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


And with all of the people you saved by your love,
We’ll sing to the dawn at the end of our journey.

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.



A great heaviness set in as Jesus breathed his last.  The time has passed slowly and we are weary.  You have stayed.  Others found the waiting intolerable.  Jesus endured the pain and humility of the Day.  Deprived of sleep and food, hours merged and the passage of time stretched from hours to an eternity.  Redemption of God’s creation demands nothing less. 

In the company of the Father, the Son climbed Moriah.  The thicket yielded no ram and no angel withheld the blade.  Isaac was let loose and Abraham found his way down the hillside by a different route.

The Son, the Father’s only Son remained, and was heard to say, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

And he breathed his last.



Breathing our last brings us our own terror.

I remember, over a decade ago now, a rainy afternoon that found me at home in my last parish.  The phone rang and I answered it on the third ring.  I recognized the voice on the line.  It was Ann.  She had been crying.  It took a moment for her to compose herself, and when she had, she asked if I could come by.  This was something that couldn’t wait.

I picked up my car keys and drove the short distance to Ann’s home.  Her children were at home, playing.  The weather prevented them from playing outdoors.  The living room looked like a war zone.  Ann led me into the kitchen and we sat down at the kitchen table.

Earlier that day she had visited her doctor, an oncologist.  She had had tests the previous week and she had been given the report .  The report was not good and the prognosis was no better.  She was diagnosed with an aggressive malignancy that would not be responsive to surgery or treatment.

She fought back tears.  The future held its own terrors.  She was concerned about her husband and how he would manage during the illness and after her death.  She was concerned about her children and how they would adjust to her absence.  There was so much left to be done and there was not sufficient time to do it. 

She felt angry and she felt guilty.  Angry at God for denying her the opportunity to fulfil what she had undertaken; guilty for failing to complete what she had in good faith begun.  But for all of her anger and guilt she honoured God and wanted to see this new stage in her life through to its end.

As I sat at the table with her, I drew on my pastoral skills to the sick and dying.  I listened carefully to what she said and how she said it.  It didn’t take me long to realize that my presence was more assuring than anything I might say.  I didn’t say much.  I only listened.

As the children jumped from sofa to chair in the living room, as one wounded sibling rushed for maternal comfort as others screeched in glee, as Ann rose above her immediate self-preoccupation and met the demanding needs of each child, I saw the unfolding of God’s presence in the very midst of domestic chaos.  Ann distributed juice boxes and Rice Crispie Squares and healing kisses to bumped heads and scraped knees.

As she returned to the kitchen she sat, and exhaled slowly, placing her hand in mine.  She looked through the archway and saw her children sitting on the floor, sipping their juice boxes and watching a favourite video.

She turned back to the table and squeezed tears of sorrow from swollen eyes, allowing them to stream down her cheeks.

Her hand remained cradled in mine for some time in a kitchen filled with crayon drawings and fridge magnet names and Easter cards and children’s laughter and our silence.  And in that silence I heard words attributed to Jesus at an earlier date and in a distant place: “In your hands I commend my spirit.”  The earlier commendation I did not hear.  This latter day commendation brought Jesus’ Passion close by – closer by far than I may ever have been on Golgotha.

And with all of the people you saved by your love,

We’ll sing to the dawn at the end of our journey.


Ashes to Easter