Holy Saturday 2019

Here’s part of the email devotional I wrote for our church folks to email them today:

Today is Holy Saturday

We often forget Holy Saturday. We sometimes treat it like an blank day in our Holy Week liturgy. It’s often a day of Easter Egg Hunts with our favorite kids, grocery shopping for an Easter feast, or a spring Saturday with the usual Saturday activities.

But in the Christian tradition, we remember two things on this in-between day.

First, we remember the disciples. They did not know what Sunday would bring. They were scared. They were lost. Everything they had put their hope in seemed to be over. Their Lord and rabbi was dead, his body entombed in a borrowed grave.

Holy Saturday is a day for all who find themselves sitting with the disciples today. It is a day for those who mourn, those who don’t know what comes next for them, and those who have lost their reason for hope. We know this truth: God had not forgotten or forsaken the disciples…but they felt forgotten and forsaken just the same.

If you have ever felt this way, or if you currently feel this way, know that this does not put you beyond God’s reach, and you have a home in scripture. You sit in good company, with the ones Jesus chose to be his closest disciples and friends.

The Second thing we remember today is the Harrowing of Hell. In Christian theology, this is the day we recognize Christ’s victorious descent into hell between the time of his crucifixion and resurrection, as he brought salvation to those who had lived and died before this day.

Any time we say the Apostles’ Creed, we mark the Harrowing of Hell with these words: “…(Jesus) suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell. On the third day, he rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven…”

The tradition is based on scripture:

“For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison,who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight people, were saved through water.”
1 Peter 3:18-20

“For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.” 1 Peter 4:6

Holy Saturday is a day that we remember there is nowhere we can go that is beyond Christ’s victorious reach!

Greek Orthodox Icon of The Resurrection (or some say it’s the Harrowing of Hell…or some say those are both part of the same event).

Readings for Holy Saturday
Psalm 10

Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?
   Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? 
In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor—
   let them be caught in the schemes they have devised. 


For the wicked boast of the desires of their heart,
   those greedy for gain curse and renounce the Lord. 
In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, ‘God will not seek it out’;
   all their thoughts are, ‘There is no God.’ 


Their ways prosper at all times;
   your judgements are on high, out of their sight;
   as for their foes, they scoff at them. 
They think in their heart, ‘We shall not be moved;
   throughout all generations we shall not meet adversity.’ 


Their mouths are filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
   under their tongues are mischief and iniquity. 
They sit in ambush in the villages;
   in hiding-places they murder the innocent. 


Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless; 
   they lurk in secret like a lion in its covert;
they lurk that they may seize the poor;
   they seize the poor and drag them off in their net. 


They stoop, they crouch,
   and the helpless fall by their might. 
They think in their heart, ‘God has forgotten,
   he has hidden his face, he will never see it.’ 


Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
   do not forget the oppressed. 
Why do the wicked renounce God,
   and say in their hearts, ‘You will not call us to account’? 


But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief,
   that you may take it into your hands;
the helpless commit themselves to you;
   you have been the helper of the orphan. 


Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers;
   seek out their wickedness until you find none. 
The Lord is king for ever and ever;
   the nations shall perish from his land. 


O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek;
   you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear 
to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed,
   so that those from earth may strike terror no more.

Jonah 2

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish,
saying, â€˜I called to the Lord out of my distress,
   and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
   and you heard my voice. 
You cast me into the deep,
   into the heart of the seas,
   and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
   passed over me. 
Then I said, “I am driven away
   from your sight;
how shall I look again
   upon your holy temple?” 
 The waters closed in over me;
   the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped around my head 
 at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
   whose bars closed upon me for ever;
yet you brought up my life from the Pit,
   O Lord my God. 
As my life was ebbing away,
   I remembered the Lord;
and my prayer came to you,
   into your holy temple. 
Those who worship vain idols
   forsake their true loyalty. 
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
   will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
   Deliverance belongs to the Lord!’ 
Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land.

Sermon for Palm Sunday

Luke 19:28-40

28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.” â€™ 32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’34They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ 35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38saying,
‘Blessed is the king
   who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
   and glory in the highest heaven!’ 
39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ 40He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’

Sermon: John 12:1-8

John 12:1-8

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, â€˜Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’

One of my favorite sermons to prepare, for sure.

Sermon: “I Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said That: Part 2”

Luke 6:27-38

27 â€œBut I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 â€œIf you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.[a] Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

37 â€œDo not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

In this sermon, I paused and said something similar to the words in this photo of a bulletin from a friend’s Presbyterian Church (in Texas). Any time church leaders can speak to and help reverse the damage that has been done by people who wield scripture as a weapon or a tool for oppression, it’s important.

Sermon: Luke 4:21-30

21Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’23He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.” ’ 24And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. 25But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27There were also many lepers*in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ 28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

  1. A prophet is well-loved as long as he or she is agreeable.
  2. The ones assumed to be outsiders are almost always insiders.
  3. The truth might get one thrown from a cliff.

Sermon: The First Sign at Cana (John 2:1-11)

John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

The Outline:

  1. The time is always right to LISTEN to your MOTHER (or your Heavenly PARENT/FATHER).
  2. The time is always right to HELP someone in a CREATIVE way.
  3. The time is always right to CELEBRATE.

Sermon: Baptism of Our Lord (Luke 3:15-22)

15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,* 16John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with* the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. 19But Herod the ruler,* who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, 20added to them all by shutting up John in prison.

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved;* with you I am well pleased.’

The Outline:

In Baptism, we are CLEANSED by God.

In Baptism, we are CLAIMED by God.

In Baptism, we are CALLED by God.

Rejoice

Candlelight Nativity at Peace Presbyterian Church
Small White: Jesus
Light Blue: Mary
Dark Blue: Joseph
Tall White: Angel of the Lord
Brown: Shepherds
Colorful Trio: The Magi

Merry Christmas! You are a beloved child of God. Today we celebrate Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” On this day, we celebrate that God’s great love for the people created in his image that compelled God to become flesh and dwell among us, becoming intimately acquainted with our humanity.

God as a tiny baby, cared for by his parents, visited and cooed over by relatives and strangers.

God as an infant on his naming day, presented at the Temple, blessed by Anna and Simeon.

God as an infant, becoming a refugee with his parents, seeking asylum in neighboring Egypt when it was too dangerous to stay in his homeland.

God, so fragile, defenseless, and weak, as vulnerable as humans ever are.

I’ll never get tired of the story of this day.

Arise, shine, for our light has come.