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
« You will be with me
The recurring question of youth is heard in ever age. I cannot remember how young I was when first I asked the question. I most frequently put the question to my Dad and I must had driven him to distraction with it. After him, I posed the question to my Mum. Countless times each day I asked the question seeking a rationale, Why? Sometimes I asked associated questions… you are familiar with them, I know… Why me? Why now? And Why not?
The question is ubiquitous and is not a respecter of age. As we grow older we may become more sophisticated in crafting the question. We may become more subtle in the nuance of our meaning. But underlying the question is our general presumption that there is for everything a rationale that is within our grasp.
Even Jesus was acquainted with the question and he was not hesitant in giving it voice. We might have suspected otherwise but Jesus’ participation in our humanity limited him to the perceptions that naturally enjoy. Beyond his experience and the insights gained with years, he was left to asking Why?
Whole societies ask the question in light of national catastrophes. Natural disasters demand an explanation and we ask Why? Earthquake… flood… tsunami… drought… they all raise the question and as if we could comprehend the depth of the natural sciences underlying the loss of life and property we seek means by which such would never happen again.
Other events – on a less global scale – challenge us and prompt us to revisit the penetrating question, Why? Insults to our accepted routine, injustices that erupt in our province and in our city that undermine our security and our future prompt us to demand answers to questions that are difficult to refine. We are left with Why? Why the closure of a mill? Why the outsourcing of our jobs? Why here? Why now? But not yet, Why me?
Jesus comes remarkable close to our experience and circumstance when he heard to say ask, Why? Why have you forsaken me? It is a challenge to God’s nature and being. Now, beyond comprehension, explanation is demanded. Posthumously Jesus is close to Job. Unlike the comforters that questioned Job, Jesus knows that what is transpiring is not the punishment of a secret indiscretion. Jesus does not ask the Why in light of the crucifixion. He asks, why has he been forsaken?
Our personal indignities inevitably seek out purpose, rationale, justification. And we have asked our Whys? and never once received a satisfactory answer. Silence meets our question.
The question asked, all that filled the air was profanity and blasphemy. And when we find ourselves giving voice to the persistent question, we find that we are closer to Jesus at this moment perhaps more than at any other.
Our question needs to be asked even though there are no apparent answers. Jesus helps us focus the inevitable question.
From early days we have grown accustomed to a world view that engages the activities that fill each day with reward and punishment. Youthful questions of Why? help is learn which attitudes and which activities will ensure a reward and which will result in punishment. We know that it is better for us to be rewarded than to be punished. We remember the pattern of causation and try our best to avoid the effects that do not reward us. It is better to have a treat than not to have a treat, we’d say. And when we get the treat we simply remember the reward and do not ask Why? Our pattern of asking for a justification is applied only when we perceive ourselves punished. Why am I deserving of this punishment, we ask. Why did I not get a treat?
We presume ourselves deserving and it is only in the exception that we might concede that we are undeserving. We see ourselves as entitled, and we only query the circumstance when we perceive ourselves as somehow no longer entitled.
Personal perceived punishment and denial leaves us longing for rewards and we have difficulty in coping with evil in our lives. It insults our integrity and diminishes our sense of value. Our self esteem is laid bare and has little defence. We are left with, Why?
Why did my Father abuse me, asks a daughter now in counselling. Why was I dismissed from my job asks the 58 year old man now facing bleak employment opportunities. Why did he beat me asks a panicked wife of 17 years as she unpacks an over-night bag at a local women’s shelter. Why do I have an inoperative cancer asks the 37 year old man as he leaves his doctor’s consultation room, walking slowly, thoughtfully, hesitantly toward the elevator of the Medical Clinic.
These are all real questions. But they are rhetorical questions. And none of them have an acceptable answer. There may be vague explanations suggested but these fall on deaf ears. The questions, while finding expression, do not seek an answer.
Jesus guides us in directing the focus of the question. He asked where his Father was in this? He asked about the God-forsakenness of the circumstance. He saw that this crucifixion was no punishment. This death was a necessary part of the Redemption of God’s creation. Just the same, his isolation on the cross naturally gave rise to his feeling forsaken. The hands pierced were his hands. The dried blood mingled with sweat on his brow and cheeks was his. The shallow breathing was his. The agony was his. He felt that he was indeed forsaken.
His words to Philip bring assurance… Have I been all this time with you, and you still do not know me? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father, Jesus said. The Father is in Jesus on that cross. Forsakenness is dispelled. Fear is dispelled and trust is claimed. On the cross, in the counselling session, in the car wondering where to go when we drive out of our employer’s parking lot for the last time, in the women’s shelter sitting with a mug of tea and a cigarette we had to bum from a stranger, in the bowls of an elevator shaft as we descend to new depth – know this: the Father is there in the midst of our angst.
Who can tell how many crosses…
still to come, or long ago…
Crucify the King of Heaven…
Holy is the Name I know.
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