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

 

I fear in the dark and the doubt of my journey,
But courage will come with the sound of your steps by my side,
It is finished.  

 

Jesus’ doubts enabled him to explore the unfolding mystery of redemption.  A journey begun at the foundation of the world – according to John’s estimate – now finds itself in the darkened afternoon of a Passover Friday with a Pascal Moon illuminating the scene.  Is this what it was for?  As voices were silenced haphazardly across the hilltop, Jesus is left with the resignation, “It is finished.”

His voice wouldn’t have been robust.  Distant ears would have missed it.  Few ears would have caught it.  “It is finished.”

Lips barely move.  A tongue cloying to the roof of a mouth diminishes the clarity.  But the resolution is there: “It is finished.”

And so much of what is accomplished in this unfolding drama of redemption is missed on us.  We confine his thin utterance to a distant time and place.  We do not allow Jesus’ words to find us where we are.   Golgotha is a time out of synch with our time and a place that is so far removed from us.

“It is finished.”

What is accomplished is the cutting of a New Covenant that we have failed to recognize.  Our preference is for cliché and slogan and our preoccupation is with Jesus having died on the cross for us.  We prefer an observation to a promise, and forgetting a Covenant, we are ignorant of the Promise.

“The time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with Israel and Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt.  Although they broken my covenant, I was patient with them,” says the Lord.  “But this is the covenant that I will make with Israel after those days,” says the Lord.  “I will set my law within them and write it on their hearts; I will become their God and they shall become my people.  No longer need they teach one another to know the Lord; all of them, high and low alike, shall know me,” says the Lord, “for I will forgive their wrong-doing and remember their sin no more.”

Prophesied by Jeremiah, Jesus at last says, “It is finished.”  It is accomplished.  Forgiveness has been promised.  A Promise has been made.  A Covenant has been cut.

During my pastoral ministry as a parish priest the Burial of a Christian was typically and characteristically observed with the Table Sacrament that gives us the assurance of our relationship with God.  Grief is addressed and hope assured in light of an evangelical Promise first realized on the heights of Golgotha.

Thirteen years ago I led a father with preschool children to the open grave of a wife and mother.  In the church where we had met at Jesus’ Table only moments earlier, we had been fed with the Bread of Heaven, the Cup of Salvation.  A widower knelt and was fed, and his young children kneeling beside him, wide-eyed, confused, distracted and alarmed, looked into my face as I knelt on one knee and extended my hand in blessing.  Neighbours, and friends and co-workers joined them in this simple act of nurturing.  They entered into a Promise and claimed the Promise as their own.

As we stood around the grave, the casket rested on the straps waiting to be lowered and covered. 

The forgiven assembly gathered close to Don and his children and in that gathering Jesus was present.  Earth was cast on the bier and the final blessing said.

Returning to the church, the wind caught my funeral cape.  I turned and looked back at Don.  He held one child in his arms and two hugged his legs.  Friends drew close and shook his hand while others stretched to give him a kiss.  As I looked, I am sure that the wind that filled my cloak brought to my hearing: “It is finished.”

Finished indeed – and only just begun.

I fear in the dark and the doubt of my journey,

But courage will come with the sound of your steps by my side…

 

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.