Saturday and Sunday
Saturday and Sunday
On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment. Luke 23:56b
So concludes the Lucan narrative of the passion, with a passing reference to the Saturday after Good Friday. The rest “they” (assuming a reference to the disciples of Jesus) took had to be a troubled one. Maybe numbing would be a better description, having risen so high in hope and then seeing that hope nailed within twenty-four hours to a cross of execution.
Their certainty about Jesus was besieged with doubt. That’s the Saturday of the soul.
Like us, most of us, if not all of us, but certainly me. Saturday is my kind of day. A day of ambiguity. That no matter how much I study the Bible and pray without ceasing a silence persists where I had sought to hear the voice of heaven. That despite my longing for evidence of a moral universe I read again and again in headlines of the evil we do and the evil we do to each other… no small part of it by those who claim to be on God’s side. That for all the sermons I’ve preached and prayers I’ve prayed I still find myself unnerved by those desolate in their unbelief. That though my head is filled with Scriptural images of what lies beyond, beyond my death, beautiful images of feasts and reunions and everlasting arms, I approach the coming eternity not as the hymn would have me, “dreading the grave as little as the bed,” but as a child alone in a strange place.
Sure, I’ve had years, lots of them, to contemplate my Saturdays. I rationalize them, with, I pray to God, some accuracy: that God and Jesus don’t want all their preachers to stride though life on a spiritual high; that some of us need to be down-to-earth, to feel the struggle and doubt and anxiety of ordinary souls. Once in a while, however, it would be nice to have “a prophet’s ecstasy… an angel visitant… an opening of the sky.” I’m still waiting.
Speculation is just about all we have as to what Jesus was doing on the Saturday after Good Friday and before the dawn of Easter Sunday. One parenthetical verse in Ephesians (4:9) alludes to the activity enshrined in The Apostles Creed, the descent into hell. Which in my more self-critical moments I find consoling, that even in hell, to which I might be consigned, the Gospel is preached. If so, maybe Saturday is like the earth in winter, positively alive for all its apparent death, with new life ready to spring forth.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn… Luke 24:1
So begins the Lucan narrative of the resurrection, on Sunday, thus distinguishing that day of the week for two thousand years, a second Sabbath, when God arose after resting. Every Sunday, according to the text alongside the Reviews listing on this website, is “special, an Easter celebration actually.”
It is for me, even when I’m not preaching! The songs, the light through the stained glass windows, the flowers, and the people, especially the people (most of the time!); and if the sermon illuminates and strikes home, well, I can almost forget Saturday. It has been so for me ever since that Sunday my mother pushed me out of the house in a blue suit and we walked a couple of miles (World War II, gas was rationed) to First Methodist Church at the corner of River and Main. The radiators pinged and knocked, the pipe organ occasionally ciphered, the pew cushions published abroad a musty smell, and sometimes, especially in Junior Choir, with Joey Ross punching me, the service was interminable; but it was Sunday and, everything considered, fun day.
If long stretches of time are filled with ambiguity, like Saturdays, then God also provides us with Sundays of the soul. When Christ rises within us. When the logic of it all, God’s logic, not ours, becomes apparent in the cross, how it must be that love, not power, triumphs over evil and death; when the beauty of it all smiles on us with the lilies surrounding the altar and the choir crescendoing its alleluias, and we glimpse the vision of God for the world at the beginning… and at its ending; when the goodness of it all nurtures us in a family feast of food and affection and we can taste the sweetness of life as it was meant to be: that’s a Sunday of the soul.
That version of Sunday may not be everyone’s, but it is mine, and Duke Ellington’s. What’d you say? You can look it up, Hymn No. 728:
Come Sunday, oh, come Sunday, that’s the day.
Lord, dear Lord above, God Almighty, God of love,
Please look down and see my people through.
I believe God is now, was then, and always will be.
With God’s blessing we can make it through eternity.
And if Saturday doesn’t lose its hold on us entirely, still it will ever yield to the dawn of… Sunday.