This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached Holy Saturday, March 31, 2018. The readings that were read were Ezekiel 37:1-14; Zephaniah 3:14-20; and Isaiah 61:1-4, 9-11. This service included the Rite of Healing.
And so we gather today on the Sabbath. The seventh day of the week. Genesis tells us that after six days of creation, God rested on the Sabbath day.
Many generations later, God commanded the people to rest on the Sabbath. No work. No business. No shopping. No lighting or extinguishing fires. And so forth. Instead, the people of God were commanded to use this day for rest. Relaxation. Worship. Learning. Re-creation.
Why did God command this? Because God knew us. God knew that we needed rest.
On the Sabbath, the work can wait. The cleaning can wait. The gardening can wait. The business can wait. Why? Because we need to wait. Eugene Peterson wrote this about the Sabbath:
Sabbath is that uncluttered time and space in which we can distance ourselves from our own activities enough to see what God is doing.
We wait because in waiting, we see what God is doing.
In waiting, and in making the Sabbath holy, using it for worship and study and prayer, the Israelites were able to see what God was doing.
As Christians, most of us no longer honor the Sabbath on its original day, on Saturday. We have transferred some of the meaning of Sabbath to Sunday. Because it is the day of resurrection, the day Christ rose from the dead, Sunday has become our day of worship. And for some it is a day of rest. Of course, for some of us, church staff included, Sunday is not really a day of rest. Yet the command to rest still stands for us all. We are still commanded to take Sabbath time, whether it’s a particular day of the week or in some other way. It is so important to rest. God knows that.
For in resting, we reflect. In resting, we dream. In resting, we breathe. Listen. Wait. In resting, we glimpse ourselves. In resting, we glimpse God.
And indeed, in the story of Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection, the story we have heard over the past few days, Jesus himself rested on the Sabbath. Arrested on Thursday. Crucified on Friday. Raised on Sunday. But Saturday? The Sabbath? He rested, in the tomb. Waiting. Waiting to see what God was doing.
And this gathering tonight is itself a Sabbath in another kind of way. We are currently in the midst of the journey of the Great Three Days, the epic worship service that spans Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil of Easter. But this service tonight is not part of this majestic liturgy. It is a Sabbath, a time to rest, a time to reflect. Today we pause, and look to God for healing. Today we pause, pondering the mystery of Good Friday and dreaming of the hope of Easter Sunday. Today we pause, and hear stories of God’s prophets promising hope and joy in the future.
We see in Ezekiel a field of dry bones. A question is asked, “Mortal, can these bones live?” Wait, and see what God will do.
We hear in Zephaniah God’s promise that one day, it shall be said to God’s people: “Do not fear, do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, and will renew you in his love.” When will that be said? When will that be done? Wait, and see what God will do.
We hear in Isaiah that soon will come “a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.” Where is this garland, this oil, this mantle? Wait, and see what God will do.
What do we do when we don’t see God’s promises right away? We live in the Sabbath. We wait, and see what God will do. In just a few minutes, we will come forward for healing. And we know that it will probably not take the form of a physical miracle. Our illness or pain or worry will not instantly be removed. But we come forward, trusting in God’s promise, looking here for a different sort of miracle, the miracle of faith and hope. A Sabbath hope. A hope that enables us to wait, and see what God will do. And so we wait.
Christ rested on the Sabbath. So can we.
Rest, and hear the Word of God.
Rest, and feel God’s healing presence.
Rest, and know that God is coming. Know that Sunday is coming.
But it’s Saturday. It’s the Sabbath. For now, wait. Wait, and see what God will do.
Featured image is a Word Cloud formed from the text of this sermon, at WordItOut.com