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


For you save us by giving your body and blood.
As long as I live, Jesus, make me your servant. 

I am thirsty.



Darkness persisted and the hours passed.  The Centuries inspected the men hanging on the crosses.  Some had died.  They had not been strong enough to endure.  Others had fallen silent.  The atmosphere surrounding the hilltop had changed.  Some still cried out but their breathing was laboured and their blasphemies had weakened.

One guard was sure that he had heard Jesus say, “I am thirsty.”

He reached for the cheap wine the soldiers had brought with them for their personal refreshment.  Finding a sponge, he poured a libation and pressed it to Jesus’ lips.

Was it then that Jesus remembered that he had told his disciples that he would not drink wine again until he came into his Kingdom?  This is no throne.  No hand was free to hold a sceptre.  Had Luke been wrong?  Pledge or not the guard was sure that he had heard Jesus clearly, “I am thirsty.”

Few of us have ever experienced thirst.  Oh, we have our morning coffee, but I have never arrived at breakfast thirsty.  We might have a glass of water when we take our medication.  We might even let the water run so that it will be cold.  But thirst eludes us.  Pausing for a cup of tea midday may be a well established pattern.  However thirst has little to do with it.

I encountered thirst for the first time six years ago.  And it wasn’t mine.

My son was returning to Saint John after a weekend visit and I drove him to the bus depot here in the city.  We arrived in time to purchase his fare and have a light supper in the adjacent sandwich restaurant. 

Jamie placed his order and went and found a table as I told the clerk what I wanted.  I poured two cups of soda as the sandwiches were being prepared and then paid the clerk.

I placed the tray on the table, took off my overcoat and sat opposite my son.  He took off his cap as I said grace, and then we began to unwrap the sandwiches.  No one else was in the restaurant and we had the place to ourselves.

It was nice – we weren’t rushed and we had an opportunity to talk – about the visit and about the week that lie ahead.  As we talked, a woman entered the shop and went to a table and sat down.  She had a small over night bag that she rested on the floor.  She was alone.  She was in her 50’s although she looked weary and older.

After a short time she spoke in our direction.  “May I have a cup of tea, please?” she said.  Startled, I turned to look in her direction, “Pardon me?” I said. She repeated her request.  “May I have a cup of tea?”  And she went on, “I have been travelling all day and I am going to Saint John on the bus.  I haven’t had anything to eat.  May I have a cup of tea?”  “Of course you may,” I replied as I stood up and went to her table.  “I’ll get you a cup of tea.  I’m not sure how good it’ll be – they only have paper cups.”  “That’s okay,” she said.  “Tea in a paper cup would be fine.  I just got in from Chatham.”  She held her hands together, rubbing them nervously.

As I stood at the counter I ordered her cup of tea, and a sandwich.  The bus wasn’t going to arrive in Saint John until late and if she was thirsty now, her hunger would be unbearable in another three hour’s time.  While the clerk prepared the sandwich I took the paper cup and the tea bag and went and poured hot water into the cup from the spout by the coffee machine.

The transaction completed, I carried the tray with the fresh sandwich and steaming cup of tea to the woman’s table and placed it in from of her.  “Enjoy this,” I said and returned to my son and my sandwich.

I may be mistaken, but I am sure that I heard Jesus’ cry of thirst that Sunday night in a small sandwich restaurant waiting for a bus to Saint John.  And I suspect that we have all heard that cry at other times and in other places.

But I have not always acted with the perception that brought Golgotha close to me that night.  Like you, I have found myself asking, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and did nothing for you?”

And he will answer, “I tell you this, anything you did not do for one of the least of these, however humble, you did not do for me.”

For you save us by giving your body and blood.

As long as I live, Jesus, make me your servant. 


It is finished.