Preaching in Hades

Holy Saturday
In the noisy metal shop, you can’t even hear yourself scream. All the air in the building is filled with sound, so loud, so busy. There are screeching fans blowing gales of fresh air through the building, grinding machines evoking screams from metal being shaved down, the dragon’s roar of an open furnace melting iron. As if it were impossible for anything to be louder, over the top of that the warning horns blast when huge cauldrons of molten metal are swung through the air. Everything in the entire building vibrates with sound until you can feel the noise shaking your innards.

Then, just when you have become inured to it all, one more great screeching horn blast signals the end of the day’s work. In quick succession, all the machines, fans, furnaces, lathes are turned off. Every noisemaker is silenced because the end of work has been reached.

You stand there rebounding against the silence. Suddenly, the silence feels as palpable as the noise had been. It is as if you had been leaning against the hurricane’s force and now it has been quieted you feel the absence. For a few moments, the quiet feels unnatural. What shall we do now with all this emptiness?

After the busy-ness of Lent and the unrelenting pace of Holy Week reaching its heart-breaking climax in Good Friday’s bloody cross, Holy Saturday leaves us in an awkward silence. What now? Jesus had been executed; his followers terrified into hiding. It was as if the whole world went silent, not quite knowing what to do.

In those hours between utter defeat on Friday’s cross and total victory over death at Easter Sunday’s sunrise, where is Jesus?

Into the waiting, the questioning, this one enigmatic verse in 1st Peter (1 Peter 3:19) hinting at those in-between hours and reaffirming for us the nature of God.

The verse suggests that even in death, Jesus is not focused on himself but instead spends those hours preaching to those who have died. Since for these hours before resurrection he is among the dead, he considers it opportunity to proclaim God’s love, to continue the ministries he conducted while alive, offering hope and promise that God’s steadfast love knows no limits, not even the gates of death can silence his message.

Yes. That resonates with me. Yes, this is the Jesus I know. Even death will not silence his message. Even among the dead, Jesus does not abandon his mission to save the entire cosmos and every soul in it.

Not even death removes us from the love of God and the hope we are given through Christ. The Apostle Paul echoed this thought to the Church in Rome:

“I am certain of this, neither death nor life, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, not any height nor depth, nor any created thing can ever come between us and the love of God” (Romans 8:38-39).

In the silence of Holy Saturday, in the midst of this awkward time of waiting, be assured that God’s love is never silenced. May you find in the silence of pandemic social isolation the quiet space to hear more clearly God’s still speaking voice, whispering your name, proclaiming never-ending love for you, calling you beloved child of God.
Until the sunrise, may you be held in quiet peace while you wait.

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