The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still (Exodus 14:14)
Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)
I routinely hear talk of God doing a work of death and resurrection in the PC(USA). But what if we are getting ahead of ourselves?
Saturday, it seems to me, gets short shrift as we observe Holy Week. And that, I think, is because night gets short shrift in our walk with God.
The bedtime devotions at a recent presbytery retreat caught my attention. The prayer asked God to be with us through the night, even as we stopped work. And I suddenly had a vision of life’s rhythm in God.
Sabbath-keeping is no stranger to me. Nightly resting in God, on the other hand, is less familiar.
My work does not follow the rhythms of the sun. I rise to an alarm clock. I depend on electricity to illuminate my work and boost my mood. I labor until long after dark. “Evening and morning, day one” has no practical bearing on my life.
So, when the presbytery’s evening worship reminded me of the role of night, the “aha” came. I remembered that, for God’s people, “Day” begins with sundown. The weekly Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday night, not with dawn on Saturday morning. Our Book of Common Worship sets evening prayer as the beginning of each day’s devotions.
The people of the Bible began each day by stopping all activity and placing their lives in God’s hands. Only when God stirred them did they arise to the work in store for the day.
In other words, the one-in-seven rhythm of Sabbath-keeping is not the only Biblical cycle of activity and rest. The one-in-three rhythm of evening and morning is another. God has created us to spend a third of our lives doing nothing. Beginning the day by ceasing work matters just as much to our faith as observing the week’s end.
That “aha” got me wondering. What portion of the PC(USA)’s “day” are we in? And what does that mean for what comes next?
Holy Saturday as Jesus’s night
It also got me wondering about the Saturday between Christ’s death and resurrection. If I have underestimated the one-third-nothing of God’s plan for human life, then have I also underrated the importance of Holy Saturday?
Christ did not die and rise. Christ died…descended…and then rose. What does it mean that the Son did not proceed immediately from death to resurrection, but lay still for a day in between?
I’m not saying that God did nothing on Holy Saturday. But if Christ brought his saving work with him to the grave, he did so while his body was utterly still. Who knows what work God accomplishes in and through us when we stop — whether at the end of the day or the end of our earthly lives?
Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives sleep to his beloved. (Or: “he gives to his beloved in their sleep”)
Are we now in our own Holy Saturday?
For years we have heard that the mainline church in America is dying. More recently, I have heard a response saying, “Yes, the church as we have known it is dying. But resurrection is coming.”
But I wonder: are we looking too quickly for resurrection? Have we taken too deeply to heart Tony Campolo’s famous sermon, “It’s Friday — But Sunday’s A-Comin!”, not realizing that the title leaves out Saturday altogether? Do we first need to hear a sermon telling us, “Yes, Sunday’s A-Comin’ — But Saturday Comes First!”?
Is this a season in the Church not of eager anticipation for new life — though we certainly should trust in the One that gives new life — but of lying utterly still, waiting for new life to come in God’s good time?
Is waiting our call? And if so, how shall we act on that call? Shall we do nothing more than trust that God will stir us when the time is right, and believe that God will keep us safe through the night until then?
I don’t know — but I wonder. I’m pretty sure there’s something to this “night thing” that I don’t yet understand.
Somewhere along the Way —
 I routinely stop work one day a week, and only let myself be interrupted if someone’s modern-day cow has fallen down a well. Doing so may be for my physical and mental well-being, but it also frees those who work for me. And more deeply still, it is about obeying God’s command, even if I don’t see the benefit. All this is a strong part of my rhythm of faith.
 The Church has long named Saturday the day of the Harrowing of Hell. And I Peter 3:19 suggests that after his death Christ “in the spirit…made a proclamation to the spirits in prison…”
 I’m not sure that we’re dying, actually. But that’s a thought for another column. For now, we’ll just stipulate the idea.
 Kinda awkward timing, I know, when the daffodils are springing up all around my backyard. But the Church year doesn’t always line up with the natural year.