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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
We approach the Cross
Devotees began to gather in Jerusalem. Jesus and his disciples were among them. The established calendar helped. They gathered from the four corners of the Empire. And many of them had to plan for the journey. Passover was approaching.
They knew what it was that they were observing. For many, this was a familiar excursion. They knew the sights and sounds of Jerusalem – they knew what to expect. For others, this was perhaps their first pilgrimage and their arrival filled them with wonder – and curiosity.
Similar to our assembly today.
Some of us have travelled this way before while the afternoon before us will be new to others. Familiarity and curiosity mingle as we gather in the shadows of this holy place and watch… and wait… and pray.
Our calendar helps us and we are the beneficiaries of the observances that honour holy time. Redemptive acts honoured and observed have brought pilgrims together before. Holy time and holy space meet men and women of all sorts and conditions.
But it was different with Moses.
Before there was a calendar there was first redemption and deliverance. The preparations were less thorough, less elaborate. Details would have been awkwardly shared amongst the swollen community of Israelites in Goshen.
Sights and sounds… and smells too would have filled the society and examples would have been set and copied from household to household throughout the scattered community of Jews. These were, after all, indentured servants who prayed for deliverance. Lambs close at hand were selected and slaughtered and bleating followed by silence would have fallen on them all. Charcoal fires were ignited and bread was made and all was done in haste. It was the Lord’s Passover.
Wide-eyed, devotees waited in anticipation of what was to come.
Generations of faithful devotion made the commemoration less hasty. Keeping the Passover in Jerusalem was highlighted more because of its locale than its observance. Jesus’ disciples were like so many other faithful men and women gathering in Jerusalem. Like them, they had done this before.
The month is Nissan. And the full moon of Passover rises in the night sky. Accustomed rituals will be orderly and methodical. Haste is a stranger for those pressing into these streets and markets and inns.
Our haste is diminished as well.
Familiar as we are with the gospel narratives, of the record penned by Matthew and Mark, by Luke and by John, we rely heavily on what we know and what we know we know. No surprises here, today. We will hear words attributed to Jesus as he hung dying on the cross on Golgotha. The words will be those of Jesus and our familiarity with his phrases will be couched in our knowledge that the Word – the Logos of God – gives voice to thoughts that begin to reveal to us the mind of God.
Today I am going to avert our gaze from John and invite you to examine with me what Paul has written to the faithful in Corinth. Paul presents the cross straightaway to the Corinthians. He establishes it as a key stone in the arch of his gospel to them:
18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom – the Sophia – of God.
And in reminding them that Jesus is the power of God, as well as the wisdom – the Sophia – of God Paul presents a fresh metaphor that is perhaps less familiar. Paul allows us to see Jesus in a fresh way. Paul provide us with a fresh lens, both found and neglected in Scripture, whereby we have an opportunity to hear familiar words in a fresh way. Jesus’ voice will become new and fresh and encouraging for each one on a pilgrimage this afternoon.
We know him. We may know him better.
The rehearsal of the seven Last Words will present us with the full sense of Jesus’ ministry found in the gospels and concentrated in these closing hours of his ministry on Calvary. The words are found in the context of his final breath, strained in the darkness and terror of that unholy hillside outside a City Wall. These words echo a fresh voice and a full breath on every hearing – when compassion and love was given voice on other occasions.
Our Theme Hymn – Who Comes From God – will help us in this guided reflection. The lyrics present Jesus with Paul’s metaphor thoroughly applied to him. Christology is the term, but that is perhaps too academic a term and distances us from its central question: Who should we seek with all our heart? Coupled with the Christ-centered hymn I am relying on the painting of Seiger Köder. The images are from his series on the Stations of the Cross. I have selected eight images and adapted them for our purpose here today. I believe that his brush will help you meditate on our pilgrimage when my words fail.
2011 Come and Follow Me
2014 Folly of God