Gwynne and I have been using the Daily Office Lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer to guide our bible reading. It’s a nice resource, if not complete, because each day we read selections from the Psalms, the Old Testament and the New Testament, and each day’s reading ends with a reading from one of the four gospel accounts.
Today is the middle day, the day after Jesus’ powerful, but painful and horrifying death and before the glorious day of his resurrection. I was struck by how not having a gospel reading highlighted this in my reading and prayers this morning. I noted the following as I read and prayed.
- What was it like for the disciples? A crucified Messiah is no Messiah at all. It’s a failed Messiah. Many Jewish men claimed to be the Messiah and their death proved to everyone around them that they, in fact, were not the Messiah. And so there the disciples sit, facing the (apparent) reality that Jesus had been defeated. They were wrong. They’d given their lives for 3 years to following him, and now what.
We often chide the disciples for not remembering that Jesus said he’d be raised from the dead, but we need to be more graceful than that. Here they sit in the Middle Day (not knowing it’s the Middle day) and it will take a miracle no smaller than raising him from the dead to change things. Searching my mind, I can’t think of any of the stories of people being brought back to life who had suffered so violent and torturous a death as Jesus. It would seem an impossible feat. “But Jesus said he’d rise again.” we complain to the disciples, forgetting that God has told us all sorts of things that are much less difficult to fathom and we go on forgetting that he’s promised provision and care and love.
- The Middle Day Echos the Destruction of the Temple Part of today’s reading was Psalm 27. In this Psalm, David speaks of God’s tabernacle as being his last refuge in the face of his enemies. It’s the place where God’s presence crosses over into earth and resides most fully at that time. Which is why the Babylonian destruction of the temple (and the Roman destruction again in 70 AD as well) is so important to the Jewish people. They sit in the middle time, having experienced the destruction of the temple and awaiting God’s return.
What must it have been like then for the disciples, who thought the generations of waiting was over, the Messiah had come, and now he’s gone. Dead. And they’re waiting for life to move forward. It struck me that once again, God’s people lost the fullest disclosure of God’s presence in the world at the point where Jesus’ death has not yet been resolved by resurrection.
- We experience the Middle Days in everyday life. It seems the easiest to see the Middle we experience as the waiting for Jesus’ return, but we experience the dynamic of the middle in every other facet of life. We experience the death of a loved one, or the lost of a job, or even the promise of a new baby, and we have some amount of time to wait while we anticipate God’s work.
How can we be faithful during this middle period? How do we hang on to the promise of God’s love and presence when we’re sitting in the middle of pain?
The middle creates space. It’s the place where we can retreat into solitude and find the presence of God’s Spirit. It’s the reality of the Holy Spirit that we often neglect and that makes our time today different than the middle of the disciples or even ancient Israel. God’s presence is here now, among his people, in his church, residing in each of us. As we embrace the middle of each day, and allow ourselves to enter into the solitude that it brings, we find we have the space to commune with God’s Spirit as we wait for God’s holy work to be complete.
Today is the Middle Day.