On Holy Saturday of this year (April 19, 2014), more than 100 people came together for a peaceful, public, Christian prayer vigil for asylum seekers, outside (Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) Scott Morrison’s office in Cronulla Mall.
The event—organised by a group called ‘Love Makes a Way‘—included elements of lament, confession, a statement of faith, readings from the scriptures, and prayer. Below is the text of the short sermon I delivered as part of the proceedings, reflecting on what it means to stand in solidarity with asylum seekers with a ‘Holy Saturday faith’.
That first Holy Saturday was a time of confusion and shattered hope. The disciples, having walked with Jesus for three years, had now seen their expectations—their dreams—come crashing down around them.
Would God—could God—still come through? Somehow? Some way?
This is what a spirituality of Holy Saturday looks like.
On Holy Saturday, there is nothing to do but wait. Holy Saturday is “…the day of waiting, without knowing what will come next.” It’s a time of waiting in patient hope for the miraculous in-breaking of God’s love and justice.
It’s when we sit—and wrestle— with unanswered, uncomfortable questions.
It’s a day when we allow ourselves to think about the situation of asylum seekers—trapped between death and life: between the death that forced them from their homes and the possibility of a new life; between the despair of a perilous journey on a leaky boat—surrounded by death on all sides—and the life that awaits them on the other side; between the hell of being indefinitely trapped in an off-shore detention centre and the possibility of life that comes with resettlement.
It’s a day for us to hear their voices; when we hear—and acknowledge—the fear, and the desperation, and the despair, and the confusion as to why they are being punished for committing no crime.
It’s a day when we ask why our political leaders seem so intent on dehumanising vulnerable people, and why we allow them to do it.
And we wait. And we pray.
But Holy Saturday is not a day when nothing is happening.
It’s the time when God takes into Godself the pain and the anger and the sadness and the violence and the godforsakenness of the world.
It’s the day when the Creator of all stands in full solidarity with broken humanity.
And so today we stand, with God, in full solidarity with asylum seekers; our brothers and sisters.
In the words of N.T. Wright, “Our part, then, is to keep Holy Saturday in faith and hope, grieving over the ruin of the world that sent Jesus to his death, trusting in the promises of God that new life will come in God’s way and in God’s time.”
Today we keep Holy Saturday in faith and hope, grieving over the ruin of a nation that sends asylum seekers away to Nauru and Manus Island, trusting in the promises of God that change can come in God’s way and in God’s time.
But in the present, there is something we can do.
We live in faith and in hope, but especially in love.
We must love. We must do love. We must be love. We must welcome the stranger. If ever there was a time for the Church in Australia to stand up and to embody an alternative, it’s now.
And we cannot fall into the trap of dehumanising those who dehumanise, for to do so is already to have lost.
Though we stand today in Holy Saturday, we look back to Good Friday and Jesus’ magnificent words on the cross: “Forgive them, Father, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Forgive us all, Father, for we do not know what we are doing!
We seek redemption, then, for all; for Scott Morrison (who is responsible for the current policy measures) and our other political leaders (of both sides—this is not a partisan issue!), as well as for asylum seekers…and for ourselves.
We seek to recover our own humanity, which is being marred in this process of dehumanising the other.
So we need to remind ourselves today that it’s ok to live in the tension, as we seek to be faithful as we wait for our faithful God to break-in to the current situation.
We can’t run ahead to Easter Sunday and the fullness of the resurrection, but rather we need to embrace what it means to live in the unresolved reality of Holy Saturday. Like the confused disciples running to the tomb of Jesus (but not yet having encountered the risen Lord) on that first Easter Sunday morning, we’re not quite sure what it all means, what God is up to.
But, as Christians, we do live on the other side of Easter Sunday. And so we allow ourselves a sliver of hope. We look back to the ways in which God has been faithful in history, and we dare to believe that somehow, some way, God will come through once more.
We urge ourselves to believe that, though it looks hopeless right now, it’s not the end of the story. We dare to believe that the broken rose can give bloom through the cracks of the concrete.
Help us, faithful Father, to wait for your victory, and in the meantime to serve you—and all those made in your image—in faith, hope, and love. Amen.
There are a couple of direct quotes in this short sermon that I need to go back and reference correctly. I apologise for any unreferenced quotes in the meantime.