The Morning After – A Sermon for Holy Saturday

Holy Week, Sermon, Holy Saturday, Great Saturday, Icon Harrowing of Hell, Descent into Hell

The Harrowing of Hell (source)

Jesus’ body has been taken down from the cross, received into the hands of his mother and friends. They have wrapped his body in their love and laid him in the tomb. The door of the tomb has been replaced by a great stone. (Matthew 27:57-66)

This is not only a story about Jesus. It is a story about the deaths and losses of our lives. We all have been there. Some still are.

Today the liturgy is short. There is no Eucharist. The church is still empty and barren. There’s not much to say or see on this day.

Today is mostly a day of silence, sitting, and waiting. That’s how it is on the morning after. That’s how it is the morning after you receive the news. That’s how it is the morning after you see the body. That’s how it is the morning after the burial.

Every Good Friday is followed by a Holy Saturday. You wake up and realize that last night’s nightmare wasn’t just a bad dream. It is the reality and truth of today’s life.

The author of Lamentations speaks our truth (Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24). We have been “brought into darkness without any light.” We are “besieged and enveloped with bitterness and tribulation.” We are walled in and cannot escape. We are bound in chains. We call and cry for help but our prayer is shut out. We are homeless. There is nothing but the tomb.

We sit and wait in the hell of our life. We sit and wait in the hell of our life. We sit and wait in the hell of our life.

Our portion, our share, we are told is in the Lord, his steadfast love, his never ending mercies, his great faithfulness. Where is that today? Where is the steadfast love of the Lord on Holy Saturday? Where are his never ending mercies and great faithfulness on the morning after?

The only place they could be; in hell, with you and with me. Look at the bottom of page 53 in the Book of Common Prayer:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.

Hell. That’s where the Lord’s steadfast love is on Holy Saturday. That’s where his never ending mercies are today. That’s where the Lord’s great faithfulness is on the morning after.

Holy Saturday is when Christ descends into the hell of our life, breaking the bonds of death, and setting the captives free. Holy Saturday is the day death and Hades tremble in fear, and regret ever having tried to take captive the author and creator of life.

At the presence of Christ the trembling and quaking of Hades will become the contractions that birth new life. The tomb of Holy Saturday will become the womb of Easter Sunday. That is the promise hidden deep within every tomb. Meanwhile it’s still hell and we sit and wait. We sit and wait with a promise and the one who will keep that promise.

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Holy Week Sermons

16 thoughts on “The Morning After – A Sermon for Holy Saturday

  1. Pingback: Hell Awaits – A Sermon for Good Friday, John 18:1-19:42 | Interrupting the Silence

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