A little something for holy Saturday

It’s Holy Saturday, the day before the big event. My younger daughter, who with her family is staying with us during the quarantine, asked this morning over coffee and the morning paper if I missed being a part of it, which was an unexpected question. I had to think about how to respond.

I think about all the Easters of my life, and how Saturday was not so much a day to pause and reflect, but a day to get ready, to make sure the sanctuary looked just so, to put the finishing touches on a sermon that had to be my best one of the year, though it seldom was. Saturday was the day I picked up corsages at the florist for my daughters, though the idea for that was really their mother’s. She was the one who got everyone dressed and ready and off to church on Easter morning. Most years I left the house in the dark before anyone was up.

Easter, for much of my life, seemed like a show that I was responsible for. I thought about the scenery (usually a big bank of Easter lilies which gave the sanctuary such a pleasant smell), I thought about the participants (not just anyone could be trusted to read the resurrection story), I thought about the small army of ushers and greeters and sound system operators needed for three, and sometimes four, services on Easter morning. At one church I served there was always a sunrise service in a nearby park, and over a thousand folding chairs had to be set up, along with a portable stage and sound system. Talk about a show.

When all of it was over, when I had preached my last sermon for the day, when I finally closed the church doors and went home, I would typically be exhausted, spent, and ready for a nap. I never had energy on Easter to do the Sunday Times crossword puzzle, which was the way I usually relaxed on a Sunday afternoon. Joy, the joy of Easter, was rare. Lent and then holy week took everything out of me. I used to remind people that Easter was a season that stretched all the way to Pentecost, but my habit was to be gone the following Sunday. I celebrated Easter by getting out of town, frazzled, and leaving things the following Sunday to the most junior member of the staff.

So, do I miss being a part of it? A little. I don’t miss the show, that’s for sure. And I think of the quarantine as an opportunity. These days I think I would focus less on the show and more on the substance.

Easter, the first one, began in the dark with no one else around. A few women came to the tomb, hauling a large load of burial spices. They weren’t going to see a spectacle. They were going to do a terrible job. And then, the angel. Or was it two? Or was it a young man? I don’t know. But the words were brief and to the point. “He is not here. He is risen.” That’s all they needed to know. In that moment, their lives had changed. They didn’t know it right away, but then no one gets it right away. I am still trying to understand what it means.

I think I would say that, if I had the chance. I think I would say, “He is not here. He is risen.” And then I would sit down and let the story speak for itself, as it always has.

Photo: Jerusalem

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.

18 Responses to A little something for holy Saturday

  1. Tom Blair April 11, 2020 at 11:59 am #

    Well said/
    but I will be online this year, saying that..


    • Doug April 11, 2020 at 7:19 pm #

      You will do a fine job as always, Tom.

  2. Laurie Fuller April 11, 2020 at 12:39 pm #

    Doug…you were spectacular Easter and every Sunday. First Pres. hasn’t been the same…🐥

  3. Doug April 11, 2020 at 2:06 pm #

    Miss you, Laurie!

  4. Nelly Petrock April 11, 2020 at 2:38 pm #

    Thank you for your message and for your daughter asking the question. Nelly Petrock

  5. Susan April 11, 2020 at 3:03 pm #


  6. Dave Bayer April 11, 2020 at 3:59 pm #

    Doug, I would certainly agree with Laurie re First Pres. Even the parrots in the park sound worse! I still smile when I think about when you were asked “what did you preach about today” one Easter evening many years ago. Stay well.

    • Doug April 11, 2020 at 4:06 pm #

      Thanks, Dave! For everyone else (who doesn’t know the story), I once called my mother to wish her a happy Easter. She said, “Oh, I heard SUCH a good Easter sermon today. What did you preach about?” And I said, “I don’t know, mom, something from the Old Testament, I guess.” It’s funnier when I tell it. Happy Easter, Dave! Greetings to Jackie.

  7. Betty Grit April 11, 2020 at 4:43 pm #

    Thank you, Doug. All of us who have led worship on Easter can relate. May we all experience resurrection in a new way this year.

    Hope you and your family are well.

  8. Marion Robbins April 11, 2020 at 4:43 pm #

    Thanks, Doug,
    Holy week and Easter in particular always brings a flood of thought provoking events…but I wonder, too, if perhaps the fewer the words the more memorable the message. “It is finished.” “He is risen.”
    Stay well!

  9. Keith Cobb April 11, 2020 at 5:00 pm #

    Thanks, Doug, for another poignant personal message. We miss you.

  10. Georgia Hamilton April 11, 2020 at 5:11 pm #

    Doug, I’ve enjoyed reading y our blogs and happy I’m still on the list. Your recollection of past Easter’s brought back so many memories, as Bill and I certainly had some part in the planning. I need to tell you that you would be very proud of First Pres , specially during this time of Covid 19. We have been on line, live for the past 4 Sundays; last night (Good Friday) was SO meaningful. If you have time, I think you could find it on line. Blessings to you and your family—CHRIST IS RISEN!

  11. sharon April 12, 2020 at 5:53 am #

    Happy Easter Doug!

    My feelings about Easter are deep and emotional. I could write a small book about all of the things I remember, what has remained important to this day.
    Writing about the quarantine and what doog it is for some of us, would contain another small book. Maybe someday.

  12. Jeffrey Edwards April 12, 2020 at 6:40 am #

    What a very nice way to think about this Holy day. We have been at First Congregational in Glenn Ellyn for years now, and appreciate having a woman for a Pastor, not that I didn’t like all the sermons we heard from you…but hearing from a woman has a different take. Good to ponder this day in a different manner. Today I will think about you and how did such wonderful sermons and now how a woman will have a slightly different take. Blessing on you my old friend, Thanks for all you did for us,

  13. Fred Anderson April 12, 2020 at 3:39 pm #

    It all very familiar–except the part about the NY Times crossword puzzle. We who are dyslexic, hate them!

    I was always so grateful the tomb was empty, if only because there would be a place for exhausted pastors to lay down on Sunday evening (for the rest of the week!).

    Well done, as always!

  14. Kathy & Roger Benson family April 13, 2020 at 6:42 am #

    He is not here.
    He is Risen.
    He is Risen, indeed!

    Thinking of you and praying that you and your family are well.

  15. Andrew Gifford April 13, 2020 at 9:38 am #

    I missed it greatly and being surrounded by people. It’s always a time for me to be filled and energized. How does the eldest daughter feel?

    Thanks Doug, Happy Easter
    Andy Gifford

    • Doug April 13, 2020 at 9:41 am #

      Sarah’s Easter sermon was one of a few I heard/watched yesterday. Great to hear from you, Andy!