Lenten “Silent Saturday” in the Time of COVID-19

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I’ve never quite known what to do with the “Silent Saturday” in between Good Friday and Easter. The day between the darkness of unspeakable evil and the dawn of a new life and hope for humanity. In the time of Jesus, his friends and family gathered together in grief, fear, uncertainty, and confusion. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end. Jesus was supposed to lead a revolution against the oppressive power of the Roman Empire, he was supposed to usher in an era of justice and peace for all. And instead, he was dead and here they were, huddled together, hiding out from the authorities and praying desperately for — what? They didn’t even know.

The followers of Jesus didn’t know what was to come, and it wasn’t looking good.

Not Looking Good

This whole COVID-19 period feels like a long, drawn-out Silent Saturday. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. We can’t trust our government, and it even seems to be working against us. We can’t trust their numbers, their plans, or their motives. We huddle together on Zoom, uncertain and powerless, some of us grieving, some of us afraid. Some of us pray; some of us simply hope because we can’t believe in prayer. We know this is an in-between time, but we don’t know what’s next.

During Silent Saturday, we wait.

In the Christian tradition, after that desperate Saturday came redemption and resurrection on Easter Sunday. I have faith that now as then, the love of God is too great to allow darkness and death to prevail, that love will win. I don’t think that the means or the timeline are always God’s will — I won’t get into theology — but I do believe that love is stronger than all the excrement the world can throw at it.

It is true that a whole lot of people are going to die, especially if the president is stupid enough to “open up America” in the middle of this pandemic and send his true-believers out into the streets to spread infection.

But how’s this for a resurrection story? Most sensible people will continue to stay home. Competent governors and health officials will work with civic-minded businesses to pull together a reality-based plan and non-mythical resources that gradually turn around the infection and death rates.

Then there’s an election in November. The majority of Americans were not fooled by the misinformation in trump’s daily “press conference” rallies and hold him responsible for the testing/resources fiasco. He loses, bigly.

With the economy and our health care system in shambles, President Joe Biden and Vice President Michelle Obama (I know, I know, but just imagine!) have a clean slate. Together with younger progressive leaders, they end voter suppression so this never happens again, and we build a more just, equitable America from the ground up. A Green New Deal creates a massive jobs program, and we become a world leader in climate solutions.

Happy Easter, a day early!

Light in the Darkness

“Good” Friday & Stinkin’ Saturday in America

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The first “Good” Friday was not a good day. Not at all. That was the day that the “empire” won — the greedy men in power, the violent oppressors, the ones who ruled by fear and hate. You know the ones. They are still around today and seem to be winning again. They talk a lot about winning.

The oppressors murdered Jesus on a Friday, and it was not a good day.

Saturday was godawful, too. All the marginalized people who hoped that Jesus was the guy who would overcome the empire lost that hope on Saturday. They woke up to find that the Friday horror had not been a dream, it had been real. Jesus was dead. Hope was dead.

For all they knew, that was the end of the story.

Easter Always Comes

Today, those of us who follow the way of Jesus know that the crucifixion was not the last word. We never have to lose hope, even when oppression and ugliness and hate seem to be winning. Even when — as was true in Jesus’s time — religious “leaders” are the worst of the worst. Because we know that love wins. Easter Sunday always comes.

The murder of Jesus exposed the extraordinary evil and hatred of which humans are capable. Even so, he died with words of forgiveness on his lips: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus’s love swallowed up the hatred. Grace and mercy pulled out a victory.

Sometimes a society has to bottom out, to plumb the depths of darkness before it begins to reach again for the light. Maybe that’s where we are as a nation right now. Maybe it’s Stinkin’ Saturday here in America. Ugliness and greed and hatred has won, and hope is hard to come by. 

We worship guns, we worship money, we worship pride. We fear “the other.” Self-proclaimed Christians argue for higher military budgets and no support for refugees. We are spiraling down into the darkness, dismantling all the protections we have put in place for the poor, minorities, our health, our children, and God’s creation. It looks dark.

But I will take a lesson from Holy Week. You never know what God has up her sleeve.

Good Friday: A Holy Nightmare



I hesitate to write this, because some of my church friends read my blog and I’m trying to be hyper-pastoral during Lent. (Not really, that’s a lost cause.) But I’ll just say that for me, Good Friday is not fun. It produces anxiety nightmares.

The past few years, I’ve been asked to put together the Good Friday service at our church, and — not being a natural fit for me — this is super stressful. It involves lots of logistics like wooden bowls and hammers and fake swords and costumes and scripts and lights and microphones. And people. Lots of people who are volunteers (like me) with busy lives and broken computers and small children. They are creating skits and writing songs and sewing soldier’s costumes and building wooden crosses.

I’m sure this can be exciting for some personality types, but not mine. I like adrenaline as much as the next person, but it’s less trouble just to have an extra cup of caffeinated tea.

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Worst of all, because of the time and emotional investment I put into this service, I tend to abandon my Lenten practices. I don’t have time for my walk. I get home late from rehearsal, so I eat dinner after my evening fast is supposed to have begun. I haven’t done my “daily” centering meditation but a handful of times this whole forty-day Lenten period. And don’t ask about my “healthy eating” pursuit.

You probably see right through this rant: I’m simply using preparations for the service as an excuse to drop my spiritual practices. So I’m disingenuous, too. On top of my self-pity, self-absorption, disorganization, procrastination, and ego-driven perfectionism.

And you know what? It’s all OK. It’s all taken care of — because of Good Friday.

All my foibles, short-comings, broken places — the ones I know about and the ones I don’t yet acknowledge. They are all set right by Good Friday.

A Horrific Story

Good Friday is a nightmare story, a horrific story of betrayal, abandonment, and murder.

Jesus’s friend Judas betrayed him and turned him over to an angry mob — for money. Religious leaders wanted Jesus killed because he threatened their power base and money schemes. The governor Pontius Pilate abdicated responsibility for murdering Jesus, even though he knew him to be innocent. He blamed others. Three times, one of Jesus’s best buddies denied even knowing him, just hours after promising Jesus he would follow him to the grave. Soldiers and guards mocked and spit on Jesus when he was hanging on a cross, dying.

red Jesus face

So, yes, Good Friday is a nightmare.

But it is a holy nightmare.

Holy Hope

My pastor Matthew writes:

“On Good Friday Jesus took every dark thing we could possibly throw at him: hatred; violence; the corrupt, self-interest of religious and political power; all our falsehoods, prejudice, pride, arrogance and self-protection. Jesus bore all this, but it did not corrupt him. Rather than respond in kind, Jesus swallowed all this evil, overcame it and dis-empowered it. And it killed him.”

A good man, preaching love and peace and care for the poor and the oppressed, was murdered. But as he died, he overcame evil for all of us, and his sacrifice gave us the power to become whole and healthy — holy. That is the holy nightmare of Good Friday.

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And can you believe it? Jesus came back to life three days later. (I know this sounds too good to be true, and choosing heart and hope over logic and skepticism is frowned upon these days.) But I have come to believe it. Jesus swallowed humanity’s darkness, he overcame it, and he lives!

On Easter Sunday, followers of Jesus will celebrate his resurrection and his living spirit that empowers every human to choose love over hate, peace over violence, and light over darkness. There is hope for the world, whether or not you believe in God. God still believes in us — every one of us. Our Creator believes in our goodness and dreams of a world where love wins. 

Lenten Rose

Lenten Rose

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