We Cannot Measure

How You Heal...

Good Friday - April 3, 2015  

12 noon - 3:00 p.m.

Christ Church (Parish) Church, Fredericton, N.B.


The Reverend Canon Jim Irvine,

Guest Homilist



My fascination with my Kaleidoscope would spark my imagination and the mirrored pieces on multiple axis presented patterns that drew me into a world of wonder.  Images suggesting sun bursts could give way to deep forest glades with lush ferns and, in a turn give way to south sea coral reefs with colourful fish filling azure ocean depths.  The toy never had to leave my hand and one image was simply a slight turn of the cylinders away, without my casting my gaze elsewhere.

The shards of coloured glass were never augmented; neither were they diminished.  My insight was fuelled by my imagination and the wonder of sun bursts, forest glades and tropical paradises teaming in exotic fish – all enormous distances from me as I played, were at once as close to me as the scope of my imagination.

The Letter to the Hebrews provides such an opportunity in the referred light of a Passover Moon on the darkened Heights outside the Walled City of Jerusalem…

Therefore Jesus had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. 

John’s Gospel account records the words of Jesus with Mary in mind: “Behold your son.”

As a student I was assigned to St Mark’s Church in North End Halifax during my theological studies at King’s College.  I would attend the Sunday Parish Eucharist and assist the Rector.  I was not the acolyte, neither was I filling the role of a Layreader.  Chiefly, my attendance provided me with the discipline of presence and allowed me to observe.

During my final year, the church had installed a Rood Beam that ran above the chancel step.  Positioned on the massive Beam were carved oaken images depicting the scene when Jesus addressed both Mary, his Mother and the Beloved Disciple – we understand him to be John.  “Behold your Mother,” Jesus said.  And then he went on to add, “Behold your son.”

It is a dreadful scene but even here, if we allow, healing begins and efforts to hold and heal and warn continue.

It was not the first occasion Jesus dealt with the heavy heart of a grieving Mother.  The shards of glass fall quickly with a slight turn of the cylinder and the pieces bring to mind a fresh image, and we are transported to a town called Nain.

Luke records the event, where Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out -- the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. We are told that Jesus’ heart went out to her and he said to her, “Don’t cry.”  Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.  

Those who witnessed the event were all filled with awe. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”  Joy and elation overcame their grief and despair.

But the Widow of Nazareth would not know the elation of the Widow of Nain on this dark Day.  And while her son was instrumental in healing the broken heart of a Mother whose son once was dead but now is alive, it seemed clear that in this instance, as dark clouds gathered overhead, God would not be coming today to help his people.

By itself, the story of the Widow of Nain seems out of place amongst the stories that were penned by Luke.  On the surface it seems to address the grief of a distraught mother and nothing more.

But the cylinder, with another slight turn provides us with a back story that deepens our understanding and provides us with an insight of God’s intent.

In the First Book of Kings we find the story of the Widow of Zarephath.  In the account, the Prophet Elijah was instructed to go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and to live there.  So he set out and went to Zarephath and accepted a widow’s hospitality.  In time, the woman’s son became ill while Elijah was under her roof and he died.  

She then said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” But he said to her, “Give me your son.”  He cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?” Then he cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.”

The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. Elijah gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.”

So the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

The witnesses of Nain saw the promise of God and proclaimed, “God has come to help his people.”  Elijah had returned in this Nazarene and the words of the Widow of Zarephath were recalled, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” 

But this Widow of Nazareth, Mary, stands amongst the shadows and remains silent.  John, the Disciple whom Jesus loved stands beside her.  And Jesus cannot lift the weight that bears down on them.  The healing of the moment is unquestionably beyond our measure.


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2009 Modesty Woven by Prayer

2010 I Will Sing as I Journey

2011 Come and Follow Me

2012 Holy is the Name I Know

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2014 The Folly of God


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