Job 14:1-14 
Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16
1 Peter 4:1-8
Matthew 27:57-66 or John 19:38-42

Revd Amy Footson (text below)

God who speaks light
who forms the formless depths
maker of multitudes
Your Word reveals the darkness as the place from whence the light comes
Your grace announces truth in our fumbling, human words
Your love is entombed with us
As we wait with anticipation for your rising
As we yearn for your new day
As we sit in welter and waste
Recall to us your Anointed One
And teach us to proclaim your reign of love
in memory of the woman who anointed him
Recall to us your Messiah
And teach us to heed your coming dawn
listening to the women who first proclaimed it
God who went to the killing post
Who rests at the threshold of rock hewn tomb
God who blunts the sting of death
Whose messengers carry good news
Be near to us, be near to us
Be near to us Holy One
And speak again your Word of light and life
Reveal to us again the new life which springs forth from darkness
Enfold us into your Spirit of love,
which no death can sever
Make us confident to pray
Blessed are you Holy God of mystery
Entombed within the womb of new life. Amen.
(Source: Matthew Julius)

Holy Saturday – hope deferred?
What was it like for the first disciples?
What was it like to live on that first Holy Saturday when all hope is gone,
when all that we love is lost,
when God is dead?
We know the end of the story.
We know of resurrection,
so we do not wish to dwell in this dark place,
we want to rush on to Easter Sunday,
when life returns.
It is too hard to live on Holy Saturday,
to spend our time in the dark and conflicted places
of Golgotha and Gethsemane,
the place where despair has all the best answers to our questions.
But what of the people who have no choice?
What of the people who always live on Holy Saturday.
The child beaten and abused at home
whose only hope is to run away?
The child living with alcohol misusing parents,
Trapped, too young, into adult responsibilities.
The disabled child,
never given the chance to join in.
The refugee child,
always a problem,
never simply a person.
What must it be like to live on Holy Saturday,
when we do not know how the story ends?
When hope is absent
who will be there to look after them?
Who will be there for the children
on their Holy Saturday?
A prayer of response
Lord Jesus help me to wait here
In the in-between
Of Holy Saturday.
For I cannot help but rejoice – you have come!
And yet still I grieve – for the world still waits – You have yet to come.
Lord Jesus help me to pray here
In the in-between
Of Holy Saturday.
For you are risen and I can’t, won’t, don’t want to forget it – And yet I mourn with those who still wait
For your kingdom’s fullness of peace, hope and justice.
Lord Jesus help me to live here
In the in-between
Of Holy Saturday.
For your kingdom has come and is yet to come. And I, in some small way,
Hope to build – with you – all things new.
(Source: © 2011 Nigel Varndell Meditations)

Hope in the Cracks
In the cracks,
there’s always hope:
Where a new world is not only possible
but already on the way,
seeping in
flooding forth
with resurrecting light
opening a new way,
with healing touch
midwifing a new day.
Believe it,
for this is true:
In the cracks,
there’s always hope.
(Source: Hope-Douglas Harle-Mould and published on Gifts in Open Hands)

Joan Chittister , The Liturgical Year: “Everyone who has ever lived, who will ever live, will someday undergo a Holy Saturday of our own. Someday we will all know the power of overwhelming loss when life as we know it changes, when all hope dies in midflight. Then, and only then, can we begin to understand the purpose of Holy Saturday.
The importance of Holy Saturday lies in its power to bring us to the kind of faith the spiritual masters call ‘mature.’ Holy Saturday faith is not about counting our blessings; it is about dealing with darkness and growing hope. Without the Holy Saturdays of life, none of us may ever really grow up spiritually.”

Holy Saturday Vigil, by Andrew O’Neill

Praying in the Spirit of Easter Saturday
Lord of Easter,
God of all times,
We pray in the Spirit of Easter Saturday.
We pray in this liminal time,
This in in-between time,
The place of paralysis in the midst of confusion,
The bit or gap where the chasm of despair or hopelessness
seems sometimes all too close.
We pray for those who are in-between.
For those who have to wait,
 The grieving, 
For those who walk in the shadow of death,
For those waiting for results or treatment,
Those between employment,
Those between opposing powers.
For those for whom the promise of paradise seems
but a mirage or a place beyond the horizon of their hope.
Lord of Easter,
You have walked by this way before us.
For us the Easter story moves ahead towards resolution and resurrection, 
but for many the reality of the future is unclear and uncertain,
just as it was for your disciples and followers that Easter Saturday.
Be with us, Christ, and all those caught in the vortex of waiting.
Carry all beyond our fear and despair to hope.
Lift us all and strengthen us
when the weight of uncertainty presses down upon us.
Sustain us when we feel trapped by circumstance.
Lord of Easter,
God of all times,
We pray in the Spirit of Easter Saturday.
Comfort and uphold us all.
Enfold us in your love, that we may bear the angst is waiting.
Transform us into survivors.
Walk with us into tomorrow.
Walk us into how and healing.
Bring us into resurrection.
This we ask of you. Amen.
(Source: Jon Humphries, Prayers that Unite)

Lord Jesus, your body rested in the earth
from which you came, as we all come.
You no longer breathed, yet the birds still sang.
You lay in the dark, yet the Saturday sun still shone.
Your friends waited, heavy with grief
for what had been and for what might have been,
restless with fear for what wickedness might be next,
after the battering of such a deadly Friday.
Today, your friends still wait, pondering
the world’s present sorrows and terrors.
We dust and polish, preparing churches and hearts
for what will again be breath-taking news, come Sunday.
(Source: Elizabeth Smith 2019, #GoldfieldsLentenGodtalk)

A prayer for Easter Saturday (Psalm 31:1–4)
from this darkness,
hear my cry:
be my refuge,
Holy One.
from this darkness,
hear my cry:
rescue me, save me,
Holy One.
you are my rock,
you are my refuge:
I remember, remember me.
release me from this net
that binds me,
my rock, my redeemer.
from this darkness,
hear my cry:
save me, refuge of lovingkindness,
my rock, my Holy One.
(Source: Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story)

Sojourners: What did Jesus do on Holy Saturday?

Patheos: Holy Saturday – the Space Between
Before we rush to resurrection we must dwell fully in the space of unknowing, of holding death and life in tension with each other, to experience that liminal place so that we become familiar with its landscape and one day might accompany others who find themselves there and similarly disoriented. The wisdom of the Triduum is that we must be fully present to both the starkness of Friday and to the Saturday space between, before we can really experience the resurrection. We must know the terrible experience of loss wrought again and again in our world so that when the promise of new life dawns we can let it enter into us fully in the space carved by loss. As the great poet of Hafiz reminds us, we must let our loneliness “cut more deep” and “season” us, so that we are reminded of our absolute dependence on the Source of all.
Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly.
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you as few human
Or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice so tender,
My need of God
Absolutely clear. —Hafiz
(read more here)

A reflection by Paul Sheppy, to a friend (a mother in her thirties) undergoing chemotherapy for a cancer diagnosed at the beginning of 2017. He wrote this meditation for her – but it may help others who do not approach Easter with particular joy.
“Tomorrow you start another cycle of chemo. In my prayers this morning I reflected on your comment that you would be sick during the Easter weekend. I wondered what all that rejoicing and all those alleluias might mean for you in your nausea and wretchedness.
Will it be resurrection, I wondered, that speaks to you this year?
Very clearly into my mind came the recollection that on Holy Saturday we remember that Christ descends to the dead. ‘Jesus lay in death’s strong bands’ we sing. Yet this descent to the dead is not merely passive. Jesus enters our hell, your hell – and he declares in hell that enough is enough. Hell does not have the last word. Yes, it binds us. Yes, it wounds us. Yes, it accuses us. All these things hell does to us. And Jesus is there with us, declaring that the word of sin and death is not the last word. The bonds of hell will not hold us for ever. The wounds may scar us, but they will close. The accusations may have force, but they are not all the truth that is to be spoken.
As you go to the clinic tomorrow, Christ goes with you. In your nausea, in your sickness, in your weakness, in your tiredness, Christ goes with you. Not just to suffer with you – though he does. Christ goes to bring the dead to God, to plant the Cross in hell and to declare: Do not be afraid, I am with you to the close of the age.
May the peace of Christ be yours in the turmoil of your hell. May the strength of Christ be yours in the weakness of the coming days. May this Easter hold a different truth than that old quick jump over death to instant joy; rather, may you find an Exodus when death’s strong bands hold you fast.
(Source: Paul Sheppy, and posted on a worship resources egroup Easter 2017)

A reflection by Barbara Brown Taylor:

Holy Saturday reminds me that one has to learn how to be Christian. When I first came to Christian faith, the day meant nothing to me. It was the blank day between the high dramas of Good Friday and Easter, the day when nothing happened. Jesus was dead and buried. Everyone had gone home to get some rest. In the morning he would rise triumphant from the grave but meanwhile there was nothing to do. The church service — if there was one — lasted no more than fifteen minutes. It seemed rude to go shopping after that, or to check the movie listings. So I puttered the day away, rattling around the house doing nothing much while the clock ticked toward Easter. Holy Saturday was a placeholder, an empty set of parentheses, a waiting room for a train that would not come until morning.

Later, when I became a priest, Holy Saturday was the day when members of the congregation came to the church for private confession. There were never more than four or five of them, who showed up at discreet intervals so they did not even see each other’s cars in the parking lot. The list of names changed every year. Whatever was going on with them, the general confession they said with everyone else on Sunday mornings was not helping. They needed to find their own words for what they had done, or what had been done to them. They needed to say those words out loud so they could hear them without anyone else’s words covering them up.

My only job was to listen, pronouncing some of the sweetest words in the prayer book at the end: “Now there is rejoicing in heaven; for you were lost, and are found; you were dead, and are now alive in Christ Jesus our Lord. Go in peace. The Lord has put away all your sins.” After that I waited in the church for the next person to come, which was often as long as an hour. Sometimes I lay down on a pew, which was how I began to imagine Jesus lying on a stone ledge in the dark. I had been to Jerusalem, so I knew how tombs looked in those days: low holes in rock walls, with narrow bunks inside to hold the dead bodies until the flesh on them was gone and the bones could be gathered up for safe-keeping.

That was where Jesus spent Holy Saturday: in a dark hole in the ground, doing absolutely nothing. It was the Sabbath, after all. His friends had worked hard to make sure he was laid to rest before the sun went down. Then they went home to rest too, because that was what they did on Saturdays. Once it was clear that there was nothing they could do to secure their own lives or the lives of those they loved, they rested in the presence of the Maker of All Life and waited to see what would happen next.

Though Christians speak of “witnesses to the resurrection,” there were no witnesses. Everyone who saw Jesus alive again saw him after. As many years as I have been listening to Easter sermons, I have never heard anyone talk about that part. Resurrection is always announced with Easter lilies, the sound of trumpets, bright streaming light. But it did not happen that way. Whatever happened to Jesus between Saturday and Sunday, it happened in the dark, with the smell of damp stone and dug earth in the air. It happened where no one but him could talk about it later, and he did not talk about it — at least not so anyone could explain it to anyone else.

That is what Holy Saturday has taught me about being Christian. Between the great dramas of life, there is almost always a time of empty waiting – with nothing to do and no church service to help – a time when it is necessary to come up with your own words and see how they sound with no other sounds to cover them up. If you are willing to rest in this Sabbath, where you cannot see your hand in front of your face and none of your self-protective labors can do you one bit of good, then you may come as close to the Christ as you will ever get — there in that quiet cave where you wait to see how the Maker of All Life will choose to come to you in the dark.

A prayer to welcome the night
This prayer by Christine Sine could serve as a concluding prayer for a service on Easter Saturday.
Welcome, Lord, welcome.
Welcome into this night.
Relax our bodies,
Calm our fears,
Dispel our doubts.
Welcome, Lord, welcome.
Welcome into the darkness.
Quiet our minds.
Still our thoughts.
Rest our souls.
Welcome, Lord, welcome.
Welcome into our sleep.
Refresh our spirits.
Restore our peace.
Bring new life. Amen.
(Source: Christine Sine, Godspace)
Christine writes: This prayer invites the presence of God into my night both into times of restful sleep and restless insomnia. Experts on meditation tell me that to be truly effective, to help relax our bodies and our minds we need to do at least 20 minutes of meditation a day, something that is a little overwhelming for many people. However I find that with the reciting of prayers – slowly, repetitively and meditatively that it is not only possible but refreshing. The night often magnifies our fears and intensifies our anxieties. Welcoming God into those experiences redirects our focus and often enables us to relax. Making that welcome a deliberate process is, for me at least, very important because it reminds me of the all encompassing presence of God. Small rituals like this can make an amazing difference to our life and to our faith.

2016 Holy Saturday resource: COCU30C.2016ResourceHolySaturday
2016 Stations – response sheets: COCU30C.Stationssheets.HolySaturday
2017 resource including stations COCU30C.HolySaturday2017


About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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