I Will Sing As I Journey

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Christ Church (Parish) Church, Fredericton

 

Canon Jim Irvine

Three Hour Watch By The Cross · Good Friday · April 2, 2010

Christ Church (Parish) Church, Fredericton. New Brunswick

 

Lord Jesus, of you I will sing as I journey.
I’ll tell all my neighbours about you wherever I go.
A Journey begun...

 

From midday a darkness fell over the whole land, which lasted until three in the afternoon.  Each year every effort is made to replicate the scene.  The familiar accounts are retold and the faithful and sceptical, the curious and the cautious gather.  In large city churches or small country chapels distant pews are occupied. 

Nothing has changed, and inasmuch as Jesus’ expiation remains singular, the perennial duplication has touched generations that have preceded ours.  The story touches us again today.

Some will have their favourite story.  Matthew and Luke provide different accounts.  Mark and John tell the story differently as well. For all of their differences, they each lead us to a Cross on the heights of a hill outside the city walls of Jerusalem.  The gospels arrive together at Golgotha. 

For Mark the journey has been brief.  Jesus set out at the Jordan and his steps led from the river’s edge where he was baptized to Golgotha.  Matthew and Luke had Jesus begin his journey from Bethlehem.  John, on the other hand, established his point of departure at the foundation of creation. 

Jesus’ journey was seen differently.

And it was most certainly different from our own experience.  For the most part, few of us have undertaken a journey.

Several years ago now, I found myself at the local bus depot in the city.  I was waiting for the arrival of the bus from Saint John.  My son was on the bus and he was coming for a visit.  I arrived at the depot waiting room early and found it almost deserted.  Two or three people were sitting waiting and as they were without luggage, I thought that they were waiting for arrivals, as I was.  One was at the ticket counter purchasing a fare.  I stood by the plate glass doors and waited.  Over a space of time taxis arrived and dropped off fares who carried back packs and wheeled suitcases in past where I was standing.

Some were going to Woodstock, Edmundston perhaps.  Possibly Montreal.  The bus would soon arrive.  For some this was a point of departure, while for others it was their destination.  But in the growing crowd some were like me, and I wasn’t going anywhere.  I was staying where I was.

Those arriving climbed off the bus and retrieved their luggage, while those departing placed their bags near the yawning doors and boarded the vehicle.  Arrivals and departures might anticipate a laundry and a resettling, and, after a short period, a return trip.

The routine is familiar to most of us.  While I was not embarking on a trip that evening, like you I have undertaken trips before – and since.  But only recently have I begun to recognize the journey that I have been on.

Good Friday and the words attributed to Jesus on this solemn day have served to help me recognize a journey that I have been on – and continue to make.  For all that the evangelists committed for posterity, we have taken liberties. And for the liberties taken, I have placed the Cross at a comfortable distance where I have prevented Jesus’ words from engaging me in a transformative way.

Yann Martel, writing in The Life of Pi, has Pi express with disarming clarity, “I know what you want.  You want a story that won’t surprise you.  That will confirm what you already know.  That won’t make you see higher or further or differently. You want a flat story.  An immobile story.  You want dry, yeastless factuality.”  For far too long words attributed to Jesus have been just that, flat, immobile, without leaven. 

This afternoon, in the darkness that embraces us over the course of the next few hours I will share glimpses of my journey with you.  I hope that in the course of these meditations we shall begin to see higher, or further or differently from how we have in the past.  My hope is that we will begin to glimpse a journey that we have undertaken from the time of our baptism, without ticket or luggage.

For it seems clear to me that while I was not present on Golgotha to witness these words for myself, they are far from a dry, yeastless factuality placed at the distance of two millennium.  These are words that I have heard – and you have too – if we but pause in our frantic rush of arrivals and departures and listen.

Lord Jesus, of you I will sing as I journey.

I’ll tell all my neighbours about you wherever I go.

 

Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.