By Sara McKinley
First UMC, Gainesville, FL
My paternal grandmother was a woman of small stature but enormous personality. She posed a striking figure with her blue grey, immaculately coiffured hair, and her carefully tailored outfits as she 'dressed to the nines.' But perhaps the most striking thing about her was how she lived by her proverbial sayings. I can still remember her saying to me, "A stitch in time saves nine." Or "A penny saved is a penny earned." Or "In for a penny, in for a pound." But one of her favorites was "Good things come to those who wait."
I thought of this saying when I meditated on today's theme word of 'remain.' "Good things come to those who wait, or, to those who remain." It is not always easy to remain. Holy Saturday has always been one of those rather strange days of waiting, of remaining, of wondering what will happen next.
The church has journeyed through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday with foot washing ceremonies, Christian Seders, Tenebrae services or meditations on the seven last words of Christ, but typically not much is scheduled for Holy Saturday, except waiting and remaining. The early church tradition was to hold a vigil through Saturday night reading the scriptures, singing, praying and remaining.
Matthew tells us in 27:57-60 that Joseph of Arimathea did a wonderful thing providing a tomb for Jesus, but the scripture says that when he had done everything necessary he "He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away." He did not remain. But "61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb." They remained.
Others remained at the tomb, but as the result of the paranoia of the chief priests and Pharisees who wanted to make sure that Jesus' Disciples did not come and steal his body, in an attempt to prove that he had been raised from the dead in 3 days, as Jesus had predicted. These others who remained were the guards. Sometimes we don't remain for the right reasons.
We remain to prove ourselves right, to insist on our own way, to protect our own turf, or we remain stubbornly entrenched inside the walls of our own churches. Good things do not come to those who wait with such motives. The scripture tells us that when the earthquake occurred and the Angel the Lord appeared, the guards acted as dead men, so terrified were they by the apparition of the angel (Matthew 28:4). Their fear and wrong motives blinded them to what was right in front of them.
But good things did come to the women who remained. They did not wait at the tomb through the night, but returned as early as they could on Sunday morning, and their patient waiting was well rewarded. Remaining is not easy. There is often pain in the waiting. "But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31 (NRSV)
Prayer: O God of the Ages, who waited patiently for just the right moment to send Jesus to be our salvation, help us to learn the value of remaining, even when the circumstances are difficult. Help us to remain for the right reasons — to wait patiently for our God; to renew our strength, so that we may mount up with wings like eagles; to run and not be weary; to walk and not faint as we wait for the fulfillment of our Kingdom promises. Amen.
- Do you remember a time when you did all the right things, but didn't remain to see the outcome?
- Have there been times when you have remained for the wrong reasons? What were they? What did you learn from this experience?
- Describe a time when remaining was painful, but necessary.
- Has there been a time when you remained and were rewarded by good things happening?