Good Friday 2014
Christ Church (Parish) Church
Fredericton, New Brunswick
April 18, 2014 12 Noon - 3:00 p.m.
The Reverend Anthony Kwaw
Rector of Fredericton
The Reverend Canon Jim Irvine
Who comes from God as Word and Breath?
The question plumbs the Scriptures we hold sacred from the opening verses of the Book of Genesis through to the closing phrases of the Revelation of St John the Divine. The Breath of God that blew over the face of creation caressed the hills of Patmos. The Word, through whom all things were made in the great epoch strides of Creation found its agency in winning the Victory proclaimed to those saints in Christ in the Apocalypse.
The shallow breath of Jesus on the heights of Golgotha echoed the Breath that breathed life into the nostrils of the countless generations that tread a path that led out of Eden to this Place of the Skull. The New Adam supplants the Old Adam of an earlier day. The evangelists remind every generation that the first proclamation in this dreadful place is one of forgiveness.
As the weight of the cross-beam is shouldered, Jesus’ thoughts turn to forgiveness. Who shapes a thought and makes it clear? The thought begins in the mind of Jesus and the Word finds expression that is heard by those that are near, and have ears to hear. The clarity of Jesus’ thought is both a challenge as well as an encouragement.
A challenge that causes us pause: the indictment speaks to injustice – our injustice! Not the injustice that we plead that we have suffered at the hands of others, but the injustice that reflects our nature. Pleading voices fill the air and the torment of the damned resound in the whirlwind atop Golgotha’s heights. Deliverance was sought in Egypt, and continues to be sought.
Centurions supervising the crucifixion mistake the sound of the wind whipping their cloaks. No less have we failed to hear the anguish of our current generation.
“Forgive…” is often mistaken and goes unheard.
Jesus’ absolution is not the shallow pardon for the nailing of spikes into the timber that will support his weight. Those that wield the hammers find forgiveness, yes; but absolution reaches much father than a voice might travel in the howling wind.
Misplaced ambition and justice meted out with both fear and favour finds beneficiaries of Jesus’ forgiveness. Those that have imposed justice and displaced truth weigh heavily on Jesus’ cross beam. Those that have exploited friend and foe and family member bear down and add to the mass of the timber. Those that sit in judgement and are blind to truth add to the weight to the scales of injustice.
The Pharaoh generations earlier added to the weight. Pilate added more to the burden and Herod and Ciaphas added more still. The passing of time and the passing of generations did not lessen the weight that accumulated on the shoulders of Jesus.
But not only do Jesus’ words travel back in time to embrace all that preceded the event of this Redemptive Day… his words anticipate that which lies ahead… for his followers, his disciples, and for you and for me as well.
The evangelist John captures the depth of Jesus’ meaning with the record of the encounter in the Upper Room on Easter night. Forgiveness finds its greater clarity and application in that scene.
Who shapes a thought and makes it clear? Jesus, the Word of God, presents himself in the midst of his followers. He breathes on them… and as they inhale he is credited with saying that those whose sins these men forgive will be forgiven. And those whose sins are not forgiven by these men will remain so.
Jesus – who comes from God as Word and Breath – invests his breath and shapes a thought that challenges us all. Its clarity is Jesus’. Its effectiveness is ours.
Too often we sidestep his gracious invitation to share in the dramatic redemption of mankind. Too often we think it sufficient that we dredge up sufficient contrition to warrant our own forgiveness. Too often we avoid the responsibility Jesus demands of us. We are reluctant to reach out to others and bring forgiveness to their guilt-fraught lives.
Each of us needs to be forgiven, but beyond that, knowing that we have received absolution, we need to know that the truth of forgiveness is best grasped when others have heard our voice find breath and we pronounce words of absolution.
We fall silent to our peril. We withhold forgiveness to our peril.
The disciples asked Jesus early in his ministry to teach them to pray. It’s not that they didn’t know any prayers. They likely did. Some perhaps better than others. But that wasn’t their concern.
They asked their Rabbi to teach them his prayer. They were his followers and they were following him. Sharing his prayer would reinforce that singlemindedness. Others would know that they and Jesus were one as their voices echoed common intentions and phrases addressed to God.
In that family prayer – a prayer we all know well – Jesus included a petition that addressed forgiveness. Some Christian traditions used the word trespasses while others used the word debts and still others the word sins. But we all use the word forgive.
And to that end, the disciples that stood at the edge of today’s unfolding drama would not have missed that we petition God to forgive us as we forgive others. That we are the beneficiaries of God’s forgiveness when we forgive others and to the extent… to the degree… that our absolution frees them from the bondage they know all too well. Jesus gave clarity to those who caught what he said.
Forgiveness is at the heart of the day’s gospel proclamation. Jesus places it there. Everything else that follows is built on this fundamental premise. Without this being operative in the lives of those witnessing the events of the day, nothing else much matters.
Such is the power of God and wisdom – the Sophia of God.
Who among us could be satisfied for a minute to keep God’s forgiveness only to themselves, excluding those around us, excluding those whom we have encountered in the past and ignoring those whose lives we have yet to encounter?
2011 Come and Follow Me
2014 Folly of God