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
Why have you forsaken me?
The heart of the matter
Will you let the blinded see
if I but call your name?
and never be the same?
We have come to the heart of the matter. We have traced a path that has led us to the heart of the Labyrinth. We have not drawn this close to Jesus until now. Our path has drawn us closer by times, and it has distanced us as well. We have approached Jesus obliquely but the path of the Labyrinth has not permitted us to avoid the scene.
As evasive as we have been, as cautious as we have been – we now stand on terrible ground made holy by the occasion.
The closer we have drawn to the heart of the matter, the chill in the air gives us pause. The darkness is chilled and we are left with our own impending dread as we inch towards the space Jesus occupies on this height. The elements and seasons join in the exaltation on this Day. Ice and cold, frost and snow bite into the feverish flesh of the Lamb of God, proud from his scourging.
Lightening escapes from the oppressive cloud overhead and thunder resounds in the Kidron Valley. The Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives and Golgotha echo as mountains clapping their hands, exulting in this dire scene. Roman Guards give comrades darting looks of concern and wrap themselves more securely in their ample cape. Those that clamoured for Jesus’ death clutch their robes about their throats – as we raise our collars and gather our lapels with frigid fists.
Cautious, we pause and hear – with a clarity that we are unfamiliar with – “Why have you forsaken me?” The indictment is clear. Disciples have fled, but the moment catches them. Those that have revelled in past healings and miracles are absent, but the moment catches them. Those that paved the way with their cloaks, waving branches of palm and shouting Hosannas are no longer in sight. His accusers and executioners while present, restrain themselves. The indictment is not addressed to them – Jesus’ words are spoken into the darkness. God is accused.
We are confused by Jesus’ accusation. He has revealed his forsakenness and penetrates our hearts. This is an epiphany we have not expected to find in this dreadful place. Taking on our flesh and living these years among humanity he has come closer to the human condition that we might have either asked or imagined. Better had he not come this close.
Our bravado falls away when we recognize that we have no hero here. The secondary dreads of our lives, the financial insecurities, the health fears, the social and political uncertainties fall away. Our failures pale and our successes evaporate when we see mirrored in Jesus’ phrase our deepest dread.
These hills are familiar with dread. Moriah generations earlier saw another Son, promised by God, ascend this height not bearing a cross but a bundle of faggots for an altar sacrifice. Abraham accompanied by his Son, his only Son, Isaac. “Father,” said Isaac, “here are the faggots and the brazier, but what of the sacrifice?” Abraham’s answer was quick, “God will provide the sacrifice my Son.”
Only when Isaac was bound and laid on the bier did the sense of being forsaken begin to overwhelm the youth. The question was written on his face as he looked at his Father. “Why have you forsaken me?” No defence seemed at hand; no one would intervene!
The Angel of the Lord stayed Abraham’s hand and a ram caught in a thicket was found and was sacrificed in Isaac’s stead. On this dark afternoon there is no Angel of the Lord staying a crucifixion. The reprieve of the Patriarch did not interrupt this needful event… “Why have you forsaken me?”
Will an Angel of the Lord prevent our abandonment? Have we forgotten the reality of our Baptism so quickly? Has it been so long ago and have others failed to remind us of the promises that God made? You are a child of God, and so am I. By adoption and grace we have been chosen by Divinity and instructed to address Divinity in a familiar way – assuring us that what is accomplished on Golgotha touches and heals our deepest dread.
Jesus calls us by name. He has searched our hearts. He has set aside what we are most proud of and has touched our broken lives where we most need to be touched. His touch has given us hope and courage. Jesus, the evangelist John reminds us, “took on flesh and lived among us and we saw his glory, glory befitting of the Son promised – full of grace and truth.”
Grace and truth are encountered on Golgotha. We are witnesses to this revelation. The challenge is ours – a challenge to participate in this redemptive work by letting the blinded see if he but calls your name? And as for those that are reluctant to draw close to glory, will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Bless the Lord, ice and cold; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Bless the Lord, frosts and snows; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Bless the Lord, lightenings and clouds; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Let the earth bless the Lord; let it sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Bless the Lord, mountains and hills; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Song of the Three Holy Children vv 49-53
The Good Friday Series...
2011 Come and Follow Me
Midi Tune: Kelvingrove