There’s a gap in the story. And for now, at least, I’m not speaking of the one that comes at the end of this resurrection account but one that’s there in the story right before the narrative of our Gospel Story. One where the details are entirely left out — perhaps because those first listeners to this account would have been so familiar with the routines that they didn’t need to be told. Perhaps also because what took place after dusk that Friday and through the day on Saturday so paled in comparison with what came next.
Still I found myself pausing in the gap this week. Wondering about where the time and energy of those first to the tomb was spent between the moment when they followed to see where the body of Jesus was laid and when we meet them again on that early Sunday morning on their way to Jesus’ tomb. I wonder about their Sabbath that week.
Now I’m sorry to say I don’t know all that much about Sabbath keeping…. at least not in the traditional sense which is spoken of in all of our Gospel accounts. My ‘best’ image of what Sabbath keeping might have looked like comes from places like “Fiddler on the Roof” whose images are centuries removed from what would have been experienced in the time of Jesus and to tell you the truth ‘paging’ through Wikipedia didn’t serve to enlighten me all that much. What I do understand though is that women were in charge of the preparations making possible this regular cessation of routine. What I do know is that it was weekly time set apart to focus on the ancient stories which gave the people their ground and identity: a time for rest and for ritually acknowledging that God is God and we are not. And what I do know is that at least part of the presenting reason Jesus found himself on the cross was that he did not ‘keep’ Sabbath in the way that was expected then.
And so I find myself wondering about those women now… those who were looking on from a distance: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome. I wonder if they thought they would just break away for a just a while that Friday afternoon,trusting whatever was on the cook-fire to the watchful eyes of an eldest daughter or granddaughter. And I wonder then if it was force of will that kept them there at the foot of the cross for as long as they stayed or if time stood still for them and all other responsibilities just faded away. And I wonder if they found themselves hurrying home then before sunset to finish things up at the last minute. So that in spite of everything, their families might mark and celebrate Sabbath that week. And I wonder about that long Saturday for them. I wonder if the ancient stories heard and told were comfort and promise for them or just welcome distraction from the grief that was clouding everything now. I wonder if they were able to ‘rest’ at all that long Sabbath day or if they were edgily counting the hours until they could go out and purchase the spices they would need early the next day.
And I wonder about the people who will gather in all of our places of worship this Easter morning to hear again a story many of them have heard over and over again. I wonder what grief, what loss, what worry, what fear will be clouding their hearts as they step into a place bathed in lilies and the sounds of trumpeted Alleluias. I wonder if for them this hour shared will be a distraction to be gotten through before they get back to other matters pressing on their minds and hearts or if they will hear in the ancient story retold a promise that will then somehow come alive right before their eyes as they return to their lives in a world. A world which all too often seems to hold a whole lot more despair than hope, more cynicism than trust, more death than life. I wonder if some among us, like those women on that first Easter morning, I wonder if we will see God’s promises kept in unexpected ways and places on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning or Wednesday night. And I wonder how our celebrating this Good News of God defeating death again this Easter Day will help us all to experience it, embrace it, and bear witness to it out there in the world!
There’s a gap in the story to be sure. And of course there’s that other gap in the story at the end. For we don’t hear where the women went next in the face of their fear. Except we know that couldn’t have been the end of it else you and I wouldn’t be here today joining our Alleluias! to those of generations who have gone before. We know they must have found all the pieces fitting together —- embracing then the wonder of God at work bringing life out of death as God had always done. And of course, they must have told what they saw — or rather what they didn’t see that early Easter morning. Indeed, just think of how much richer still their Sabbath keeping must have been for the rest of their lives as they took deep into their hearts the wonder of what God does while we rest. For while they rested and prayed and heard the old stories again that Sabbath Day so long ago, God was busy getting ready to turn the world upside down. God was filling in the gap with life and hope and joy! For Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.
What do you think that particular Sabbath held for those women?
In what ways do the stories they would have retold enable you to see God at work in the world today? How about the Easter Story? Does it help you to see Resurrection in the world even now?
How do you enter the Easter Celebration this year? Is it gift or distraction or both?
What examples do you have of “God at work” while you rest? How do you see God ‘filling in the gap’ in your life? In the world?