Roll Back the Stone

I’ve often wondered how preachers, ministers, priests or rabbis inspire themselves to write and preach something unique each year at the same holiday that holds the same message. It must be enormously difficult and probably why they are specially ordained to perform their task.

I’m not a preacher or theologian of any kind, but Easter compels me to write and share. Its message makes it my favorite holiday. I, too, have the same question about how to deliver a unique and yet meaningful message to my flock, my HOPEspotters.

Last year on Holy Saturday, I posted a blog about the sanctity of this day. In Holy Week, Holy Saturday is, for me, the unsung hero. Maundy Thursday celebrates the Last Supper. Good Friday is the clear message of John 3:16:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Yup. Pretty Huge.

Then we leap to Easter Sunday. The Resurrection. If you’re like me, you can still get chill bumps hearing the trumpets blare during, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” and I’d be willing to bet you are silently singing “All-le-lu-ia!”

But Holy Saturday isn’t celebrated. I believe, that is a shame. Because, as I’ve said before, Holy Saturday, is where most of us live, a lot of the time.

As a hospice nurse evaluator, my primary job is to meet with patients and families who’ve been given a terminal diagnosis and talk to them about the option of hospice. It’s like I walk in on Good Friday and try so very hard to explain Easter Sunday. Yes, there will still be a death, but there can be hope and purpose and continuous expression of love.

But just like the disciples, Easter Sunday is almost impossible to see on Good Friday.

Holy Saturday, I’ve come to believe, should be the national holiday celebrating the gift of showing up. Because Holy Saturday for the disciples was the day their faith was most supremely tested. The Messiah was in a tomb, behind a stone. All of their hope and belief lay with him in that tomb. How could they survive that day, especially given the brutality of Good Friday?

Too much. Too hard. Too sad.

And yet, they stayed together. They circled the wagons as we say now. They showed up for each other on that day for all the feelings they felt. Undoubtedly, they grieved.

I have a family member I love dearly. Very recently, one of his closest friends suffered an inconceivable loss. His youngest brother, after years of battling depression, commit suicide. My beloved, very private, family member acted in what can only be described as Holy Saturday godliness. He knew there was nothing to say. His actions were simple and pure: he went to his friend’s house. He helped his wife take care of their young babies. He washed the dinner dishes. He drank beers on the deck with his buddy and listened without judgment. There was sadness and hurt and laughs and confessions. There was Holy Saturday.

The courage to show up on Holy Saturday is what made the disciples godly as it does those among us who are willing to do so. Are you the friend who appears after the cancer diagnosis before the established treatment plan? Are you the person who listens to the heartbreak without offering solution but only pure empathy? Can you look hideous inconceivable, totally unfair loss and fear and stay present? Well, then you are a patron saint of Holy Saturday.

But unlike last year, where I tried to highlight the sanctity of Holy Saturday, this year I have a call to action. Showing up and being present is purposeful and holy action, never to be minimized.

Yet, when possible, roll back the stone.

I’ve said before, I don’t consider myself seriously religious and I am admittedly lackadaisical in practice. But I was raised in an amazing church community with exposure to and love from some of the very best clergy and for this I am eternally grateful.

With this background and faith I go into every patient and family conversation understanding I am walking in to their Good Friday. Regardless of their religious belief, in my head, I know that when I show up they are walking to Calvary. Hopeless. My challenge is to meet them there and be present with them through the uncertainty and fear of Holy Saturday. I refuse to lose that sensitivity, no matter how long I do this.

What I haven’t figured out is how to post on LInkedIN as a skill - what I’ve realized is my actual job. I, with my entire team behind me, have to roll back the stone. I have to/ I GET to demonstrate that there is HOPE beyond their Good Friday:  there is love and there is community.

And to be clear, even the Easter holiday can’t turn me into a Polly-Anna. There are some cases I encounter, professionally and personally, that are so grievously sad, that the thought of rolling back the stone seems flippant and likely impossible.

For example, a boy died in our elementary school this year in a freak accident. He was 11. How do you move that stone? A 35 year old Mom, with a freak cancer,died in our hospice program, leaving behind two elementary school kids. For them, that tomb must seem sealed.

And yet, albeit impossibly, it isn’t. The wings of HOPE have been consistently, demonstrably strong and wide.

The stone gets rolled back. In the Bible. In your home. In your heart. I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. We’ve all, from time to time, even been part of helping it to roll back.

If I were a preacher, or a scientist trying to prove a hypothesis, my experience based message is this: yes, we all live in Holy Saturday, the in between of hope lost and hope restored. Especially at the most dramatic parts of our lives. BUT. What I’ve found is this: last year I preached the sanctity of Holy Saturday. This year, I extol its purpose.

What I mean is, perhaps Easter Sunday couldn’t happen without Holy Saturday because perhaps only when we genuinely. show up TOGETHER do we have the power to roll back the stone- or at least begin to try.

Hopespotters, on this my favorite day- Happy Easter. May all the stones in your heart be rolled back by the true disciples in your life.