a, 31a, 2:1-3

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night…God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good…Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. 

We’re never really sure what to do with this day.  Everything is so quiet, so unsettled.  Memories of the week before interrupt our quiet thoughts, filling our minds with regrets over things we would have done differently, places we would have said “yes”, places we would have said “no”, places that we would have stood, places that we would have stayed.  The Cross is empty and Jesus is gone, laid in the tomb–forever.  We know that we will have to go on but we’re not sure how to do that. This is a day when once again, we are covered in darkness.  The earth feels out of sorts, almost formless and empty once again.  And so we sit here in these hours before the dawn with no direction, no guide, no journey that we can see.

And, yet, God has done this before, this creating.  God takes a formless voice that is immersed in darkness and sweeps into it bringing Light.  God creates and we become.  God creates and the world begins to move.  God creates and everything is as it should be.  And then God rested.  This seventh day, this Sabbath, this day of rest, is not the low point of Creation but the veritable climax.  It is the edge of everything that will be, the veritable edge of Glory.  This is the day to sit without doing, to sit without trying to “fix” the world, without trying to “fix” ourselves, without even worrying what the future may hold, and let the peace of God sweep over us once again.  This is the day to sit in the silence and hear the voice that is beckoning us to a New Creation.  Whether we can see it or not, this is the day that we are standing on the edge of Glory.  It is not what we planned; it is not what we envisioned; it is new.  Creation is happening now–in the quiet, in the darkness.

So what do we do today in these hours before the dawn?  It’s hard for those of us that want to make the future right.  It’s hard for us in a place where it’s always been so easy, so protected, to live with both the memories of yesterday and the uncertain future of a world that seems to teeter even now on the brink of furthering its own demise.  This is a day filled with talk of bombs and crosses.  It is a world that only faith can redeem.  What do we do?  Nothing…just rest…and let God create you.  This is the moment of your re-creation.  God is walking in the darkness with you. It may not be what you imagined but it will be right.  The light is just over the darkened horizon.

The pilgrims sit on the steps of death.  Undanced, the music ends.  Only the children remember that tomorrow’s stars are not yet out.  (Ann Weems)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

In the Time Between

StillnessScripture Text:  Luke 23: 48-49

48And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

 

What do we do with this day, this day after, this day before, this time between?  What do we do when our foundations have been shaken to their core and we wander, alone?  What do we do when we stand at a distance and can do nothing to fix it or hurry the healing along?  This IS the deepest part of the wilderness.  We begin to wander again but this time, we are alone.  This time we wander in grief and despair.  The darkness overcomes us.

Have you noticed that all of the Gospels after the frantic accounts of the Crucifixion fall silent on this day?  They all go from some rendition of laying Jesus in the tomb to some version of “after the Sabbath”.  There was, you see, nothing more to say about what had happened and the story had to stop and wait for itself to begin again.  You see, this IS the Sabbath, the time between work and work, the time between conversations, the time between life and life.  This IS the time to be silent, to sit in the deep wilderness and wait, wait again for life to dawn.

The truth is, there IS nothing to do with this day.  See, this day is not ours.  We’re so accustomed to days revolving around our lives that we have forgotten how to wait, how to just be.  Notice that tomorrow morning the Scripture will not give us the account of the Resurrection.  It will instead tell us the story of the revelation of what has happened, the finding of the empty tomb.  We were not there for the Resurrection.  While we were grieving and wondering and trying to find our way in this new wilderness, God was re-creating in the darkness.  God seems to be drawn to the darkness, to the place where the Light most needs to be.

So, in this darkness, in this silence, know that you are not alone.  Know that God is re-creating everything even now.  Know that this is the time to just be still, to just be still and know.

My ego is like a fortress.  I have built its walls stone by stone to hold out the invasion of the love of God.  But I have stayed here long enough.  There is light over the barriers.  O my God…I let go of the past.  I withdraw my grasping hand from the future.  And in the great silence of this moment, I alertly rest my soul. (Howard Thurman)

 

FOR TODAY:  It is finished.  Just be still.  Just be still and know.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

In the Hours Before the Dawn

dark-before-dawnScripture Text:  Genesis 1:1-5a, 31a, 2:1-3

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night…God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good…Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. 

We’re never really sure what to do with this day.  Everything is so quiet, so unsettled.  Memories of the week before interrupt our quiet thoughts, filling our minds with regrets over things we would have done differently, places we would have said “yes”, places we would have said “no”, places that we would have stood, places that we would have stayed.  The Cross is empty and Jesus is gone, laid in the tomb–forever.  We know that we will have to go on but we’re not sure how to do that. This is a day when once again, we are covered in darkness.  The earth feels out of sorts, almost formless and empty once again.  And so we sit here in these hours before the dawn with no direction, no guide, no journey that we can see.

And, yet, God has done this before, this creating.  God takes a formless voice that is immersed in darkness and sweeps into it bringing Light.  God creates and we become.  God creates and the world begins to move.  God creates and everything is as it should be.  And then God rested.  This seventh day, this Sabbath, this day of rest, is not the low point of Creation but the veritable climax.  It is the edge of everything that will be, the veritable edge of Glory.  This is the day to sit without doing, to sit without trying to “fix” the world, without trying to “fix” ourselves, and let the peace of God sweep over us once again.  This is the day to sit in the silence and hear the voice that is beckoning us to a New Creation.  Whether we can see it or not, this is the day that we are standing on the edge of Glory.  It is not what we planned; it is not what we envisioned; it is new.  Creation is happening now–in the quiet, in the darkness.

So what do we do today in these hours before the dawn?  Nothing…just rest…and let God create you.

The pilgrims sit on the steps of death.  Undanced, the music ends.  Only the children remember that tomorrow’s stars are not yet out.  (Ann Weems)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli