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Good Friday 2013
Christ Church (Parish) Church
Fredericton, New Brunswick
March 29, 2013 12 Noon - 3:00 p.m.
The Reverend Anthony Kwaw
Rector of Fredericton
The Reverend Canon Jim Irvine
Every day has its own story and this day is no different. Each story is so complex in its telling it sometimes takes a lifetime to comprehend in its fullness. Roman Centuries regale their comrades with the events that transpired on the height outside the City wall. Details differ for each one and the emphasis given vary from soldier to soldier.
Others have stories too, but they would not be assured time enough to tell their stories to anyone. As their shadows lengthen their lives run out. Felons all, they would not see the sun set in this dreadful place. For each one while the story would be lived, it would never be told.
Tradition holds that Luke began his story and while his verses appear truncated, we get a glimpse of how the story of the day began, at least from his telling…
Luke 23: 33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing.
We are accustomed to seeing images of Jesus’ crucifixion with three crosses often silhouetted against a purple or blood-red sky. The images are faithful to Luke’s account, where two felons were close by Jesus. Others were there of course. The Imperial Roman Authority in its efficiency exploited the hill top and we can rest assured that in this dreadful place no one was alone. And no one died alone.
At the place called The Skull, Luke adds to his description words attributed to Jesus. “Father forgive them…”
His story begins with absolution.
The phrase recalled by Luke well have been Jesus’ mantra as he carried his cross-beam through the City streets and up the worn pathway that led to the summit of this unholy hill. Bystanders may have heard the words and wondered at their meaning. Others hearing his words in passing may have included them as part of their witness to the story of this day.
Possibly the words were a diversion to the pain he endured while a Century’s hand grasped a hammer as an iron nail was held in place. Diverting his eyes, Jesus’ words may have first been heard by the Century as iron struck iron and iron pierced flesh and pinned one arm and then another to a cross beam of wood. Blood flowing from the fresh wound would stain the wood and trickle onto the ground. Abel’s blood no longer cried out alone. In the revisitation of Cain’s crime Jesus’ words are heard across time, “Father forgive…”
Possibly the words found expression among those knowing their need of absolution as their broken lives ran out. They crowded the hill top. Some may have heard. Others, too far away, or in in too much agony of their own, or consumed in the oblivion that prevailed, may not have heard the words of absolution at all. They may have been deaf to it.
But Luke wrote the words and that is the evangelical witness of the day’s story.
Absolution precedes confession, regardless of what the liturgists may say. Contrition is a stranger here but absolution is given.
Mourners long for laughter, and better days while the blinded seek for sight. The messianic proclamation was clear for Isaiah. It comes into focus on this day. The brokenness that abounds must first be healed; and the healing ointments, unguents and salves anointing the wounded of this world with forgiveness – salvation finds its place.
Liberty is a beacon giving hope to captives. Light pierces the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish it. Vulnerable, with arms open wide, Jesus strikes down the iron power.
The back story of this unfolding drama of redemption is the quest for Justice. And Justice prevails.
What we see is pain and hurt and suffering. What we see is punishment. What we see is a demand that once was made of Abraham. We feel guilt for the punishment that Jesus endured, that the Roman authority inflicted and that God demanded.
What we fail to see is the Messianic hope and the promise for which Israel longed.
Jeremiah 31: 31 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt – a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. 35 Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the LORD of hosts is his name.
The Cross is not about punishment. It is about establishing a New Covenant. When we stand in the shadow of the Cross too often we think as Man thinks, and not as God thinks. The Roman Centuries saw one thing; Jesus engaged in another. We read the story through our life experience and Jeremiah tells us something different. This cup of the New Covenant we bring repeatedly to our lips. In this covenant we are assured that God will forgive our iniquity and remember our sin no more.
Abolish ancient vengeance: proclaim your people’s hour.
2011 Come and Follow Me