a day of mourning

Holy Saturday is a weird, in-between day. For the last few years, I’ve changed my facebook profile picture to this 1966 Time Magazine cover on this day:

The magazine was doing a special issue about a particular strand of Christian theology that questioned whether or not God’s lifespan had actually ended. These were Christian theologians, and Thomas Altizer, in particular, argued that God’s existence ended at the crucifixion, when Jesus’ death sent God’s existence spinning through all of Creation. Of course, none of that nuance is evident in the striking magazine cover.

Just like none of the nuance of the coming resurrection accounts would have been evident to Jesus’ friends and disciples living through this day after his crucifixion. No one knew what was happening. God was, in fact, dead. When I put that image on facebook, enthusiastic believers always comment: “NO!” But in the context of this in-between day, that’s not exactly accurate.

We walk through Holy Week – waving palms and washing feet and listening to nails driven into Jesus’ own body – to remember the story and inscribe it in our hearts. And if we are willing to walk through all those other days in preparation for the hope we know is coming, then we’d better be willing to walk through this one, too.

Today, God is dead. Jesus has been murdered by the state and buried in a borrowed tomb.

This day usually feels torturous for me. I am usually busy with last minute Easter worship preparations, filled with anxiety and anticipation, and covered in grief, both immediate and existential. This morning, I’m remembering Melissa, who died in January, and Bobby, who died last year. I am thinking about George Floyd, whose murder by the state is being dredged up in graphic detail at the trial of his murderer this week. I am thinking about Breonna Taylor, killed by the state while she was sleeping in her own bed. I am thinking about Adam Toledo, a 13 year old kid killed by Chicago police this week. I am thinking about the hundreds of thousands of people killed by COVID, which is to say killed by our collective callousness and indifference.

God is dead, today. If there were ever a day for grief to be welcome, invited, and appropriate, this is it. I listened to Serene Jones on the On Being podcast yesterday, and she says that there is a shift when our raw grief turns into mourning; that when we are able to name and mourn our losses and our trauma, we are able to hold them in their proper place and begin to move forward into a future that incorporates but is not wholly determined by the finality of those losses.

I don’t know what all you are grieving today, or if you are stuck in the paralysis of grief or moving forward into the incorporation of that pain into the transformation of the future. But I do know that today – of all days – is a day to name that loss and pain and grief, and speak it out loud, whether in a whisper or in a keening wail.

I’ll join you.

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