Come and follow me...
le chemin de Jérusalem
Good Friday - April 22, 2011
The Three-Hour Watch by the Cross
Christ Church (Parish) Church
Westmorland Street, Fredericton
The Reverend Anthony Kwaw
Canon Jim Irvine
download the PDF files
Order of Service - booklet
Meditations - booklet
The Summons - theme hymn
You will be with me.
Will you leave yourself behind
if I but call your
and never be the same?
With parched lips Jesus assured another close by, “Today you will be with me.” As cries of agony rose to the vault of heaven, as felons writhed in pain from their various perches dotting the heights of Moriah, one accused assured another. For the countless crucified on this fifteenth day of Nissan the prevailing apprehension of each one was his isolation and forsakenness.
While they died together, each one died alone.
The singularity of each final breath was sufficient to reveal the greatest terror of emptiness, about to be swallowed up by a great void. Remembrance was enough to ask for – could a felon ask for more? In the anonymity of death in this place, men would be forgotten for eternity, their names vaporous, their lives ignored.
More than remembrance, Jesus’ assurance provides more than what the felon might have either asked or imagined. “Today you will be with me.” Together, they will continue a journey that both amazes and confuses. Jesus by his words has penetrated the deepest fears of each one of us.
In the darkness that embraces him, Jesus’ agony resonates with all the powers of the Lord. The Sun that shone and gave warmth to the flesh exalts in his Passion. The fullness of the Moon of Nissan – that heralded the Passover observance exalts in his Passion. The stars of heaven, the orbs Gustav Holst captured in his symphonic harmonies exalt in his Passion. For all of the grandeur of the sympathy of the created universe, the isolated felon is bereft.
But he is not alone.
Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of darkness we are reminded that we are not bereft.
Circumstances for the felon as well as those circumstances engaged by each of us in this pilgrimage are not avoided or denied or dismissed. What the felon was assured of – what we are assured of – is that we journey through this valley. And we are strengthened by a rod of assurance, by a staff that comforts us: “You will be with me… I am with you…”
Some of us hear the phrase clearer than others of us. Some may have thought that they misheard, and whisper to someone nearby what it was that was said. The wind may have taken the phrase away too quickly. We may have let our attention lapse at a critical time and we may have missed it.
As we have continued on our pilgrimage some of us have distanced ourselves from the scene and we missed the phrase entirely. For some this may be the phrase – the only phrase – that they catch in their hearing. Possibly it is sufficient for some to know this assurance that Jesus first gave the felon is also something we need to hear.
As stars penetrate the darkness, so Jesus’ words plumb the depths of our souls. As certainly as the sparks of light blaze beyond our reach in a star-lit sky, so Jesus’ compassion finds expression that gives us courage. For all that threatens and overwhelms us, our isolation is as painful as was the approaching extinction of this unnamed felon. The incalculable cosmos dwarfs in contrast to our fear.
Jesus penetrates our fear and is as close as the rain and dew that exalts in his glory. The felon allowed the closeness of Jesus in this untimely darkness. We have much to learn from his fear – and his courage. Perhaps it was the wind. Some would say it was. The wind may have been the basis of the exchange between the two crosses cloaked in darkness. But some witness heard and then repeated the exchange. “Remember me…” “You will be with me…” Many did not hear this exchange and Luke is alone in finding ink.
For those that may have heard the exchange, they caught words of courage the felon expressed as he was vulnerable in his darkest moment and the assurance provided by Jesus that assuaged that fear. When we are defenceless and most vulnerable Jesus penetrates our darkest moment and gives us hope. Throughout his ministry, Jesus invariably embraces the weakest with compassion. He is no different in this hour on Golgotha. And he is no different in our hearing, today. He reaches out – not to praise us for our meagre successes – but to reach beyond our bravado and touch us – each of us – where we most need to be restored, redeemed, healed, made whole again.
And you, will you leave yourself behind if he but calls your name? In the darkness, caught in a vortex of fear and confusion, will you remain mute on this pilgrimage and not speak out into the darkness, “Remember me”?
And having heard the assurance of Jesus’ companionship as we continue to tread a labyrinth, will you care for cruel and kind – and for that never be the same?
Bless the Lord, all you powers of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Bless the Lord, sun and moon; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Bless the Lord, stars of heaven; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Bless the Lord, all rain and dew; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Bless the Lord, all you winds; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Song of the Three Holy Children vv 39-43
The Good Friday Series...
2011 Come and Follow Me
Midi Tune: Kelvingrove