Facing Our Deaths Holy Saturday; Easter Vigil [service begins at 11:30 pm] Welcome.

We have gathered to worship on the day called Holy Saturday. Tonight we remember that Christ’s ministry extended even into the grave. The Death of Jesus John 19:31-40 31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," 37 and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced." 38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. Reading – Liturgy of the Hours Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. [silence] HWB # 136 From the depths [verse 1] Where has Christ gone? Christ has gone into the depth to those who are lost. As he spoke earlier in his life saying that like Jonah he would spend three days in the heart of the earth. Christ has gone to the place where fear binds through the power of death. Christ enters the realm of the final enemy. Tonight we acknowledge that the experience of fear and death is also with us. Tonight we do not let fear turn us from the face of death.


Job 14:1-6, 14 1 "Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble. 2 They spring up like flowers and wither away; like fleeting shadows, they do not endure. 3 Do you fix your eye on such as these? Will you bring them before you for judgment? 4 Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one! 5 The days of mortals are determined; you have decreed the number of their months and have set limits they cannot exceed. 6 So look away from us and leave us alone, till we have put in our time like hired laborers. ... 14 If someone dies, will they live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come. Entering the Night Holy Saturday reminds us that we should not pass too quickly from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. That in fact we must face death if we are to be transformed. Before we set out let us take up word and song into this night. SJ # 97 The Lord is my light After the exile recorded in the Old Testament many Jews never made it back to Israel and so they learned what it meant to live righteous lives apart from the sacrifices of the Temple. One writer, who named his book after the Wisdom of Solomon, noticed that death and the grave were not only realities to be faced when our bodies passed away. He realized that the imprisonment of the grave came when we tried to establish our own righteousness and our own kingdom. Listen to how he describes such person’s existence, For when lawless people supposed that they held the holy nation in their power, they themselves lay as captives of darkness and prisoners of long night, shut in under their roofs, exiles from eternal providence.
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For not even the inner chamber that held them protected them from fear, but terrifying sounds rang out around them, and dismal phantoms with gloomy faces appeared. And no power of fire was able to give light, nor did the brilliant flames of the stars avail to illumine that hateful night. Nothing was shining through to them except a dreadful, self-kindled fire, and in terror they deemed the things that they saw to be worse than that unseen appearance. 2





For those who promised to drive off the fears and disorders of a sick soul were sick themselves with excessive fear. For even if nothing disturbing frightened them, yet, scared by the passing of wild animals and the hissing of snakes they perished in trembling fear, refusing to look even at the air, though it nowhere could be avoided. But throughout the night, which was really powerless and which came upon them from the recesses of powerless Hell, they all slept the same sleep, and now were driven by monstrous ghosts, and now were paralyzed by their souls’ surrender; for sudden and unexpected fear overwhelmed them. And whoever was there fell down, and thus was kept shut up in a prison not made of iron; for whether they were farmers or shepherds or workers who toiled in the wilderness, they were seized, and endured the inescapable fate; for with one chain of darkness they all were bound. Whether there came a whistling wind, or a melodious sound of birds in wide-spreading branches, or the rhythm of violently rushing water, or the harsh crash of rocks hurled down, or the unseen running of leaping animals, or the sound of the most savage roaring beasts, or an echo thrown back from a hollow of the mountains, it paralyzed them with terror. over those people . . . heavy night was spread, an image of the darkness that was destined to receive them; but still heavier than darkness were they to themselves.

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These penetrating words speak of those who will not recognize their mortality before God. It is not unlike our culture driven by fear of failure and loss. It is fear that is the power of Hell. And when fear takes root, then everything is fearful.. In this passage it talks about how anything from chirping of birds to the rush of water becomes a possible threat. Our relationship to the world becomes one of fear. Our minds produce ghostly thoughts that plague our thinking and distort our relationships. And so here we see that the necessity of Christ was not only to bring life to the dead in the prison of the grave below but also to enter the prison of fear experienced by the living. Too much of our lives are ruled by our fears. This night it is time to mourn and release our deaths knowing that tonight above all Christ is with us. In this area I have been influenced by the work of Ronald Rolheiser who shares with us that the mystery of Easter is the mystery of how we, after undergoing some kind of death, receive new life and new spirit. We turn now and consider our deaths.


Facing our Deaths 1. The Death of our Strength and Beauty Each one of us receives from our culture a perfect image of what it is to be beautiful or strong. Every young boy knows that if you are not the strongest boy on the playground then you are not quite good enough. And every young woman knows that if you are not the prettiest girl in class then you are not quite good enough. Perhaps it was your good fortune never to have strength and beauty that met the world’s standards and so early on you grieved a miscarriage that did not come full term. And if tonight you still cling to an outward expression of strength and beauty, an expression formed or forming in your youth then know this night that it is passing and perhaps already passed. The strength and form of our youth is no god but may become our idol that will bind our hearts and bring fears to our mind. We spend time, money and energy trying to preserve the strength and beauty of our youth, but it is not our inheritance. Don’t be afraid now to acknowledge the mortality of your strength and beauty. And in silence now allow its passing in as much as you are able. [silence] Don’t be afraid, God’s love is stronger than your fears, stronger even than the grave. SJ # 105 2. The Death of our Wholeness Whenever we experience feelings of anger, bitterness, anxiety, depression or isolation we are likely acting out from a place within us that no longer feels whole and complete. Humanity suffers since Adam and Eve the generational passing of brokenness. Acknowledging this way we do not blame the generation before for what we have received, we only want to name and recognize that wholeness has been lost. We acknowledge that we have been hurt not to condemn but to receive healing. Each of us lives in a broken family system where love simply was not able to be fully formed. We must not be afraid to name the death of wholeness that came at the hands of cycles of depression, anger, lust, apathy, vanity, greed and pride. For years I was oblivious to the brokenness of my family system. We all seemed to function and get along relatively well. But as I grew and formed my own intimate relationships and set out more clearly on my life path I began to see my family’s limitations in their ability to love as I was beginning to acknowledge the affects of those limitations in myself. I was not whole and so long as I denied this reality I acted out of my brokenness and continued its cycle. Our wholeness is lost and cannot be fully restored by family, friends or spouses. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the death of your wholeness suffered at the hands of a broken world. And in silence now allow its passing in as much as you are able. [silence] Don’t be afraid, God’s love is stronger than your fears, stronger even than the grave. SJ # 105


3. The Death of our Dreams What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be dancer. I want to be hockey player. I want to be doctor. I want to be . . . We say to our children you can do anything you set your mind onto. But what of the girl paralyzed in an accident who wished to be dancer? What of the man hospitalized for mental illness now trying to run for political office? What of the young man who just missed the NHL draft and is now nursing a bad knee and looking for work in the small town he grew up in? What of the woman whose husband left her who dreamed of all things they would do together as a family? And what of us? We all have dreams. Perhaps it feels like our dream is the one thing we should not grieve and not give up on. Why would we want to let something so precious to us die? Rolheiser reminds us, however, that we are built for the infinite and that any earthly dream is too small in itself to fully satisfy us. This does not, however, make the death of a dream any less difficult or tragic. It is a death to be grieved like any other. Rolheiser points to the difficult story of Jephthah’s daughter in the book of Judges. Jepthah’s daughter is about to be sacrificed by her father for foolish deal that he made with God. The one request that his daughter makes is that she can go and spend time in mourning because she will remain a virgin. He points to this story telling us that we must spend time, when appropriate, mourning what remains incomplete and unconsummated within our lives. This does not mean that dreams are bad, only that they are not enough. He writes this, “In the end, we all die, as did Jephthah’s daughter, virgins, our lives incomplete, our deepest dreams largely frustrated, still looking for intimacy. . . . This is true of married people as much as single people. Ultimately, we all [know what it is to] sleep alone.” These are difficult and piercing words but if we do not allow, at the appropriate time, the death of dreams then they will take root in bitterness and rob us of the new life that might emerge. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the death of a dream extinguished or just to small for our living God. And in silence now allow its passing in as much as you are able. [silence] Don’t be afraid, God’s love is stronger than your fears, stronger even than the grave. SJ # 105 4. The Death of our God I was recently looking over some of my old journals and I read the first entry I made in my first journal. The journal was a gift from my aunt for my high school graduation. I did not appreciate it at the time but shortly after I thought about starting a journal and began looking for one, having forgot the one she gave me. Eventually I came across the gift from my aunt. I wrote this on the first page, “I started sifting through my grad stuff and I cam across this little journal that I received three months earlier and hadn’t thought of since. It seems like such a small thing, but it struck me as cool how God had planted the idea in my aunt three months ago to buy this for me. Then just when I was searching for just the right thing to help me glorify God, He gave it to me. God’s pretty awesome, that’s something I should always remember.” The voice in those early journal entries often sound strange to me and more significantly the God that I spoke of seems foreign and maybe non-existent. My understanding of God that was so formational for me in my early years no longer exists in the same way. 5

Many of us need to acknowledge that the God of our past, as God existed to us then, is dead. I mourn the loss of a God that seemed so close and so active in all the intimate details of my life but I cannot pretend that is my current relationship with God. If we do not allow our concepts of God to pass away then it is our limited concepts that will ultimately confine God. If we cling to any sort of nostalgic view of God or the church then God will become a fossil on display and cease to be living and active. Jesus himself requires this. After Jesus was raised from the tomb he appeared to Mary Magdalene. Mary did not recognize him, because he had changed. When he spoke her name she recognized him and she clung on to him. But Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me.” She did not want to lose again the Jesus she knew. We cannot cling to our former concepts of God for God is living and moves among us. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the death of your God and to mourn the passing and allow it to bless. And in silence now allow its passing in as much as you are able. [silence] Don’t be afraid, God’s love is stronger than your fears, stronger even than the grave. SJ # 105 Words from the Grave Scripture Readings We have tried in our way to face the fears that bind us. We have tried to be honest with mortalities of our existence. We have drawn close to the grave. Hear now the words of scripture. David 2 Samuel 22:2-7, 17 2 "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; 3 my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior— from violent people you save me. 4 "I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies. 5 The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. 6 The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. 7 "In my distress I called to the LORD; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. ... 17 "He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.


Psalm 16:8-11 8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. David Psalm 49:1-15 1 Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, 2 both low and high, rich and poor alike: 3 My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding. 4 I will turn my ear to a proverb; with the harp I will expound my riddle: 5 Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me— 6 those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches? 7 No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a sufficient ransom— 8 the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough— 9 so that someone should live on forever and not see decay. 10 For all can see that the wise die, that the foolish and the senseless also perish, leaving their wealth to others. 11 Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. 12 Human beings, despite their wealth, do not endure; they are like the beasts that perish. 13 This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. 14 They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd ... Their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions. 15 But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself. 7

Psalm 30:1-4 1 I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. 2 LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. 3 You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit. 4 Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. David Psalm 86:11-13 11 Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. 12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. 13 For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead. Jonah 2:1-6 1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 He said: "In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. 3 You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. 4 I said, 'I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.' 5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. 6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit.


David Psalm 23:4 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow death I will fear no evil, for you are with me; May we remember these words and carry with us this song into the nights yet ahead of us. SJ # 97 The Lord is my light Hoping in God Reading - Liturgy of the Hours Christ has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: "My Lord be with you all." Christ answered him: "And with your spirit." He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: "Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light." I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. My [pierced] side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you. Rise, let us leave this place. . . . The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity. HWB # 136 From the depths (verse 3)


Leader: Our shepherd, the source of the water of life, has died. The sun was darkened when he passed away. But now humanity's captor is made captive. People: This is the day when our Saviour broke through the gates of death. Leader: He has destroyed the barricades of hell, overthrown the power of the devil. People: This is the day when our Saviour broke through the gates of death. We have crossed over. It is still dark but the morning is here. And as you leave in this still darkness carry with you the words of our Lord as he says in the Book of Revelation, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hell.” Go now in the presence of Christ who this night raises what was dead into new life. Amen.


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