Longing for Sunday on Saturday

I recently moved and I can tell you that I drew little “plans” for my new apartment. I lived in my last place for four years- four very full years.  That apartment held Christmas parties, dozens, (maybe hundreds?) of dinners with friends, lots of late night chats, and some studying for my masters – but that mainly was done in coffee shops.

As I planned out my new place I searched long and hard for the rug for my living room. I wanted something a little updated and more fitting with my color scheme – I had…a …. color…scheme!

The rug works perfectly and I couldn’t believe that it matched a new love seat I got on the dime just before. Last week I hung the art around my place and am now looking for creative ways to store my bike and hide the Christmas tree. This new place has everything I could want in an apartment except closet space. No matter, if I’m clean and put things away, this place glistens. I feel like the Lord saved it just for me, for just this point in my life. I love each room.

If you have been watching the news the last couple weeks, you’ll know that rugs and color schemes just don’t matter.  When I finally settled and read what is happening to the Christians in Iraq, my heart melted into my toes. During church the word Iraq was said and I couldn’t concentrate.  I started to cry. I starred at the golden cross in the front of the room and said to God, “if you got through that, surely you can do something about this.”

This morning as I was reading in Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, a beautiful prayer book by Walter Brueggemann, I prayed this prayer that he gave me:

Against your Absence
All power, honor, glory be to you!
You… sometimes hidden, silent, absent, unresponsive.
We are so privileged that we seldom sense you
                        Hidden, silent, absent, unresponsive.
But we know people who do,
            We think of places where you do not appear.
We imagine you defeated
                             held captive.
And we wait a day,
                        two days,
                        until the third day.
And then, most often then,
                        quite reliably then,
                        you appear then in your full glory.
This day we pray against your absence, silence and hiddenness
Come with full power into deathly places,
And we will praise you deep and full. Amen.

David prayed similar prayers in the Psalms, asking God to awake from his slumber. These are dangerous prayers, but prayers that must be prayed. How often does our worship lack honesty? Part of praying these prayers helps us to voice our questions, laments and petitions to God. These kinds of prayers help us wrestle with things that we see as inconsistent with the character of God and the fallenness of the world. We may know hope, joy, and bliss are on the other side of the millennial rainbow, but that doesn’t make today’s pain any less hard.

Caedmon’s call has a song called Valleys Fill First where the last lines begin,
“And it’s like that long Saturday between your death and the rising day, when no one wrote a word, wondered is this the end”

These August 2014 days are like that Saturday the disciples sat after Jesus was crucified. Waiting is hard. Pain is harder. Silence is harder still. They sat, wondering, “He was going to redeem us. Now he is dead. Was any of it true?”

The shootings in Ferguson, racial and socio-economic injustice:
     it is that long Saturday between his death and his rising day.
The horrible treatment of Christians in Iraq- being forced to flee or face death:
     it is that long Saturday between his death and his rising day

The events in Gaza:
     it is that long Saturday between his death and his rising day
To the women forced into genital mutilation:
     it is that long Saturday between his death and his rising day

A suicide of beloved comedian and how it shows that people silently suffer horror:
     it is that long Saturday between his death and his rising day
The kids who go to school every day wondering if they will make it home alive:
     it is that long Saturday between his death and his rising day
The cousin that had an infant diagnosed with cancer:
     it is that long Saturday between his death and his rising day

And where am I? I’m sitting comfortably on my couch writing all this down as my new rug is soft under my toes. All of that stuff “out there” seems so far away.  Ferguson, Missouri may only be 15-20 minutes from my apartment in St. Louis, but it could be Albania for all the effort I make to visit.

And where is God in all this? Sometimes it still feels like he is tied to the cross, helpless, needing water and unable to do a blessed thing. Other times, it seems like he is out for a smoke break, or a donut break, if that’s more your thing. I don’t mean to sound cynical or callous, just honest. This is the way it feels. And if it ever felt like that Saturday, it’s today.

So where do I go when it feels like this? Right back to the God who tells me that he is more active than I could ever dare to dream. That he has more compassion for his creatures in his fingernail than I could ever have in my whole body. Then I remind myself, it may look and feel like that Saturday, but we must move forward reminding ourselves that SUNDAY HAPPENED. He rose from the dead victorious.  But in our prayers and questions we can use the language of Saturday to a God who lived to tell about Sunday.

These kinds of things can come off so polished, so “And then, just in the nick of time, Jesus saves the day!” This all sounds so incredibly hopeful. Sitting here remembering Michael Brown, I don’t feel hopeful. Sitting here thinking of the Christians, my fellow brothers and sisters in Iraq, I don’t feel like I know a God who got out of the grave on Sunday. But in our prayers and questions we can use the language of Saturday to a God who lived to tell about Sunday. It’s honest. It’s real. It’s part of worship.

To be honest, I have sat for over a week on the conclusion for my thoughts here. I guess that is fitting. There is no bow to put on tragedy. And even when God promises in Revelation that he will make all things right, I have to admit, I have a very hard time believing it. I think what I am trying to say and trying to invite us to do and remind myself of, is that we can trust the God of Sunday on Saturdays like today and we can be honest when we beg for him to bring the everlasting Sunday. Maranatha.

About jamiestowell

writer, theologian, lover of conversation that leads to action.

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