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Stanwick Group of Churches

April 2020

As I write Chancellor Rishi Sunak has just announced a £30 billion budget boost to combat the potential effects of coronavirus on personal and business income and the wider economy. Meanwhile anxiety levels are rising as we wait to see how the virus outbreak develops, worried for the most vulnerable in our families and communities, and concerned over the effects on our lives and livelihoods.

As we wait in this ‘in between time’, many people are stocking up on pasta, hand sanitizer, and loo roll. I heard on the radio the other day how some people are making sure they stock up on reading material ready for potential days of confinement.

The Archbishop’s Lent book, ‘Saying yes to Life’ has occupied my reading time recently, but I have another book at my bedside waiting to be re-read: ‘Between Cross & Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday’ by Alan E Lewis. This is a book about ‘the in between time’, the waiting time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and the in between times in our own lives.

The tendency is to pass over Holy Saturday in theology and worship. For the Gospel writers too it is a time of waiting about which there is little to be said. In John’s account of the Passion, which we usually use on Good Friday, there is no space at all between Cross and Resurrection. Here, as Lewis writes, Jesus’ “It is finished” is understood ’not as a cry of defeat and termination, but victorious affirmation of what has been done, accomplished, and achieved.’

In the 4th century St. Augustine famously proclaimed: ‘We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song!’ As an Easter people, knowing the glorious outcome, it is difficult to fully appreciate the starkness and finality of the death and burial of Jesus and to enter into the experience of utter misery and forlorn memories of that Saturday. But Lewis suggests that this Saturday could be a ‘significant zero, a pregnant emptiness, a silent nothing which says everything‘.

Many of us, particularly when tragedy strikes, experience the empty void of Saturday that seems to stretch out forever. We feel forsaken, hurt, hopeless and heartbroken. We are trapped in a prison of pain, a fortress of fear, searching without finding, waiting with no end. It may be that many of us are experiencing a kind of Saturday now with worry, anxiety, uncertainty, and disappointment colouring our days and dominating our thoughts.

So what do we do with our Saturdays? Luke tells us that the grieving women ‘rested’. Exhausted and overcome, it is good to rest on a Saturday. Isaiah wrote: ‘Only in returning to Me and resting in Me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.’ (30v15). The Psalmist wrote, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (46v10)

The Hebrew word for ‘be still‘ ‘is ‘raphah‘.  ‘Raphah’ contains within it an idea of resting which includes resting from physical and mental activity but also a release from anguish. It means ‘stop striving’, ‘leave alone’ or even ‘enough’. ‘Raphah‘ also has the secondary meaning of ‘to make whole, as if by stitching.’ God asks us to ‘be still’, or stop striving, and be repaired, knit together, healed, made whole.

I have an image of God as a quilter sat draped under the warmth of the fabrics that she is going to use. Quietly, gently, peacefully she takes each piece of material and stitches them together. The endless hours of Saturday move on. Death gives way to newness of life. A flame flickers in the darkness. Sunday begins to dawn.

                 God bless,

Camilla

 


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