Holy is the Name I know
Good Friday, April 6, 2012 - Christ Church (Parish) Church - Fredericton, New Brunswick
The Reverend Anthony Kwaw, Rector of Fredericton
The Reverend Canon Jim Irvine, Guest Homilist
« We approach the Cross
« Forgive them
For whatever may have been spoken on a Mount cloaked in darkness, I know what I have heard: Forgive them. Exhausted from sleep deprivation, torture and abuse, Jesus is heard to pronounce words of absolution while others give voice to epithets and blasphemies. Accusations hurled at one another by strangers has a voice pierce the air with Forgive them.
The central focus of Jesus’ ministry has been the restoration of the crippled, the broken, the blind and the diseased. Redemption has been his hallmark and the prophetic words of Isaiah were seen by John the Baptist to have been realized in Jesus. Absolution is characteristic of Jesus’ Messiahship. Forgiveness is never far from the lips of Jesus; absolution is never far from our hearing.
We need not be surprised. We are revisiting holy ground and we are privileged to witness the cutting of a Covenant first heralded by Jeremiah…
The time is coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with Israel and Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them out by the hand and led them out of Egypt. Although they broke my covenant, I was patient with them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant which I will make with Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will set my law within them and write it on their hearts; I will become their God and they shall become my people. No longer need they teach one another to know the Lord; all of them, high and low alike, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their wrong-doing and remember their sin no more.
The evening before Jesus, in an upper room, took bread… and after the supper he took the Cup and sharing it with his disciples. Paul pens the familiar words… This cup is the new covenant sealed by my blood. And while the cup is a sign of this new covenant, the promise sealed and attested to is this: Forgiveness.
Archbishop Ted Scott was our Primate when I was beginning my ministry. In later years I was happy to have him as a guest in my home. My contemporaries used to mock him for his preference of familiar address: Call me Ted, he would say. His modesty was disarming, and for some, bothersome. Some did get to see him as I saw him; some kept their distance.
I have fond memories of my daughters playing with him and his taking each one in turn on his knee and placing a shepherd’s arm about them, demonstrating the loving forbearance that characterized his episcopate.
Ted Scott was fond of talking on a particular passage of scripture – by way of homily or in private conversation – and making it contextual. You know the beginning of the passage. John penned the words.
God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that everyone who has faith in him may not die but have eternal life.
But Ted would always go on, as Jesus did… It was not to judge the world that God sent his Son into the world, but that through him the world might be saved.
The seventeenth verse of John‘s third chapter needs to be heard. It needs hearing every bit as much as Jesus’ Forgive them.
As with Ted Scott, I suspect that Jesus too gave voice in such a way that the listener in his hearing did not hear accusation and recrimination. Instead, we are disarmed by the lack of demand and for the simplicity of the good news!
And the good news is heard when it is most needed. As the clouds gathered over Jerusalem and the threat of impending doom loomed over Golgotha there was little discernable save for the voices, angry, fearful, threatening and terrified. Such is in need of good news. While the remembrance of an Exodus was being prepared for with the slaughter of lambs on the Temple Mount, the deliverance on Moriah was palpable with fear and dread and nihilism. The Deuteronomic decree was clear…
When a man convicted of a capital offence is put to death, you shall hang him on a gibbet, but his body shall not remain on the gibbet overnight; you shall bury it the same day, for a hanged man is offensive in the sight of God.
These trees planted on Golgotha are manufactured and the means of execution are distinctly Imperial but the offense remains and what awaited the felons at night fall was nihilism. It would be as though they had never been, and Jesus was in their midst and had taken his place among them.
Jesus is that close to us when darkness of depression and the agitation of anxiety overtake us. When the threat of nihilism approaches we are most vulnerable, conscious of our own brokenness. The threat may overtake us in an elevator as we descend from a physician’s office where we have met face to face with our weaknesses, our limitations, our powerlessness. The sentence of apparent judgement so desperately needs to hear the seventeenth verse of John’s third chapter. Ted was right. It was not to judge. The good news is forgiveness.
Jesus did not die for our sins. Jesus died for our forgiveness. His death cannot be avoided. As he cuts a New Covenant know where he is found… not among the pilgrims, nor among those weary travellers that celebrate the observance of a lifetime – but rather among the broken, among those who fear the loss of self, among us. Forgive them… Do you hear it? Have your heard it?
Who can tell how many crosses…
still to come, or long ago…
Crucify the King of Heaven…
Holy is the Name I know.
« You will be with me
« I thirst
« Into your hands
« Every Star Shall Sing a Carol
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