THE WAITING ROOM OF HOLY WEEK

Why is the day after Jesus’ execution called ‘Holy Saturday’? It seems there’s nothing holy about it. What’s holy about sobbing and wailing? What’s holy about coming to terms with the finality of death? What’s holy about loss, about crying out and receiving no answer? Jesus was dead. Saturday forced the disciples to dwell on it. What’s holy about that?

Easter, now that’s holy. That’s something to shine your shoes for. I mean, we’re talking about a miraculous event here, the resurrection! Saturday just sits as the annoying waiting room of Holy Week, a time to run errands and iron your Easter clothes, a time to stuff the Easter baskets. Holy Saturday is more of a nuisance than anything, right?

I mean, what does Jesus have to do with stillness? What does God have to do with trauma and confusion? What does the Spirit have to do with tears? “Get on with it! Get to Sunday, would you?” says the crowd. Saturday is awkward, like figuring out what to do with our hands during a photo, we’re just not sure what to do with it. Saturday doesn’t fit with us, with our schedules. Saturday isn’t fast-paced enough for us…

So maybe we need to slow down. Maybe this Saturday of mourning is holy after all. Holy Saturday is the space between life and death, between sorrow and celebration. Too often we view Saturday in light of Sunday, and I think it strips Saturday of its power. In the midst of their grief, the disciples had no idea that Sunday was coming, so they were forced to let the pain of Friday sink in. Saturday, then, teaches us how to mourn. Saturday reminds us of the finality of death. Saturday, then, proves the helplessness of humanity.

The truth is, we need Holy Saturday; we need it because, in a sense, we’re living in our own Holy Saturday, caught between the miracle of Easter and the promise of Jesus’ return. We’re in that middle space, clinging to hope while dealing with confusion, pain, sorrow, unknowns. We need Holy Saturday when we watch the news, when we pray “Come, Lord Jesus!”, when we’re faced with oppression and violence and injustice – because God isn’t surprised by Saturday, he’s in it with us.

This seemingly pointless day teaches us that God is present in the sludge of life, that mourning is necessary, that unanswered questions will find their answers in God, that hope is vital to life. Holy Saturday teaches us that God doesn’t gloss over difficulties, that he doesn’t leave when the going gets tough. And though we are privileged to stand on the side of history that let’s us know and live with the reality of Sunday, there’s a whole world out there perpetually stuck in Saturday. We walk in that tension, confessing hope from the middle space, remembering always the importance of Holy Saturday.


 

“Give Us Saturday Ears” by Walter Brueggemann

Sometimes it seems as though you have given us

     eyes so we cannot see,

     and ears so we cannot hear,

     and hearts so we cannot know,

     and we miss it. 

Work on our ears today.

     Clean them, circumcise them,

     turn them so that they may tingle with the ways

     in which you have turned loose among us the powers of death

     and the forces of life.

Gran that we should not live int he safe middle ground,

     on the surface

     but push us to the edge,

     where the action is.

Your action, where you cause all those terrible Fridays

     and all those amazing Sundays. 

Give us Saturday ears for your tingling.

We pray in the name of your Saturday child. Amen. 


 

millioke.jpg

Holden can usually be found spending time with his wife Kira, drinking better-than-great coffee, listening to obscure music while cooking, or passionately discussing wooly mammoths. A recent graduate of Moody, he’s on staff at Immanuel as the Director of Communications.

 

WHO IS THIS SON OF MAN?

John 12: 31-36 reads:

“The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”  He said this to indicate how he was going to die.  The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?”


Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?  That’s such a heavy question with a loaded answer!  It’s a question that many, including myself, have asked and still wrestle with.  It’s a question the crowd asked when Jesus made his entry into Jerusalem. As he entered the city a large number of people gathered and made way for his coming; they praised him and cheered joyfully, quoting prophecies about the coming Messiah. The people spread branches and cloaks on the ground so Jesus could walk over them. By doing this, the crowd was giving Jesus royal treatment, fully acknowledging that he was their long awaited Messiah.

  Thinking about the crowd cheering him on, knowing who he was, and then days later demanding his crucifixion makes me cringe. It is scary to think how quickly their allegiance turned because he was not the Messiah they wanted. Everyone expected Jesus to liberate them from the Roman government and set up his kingdom in that moment. He certainly came to liberate them, but from something far worse than the Romans. He came to liberate them – and us – from something they could not see or understand: their captivity to sin. They were so blinded by what they felt would make things right that they missed the bigger picture.  If I am being honest, when I look at that crowd, I see myself in them.

How many times have I rebelled against God because he’s shown up in ways I did not really want or expect? My answer is selfish but true: too many to count. Can you relate? The crowd thought they needed to be freed from the Roman Empire, from their immediate circumstances. What they didn’t see was the war being fought for their souls and what the cross of Jesus would accomplish, the true reason he came to them. Looking back, when I accepted Christ it was because my world had been shaken, revealing deeper issues and my need for a Savior. The circumstance was unwanted, but if it hadn’t happened I would not have searched for God and found the truth.

So, just who is this Son of Man? Honestly, I still have a lot to learn about Jesus’ character.  One thing I do know is this: we serve a God that does not always give us what we want, but always gives what we need. I am so thankful for that truth. Not everything I’ve ever wanted in life was necessarily good for me. Even if fulfilling those desires was fun for a time, God knew it would lead me to death in the end.  If the crowd received what they had wanted (their earthly King) then Jesus’ blood would not be covering the world’s sins. Thank goodness we serve a God who always has our best interest in mind, a God who loves us enough to give us what we need, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense at the time.

Take a moment this week as we approach Easter and think about who the Son of Man really is. What does he want for you, where is he showing up in your life, and how will you respond? What he has in mind for us might be something we don’t expect or feel entirely comfortable with. But we know he will never lead us down the wrong path, even when we can’t see the end result. We can be certain His way is the best, most fulfilling, rewarding, and the only way that leads to life.


(null).jpgKatrina McElvain is the daughter of Trisha, and eldest of her siblings Grace and JP.  She loves spending time with family and friends, watching movies, dancing, and writing.  She teaches dance at night and is a teacher’s aide by day.  She also loves Immanuel and listening to the sermons every Sunday morning.

RICH OR POOR MATTERS LITTLE

I grew up poor.

The kind of poor where we scraped coins together to buy milk or bread some weeks; the kind of poor where our small country church brought our quaint family of three boxes filled with food.

At age 8, I remember feeling awed as our pastor and his wife unloaded the bounty given by others onto our kitchen table.

I was grateful for the sharing of blessing because I knew even at that young age how hard my mother worked to provide for my sister and me. (And, honestly, I was pretty elated because they brought the brand of cereal I’d only ever had at my grandparent’s or friends’ houses.)

While my mom cried and thanked them, I remember feeling not only grateful but also inspired; I wanted to be like the pastors. I wanted to give, too.

After the pastor and his wife left and my mom thanked them, she threw my little mind through a major loop when she almost promptly started dividing the food into two piles.

“One pile,” she’d explained, “is for my friend Joy and her two girls because really, I think they need it just as much, if not even more.”

I believe she introduced me to a new term that day; if we were poor, they were dirt poor.

I didn’t quite get the saying (and I still don’t), but I got the concept loud and clear: what’s “ours” is meant to be shared. So really none of it is mine anyway.


This past Sunday, Pastor Josh asked us to become temporary stewards of our neighbors’ wallet or purse.

As I sat there holding two wallets from two people sitting near me, I felt the weight of responsibility to attend well to their belongings.

I didn’t want anything foolish or malicious or irresponsible to happen to their belongings while I was holding them.

In the holding of these wallets, I grasped even more so that with privilege, there is always responsibility. And what will we as believers — believers who believe we are not dictators of an empire we are creating; rather we are citizens in a kingdom that already has a king — what will we do with that responsibility to steward well that which comes to us?

Will we shoulder it well, remembering to do with it what the Rightful Owner would move us to do or will we mistake ourselves as the owners and do with it what would serve only us as owners?

My mind wandered to that scene in my kitchen from childhood.

Who would have ever given to the family in need – my family, Joy’s family – had they sought to only serve themselves?


At 33, I am no longer poor.

I haven’t been poor in quite some time; my husband and I have both had opportunity after opportunity that have afforded him the privilege to establish a solid career and me to launch my own organization.

But, I remember.

I remember vividly.

I remember in the shear emotion of lingering reactions to everyday situations like trying to decide if I have enough money to buy a new package of underwear (and let me assure you we do!); it’s a gut-level reaction every time.

Being poor has imprinted on my brain a reaction that says almost always, “do you need it, and are you sure you have enough to meet this need?”

I remember what it is like to have little to nothing.

But the Holy Spirit has imprinted on my heart that being rich or poor has little to do with good stewardship because with God there is never a lack; there is always abundance.

So, are we being good stewards? Are we listening well enough to know what to do with what He’s given us?

Are we hearing Him when He tells us to meet others’ needs?

Are we spreading what we have – the very great of it or the very little – to where He’s directing?

I’ve had little, and I’ve had much, and none of that matters a whole lot when we’re talking about being stewards because whether rich or poor, because none of it is ours to keep.

So the question becomes not “Do I have enough?” but rather “Will I steward well what God has given to me? ”

Because with God there is always enough; it all belongs to Him anyway.


 

IMG_2528

Hyacynth Worth is beloved to God, wife to John, mom to two boys and two girls and author of Undercover Mother. 

HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST

The past year has been a tough one. I privately struggled for months before I let anyone in on what was really happening in my life. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I struggled with anxiety, and I definitely didn’t want to admit to myself that my depression was sneaking back in. I only really started talking about it recently, and I wish I had started earlier.

It’s a lot easier to combat the lies Satan puts in our minds when we talk about them with other people who know and love Jesus – but I didn’t talk to anyone. Like I said, I didn’t even want to admit to myself that anything was wrong. I let myself believe that I wasn’t good enough to handle all the responsibilities of adulthood. I took on other people’s issues and made them my own. I started dealing with health issues that put me in an even more anxious state. I’d been watching my mom navigate Lyme Disease and really learned what people mean when they say, “It will get worse before it gets better.” I was being drained. I knew something had to change but I didn’t know what to do – so I prayed.

I started praying that God would take my life and flip it around. As I was praying, I kept hearing the word Hosanna over and over in my head. I’ve sung, “Hosanna in the Highest” plenty of times, but I never really knew what the word meant – even after hearing the story every year about Jesus riding in on the donkey and the people of Jerusalem shouting, “Hosanna in the Highest Heaven!” (Matthew 21:9). After a little digging around on Google, I found that the word “Hosanna” was basically an SOS from the people of Jerusalem – not just a shout of praise. Hosanna carries more weight than that; it’s a plea for deliverance. Crying “Hosanna!” is begging God to restore your soul. That is exactly how I felt and, if I’m honest, still feel.

A few months ago, I needed God to deliver me. I felt “Hosanna” in every part of my soul. I needed a break from the weight I was carrying, weight than wasn’t mine in the first place. Every day is new and full of uncertainty, but I’m learning to fully rely on God and to trust His words. I’m learning the real meaning of Hosanna.


Gracie Adamek attends the College of Lake County and hopes to one day be a special education teacher. She likes to sing, act, knit, and write. She hopes you enjoy your time here, reading these blogs, and is very grateful for the opportunity to glorify God through her words

EMBRACING UNKNOWNS

I start a new job this week.  I know where to go, what time to get there, what time to eat lunch and what time I leave – but that’s it.  Everything else is pretty much an unknown.  This normally might not sound like a big deal, but I’m a planner and unknowns to a planner communicates death (or at least disaster!).

I accepted this position two months ago and I’ve been dreading it ever since.  Until recently I’m not even sure why I said I would take it!  I just felt like I should… To help me deal with the anxiety I’ve been feeling about it, I started seeing a psychologist.  I learned a lot from my most recent session.

I saw a perplexed look come across my psychologist’s face as she listened to me answer to her question, “What are the thoughts that you’re having when you feel anxious about this?”  When I finished my tirade she said, “So, it sounds like unless you know every detail of how this job will look and what you are supposed to do each day, you feel anxious.”  I told her that she had about summed it up.

After explaining to me that it’s impossible for anyone to know every single thing that’s going to happen ahead of time, she said some words that I know were God speaking through her to me. She said, “I think this is a great opportunity for you to learn be okay with not knowing everything.”  

You see, even if I know everything there is to know about this job ahead of time, there will still be unknowns.  And I’m learning to thank God that there are unknowns.

Thank God there were unknown motives for why Joseph was hated by his brothers, or why he sold into slavery and thrown into jail.  Of course, reading the Joseph account now, I can see clearly that God had a bigger plan.  The gift of Joseph’s story is that because he lived his life with faith and assurance of what he couldn’t see, I can have faith and assurance as well that there is more God in every situation of my life than I know.  

For two months my faith and assurance were being smothered by thoughts of worry. I was swarmed by the fear of not being able to know my new job completely, fear of not doing it perfectly.  I was so paralyzed by these thought patterns that I completely lost the ability to see beyond myself.  Yet, even in that seemingly colorless black hole of anxiety and self-focus, God has been at work.  Using Joseph as a model, I am learning to not only be okay with the unknowns but be excited about them. And slowly, that black hole is becomingcolorful.


image

 

Martha has been a wife for 17 years and is the mother of three children ages 10, 9 and 5.  When she’s not folding laundry, c
ooking meals, helping with homework, kissing boo-boos, grocery shopping, cleaning house and running errands; she loves to hold babies at Immanuel MOPS!