Moving from “Good” Friday to a holy Saturday

Today is known as “Good Friday.” Well, it’s actually only known as such among English- and Dutch-speaking people. Other names for this day include, according to UMC Discipleship Ministries, “‘Holy Friday’ among the Latin nations, “Great Friday” among the Slavic peoples, “Friday of Mourning” in Germany, “Long Friday” in Norway, and “Holy Friday” (Viernes Santo) among Hispanic peoples.”

We can only call this day “good” or “great” looking backwards from the perspective of Easter, of Resurrection. But it seems to me that we can better, more fully, enter into the story of Jesus by suspending whatever knowledge we have of Sunday and fully live into the despair of his death today. That’s what we’ll attempt to do with a three-part worship experience tonight at Woodridge United Methodist.

At 5:45 tonight, we gather around a table to share a simple meal, perhaps similar to the meal Jesus ate with his friends that final night. As this is a gathering for all ages, we’ll also have kid-friendly options. This is an interactive time as we consider together and enact the odd-to-us way dinners were served in Jesus’ time.

At 6:30, we continue to experience the story of Jesus’ final hours as we move from table fellowship to walking Stations of the Cross in our Narthex and Sanctuary. This ancient form of prayer invites us to hear 14 moments along Jesus’ journey to the cross.

Then at 7:00pm, a more traditional Good Friday worship time begins, making use of candles, songs, shadow, readings, and reflections.

We exit this service in silence, mirroring the silence of the grave. Jesus, our Lord, our teacher, our friend is dead.

Our challenge in this time is to be honest about this. Our challenge is to keep Saturday Holy. We know Sunday is coming. We can’t wait for the color and sound explosion that is Resurrection Day. But that’s a day away. We can’t yet know that relief. As Slacktivist, Fred Clark, so eloquently writes,

This day, the Saturday that can’t know if there will ever be a Sunday, is the day we live in, you and I, today and every day for the whole of our lives. This is all we are given to know…

Here, in time, there’s just this day, this dreadful Saturday of not knowing.

There are some things we can know on this Saturday. Jesus is dead, to begin with, dead and buried. He said the world was upside-down and needed a revolution to turn it right-way-round and so he was executed for disturbing the peace. He came and said love was greater than power, and so power killed him…

Seriously, just look around. Does it look like the meek are inheriting the earth? Does it look like those who hunger and thirst for justice are being filled? Does it look like the merciful are being shown mercy?

Jesus was meek and merciful and hungry for justice and look where that got him. They killed him. We killed him. Power won.

Our challenge is to be honest about this Saturday. Our challenge is to live with the silence of the tomb. As Taylor Burton-Edwards writes, “This is the silence of the tomb, or perhaps more accurately, the silence from the tomb. This is the silence that grabs us, if we are paying attention at all, when we contemplate the aftermath of the crucifixion.”

To help us experience this, Burton-Edwards leads a Holy Saturday service each year via Twitter. You may follow it at the hashtag #holysat16 beginning at 9:00 am (Central time) Saturday, March 26th.

Let’s keep this Saturday Holy by honestly acknowledging the limits of our knowledge and by allowing the silence of and from the tomb to wash over us. Perhaps then, when we gather Sunday morning at 9:00 and 10:30 am, our celebrations will be sweeter than ever.

Experiencing “Good” Friday and Holy Saturday

It seems to me that our words sometimes (often?) get in the way.

Here then is a fantastic video about Good Friday that uses no words. Created by SparkHouse for their line of Sunday School curriculum called Holy Moly. It is meant to be shown to and with children. But I think you’ll find it speaks powerfully to all ages. I know it moves me. (Disclosure: I’ve done some paid consulting work for other SparkHouse projects, but not Holy Moly.)

Once you’ve watched that, you may need some time in silence. That is what Holy Saturday is for: experiencing the silence of the tomb. It was real for Jesus; it is real for us. The United Methodist Worship blog offers this incredible resource for silence on Holy Saturday. Here’s a taste:

This is the silence of the tomb, or perhaps more accurately, the silence from the tomb. This is the silence that grabs us, if we are paying attention at all, when we contemplate the aftermath of the crucifixion.

This is what Holy Saturday has been about for centuries in the liturgical life of the Church. It is this silence, embodied in an assembly. It is the ultimate silence. The horror of the execution and our role in it was the day before. Facing the violence head on as we do and must on Good Friday also tends to move us into a kind of alternate reality removed from the usual patterns of our lives and thoughts. We can be tricked into thinking it was all just a horrible dream.

But on this day, on Holy Saturday, there is no question left. [read the rest]

Perhaps, like me, after you watch the video below and pray through the silence of the Holy Saturday litany, you’ll find yourself longing for more. Longing for conversation about these days leading up to Easter, ideas about Jesus’ death that do not turn God into a monster who somehow requires the death of “his” own child.

If so, I highly recommend spending some time with the conversation Tony Jones is curating at Why A Crucifixion? There you will “read what progressive Christian bloggers from around the blogosphere have to say about the meaning and significance of Jesus dying on a cross.”

It is in allowing ourselves to experience the events of Friday and Saturday that we become truly ready to know the exuberant joy of resurrection on Easter morning.

Peace be with you all.