God is dead.
Not, one-third of God is dead.*
Not, God is pretending to be dead.
GOD IS DEAD.
All is lost. Everything.
And because all is lost, if death were to prove unable to keep a hold over God, then not only would God return, but God would return bearing everything else, taking it up, with the goal of transforming suffering into glory...
Without death, there is no resurrection.
Jesus is clear on this. His disciples didn’t understand, couldn’t accept it.
They still squirm at this.
The temptation is to conflate Good Friday and Easter Sunday, sending Holy Saturday into exile.
And there may be good reasons for conflating Good Friday and Easter Sunday, for the cross is at one and the same time suffering (Matthew, Mark), completion (Luke), and glory (John).
But there are no good reasons for exiling Holy Saturday.
To do so is to dismiss or deny our experience of loss and pain and grief, of death; and to dismiss or deny God’s self-giving act of entering into that experience; and so – ironically – to dismiss or deny the hope of resurrection.
As a friend of mine put it, without Holy Saturday we have nothing to say in response to suffering.
The other day a high-profile media-savvy Church of England cleric made a vitriolic attack on evangelicals as being a group who dismiss or deny suffering. It was a shoddy piece of journalism, and a thousand stories could be told demonstrating the falseness of its claims. But (to add injury to insult) a far more balanced piece could have been written demonstrating that evangelicals do, indeed, resist entering-into the deep mourning of loss and lament at God’s absence that our scriptures do not shy away from. This I have seen, over and over again...though we are called to mourn with those who mourn; though, indeed, mourning is the prerequisite condition for experiencing God’s comfort.
Jesus’ first disciples couldn’t cope with sitting in that place of God’s silence, God’s absence, God’s choice not to intervene in a particular way, for just one hour in the Garden of Gethsemane. Darkness is drawn over what they went through while God was dead.
We are no different. That is not something anyone (let alone a shepherd of God’s people, for God’s sake!) should attack anyone for. And yet the challenging invitation remains extended, to enter into this part of the Story too.