There is nothing left for us to do today but sit and wait. It’s unnerving. It’s kind of embarrassing. There is nothing left within our control, so much has been taken from us. So many things we believed in so firmly have revealed themselves bankrupt. I know we don’t traditionally have any kind of Holy Saturday service, but the condition of the disciples in this bizarre, painful, in-between stage resonates so deeply with the situation so many of us are in, one more service, one more point of contact between our story and theirs seemed appropriate.
As I said, there’s not much for us to do but wait, so there will not be much to this service today. Some reading, a lot of silence, and a lot of waiting, exploring, for a few minutes, a corner of the canon that we don’t usually allow ourselves to explore.
So here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to lead us in an exercise known as a lectio divina, or a “divine reading,” and opportunity to read and sit with scripture in such a way that creates a space for us to sit with ourselves, and listen for God. Using today’s lectionary passage, I’m going to read the text three times.
The first time, there will be a two-minute period of silence afterwards just to reflect in your mind on what was said. Just be present to it.
The second time, listen for any particular word or phrase that stands out to you, and in the silence sit with that word or phrase. Ask God what God is saying to you through that piece today.
The final time, during the reading and in the silence to follow, just sit and be. Be present in the company of God and one another. It’s all we really can do. Anything else must flow from that.
So, get comfortable, and please join me for the first reading. Hear now these words of ancient poetry, expressing a deep and vulnerable ache about what it means to be human, asking very real questions with which we still wrestle today.
A reading from the Book of Job, chapter 14.
One who is born of humans
has a short life full of troubles.
It blossoms like a flower and quickly withers;
it flees like a shadow and disappears.
Oh God, why do you now bring your gaze upon it,
and bring it into judgment with yourself?
Who can make the unclean clean?
You created humankind with numbered days;
our months are predetermined
because you set the bounds on our time.
Take your eyes off me; give me some space,
so that, like the day worker, we can complete our task.
Trees always have hope; once felled,
there is the chance of a new sprout with tender shoots.
Even with the root rotting underground
and a withered stump half alive,
yet it will bud at the scent of water,
and put out branches like a new plant.
But people die and decompose;
once dead, where are they?
As water evaporates from the sea,
and rivers go dry during drought,
so humans lie down and never rise again.
Until the heavens are no more,
they won’t awake or be roused from their sleep.
If only you would hide me among the dead,
and conceal me until your rage cools down—
then set a time to remember me again!
When people die, will they ever live again?
All the days of my struggle I wait for my release.
The first time – In the silence to follow, simply reflect back through what you heard. Be present to the words.
The second time – This time, as I read, pay attention to any words or phrases that stand out to you and hold those in your heart.
In this silence to follow, sit with those words or phrases that stood out to you, asking God what may be revealed through them in this moment.
The final time – This time, as I read, and in the silence to follow, just sit and be. Hold the questions and be held by the questions. Hold God and be held by God.
We’ll close with a selection from the 31st Psalm:
In you, O God, I seek refuge;
do not let me ever be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me. Incline your ear to me;
rescue me soon.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress;
for your name's sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me,
for you are my refuge. My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my fears. Let your face shine upon your servant;
may I be saved in your steadfast love.