Today is God-Is-Absent Day

IMG_0180The Saturday of Holy Week sits like a giant pause button between the disappointment of Good Friday and the vindication of Easter morning. As such it defines God’s absence in a way. The Deity is OUT, the red plastic clock hands indicate a return at sunrise tomorrow. 

I like that, actually. Let’s make a holiday about God being absent. I know, it’s his apparent absence, but c’mon—my perception is my reality. 

Today has a bizarre vacuum-like quality. Following the Christian calendar as it marks the story, it’s the day after he left us. It’s a day of his absence and our doubts. We were huddled without answers, under obligation to a quiet sabbath, without direction or hope, and not sturdy enough to remember any of his promises. 

On this day, God affirms that I will doubt and feel alone. My theology is made uncomfortable by this, but that’s a good thing. Theological discomfort is like what Frederick Buechner said about doubt, that it’s actually the “ants in the pants of faith.” I love dangerous ideas, and this is one: God is apparently absent and we dare to make something of that, even to mark it one day per year. 

But here’s where I think the idea turns for me. He went somewhere I was not invited to go. He left me to go do something, to face the Ultimate Separator. And for the 39 or 40 hours from Good Friday afternoon to Easter Morning we actually mark a time when he went to the grave, even Hell, and we have to stay behind and wait. What he has to do there, we cannot do with him. So we think he’s absent, and in a way he is, but really he’s off somewhere with his boot on the throat of death, and my not being there is a good thing. 

It’s as if he’s saying “trust me; you don’t want to see this.” 

I think of it this way: If there are other moments when Jesus Christ is my teacher, my friend, my coach, my guide and my mentor—and there are plenty of those times—this time is different. This is the moment when he is sin for me. For the substitution to be utter, and for the percentage of my participation in this gift to be 0% (otherwise, how is it a gift?), then he will be there alone. 

He invites me to everything else, but not this. He does not ask me to share the burden, but he wants to take it solo. And he says “wait here; I’ll be right back.” 

Then on Sunday….

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