April 23, 2011

April 23: Awaiting dawn in the darkness


By Justin Yoder, junior music major from Perkasie, Pa.
SCRIPTURE: Acts 10:34-43 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.

I’ve often wondered what that first Holy Saturday was like for the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem. The Gospels are mostly silent when it comes to this final day in our Lenten journey; the detailed narratives skip from the anguish and despair of Good Friday to the hopeful wonder of the Easter morning discovery. And perhaps this is an understandable omission. Would we not also, in our remembrance of this Holy Week, and in our own personal journeys of suffering and loss, prefer to move directly from despair and death into hope and rebirth?

We don’t really know what the followers of Jesus did on this day all those centuries ago. Bound by the Sabbath guidelines to refrain from the busywork that might have numbed the pain of Calvary’s horrors, I imagine the disciples were burdened with the dead weight of raw grief, images of death’s cruel reality still seared in their minds. The Scriptures tell us that darkness fell over the whole land on the afternoon of Good Friday, as Jesus hung dying on the cross. I think that for the first disciples, that next day must have felt like a time of great darkness, as well – the darkness of fear, of crushed hopes, of broken dreams.

In the late 1980s, the poet Brian Wren wrote the hymn text “Joyful is the Dark” in an attempt to celebrate the usually neglected positive implications of darkness in the biblical tradition. The poem’s fourth verse describes the great darkness at the end of Passion Week, but it ends with a striking phrase: “Never was that midnight touched by dread and gloom; darkness was the cradle of the dawning.” I love the idea that the darkness we so often associate with our pain, our fear, our own metaphorical deaths – this “hopeless” darkness cradles in its pitch-black arms the new life that is about to be born in us. The sorrow and anguish of that first Holy Saturday were not some cruel interlude between death and rebirth; God was preparing in this darkness the miracle of the morning.

In today’s Scripture passage, the Apostle Peter testifies to this miraculous resurrection as he speaks to a crowd at Caesarea. We hear again in his words the promise of a new life that is for all people – even those previously thought to be lost in darkness. This Holy Saturday, may we hold onto the confident hope of Peter’s words, trusting, as we await the dawn of Christ’s resurrection, that the darkness cradles our new life, as well.

SCRIPTURE: Acts 10:34-43 (NRSV)
34Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”



Comments (12)

  1. Justin, I found your meditation to be very moving. I was captivated by the way you projected back into time to imagine what the disciples were thinking on Saturday. The image of the darkness as a cradle for the dawning shows that pain can be part of hope. Thank you.

    Ann Hostetler April 23, 2011 |
  2. Thanks, Justin, you are an awesome writer. This reminded me of your challenging me at Table Fellowship to grapple with the hard stuff in the OT that I said I did not want to read. We need darkness in our lives. And there is the promise of Easter! Love and an Easter hug, Joyce

    Joyce Hunsberger April 23, 2011 |
  3. Thank you, Justin, for this wise and wonderful and reassuring counsel. May the prayer that you offered us – that darkness will cradle new life in us – be answered and fulfilled for you as well! And on a more global scale, may the darkness now evident in politics and conflict and war become the cradle for the dawn of peace and prosperity and creativity. Yours is one voice that will help to make it so. Thank you, again.

    Jim Miller (James N. '53) April 23, 2011 |
  4. well turned words here.

    Barbara Johnson April 23, 2011 |
  5. What wonderful hope we have in the great gift of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Praise to Jesus! Barbara Longenecker wife of Charles Longenecker- same e-mail address

    Charles Longenecker April 23, 2011 |
  6. Dear Justin, Thank you for beautiful insights about darkness cradling the light. What a deep thinker you are, way beyond your years! You have given so much to think about as darkness surrounds us in this age of war and suffering. Praying for the light of peace to arise.

    marjorie April 23, 2011 |
  7. Can’t eat. Can’t sleep. Can’t cry. Can’t quite not cry. Numb. Waiting for sundown. Gathering spices and herbs. Numb. Waiting for morning and daylight. Still numb.
    These I imagine for Saturday.
    Thanks for highlighting “darkness” as the “cradle of the dawning.”

    Elaine Kauffman April 23, 2011 |
  8. I have been thinking of the very same thing this morning, Justin. Actually every Holy Week, every Holy Saturday, I return to this same place. What did those first disciples do/see/think/hear/feel on the “day after,” completely unknowing that a dawn really was to come, that this most painful darkness would not last forever? Given all that our Gospel writers tell us of how often this group of leaders missed the point, could we not imagine that they were caught up in the pain — and not in the faith or promise that Jesus was preaching during his ministry? That they were truly in a place of seemingly endless mourning without relief or peace in sight?

    As I type this, I am sitting right now above our sanctuary, listening to our “Worship Team’s” ministrations … setting out the Lilies, preparing the flower cross, returning the paraments. This busy work reminds me that our church today has the knowledge and lives in the Easter promise that followed Holy Saturday. Indeed, God has called us and led us to this very place. But, I am also thinking about how often we assume that we are an Easter people without really living into it …

    I wonder how we can help people today really, truly live as Easter people … and I wonder if part of that isn’t helping us all to recall, relive, connect as those first disciples on Holy Saturday?


    Pastor Melinda
    Southern California, United Methodist Church

    Pastor Melinda Dodge, UMC April 23, 2011 |
  9. Dear Justin, I’m grateful for your message of hope in darkness. By enlightening others we get enlightened too. Can I offer you my little poem written in my darkness?

    The sun has set.
    Our Son has walked into the night,
    And that night was dark, indeed,
    Made the more opaque
    By one man’s treachery
    That manoeuvred our sinfulness unto his death.
    Our Son has walked into the night,
    Laid himself down,
    And now is still in death.
    Sleep on, Saviour sweet!
    Brave Warrior of our freedom’s battle;
    Hero of our redemption’s drama.
    Sleep on, dear Son and Brother.
    Yesterday and today you laboured;
    A splendid work, indeed,
    But the weight thereof
    Has laid you low
    In a stone sepulchre.
    Yet take your rest,
    Tonight and another.
    Yahweh once rested
    At the close of the original creation;
    Why not you
    On the threshold of the new?
    So sleep, sweet Prince,
    And take your rest.
    Tomorrow and a day will bring the dawn.
    And with the dawn new life.
    Then you will be King!
    For our Son will rise again!

    Mervyn Carapiet

    Mervyn Carapiet April 23, 2011 |
  10. Thank you for the devotions

    Paul George April 23, 2011 |
  11. Oh, thank you, Justin. Thank you for reminding me in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that the personal “dark time” I am experiencing is but the cradle of a new chapter of His resurrection life to be manifested in me. Alleluia!

    Starla April 23, 2011 |
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    Tony June 28, 2011 |