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the sermon for

the Memorial Service for Gene Alan [Gordon]

15 April 2017

Matthew 27:57-61
On Good Friday, Jesus dies. On Easter, Jesus rises.
On Holy Saturday, he rests.

04152017Today is the first time I've, ever, had a memorial service on Holy Saturday. Yesterday was Good Friday, tomorrow Easter. But for now, Jesus is in the tomb. He rests. And to be honest, I wasn't quite sure what to do, how to handle it. You see, the last thing we did on Thursday night was to strip the altar. We removed the cup and plate we used for communion. Took away the candlesticks, the fair linen, the hangings. It's something we do every Maundy Thursday evening to foreshadow the crucifixion of Jesus, when he was stripped before being nailed to the cross. The church unadorned. Bare. Empty. Stark. And usually, this is how it stays till Easter morning. Suffered under Pilate. Was crucified. Died. Was buried. Descended to the dead. That's what all this symbolizes, what all this represents.

Anyway, my first impulse was to get the ladies on our altar guild together and decorate for Easter morning, a little early! Have the resurrection happen just a few hours ahead of schedule. Break out the white hanging, the linen, the candlesticks, even the lilies! So that by the time y'all came in, this morning, it would look a little more like church-as-usual! But the more I thought about it, the more I decided against it. In fact, I figured it would, actually, be better just to keep it the way it is.

After all, today isn't Easter, no matter how much we want it to be. It's Holy Saturday – the day the disciples mourn... the day Jesus lies in the tomb... And this is the way we decorate for it. This is what that day in between looks like... and sounds like... and feels like... That day in between Good Friday and Easter... in between the dying and the rising... in between yesterday and tomorrow... in between what has been and what is yet to be...

But even more than that, I thought I'd just keep it the same because, you see, this – for Jesus – is a day of rest! This is his seventh day! For a whole week, he's been preparing a new creation. And this is his Saturday, his day of rest! And I thought that's something that would be important for Gene, as well! Finally... at last... a day of rest! A time to do absolutely nothing! Not build ten-feet-tall, bear proof and squirrel proof, bird feeders! Not, even, do any fishing – if you could consider fishing work! One life over, another not yet begun. This is that day in between! All the achievements, all the accomplishments that lie behind. Medals and trophies scattered along the way. Describing him. Defining him. All that lies ahead waiting, unknown. But for now, just resting. No appointments to keep. No therapy! No treatments! This is Saturday! The Sabbath! The day in between! When we rest! When we get ready! But for now, .safe and sound, out of harm's way! Wrapped up in god's love like a quilt! God behind! God beside! God before! God beneath! God above!

First glance, at all of this, it seems like something's missing, that something's wrong! But look again and we realize everything we need – everything any of us needs – is right here! Family! Friends! The memories! The dreams! It's not what's outside that matters, not at times like this! It's what's on the inside! That's the decoration! The adornment! And we don't need to cover it all up! To clutter! To confuse! This is good, this is very good, just the way it is! Te good fight has been fought! The race has been run! And a life, a life has been lived well! After that, comes the rest! The well deserved rest!

In baptism, as we were reminded at the start of the service, we were joined to the dying and rising of Christ. But what I never realized until this morning... we were joined, as well, to this day! This Sabbath! This day of holy rest! And far from somber... and far from stark... this is a day full of faith and hope and love... Especially of love! Gene's love for us! Our love for Gene and for one another! Most of all, god's love for all of us! Every Sunday, I was told, is a celebration of the resurrection! That means that every Friday commemorates the cross! And every Saturday... every Saturday is this! The day of rest that lies between the two! No, there is no better time than this to commend someone to god's care! No better time to lay them to rest! And for us to rest alongside them!

So, I was tempted. Tempted to skip over, this day. And if I had, it would have been wrong. This moment is important. Even essential. This day between! Between Good Friday and Easter! This day between the cross and the resurrection, between the dying and the rising! This holy day of rest! This day of holy rest! If I had leaped right over it, it would have been unfair to Jesus! It would have been unfair to us! It would have been unfair, most of all, to Gene! So, my friends, remember this day! Remember this holy Saturday! And rest in it! Rest in it, forever!

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