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Sermon for March 30, 2024 – Holy Saturday

Program Transcript

There are moments in life that bridge the realms of what was and what will be. Places of transition, a threshold between what was and what will be. This is the liminal space, where the old fades away, and the new has yet to fully emerge. It is here, in this space of Holy Saturday.

As we journey through life’s transitional times, we are reminded that we are not alone. In the midst of uncertainty, we find our refuge in the steadfast love of the Almighty.

In Psalm 31, we hear the ancient cry of the soul, a plea for God’s guidance and protection. “In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.” These words resonate through the ages, a reminder that we can find solace in the arms of our Creator.

For he is the rock of our salvation, our fortress in times of trouble. “Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.” These words of Jesus echo the trust that flows from the depths of a heart anchored in faith and assured of God’s goodness.

As we navigate these seasons of our lives, we are reminded that the God who shaped the universe also shapes our destiny. “The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.” In him, we find our refuge and our strength.

And now, as we embrace the shadow of Holy Saturday, we are reminded that even in our darkest moments, there is a glimmer of hope. For beyond this threshold of uncertainty lies the promise of Easter morn.

In the stillness of the tomb, we wait. And as we wait, we hold on to the assurance that a new dawn is on the horizon, ready to burst forth in radiant glory.

So, take heart, for our salvation draws near. Let Psalm 31 be our anchor, our refuge, and our strength in the liminal spaces of life.

Psalm 31:1-5,23-24

1 In you, LORD, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, LORD, my faithful God.

23 Love the LORD, all his faithful people!
The LORD preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the LORD.

This is Holy Saturday—a day of reflection, transition, and anticipation. May your soul find rest in Christ.


Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 • Job 14:1-14 • 1 Peter 4:1-8 • John 19:38-42

Holy Saturday is significant because it is a liminal space. It commemorates the time Jesus was buried in the tomb, and as such, Holy Saturday isn’t yet Easter (or Resurrection Sunday) nor is it Good Friday. Today’s theme is who you are in Christ, and our readings review who we are in Christ as well as who God is as we live during transitional times. Psalm 31 speaks of God as our refuge and strong rock. Job 14 recounts Job’s reflections about human mortality, noting that our release from death comes from God. In 1 Peter 4, Paul prescriptively recommends avoiding excesses in our human desires and instead, practicing self-discipline and love for everyone because “love covers a multitude of sins.” Our sermon text repeats part of the Good Friday story we covered yesterday. John 19:38-42 focuses on what Jesus’ followers did immediately after his death on Good Friday. They were operating in a liminal space, and so are we. We’re learning who we are in Christ as we navigate transitional times in our lives.

How to Wait in the Liminal Space

John 19:38-42 (NRSVUE)

[*note: you could show an image of a doorway or foyer for visual effect].

In architecture, a liminal space could be a threshold, a foyer, or a hallway. It’s a space where you wait or simply pass through to go to another space, one with a defined purpose, like a kitchen or a bedroom. A liminal space isn’t a destination; it’s a conduit that takes you from where you were to a new place. When architects design lobbies or other transitional spaces, they include subtle cues that provide a sense of direction or movement, but in general, liminal spaces tend to be ambiguous, sometimes combining design elements of the two spaces they connect. A liminal space is an in-between space.

Holy Saturday is also an in-between space. Jesus died on Good Friday, and Easter had not yet happened. We have the benefit of knowing how the story turns out, but Jesus’ followers didn’t. They were in a liminal space, a time of transition. Let’s read about that time in our sermon text found in John 19:38-42.

Read John 19:38-42

The lives of Jesus’ followers were going to change, and they didn’t know what life was going to look like going forward. Has anyone ever felt like that? During the pandemic, did you ever wonder when it was going to end and how life would be different? It was a time of uncertainty, something we had never faced before. In some respects, it still is. Here are some other examples of liminal spaces we might encounter in our lives:

  • Perhaps you lost a job and wondered where and when the next job would come?
  • Have you or someone you love received medical test results that required more tests to be done to figure out what was wrong?
  • Have you or someone you loved ever received a difficult medical diagnosis?
  • Have you ever experienced the death of a loved one or a pet?

These are examples of life transitions that might be difficult, but even happy life changes can be considered a liminal space:

  • Do you remember the first few months of being married?
  • Do you remember bringing your first child home?
  • Do you remember when your first child started school?
  • Do you remember when your first child got married or moved out?
  • Do you remember moving to a new home?

Even though these examples can be considered positive, they still ushered you through a space of uncertainty or transition where your life changed in some significant way. Thinking about the liminal spaces we have been through can help us empathize with Jesus’ followers on Holy Saturday, and we can learn from their example on navigating the liminality of life. American Jesuit priest and author James Martin writes that we live mostly in Holy Saturday:

“In other words, most of our days are not filled with the unbearable pain of a Good Friday. Nor are they suffused with the unbelievable joy of an Easter. Some days are indeed times of great pain, and some are of great joy, but most are…in between. Most are, in fact, times of waiting, as the disciples waited during Holy Saturday. We’re waiting.”

As the author points out, there are different kinds of waiting. We can be waiting in despair, or we can wait with hope. Let’s study our sermon text to see what waiting in a liminal space with hope can look like.

Fear of others transformed into action

We read in v.38 that Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple of Jesus because he was afraid of the Jewish leaders. We also read in John 3:1-2 that Nicodemus, a Jewish leader, also came to visit Jesus at night so no one would know. In both cases, fear of what others would do to them or think about them kept Joseph and Nicodemus from being disciples in the fullest sense while Jesus was alive.

However, when Jesus died, Joseph approached Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body, and provided a new tomb. Nicodemus brought spices, and together they wrapped Jesus’ body and placed it in the tomb. They didn’t know Jesus would be resurrected, so we can speculate that they might have been experiencing some regret or grief. Even if they were too afraid to profess faith in Jesus while he was alive, after witnessing his death, they became bold. Barclay’s Commentary says this about the actions of Joseph and Nicodemus:

It may be that the silence of Nicodemus or his absence from the Sanhedrin brought sorrow to Jesus; but it is certain that he knew of the way in which they cast their fear aside after the Cross, and it is certain that already his heart was glad, for already the power of the Cross had begun to operate, and already it was drawing all men to him. The power of the Cross was even then turning the coward into the hero, and the waverer into the man who took an irrevocable decision for Christ.

An opportunity for metanoia

Jesus often spoke about metanoia, the Greek word for changing your mind. While the term typically has been defined as “repentance” as if we have done something wrong that we need to be sorry for, scholars suggest it should be much broader, encouraging us to move into a largeness of spirit that views our reality with warmth and empathy. Theologian and priest Ronald Rolheiser writes this about metanoia:

Metanoia invites us to meet all situations, however unfair, with understanding and an empathetic heart.

Jesus’ example on the cross showed his openness to reality, even when it was a reality that he prayed fervently might be taken from him. As human beings, we are wired for safety and self-protection, yet paradoxically, we also find examples of heroic self-sacrifice. In our sermon text, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus embraced the liminal space they were in and decided to follow Jesus’ example by choosing to honor Jesus in his death, regardless of what others might do or think. They chose metanoia over paranoia.

We can think of Holy Saturday as a long hallway with a doorway. With Good Friday fresh in our minds, we can imagine the sadness and uncertainty Jesus’ followers faced. We have faced uncertainty during times of transition ourselves. But we understand, as Richard Rohr writes, that “liminal space induces a type of inner crisis to help us make a needed transition.” Facing our liminal spaces, our Holy Saturdays, with Jesus’ openness and understanding, helps us move through life with hope.

Call to Action: On this Holy Saturday, pause for a few minutes to reflect on how you have handled the liminal spaces or transitional times in your life. Notice the outcome and how you felt when you approached those in-between moments with openness and trust, following Jesus’ example. Notice, too, how you felt during those times when fear kept you from trusting that God was always with you. Offer a prayer of thanksgiving for Jesus’ willingness to be with you in the Holy Saturdays of your life.

For Reference:
Rohr, Richard. Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer. Crossroad Publishing, 2003.

The Hour Has Come w/ Dr. Jenny Richards W4

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March 24—Liturgy of the Passion
Philippians 2:5-11, “Humble Obedience”

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Program Transcript

The Hour Has Come w/ Dr. Jenny Richards W4

Anthony: Our next passage for the month is Philippians 2:5 – 11. It is a Revised Common Lectionary passage for the Liturgy of the Passion, which is March 24. We’d be delighted if you’d read it for us, Jenny.


Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, assuming human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted him even more highly and gave him the name that is above every other name, 10 so that at the name given to Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Anthony: I love, love, love this Christological hymn, and every time I hear it, Jenny, I’m just staggered by the reality, the gospel that has been shoehorned into this short, breathtaking song. Let me start by asking you this. What do you think it means to have the same mind?

Jenny: I feel as though I say this every time you ask me any question, but I do think there are some layers here. And to begin with we need to start with who Jesus was. So, there’s more to this passage than just saying, be humble. because if Jesus, who was God, could manage to be humble, you sure can.

I do think Paul is starting out by exhorting his readers to humility, absolutely. But then the passage morphs into a discussion of who Jesus really is, and just what was going on in his assumption of humility, by becoming human.

Sure, part of having the same mind as was in Jesus, is to choose to believe what he did—namely, that we should prefer others. And even if we do happen to have power, we should use it to benefit others and not lord it over them. There are some great practical hints for wise living there, surely.

However, Paul speaks often about us having the mind of Christ in other contexts. And when he does, he’s contrasting having the mind of Christ with our mind. There’s some of that here too, because our own instinct when it comes to power dynamics is certainly not to choose humility. We need the spirit for that, right? Otherwise, we will choose power every day and twice on Sundays.

But here I think Paul is saying more, particularly in light of the second half of the passage. We don’t just have the capacity to learn how to behave in a more Christlike way and be minded to do what we think Jesus would do.

Jesus shares his Sonship with us by the Spirit. That is how discipleship and sanctification work. And Jesus experiences the love and delight of the Father from the inside of the trinitarian life of God. He exists in covenant love with the Father in the Spirit. So that means that we’re not on the outside looking in and trying to emulate a lifestyle or get our heads around concepts of love.

We are able to experience that with him. He shares what he knows of the Father with us. He mediates his very life with the Father to us. And that is a different way I think of having the mind of Christ.

One of my favorite T.F. Torrance quotes (I think I’m up to my third now) is from the introduction to a book called Incarnation, the Person and Life of Christ, which is one of two volumes that was put together out of lectures that he’d given. I think on page X, like the Roman numeral X, in the introductory section, in any event, in the first sentence of the book, he says, “Our task in Christology is to yield the obedience of our mind to what is given: that is, God’s self-revelation in its objective reality – Jesus Christ.”

Part of having the same mind as Christ is to actively seek to believe the incredible love that has been extended to us and to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, because heck, none of us can just choose to believe that without the work of the Spirit.

And I think that’s why that particular passage really spoke to me, because it means letting go of all kinds of beliefs about ourselves and about God that are precious to us, like our pride, first and foremost, our belief that we can earn God’s love through our good works and that we’re better than other people or more deserving or whatever it might be.

I don’t think it’s any accident that Paul is emphasizing humility here. But we need to choose to believe that God is who God says he is, and that the truth of what he’s done with us and the amount that he loves us, and all of those things are actually true as well.

We need to choose to let him be to us who he says he is to us. And that’s hard and that requires us to see God the way that Jesus sees God. That’s why I think we are given the mind of Christ because we certainly can’t change that on our own.

Anthony: Yes. Amen to that. I’m looking at verse 10 and 11, Jenny, and it proclaims that every knee will bend in honor of the Lord Jesus, every tongue will confess.

And in some theological schemas, this is treated as a very deterministic thing that God will coerce us or in the end, he’ll twist our arm to do this. But I just think when we come face to face with pure love, revealed in Jesus Christ, our Lord, what else is there to do?

He doesn’t have to coerce us in the face of that reality. We will fall to our knees and confess that Jesus is Lord because he is! What else is there?

But I’m curious for you, is there anything else in this passage that stands out for those who prepare sermons, who prepare to teach others? What say you?

Jenny: I agree with you. To be honest, I’m not sure I have too much to add to that one. I agree with you.

And I think it’s that final line or those final two sentences—you referred to them as a hymn. It’s the culmination of who Jesus is and what was accomplished in the Incarnation and in the atonement. Those things were obscured when Jesus was on earth, right?

But when he became human, and the humility that was needed for that to occur, he wasn’t seen in all his glory then. He wasn’t seen for who he was as the Son of the Father there, but he is now able to be seen for who he is. So, when that is seen, every knee is going to bow.

And I agree with you. It’s not about coercion. It doesn’t need to be about coercion. The only need for coercion would be if people needed to be convinced to create their own connection to God. And we don’t have our own connection to God in that sense. We have been drawn into the life of God by Jesus. We can believe it, or we can choose not to believe it.

Although, as you say, why somebody wouldn’t, is an absolute mystery. Why some people won’t believe it, it’s an absolute mystery as to why they wouldn’t. It won’t be a secret. When the totality of who he is is revealed, whether people agree with that or not, whether they want to be loved by him or not, they won’t be able to deny that he’s Lord of the universe.

Small Group Discussion Questions

  • What kinds of liminal spaces have you personally encountered, and how did you feel while you were navigating them?
  • It’s easy for us to gloss over Holy Saturday because we know there’s Resurrection Sunday. Why is it beneficial to consider how Jesus’ followers felt by comparing it to how we feel during times of transition? In other words, why should we pause and reflect on Holy Saturday?
  • In your own words, how did the cross transform Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus? What can we learn about our own transformation process from them?
  • When you consider the broader definition of metanoia as meeting “all situations, however unfair, with understanding and an empathetic heart,” how does this help us to live our lives in the spirit of Holy Saturday, emulating Jesus’ example on the cross?

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