Holy Saturday

We don't know what to do with Holy Saturday.

Or at least I don't.

On Ash Wednesday we cover ourselves in ashes and repent. During the forty or so days of Lent we give something up, maybe add a devotional or tangible act of service to our lives. Palm Sunday we wave branches, shouting, "Hosanna in the highest!" Maundy Thursday, we digest the body and blood, gathered around table.

Even with Good Friday, though it's the most somber, the darkest day of the Christian year, there is at least something to do. Attend worship. Sing. Strip the altar. Cry and mourn.

And of course, with Easter Sunday, we know what to do there.

But Holy Saturday.....Holy Saturday, what do we do?

What is there to do?

I've always struggled with Holy Saturday. I spend my life doing things. Keeping busy. Checking things off my to-do list. Accomplishing something. Then moving on to something else.

Especially as a pastor, I've been preparing and planning for Good Friday and Easter Sunday services for weeks, months even. But I haven't given much thought to Holy Saturday.

But I'm drawn to Holy Saturday in a way I can't explain. There's something about it that feels, well.......true. True of life. True of my life.


Rev. Brian Erickson, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Homewood, Alabama, says this about Holy Saturday:

Here on the In-Between Day

When we have no gospel account to fill the silence,

no Saturday hymn to drown out the quiet,

no behavior we could cobble into liturgy,

When we are caught between the book ends

of unspeakable brutality and unfathomable blessing:

There is nothing to do.

There truth is, there never was,

It is and was and always will be gift, sabbath, grace.

The quiet is meant to remind us what we forgot

That the world spins without our help

The sun rises without any instruction from us

We are far less important than we pretend to be

And far more significant than we would dare to dream. [1]

He's right - there's nothing to do.

And I don't like it.

I want to proclaim the Risen Christ, but there's not yet anything alive...

I want to go dig up the grave, but the tombstone is too heavy to move...

I'd even be willing to remain at the foot of the cross, but it's the Sabbath and his body has been removed...



The Gospel writer Luke reminds us: "It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning" (23:54).

Karl Barth, in reference to the creation story in Genesis 1-2, reminds us what Sabbath does for us:

As far as man is concerned, he has simply to recognize that God has really done all that is necessary, that He has invited him to participate in His rest, and that he may accept this invitation.

In other words, he is left wholly and utterly with the grace of God. [2]

From the very beginning, Sabbath was an invitation to rest. An invitation to remember that we can do nothing. Nothing. We don't earn God's love or gifts - He simply gives them to us.

Despite the pain, the agony, the despair, those earliest followers of Jesus - those women who were with him since the beginning - they embraced Sabbath. Luke tells us that, "on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment" (23:56).


So maybe we should follow suit.

Maybe we should try to do a bunch of nothing.

No one will fault you for running to the grocery store for last minute ingredients for tomorrow, painting eggs with the grandkids, even going to a church easter egg hunt. No one will fault you for mowing the grass, coaching your kids baseball game or sharing dinner with old friends.

Like I said, we're not very good at doing nothing.

But I'm going to try to spend at least some time today - as much time as I can stand - sitting in the in-between.

Because truthfully, that's where most of life is spent.

Living out Holy Saturday after Holy Saturday.

Rev. David Giuliano drives home the truth:

Mostly, it seems to me, our lives are lived in that relentless Holy Saturday where joy and sorrow, bondage and liberation, life and death tangle. A day that unfolds forever between the cross and rising Son.

Holy Saturday is the day of release from prison, with a new set of clothes and walking money, but no place to go. Or the day we see clearly the marriage has broken beyond repair but a ring is still on our finger. Or the day the funeral flowers have wilted, the out-of-town mourners have gone home, but our life is stuck near the grave.

Or it is simply the day when nothing happens. Holy Saturday, that in-between day, is the day we know best. [3]


1. Brian Erickson, Facebook Post about Holy Saturday, April 20th, 2019.

2. Karl Barth, CD III.3, p.219.

3. David Giuliano, Holy Saturday Spirituality