Is God Dead Today?
11 years ago, I wrote an article that started with a quote from Fredrich Nietzche:
God is dead.
God remains dead.
And we have killed him.
I went on to say, “I spend at least two out of every seven days believing that there is no God. That we are a profoundly amazing collection of molecules, and cells, and fibers, and electric impulses and that at the end of it all, we turn back into dust.”
These days, my “belief” in God is more like Schrodinger’s Cat: both alive and dead at the same time (more on that in a moment).
Today is Holy Saturday, a Christian holiday that I didn’t even know existed until I started attending progressive, affirming church in NYC after graduating college.
It’s the day in between the crucifixion and the resurrection. On that first Saturday, the earliest followers of Jesus (not even yet called “Christians”), were scared and scattered.
They believed that their leader was dead.
Two thousand years later, we can look back on that moment and see the ending of the story that was not yet apparent the day after the crucifixion: that death does not have the final answer. But with 2,000 years of distance, and a more developed theology that Jesus was in some meaningful way divinity embodied, we can also look back and see that on that first Saturday, God was dead. God was laying in a tomb.
The disciples and other followers of Jesus were likely scared and scattered. The Bible doesn’t offer much insight into what happened on that day. Luke 23:55 shares,
“As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.”
That’s it: resting.
Probably grieving. Maybe meeting and scheming and dreaming and hoping. Maybe they felt numb, defeated, delusional, angry, abandoned.
That feeling is something queer Christians can relate to deeply. Whether for only a moment or for years and decades, almost all of us have felt the floor drop out beneath us and darkness close in around us.
The moment after you say the words out loud to a loved one for the first time, “I’m trans” or “I’m gay” and you wait for their response. Sometimes, we live in that in-between space for a long time.
Like Jesus, we marched toward Jerusaleum, aware of the risk but full of hope. We come out. We put on new clothes and go out in public for the first time. We quit our job at the anti-LGBTQ church. We finally set a boundary with a family member.
And then the worst happens.
Jesus found himself accused, tortured, and executed. Maybe you find yourself cut off financially. Maybe your parents tell you they are disappointed in you. Maybe your partner screams and berates you. The next job doesn’t come through and you’re crashing on a friend’s couch.
Like those earliest disciples, we want to believe in the vision: that the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven is possible. That coming out is worth it. That the LGBTQ community is beautiful and strong and inclusive. But we can’t always see it. Sometimes, it feels like death and despair are winning.
But it is from that exact spot, that moment of utter despair and hopelessness, that Christianity was born. Yup! Hang in there with me.
That’s why I love Holy Saturday: it doesn’t erase the hard parts, it doesn’t skip over the waiting. Sometimes, we just don’t know how it will all turn out. Sometimes, it seems absolutely hopeless.
That’s real. That’s human. That’s holy.
If you are in that messy middle, that dark Saturday as the reality of crucifixion begins to set in and the crushing reality of “What the heck am I going to do now?!” begins to bear down on you, I see you. Fr. Shay sees you. Countless Christians around the world have been in that exact spot.
On the day after Jesus’s execution, his followers could’ve called it quits. They could have gone back to their towns and their trades. They could have chalked up the past few years to youthful naivete. They could have put it all behind them and moved on.
But they didn’t.
They stayed put. They gathered. They waited. And the next day, they heard a message from a few women that Christ was risen. Easter gets all the glory, but I’d argue it was their decision to stick around on that darkest day that really made it all possible.
Which brings me back to Schrodinger’s Cat.
11 years ago, I spent at least 2 days a week thinking “maybe there is no God.” These days, it’s more like 7. BUT, I also spend those same 7 days believing in the core of my being that God is absolutely alive. Every day I find a new and deeper connection to the divine.
I don’t know what happened on Easter Sunday and I’m sure that Fr. Shay and I have different ideas about that (you’ll hear from him tomorrow), but I do know that SOMETHING happened. That waiting through the drudgery and death of Saturday was worth it because SOMETHING happened on that Sunday that changed the course of human history.
I don’t believe God is “out there” in space or some other dimension or a heavenly throne looking down upon us, watching us, a distinct conscious person or entity; but, I encounter God every single day. I see God moving in Sanctuary Collective. I find the holy spirit on the dance floor. I feel God course between my partner and me as we hold each other and drift to sleep. I hear God in music. I see the work of God in the lives of my friends and family who have found recovery from addiction in the reliance on a higher power.
“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”Luke 17:20-21
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday reminding us that we are dust and to dust we shall return; it ends tomorrow with Easter Sunday reminding us that death does not have the final answer. We are alive and dead at the same time.
I do not know what tomorrow holds but I do know this: I am so glad to be huddled in the upper room with you right now, scared and supporting each other. And I cannot wait to burst out tomorrow full of unstoppable hope that love wins and that even the world’s most powerful empire cannot defeat us.
Rest now, we have a world to change tomorrow.