Tag Archives: easter

Holy Saturday

What a weird and bizarre day it is, to think that this very day one thousand, nine hundred and eighty years ago to the day, the fourth of April in AD 33, in the middle of the Passover festival, Jesus was dead. His body was cold in a tomb. He was dead.

Today life went on like any other day. People drove cars and ate lunch and ran through the rain huddled under umbrellas. Didn’t anyone realise how strange it is that we have this Saturday in the middle of the Easter weekend where God was dead? I kept catching myself in the middle of doing something normal – drinking my cup of tea, checking my phone, brushing my teeth – and then feeling like normal things are completely inappropriate for Holy Saturday. Jesus was deadGod was dead. How can we do anything normal on a day when everything we know about God and reality, all our normal metaphysical parameters about God not being dead, everything we assume was turned completely inside out?

And yet this bizarre, impossible, long dark day of death, April 4 33, was the only way that Jesus could save us from our sins. The wisdom of God is foolishness to men. A stumbling block. A laughing stock. What a weird and bizarre day it is; all I can do is stand in awe.

I’ve never really appreciated Sufjan Steven’s earlier Michigan album. Compared to Illinois it sounds sparse and slow. But it made for good meditative listening on our way home down the mountains from our Easter visit to our parents. For the first time I listened carefully to ‘Oh God, Where Are You Now?’ and realised how perfect it was for Holy Saturday listening: the confusion of where God is when sin seems to be winning, intertwined with unshakable confidence in God’s power to save from death.

Oh God, hold me now
Oh Lord, hold me now
There’s no other man who could raise the dead
So do what you can to anoint my head

Oh God, where are you now?
Oh Lord, say somehow
The devil is hard on my face again
The world is a hundred to one again

Would the righteous still remain?
Would my body stay the same?

Oh God, hold me now
Oh God, touch me now
There’s no other man who could save the dead
There’s no other God to place our head

Easter Feast

“Christians are a people whose year does not simply map onto the calendar of the dominant culture.”

– James K.A. Smith, Desiring the the Kingdom, p156.

Over the last couple of years, Matt and I have been exploring more and more why we do what we do as Christians, especially as we gather together each week on Sundays. As a historian (and a bit of an Anglican nerd) I think Matt started this journey to deepen his understanding of how our Christian community practices have changed over time, and why Anglicans in particular do what they do in church. Now he’s very interested in how we are formed by the things we do. I confess I am much more interested in the social and spatial side of things. I love thinking about how what we do shapes and is shaped by the communities we move in and the spaces we occupy and create.

The fruit of this long conversation has been a strong desire to think carefully about liturgical practices and to embrace good liturgy (the stuff that directs my heart towards Jesus) in my own life, household and community. I identified the liturgical calendar as the most helpful thing for me, the changing seasons of Lent and Easter, Advent and Christmas, and the rest of the year – ‘ordinary time’. Ideally the calendar seemed to be a great tool to bring order into chaos of my life. It would give me the mental and temporal space to pray with joy, to pray in repentance, to read lots of different parts of the bible, to reflect on my character, to grow as a child of God. Surely that’s how it would work.

It turns out that chaos is much harder to master than I expected.

As a household we started embracing the ebb and flow of the liturgical calendar at Easter last year. Easter marks the resurrection of Jesus and it calls for forty straight days of celebration. Forty days of sustained celebrating is much harder than I expected! Over the spring and summer, we worked on our advent project. This year we have tried to use the season of Lent to reflect on our enormous capacity for idolatry, and now we are attempting to celebrate the resurrection for 40 straight days once again.

There are (hyperbolic-ly) five hundred reasons to follow the rhythms of the liturgical calender and I know that different people find different reasons more or less compelling. I personally like the way that following a calendar that does not map straightforwardly onto the ‘calender of the dominant culture’. I like the way that the joyous festivals and sombre times draw our attention, through the scriptures, backwards and forwards in time. They point us back to the historical events of God working to save his people, culminating in the cross of Jesus and his empty tomb. They point us forward to Jesus’ promised return, the final defeat of death and the glorious new creation. They give us a way to express our present of waiting and serving with love, patience and faithfulness. As James K.A. Smith puts it:

“We are called to be people of memory… we are also called to be a people of expectation… we are a stretched people, citizens of a kingdom that is both older and newer than anything offered by ‘the contemporary’. The practices of Christian worship over the liturgical year form in us something of an ‘old soul’ that is perpetually pointed to a future, longing for a coming kingdom, and seeking to be such a stretched people in the present who are a foretaste of the coming kingdom”.

– James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, p159.

But this easter I’ve found the chaos of the contemporary almost too much to handle. It’s been Easter for a week and chaos of everyday has already got in the way of celebrating. Over the last month I’ve been constantly sick, I’ve developed agonising muscle pain, I’ve been eating badly. I’ve been unable to do my job properly, I’ve been confronted with shortcomings in my character and my sinfulness. My immediate family has struggled with awful stuff. My extended family has struggled with awful stuff. My church family has struggled with awful stuff. And, worst of all, my grandma passed away.

Two days after marking the resurrection of Jesus I found myself back in a church, confronted with a small wooden coffin. Coffins are always smaller than you expect. I miss her very much.

I know I have to redefine what it means to celebrate. Celebrating Easter can’t be just about having picnics, and filling life with colour, and doing all the fun things for forty straight days. To celebrate in such a superficial way would require checking out of life for a couple of months. It would mean skipping funerals, getting unnecessarily drugged up on pain-killers, refusing to confess my sin. It might be Easter-tide but that doesn’t mean we are magically protected from sin and back pain and the death of loved ones for forty days.

How do we celebrate Easter then? I am really stumped on this one. There are books aplenty on how to celebrate Lent. Has anyone written a book on how to celebrate Easter? What counts as Easter-specific celebration? How do I live with joy through funerals and confessions and sick-days in a way that is different to the rest of the year?

Celebrating Easter the Greek way.

Maybe this is what it means to be a ‘stretched people’? Maybe the point of a forty-day-long Easter celebration is to make the tension between Jesus past victory and future victory painfully apparent? The calender tells us to celebrate, even though everything around us is still corrupted by sin and death, because God cares about us! Jesus has done something to save us, and he will do something to save us. That is worth celebrating, right?

Yes, it is. And it calls for a celebration that can’t be merely involve rich food, colourful decorations and fun, carefree times.

This year our church celebrated Easter with a new Mandarin-speaking congregation.

Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices

I bought Matt a CD for Christmas last year. It was a bit of a gamble. I had never listened to it before, I was banking on the fact that we own a previous album from the band and we both love it.

The gamble paid off. Late summer and autumn has been spent settling into the music, then soaking it up and basking in its greatness as we listened to it over and over again. I think it’s going to be one of my favourite albums ever.

Welcome to my review of The Welcome Wagon’s Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices

Hosanna!

Palm Sunday has arrived again! It’s the day for remembering Jesus triumphant entrance into his capital; it’s the day that points forward, through the events of Easter, to the time when Jesus will return triumphantly again to bring justice and peace.

Last year I collected some readings and songs for Palm Sunday, this year I’m extending the list to include other passages and songs that have kept encouraging me to delight in our saviour over the past year:

Readings from the Old Testament
(prophecies of the coming King and LORD)
Psalm 24
Zechariah 9:9-17

Readings from the New Testament
(Jesus arrives at Jerusalem)
Matthew 21:1-10
Mark 11:1-10
Luke 19:29-40
(A promise of Jesus’ return, echoing the language of his triumphant entry)
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Music for Palm Sunday
In terms of musical style my offering here are not very revolutionary – I’ve posted music from all of these artists here before! But I really love these songs for celebrating Palm Sunday. I hope you enjoy them too!
Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates by Sufjan Stevens
Lift up your heads by Michael Morrow
Lo, he comes with clouds descending by the Welcome Wagon

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

————–
Notes
All bible passages links take you to the English Standard Version.
Sufjan’s link takes you to a fan-made youtube clip with strange accompanying visuals. I suggest watching it with your eyes closed.
Michael Morrow’s link takes to their webpage where you can hear an excerpt of this song. I suggest buying it from itunes if you like it!
The Welcome Wagon link takes you to their website where you can buy their whole album for $8. I can’t find any streamed versions of this song. But paying $8 for the mp3s of this album is definitely the best musical bargain in history, their album is amazing!.

If you like any of this music I suggest buying it rather than streaming it to support these lovely musicians.

Lenten Reading

This year I am actually paying more attention to Lent than I normally do. I’ve concocted a reading plan to take me through to Easter Sunday, and will hopefully help me to mull over the significance of what Jesus did through his death and resurrection. I am already a couple of weeks in, but I thought I would share it so that:

a) you can use the reading plan too if you are looking for something to read in the lead up to Easter;
b) you can bounce off this and make your own reading plan;
c) the internet can hold me accountable to actually completing it; and
d) if I post reflections on any of these readings, you know what context I am reading in.

There’s a mixture of Old Testament readings that focus on the the problem of sin and the need for salvation and New Testament readings mostly from the gospels.
I’ve been a little bit Westernised and I started my weeks on Mondays instead of Sundays – because that’s how my diary works! Sorry if this is disturbing for anyone!

Reading Plan

Easter moments

One
******** It’s been a long weekend but I’ve had trouble sleeping in every day of it. Friday and Sunday we were up at 6:30 anyway so Matt could get away to the early church services, but the other two days – no excuse! Something has happened to my body clock!

Two
******** Dark church on Thursday night was very dark. I mean, yes, there was no light so of course it was dark. But the evening felt dark on the inside too. It was very weighty. While this was happening, Jan turned up to church after a 4 month absence in China! Even in the darkness and the weight of teaching about the Garden of Gethsemene I was ecstatic to see her again! She’s only supposed to be here for a few weeks to graduate and sort out some things though. Oh well. A few weeks is better than never seeing her again.

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Dark Church

Three
******** Saturday was a trip up the mountains to see the Moffitts in what is becoming something of an annual tradition. It was lovely to spend time with the family again. Since Matt has started working at church we’ve struggled to get a big enough chunk of time on the weekends to get up and see them. Apart from an allergy hit it was very relaxing. Mum had completed her latest sampler (it is absolutely stunning, see it here) and had been chasing up some family history so she had some cool stories to tell. Lachlan beat me nearly all of the time in Mario Kart which is unsurprising – but I actually won a couple of tracks (super surprising!). And, best of all, Matt, Lachlan and I went out for an explore around Megalong Valley, the bit under Katoomba. Oh, the beauty!

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Megalong Valley

Four
******** Easter Sunday was amazing. Not just because I spent the morning cooking delicious sweet food or because we had a beautiful lunch with Angus, Nerida, Fiona and Ryan or because our entire congregation went out for dumplings after church. Nope. It was beyond the food. Jesus lives and all day it was a celebration. In the evening our church was full even though lots of people had disappeared for the long weekend. The singing at the end of the service was so loud and joyful that cavernous building felt full with sound. Our minister got up to send us out and his voice shook from trying not to cry.

Why do you look for the living among the dead?
He is not here; he has risen!

(Luke 24:5-6 NIV)