Tag Archives: death

Holy Saturday: A Reflection

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This year, Holy Saturday is hitting me a little differently. This is normally a day that I forget about. I quickly move from the celebrations of Maundy Thursday (Christ’s last supper and footwashing), to Good Friday (remembering his death on the cross), and then often move my thoughts directly to the celebration of the Resurrection on Easter. However, this year I find myself contemplating the depth of Holy Saturday.

Why have I always rushed past it? Why is it an often forgotten about observation? This is the day we remember Christ being laid in the tomb. Perhaps it is because this is the most painful part. There is no more body for us to see on the cross. No more body to be prepared for burial, wrapped in linens and spices. The body is no longer in our midst. It is buried, sealed away in the tomb…for now.

We all are living in our own versions of Holy Saturday. Personally, I feel a connection with the recent loss of my mother. She died a few months ago, and this time without her is a sort of perpetual Holy Saturday. Her body is no longer with me. She has returned to the earth…for now. She is already living in light perpetual in the presence of God and all the saints, but for me, and my earthly body, I can no longer be with her. Not until I join her in the light of God’s presence.

But this is the hardest time. It is the time between the death and the rising for my eyes that I am living in. It is the hardest time. The time when faith is tried the most. When fears can easily give way to doubt. When the love I once knew so well can turn into remorse or anger. It is through Christ’s example of life, suffering, death, and resurrection that I can rest assured that my mother and I will be reunited someday. On her death bed, I told her that I believe when she awakes in heaven, we will all already be there together, resurrected in the time of eternity in the presence of God. Time has no meaning to God, and I believe that when we die of our earthly bodies, we not only enter our heavenly bodies, but we enter the realm of God’s time, where all earthly boundaries and explanations lose their meaning.

Mom is already with me. But for me, now, in this earthly body, I am living in a sort of ongoing Holy Saturday. We have Christ to thank for unlocking the gates of heaven for all of creation to receive the free gift of salvation into eternal life. Thanks be to God!

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The Souls of the Righteous

The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, and the pain of death shall not touch them.
To the eyes of the foolish, they seemed to perish, but they are in peace.

–Words: Widsom 3:1-3
–Music: Geraint Lewis (born 1958)

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God’s Gift of Time

Earlier today, I read a letter written by Bishop Thomas Shaw of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. In this heartfelt letter, he gives thanks to the people who are supporting him as he deals with terminal brain cancer. And in this letter, one paragraph stood out to me and blew my mind. It was about God’s gift of time.

Here’s the excerpt from his letter:

You know, time too often in our culture is perceived as a problem; all of us, at some point, feel we don’t have enough of it. Yet, because of Jesus the Messiah, all time is now God’s time. It is part of the unfolding of God’s glory. We are invited into it as an experience of the presence of God. I believe that is where our prayer, where our life together in gathered community, where our participation with God in making all things new is taking us: into the heart of God.

May each of us be opened to the possibility and the hope offered through God’s gift of time.

Time is one of those things that cannot be explained in words. Just like God. And in the way Bishop Shaw explains God’s gift of time in his letter, it really makes you think about how amazing time really is. In many places in Scripture, God is explained to live in a different realm in terms of time. It’s amazing to think that time, itself, is actually a gift from God.

Let us give thanks to God for the mysterious and wondrous gift of time, and rejoice in knowing that in the fulfillment of God’s kingdom, all of time shall be gathered together for eternity.

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Holy Saturday Reflection (Lent Day 40)

Holy Saturday, to me, is a day in the life of the church of mourning and remembrance of the life of Christ. And, most importantly, it is a day to acknowledge the end of Christ’s life, and yet the beginning of new life to come. It is in death that new, everlasting life begins. Death is not a thing to truly mourn…we mourn for those still on the earth. But we rejoice with those in heaven: the angels, the saints, and all of eternity, who rejoice at the everlasting life that was won for all in the death of Jesus on the cross. So, Holy Saturday is not a day that we mourn for ourselves…or even for Christ. We mourn for those who put Jesus to death…and who still put Jesus on the cross in their ignorance of the unconditional love that God has for all of us in Jesus Christ. We mourn for those who, each day, deny that love that is given freely to the world. Those people who live in darkness without acknowleding or embodying that love…and yet, just around the corner, just a day away, just a word away, is new and unending life. That day of Easter, of the empty tomb, of radiant light, is free for all of creation. It is for those who don’t see it that we mourn. And it is for all of us that Christ died and returns each day in our hearts.

The duteous day now closeth,
each flower and tree reposeth,
shade creeps o’er wild and wood:
let us, as night is falling,
on God our Maker calling,
give thanks to him, the Giver good.

Now all the heavenly splendor
breaks forth in starlight tender
from myriad worlds unknown;
and man, this marvel seeing,
forget his selfish being
for joy of beauty not his own.

His care he drowneth yonder,
lost in the abyss of wonder;
to heaven his soul doth steal:
this life he disesteemeth,
the day it is that dreameth,
that doth from truth his vision seal.

Awhile his mortal blindness
may miss God’s lovingkindness
and grope in faithless strife;
but when life’s day is over,
shall death’s fair night discover
the fields of everlasting life.

–Words: Paul Gerhardt, 1648; trans. Robert Seymour Bridges, 1899
–Tune: O WELT, ICH MUSS DICH LASSEN, melody att. Heinrich Isaac (1450?-1517); harm. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

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Lenten Reflection – Day 34

Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, `Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord. —Ezekiel 37:11-14

This hast to be one of the most fantastical readings in the book of Ezekiel, a book of prophesy and lament written when the Jews were in exile in Babylon. This reading conjures images of resurrection, foretelling the message that is to come in Jesus Christ. These words of Ezekiel still speak to us today, much like the words of the other prophets. They turn our hearts and minds towards the One who came, the One who will rise from the dead in everlasting glory, the One in whom ultimate hope and salvation is found.

dry bones

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Lenten Reflection – Day 31

The Gospel story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45) is a strange one, for many reasons. What I find most strange, but also most interesting, is that Jesus is told that “the one whom you love is ill.” Upon hearing this, Jesus doesn’t immediately go to Bethany to see his friend…he stays two days longer with his disciples. Upon his arrival in Bethany, he consoles his friends Martha and Mary. He goes to the tomb of Lazarus with Mary and Martha, and he, too, begins to weep. Several times, the Gospel says “he was greatly disturbed.”

This Gospel reading gives us a rare glimpse of Jesus…a one in which we see Jesus’s humanity expressed in several ways: his love for his friend, his being “greatly disturbed”, and in his consoling of his friends, showing compassion for his friends grief.

I think in this story, we are shown that it is OK to mourn the loss of friends and family whom we have lost in death. But, we are also called to hope and joy for the day when we will be reunited with them in eternal life. We are called with Jesus to mourn when we lose a loved one to death, but also we are called with Jesus to be joyful in anticipation of the day when we will all be raised from the grave, like Lazarus, and reunited with our loved ones for eternity.

Thanks be to God!

Lazarus

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Lenten Reflection – Day 10

I took this photo the other day of (what I think are) daffodil bulbs just beginning to sprout. I find this image beautiful…fresh, new life reaching to the sky through last autumn’s dead leaves. In death, there is always life. That is a promise that was made known to the world in Jesus Christ. The evidence of this is seen throughout all of nature…not just in these daffodils. Thanks be to God!

sprouts in the leaves

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